By Mahendra Subedi
Nepal should sign up to the BRI for robust connectivity, production, investments, exports, market expansion, and scientific and technological advancement
KATHMANDU: Despite unnecessary hue and cry from a section of politicos at home over the Prime Minister’s recent trip to China, the visit turned fairly successful to further cement Nepal-China relations by clearing some ‘misunderstandings’, and most importantly establishing Nepal’s firm commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR).
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in an interview to China Global Television Network (CGNT), shared that his discussions with Chinese President Xi Jingping was primarily focused on the issue of connectivity. “All the discussions can be synthesized in one word i.e connectivity,” he elaborated further defining connectivity in terms of railways, roadways and the BRI.
After decades of whooping economic development, China is now looking beyond its borders for opportunities to invest, promote trade and share Chinese development experience to the outer world. China, the world’s leader in infrastructure development, has aimed at promoting regional integration between China and rest of the world covered by the BRI through excellent infrastructure including ports, roads, railways and oil and gas pipelines on the basis of mutual investments, though a paltry amount from the LDCs.
On September 7, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping—the most powerful leader in modern China after Chairman Mao Tse-tung—delivered a speech titled “Promote People-to-People Friendship and Create a Better Future” in Kazakhstan where he proposed to build a Silk Road Economic Belt together with Central Asian countries. A month later, the Chinese president gave another speech in Indonesia on “Join Hands in Building China-ASEAN Community of Shared Destiny”, unveiling a major initiative to build “the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.” The Chinese government was preparing groundwork massively for this but the two announcements by the Chinese leader left a wave of his proposal across the globe.
According to the official site of BRI, the BRI will extend from the Chinese mainland to Europe and covers 60 per cent plus of the world’s population living in around 60 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa. This will cover one-third the world’s GDP, and 35 per cent of the world trade.
Chinese strategists say that Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road are the two main routes of the BRI Initiative. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe; linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia connecting China with South East Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. However, the Maritime Silk Road is designed to have two routes, one from China’s ports along its coast to Europe via the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean while the next is from China’s ports along its coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific, according to a publication from Renmin University of China.
Why Nepal should join?
China is opening up on all fronts in the recent decades. An open door allows Nepal, one of the 14 countries that shares border with China, and other developing nations to access the vast Chinese market. Besides, the BRI initiative would help to share China’s development opportunities with countries along the routes and achieve common prosperity and the proposal is expected to propel gradually emerging Nepal’s economy. If we are to believe the advocates of the BRI, this move is set to reinvigorate the seamless flow of capital, goods and services between Asia and the rest of the world.
PM Dahal told CGTN that Nepal wants to bridge the two economic giants (China and India) of Asia and utilize the vast markets by enhancing cross border economic zones and cross border transmission lines. It will have a revolutionary impact on the overall development of Nepal’s economy and to develop the China-Nepal relations to a newer height.
Nepal’s entry in the initiative is also the need of the hour for capacity building projects in the manufacturing sector to create a momentum for growth and to bring about great opportunities for shared development. Nepal can also expect policy coordination to bolster mutual trust, coordinate development strategies, facilitate trade and introduce multilateral cooperation mechanisms on the spirit of global peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.
We can expect that the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from Nepal would get unparalleled opportunities to tap into new markets along the Belt and Road and gain deeper access to markets in the Chinese mainland, ASEAN, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe.
Foreign Affairs Expert and former Ambassador to Japan Dr Bishnuhari Nepal said that PM Dahal’s commitment to join the BRI is a welcome step adding that now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should prioritize this. He adds that Nepal can benefit hugely from China’s efforts to promote win-win cooperation from the BRI as the project is about more than short-term gain. “Chances remain high for Nepal to bring in huge Chinese investments and receive grants too from the BRI fund once we join the BRI,” Dr Nepal said.
The BRI would immensely support the China-Nepal economic Corridor (CNEC) and also the China-India-Nepal Economic Corridor (CINEC) as BRI would support the Asian countries through CINEC.
Nepal should also join the initiative without any delay as China is working to bring the Qinghai-Xigatse railway to Keruing by 2020 and Nepal’s dream for Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini and Keruing-Kathmandu railway connectivity Nepal’s dream for railway connectivity is likely to transform into a reality with support from the same BRI.
The BRI, one of the largest development plans in modern history, is founded on five key elements namely promoting people-to-people bonds and cooperation; enhancing monetary policy coordination and bilateral financial cooperation; planning and supporting large-scale infrastructural development projects; building facilities to enable connectivity along the belt and road and facilitating cross-border investment and supply chain cooperation. Thereby, Nepal’s participation becomes meaningful for us to transfer our nation in a developed one through wider integration in all the components of the BRI.
Melsam Ojha, President of Friendship and Development Academy, justifies Nepal’s entry in the BRI to enhance our roadway and railways connectivity and tap into the giant Chinese markets for our domestic products.
Ojha shares that Nepal will have an expanded market access to Europe through China; scientific and technological advancement and ideas sharing for better opportunities for Nepal’s entrepreneurs as well. He, however, says that Nepal itself should increase its production by receiving international technologies and investment to increase our exports so that the meaning of getting connected to the world market becomes profound for our generations.
He suggests the government to orient our entrepreneurs to do homework for production of high-value goods (like mushroom, Yarshagumba, Nepali papers, Pashmina, handicrafts, Rudrakshya, Bodhichitta and many others) having comparative advantages. Nepal’s affiliation to the BRI can be synthesized in a word ‘PIE’ i.e for production; investments and imports; and exports and expertise, Ojha adds.
Hence, it seems very timely and inevitable that Nepal signs up to the BRI for robust connectivity, large-scale production, luring huge amount of foreign direct investments, expedite exports of our goods and services, expand market, and for the cause of scientific and technological advancement, which in turn will have a far-reaching contribution in the making of the Asian century. ( The story was originally disseminated from National News Agency)