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Nepalese Foreign Minister’s Visit To China

Nepalese Foreign Minister’s Visit To China


Siddhi B Ranjitkar

Immediately after the completion of the two-day visit of Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi to Nepal, on August 6 at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Lou Jiwei, Nepalese Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat visited China. It might be another show of the Chinese that China did not lag behind India in luring Nepal into their side. Judging from the speech of Prime Minister Modi delivered to the Nepalese parliament, India was ready to do everything possible for the development of Nepal; India recognized Nepal as an equal to India in the political status. What China had in store for Nepal remained to be seen? If we believed in the media reports, Finance Minister had almost a row with the Commerce Minister of China.

Kathmandu, August 10, 2014: Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat on Sunday said that his visit to China was highly successful and it would have multi-dimensional positive impact on the bilateral relations between the two countries in the days ahead. Finance Minister Dr. Mahat was in China at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Lou Jiwei.

Speaking to a gathering at the Nepalese Embassy in Beijing, Dr. Mahat said that he was very encouraged by the high-level talks with the Chinese Finance Minister and Commerce Minister. He hoped that the talks would help resolve the business issues of the two countries, increase Chinese investment and support the overall development of Nepal, and assist Nepal in moving ahead following the China’s progress in the economic development.

Dr. Mahat also met with Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng. “The Chinese investment will benefit more than 26 million Nepali people. The Chinese will get low cost labor and huge custom-free market in the south,” Dr. Mahat said. He said that China could benefit from the investment in Nepal as Nepalese products enjoyed special advantage in the global market. The Nepalese products could get duty-free access to American, European and other developed countries. Dr Mahat said that the Chinese leaders praised the economic reforms in Nepal. He also said that Nepal would give a top priority to the economic agenda.

Finance Minister Dr Mahat said that Nepal had decided to support the Chinese efforts on setting up an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member. He hoped that Nepal could benefit from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in its attempt to invest massively in the infrastructure sector. (“My China visit successful: Finance Minister Dr Mahat,” Gorkhapatraonline.com)

Finance Minister Dr. Mahat also reiterated the Nepal’s commitment to the One-China policy, according to the news on Gorkhapatraonline.com. One-China policy means both Tibet and Taiwan are the integral parts of China; and Nepal would not allow any Tibetan exiles in Nepal do anything against the Chinese rule in Tibet. Nepal would not allow any Tibetan visiting to the spiritual leader Dalai Lama at Dharamshala in India. Nepal has more than 20,000 Tibetan exiles waiting to return to Tibet.

Any Nepalese dignitary visiting China never forgets to repeat the one-China policy of Nepal. It also means that Nepal will not allow Tibetan exiles in Nepal to enjoy the fundamental human rights even to exercise franchise not to mention a peaceful protest. It indicates how faithful Nepalese authorities have been to the Chinese concern for the rule in Tibet. It keeps the Chinese authorities happy.

Kathmandu, Aug. 12: Talking to the reporters on his arrival at the international airport in Kathmandu after the completion of a week-long visit to China, Minister for Finance Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat said that his China visit had been beneficial to strengthen the economic relations between Nepal and China. Finance Minister Dr. Mahat left Kathmandu for China on August 6 at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Lou Jiwei.

He said that at his meetings with senior Chinese officials they talked over the matters of mutual economic interests. Dr Mahat also held talks with Commerce Minister of China Gao Hucheng that agreed to activate the bilateral secretary level mechanism, said Dr. Mahat. "We urged to settle some of the problems that were remaining when the secretary-level mechanism was passive; China has accepted this," Dr. Mahat said.

Chinese Commerce Minister Hucheng committed to provide Nepal with necessary support for opening the Chinese market to Nepal to balance the trade between Nepal and China, according to Minister Dr. Mahat. The trade deficit of Nepal with China stands at Rs. 65 billion. Currently, Nepal’s export to China stands at Rs. 2.53 billion while its import from China is over Rs 68.45 billion every year.

Similarly, Finance Minister Dr. Mahat urged Chinese Commerce Minster Hucheng to improve performance of some Chinese contractor companies, as the performance of some of the Chinese contractor companies had been much to be desired. In response, Commerce Minister Hucheng urged Nepal to select the companies from among those, which provide quality service, and participate in the bidding process.

Chinese leaders have shown their concern over the loss of life and property to the landslide damming Sunkoshi River in the Sindhupalchowk district. They committed to provide Nepal with necessary support, Finance Minister Dr. Mahat said. He also had expressed his sympathy over the loss of life and property to the earthquake in the Hunan Province of China.

Finance Minister Dr. Mahat also met with Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region People's Congress Parliament Baima Chilin during his stay in China.

Minister Dr. Mahat also visited Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and National Museum and other tourism places of China on his spare time. Joint Secretary Madhu Marasini, Under Secretary Lal Bahadur Khatri among others accompanied Dr. Mahat during his China visit. (“Finance Minister Dr. Mahat returns home from China”, Gorkhapatraonline.com)

Dr Mahat got the good Chinese response to the undiplomatic comments on the performances of the Chinese contractors working in Nepal. Commerce Minister of China Gao Hucheng rightly said that Dr Mahat should select good contractors from among the bidders for their right performances. Dr Mahat should know that choosing wrong contractors for the construction had been one of the main reasons for corruption and for not getting the results for the money Nepal spent on.

The visit of the Nepalese finance minister to China might be the economic diplomacy for Nepal to garner the investment from the emerging global economy of China. It might be good if Nepal were to have the infrastructures required for the investment of the Chinese manufacturing companies as desired by the Nepalese finance minister.

In absence of such infrastructures, Chinese private companies would not jump into Nepal for pouring money in the manufacturing sector that acted like sands that soaked in whatever poured in them. Nepalese finance minister focused on manufacturing ignoring the infrastructures required for this sector. He even said that Chinese companies investing in the manufacturing in Nepal could take the advantage of the privileged access of Nepalese goods to the western markets. He also said that the Chinese companies could take the benefit of the cheap Nepalese labor. Currently, China has both these things. China has cheap labor. Chinese goods are cheap. So, they have advantage of their goods not only in the western market but also in the global market. Obviously, Chinese companies would not rush to Nepal to enjoy the benefits available in China.

The finance minister would have done good job if he were to lure the Chinese companies into investing in the large hydropower projects and highway infrastructures. As Indian companies have committed to invest in huge hydropower projects in Nepal for exporting power to India as long as Nepal did not need it. Chinese also could do the same thing, and build huge hydropower plants in Nepal to import power from Nepal to Tibet.

Finance Minister Dr Mahat could have ask the Chinese authorities for returning the northern half of the world’s highest mountain called Mount Everest to Nepal. The then king of Nepal Mahendra sold the northern part of the mountain to China for his political gains in Nepal in 1960s. He killed democracy in Nepal and introduced the despotic rule called Panchayat that had lasted until 1990. China eagerly supported Mahendra.

In the past, the autocratic family rulers had supported the British rulers to keep the despotic rule in Nepal. Nepal had provided the British rulers with the support for repressing the uprising against the British rule in India. Initially, British rulers were reluctant to accept the offer of Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana to send the Nepalese army to contain the Indian uprising against the British rule but when the British found that the control of the uprising was going out of their hands, they accepted the offer of Prime Minister Jung. Prime Minister Jung led the Nepalese army to India to subdue the Indian uprising successfully.

Nepal could not come out of the Indian political or commercial and social web as long as Nepal has only the exit through India. So, Finance Minster Dr Mahat needed to understand that Nepal needed to open another exit. Dr Mahat had done nothing to this end while he had been in China. So, Chinese or Indian investments are not coming to Nepal as long as Nepal doesn’t have such exit to the world market through China and India. Our economic diplomacy should focus on this matter.

The then King Birendra of Nepal and the president of Bangladesh wanted to have a South Asian regional common market in 1980s. However, they ended up forming a political association called South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It was originally a seven-member association. Now, it has become an eight-member association after Afghanistan joined it.

Originally, its objective was to open a common market of the member states but it could not happen. India and Pakistan were not in a mood to open their border for the common market. India had been and even now is very concerned with the terrorists sneak up on India. Pakistan had been not in a talking term with India. So, the dream of the Nepalese head of State and the Bangladeshi president did not come true. SAARC became only a talking platform. Heads of State and of governments delivered speeches, and talked to each other about the regional issues not the bilateral issues at the periodic summit.

India had been reluctant to open Nepal an exit to Bangladesh. Only 15 km of the Indian land divides Nepal and Bangladesh. Nepal and Bangladesh could have benefited from the trade if India were to open this corridor to Nepal and Bangladesh. Nepal could have an access to the Bangladeshi seaports. Nepal would not need to rely on a single Indian port in Calcutta. India did not provide Nepal and Bangladesh with a corridor of link fearing the terrorists might easily travel back and forth between Nepal and Bangladesh, and then sneak up on Indian territories. Nepalis failed to ask Indian Prime Minister Modi for the link between Nepal and Bangladesh via India when he said to the Nepalese authorities, “Have a wish and I will meet it,” when he visited Nepal on August 3 & 4, 2014.

Nepalese authorities also could not dare to say anything about the Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 when Prime Minister Modi was in a mood to do anything in favor of Nepal. Nepalese authorities could have simply asked to annul the two things mentioned in the accompanying letter to the treaty and became the integral part of the treaty. They are the provision for the Nepalese prime minister required to brief the Indian Prime Minister on a foreign visit; Nepal needs an approval of India for importing arms from the third countries.

Kathmandu, August 12, 2014: The country's foreign policy should bolster the national unity and security balancing the socio-economic development of the country at the same time preserving the national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, foreign policy experts said.

Speaking at the seminar titled 'Foreign Policy of the Republic of Nepal' held by the Nepal University Teachers' Association (NUTA) here today, the experts also suggested that the new constitution should clearly specify the country's foreign policy outline.

The speakers underlined the need for adopting a foreign policy committed to the principle of peaceful coexistence with neighboring countries for mutual benefits and interests on a pragmatic basis, and pursuing it for the happiness, peace and prosperity of humanity with all the peace-loving countries of the world.

They pointed out the need for the country making efforts on contributing to the global peace pursued through the United Nations keeping full faith in the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. They clearly stated that the traditional foreign policy would not work in the 21st century.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey underlined the need for an effective foreign policy for ensuring the supreme national interests. It also should be judicious, he said. He urged all political leaders giving up partisan interests for the sake of the country's welfare.

"Country's development, protection of the sovereignty vested in the people and maintaining cordial relations with the international community reducing poverty are the objectives of our foreign policy," he said and expressed the confidence that these topics would be incorporated in the new constitution.

Noting that the national interests could not be fulfilled without spurning personal interests, the Minister for Foreign Affairs called upon all to work on keeping the focus on the national interest. He also called for ending the tendency of asking for foreign support for meeting personal and party interests.

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Sujata Koirala stressed the need for employing foreign policy keeping with the time and giving priority to economic diplomacy for the economic development of the country.

Another former Foreign Affairs Minister Upendra Yadav said economic development, and fortification of internal peace, and security and stability should be the bedrocks of foreign policy but he complained that the country's foreign policy has not been able to take a concrete shape due to the disparate views of the political parties.

At the seminar, former ambassador Jayaraj Acharya presented a working paper titled 'Basis of Nepal's Foreign Policy: Experiences and Priorities,' Prof. Som Prasad Gauchan working paper titled 'Nepal-India Relations: Problems and Possibilities' and Prof. Shreedhar Gautam working paper titled 'Nepal-China Relations: Past and Present.

CPN-UML central committee member Rajan Bhattarai and UCPN-Maoist foreign department chief Yubaraj Chaulagain suggested formulating a country's foreign policy by forging a national consensus and that this policy should remain in force even when there is a change in the political leadership.

President of NUTA Rameshwar Upadhyay presided over the seminar. (“Call for framing country's foreign policy bolstering national unity and security”, Gorkhapatraonline.com)

The foreign policy of Nepal had been for securing foreign assistance as much as possible, and for balancing the influence of both neighboring countries. The tradition had been that after taking the oath of office, almost every Nepalese prime minister visited China and India. Only one Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal did not visit both China and India.

The main concern of China had been for the Tibetan exiles in Nepal freely working on free Tibet movement. The Indian concern in Nepal had been the terrorists trained elsewhere in the world passing through Nepal, and smuggling gold and other items through Nepal to India. India also did not like to see Chinese coming closer to the Nepal-India border.

Prime Minister Prachanda had broken the practice of Nepalese prime minister first visiting India. He visited China immediately after taking the oath of the office of prime minister to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. Prime Minster Dr Baburam Bhattarai did not visit China. He visited India and signed off the BIPPA against the will of Mohan Vaidhya. Prime Minister Dr Bhattarai had said that he was signing off the similar agreement with China but he did not do so. All of them belong to UCPN-Maoist.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala visited India to attend the ceremony of newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the oath of office. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in turn visited Nepal. He gave a lightening speech to the Nepalese parliament. Prime Minster Modi made the promises of everything Nepal wanted but the tradition had been in the past that the top-level agreements had been hardly enforced. They sat on the agreements and even forgot them as time passed. Most probably, Indian bureaucrats had been privileged to enforce or not whatever the top political leaders of both sides of the border agreed on anything.

Whenever any Nepalese prime minister visited China or any Chinese dignitary visited Nepal they did not miss to reiterate the one-China policy of Nepal. The one-China policy of Nepal says Tibet and Taiwan are the integral parts of China. Following this policy, Nepal had closed the office of the Tibetan religious leader Dalai Lama in Nepal, and Nepal strictly kept surveillance on the Tibetan exiles in Nepal. The government of Nepal even did not allow Tibetans to hold elections to their government in exiles. Nepalese police stopped Tibetan exiles in Kathmandu from voting, and ballot boxes were removed. The government of Nepal made the Tibetans almost impossible to visit Dalai Lama at Dharamshala in India through Nepal. This was exactly what the Chinese leaders wanted the Nepalese government to do.

India on the other hand wanted the influence of China on Nepal as little as possible. India in the past had taken up the highway project China was supposed to do in Nepal in order to stop Chinese coming closer to the border between Nepal and India. India had directly or indirectly monopolized the trade in Nepal. About 75% of the Nepalese trade had been with India. Even if both India and Nepal wanted the control of the flow of goods and services not to mention the people it had been impossible because of the open border between the two countries. The open border had been the main attraction to the terrorists for passing through Nepal to India.

Nepalese political leaders had been divided into pro-Indian, and pro-Chinese. For example, Chairman of CPN-Maoist Mohan Vaidhya, and Chairman of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Narayanman Bijuckchhe had been openly against India. They opposed anything Indian in Nepal. Chairman Vaidhya had even planned for a protest against the visit of Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi to Nepal on August 3 & 4, 2014. Later on, he called off the protest. Chairman Vaidhya had been deadly against the huge hydropower projects awarding to the Indians. He wanted everything to be Chinese. He frequented China for everything. Leaders of other political parties particularly the NC had been pro-Indian because the NC had its roots in India. They followed everything Indian. Even the name of the party was after the Indian Congress. However, they advocated the policy on keeping Nepal at equidistance from India and China.

The Nepalese foreign policy with other countries particularly with the developed countries had been to secure their assistance to the development of Nepal. So, most of the bilateral agreements had been for providing Nepal with grants or soft loans that also often converted into grants.

Some countries made a special request to Nepal for a vote in the UN whenever they needed it. Nepal generously complied with the request.

Ends

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