Confusion In Nepal After China Unilaterally Places Projects Under Belt & Road Initiative
KATHMANDU (ANI) – China’s statement that the Pokhara International Airport is its flagship project in Nepal under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) came as a surprise. Since then, confusion has gripped Nepal’s diplomatic circles after China is unilaterally listing one project after another in Nepal under the Belt and Road Initiative, The Kathmandu Post reported.
China made the claim at the inauguration of the new airport by Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nishan Khatiwada wrote in The Kathmandu Post report. On June 22, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Chen Song in a post on Twitter wrote, “Warm congratulation to Wechat Pay Cross-board Payment Service Inauguration in Nepal. A new step forward in financial connectivity, one of the five “connectivities” under #BRI initiative.”
While addressing the House of Representatives on July 3, Nepal’s Foreign Minister NP Saud said, “The project implementation plan of the BRI is at a stage of discussion between Nepal and China. Not a single project in Nepal under the BRI has been executed. The project implementation plan of the BRI is still under consideration.”
The relations between China and Nepal have of late become a saga of an exchange of words where one side claims that a specific project is under the BRI while the other side says it is not. According to foreign policy experts, the confusion will not serve Nepal.
Meanwhile, Sundar Nath Bhattarai, the executive chairman of the Kathmandu-based think-tank China Study Centre said, that part of the reason for the confusion is Nepal’s lack of negotiation skills and its unwillingness to negotiate with Beijing, The Kathmandu Post reported. Bhattarai further said that Nepali officials’ public denial of China’s claims has been causing controversies and don’t serve the national interest.
Following the framework agreement between Nepal and China on Belt and Road Initiative in 2017, Nepal had initially chosen 35 projects to be implemented under it. Later, the total number of projects was reduced to nine and the list did not include the Pokhara airport, which Beijing has now placed under BRI.
In 2016, the Nepal government signed a $215 million soft loan agreement with China for building a new airport in Pokhara without any mention of the BRI. As China has been placing its projects in Nepal under the Belt and Road Initiative, the two nations have not overtly agreed on whether the BRI projects will be loan-based or grant-based.
Some foreign experts believe China’s propensity to list each project under BRI might erode its diplomatic credibility. Geja Sharma Wagle, a foreign affairs expert, said, “Either the Chinese are diplomatically naive, or they are employing propaganda diplomacy. Whatever it is, it is their business. But it is eroding their diplomatic credibility,” The Kathmandu Post reported.