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Nepal categorical on China’s tough conditions for BRI projects

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep25’23) – During his Sep 23 meeting with Nepal’s Prime Minister Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that the two countries had made progress in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation and that the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network had taken shape. The reality could not be further from the truth.

Talking to Nepal’s Kantipur newspaper in New York, Dahal categorically denied chances of his country joining a security-related alliance, as required by China, noted the kathmandupost.com Sep 25.

Also, China insists that the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, the collective name for the BRI projects in Nepal, be funded by loans from China. Nepal, fearing a debt trap due to the high costs and interest, insists that the funding be carried out by way of grants from China.

Neither side has budged on the above two issues, which is why the projects have made no headway so far.

Nepal joined the BRI, an ambitious Chinese global infrastructure push, in 2017. Even though there has been a lot of talk about the BRI’s execution in Nepal, not a single project under it has taken off.

* * *

Amid a geopolitical flux, the Chinese side is pushing for Nepal to welcome the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and its Global Civilisational Initiative (GCI) and has sought increased cooperation on the new twin initiatives, noted the kathmandupost.com report.

The Chinese side aims to formalise this position in a joint communique likely to be released after the delegation-level talks between Dahal and his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang on Sep 25 in Beijing, the report added.

However, before leaving for China’s Hangzhou, in an interview in New York with Kantipur, Dahal had categorically denied the chances of Nepal joining a security-related alliance.

Dahal had stated in his New York interview that China was initiating the GSI, the GCI and the Global Development Initiative (GDI), adding he had no hesitation to participate in the GDI.

“But we cannot wade into security-related issues. It is our stated policy not to be under the umbrella of any side. Ours is a non-aligned foreign policy. On the other hand, we are saying the American Indo-Pacific Strategy and State Partnership Program are part of security initiatives. If we are not taking part in one initiative [IPS, SPP], we cannot join others too,” Dahal had said during the interview.

On the other hand, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dahal said Nepal supports a series of important concepts and initiatives proposed by Chinese President Xi during their Sep 23 meeting in Hangzhou.

“Nepal supports a series of important concepts and initiatives put forward by President Xi Jinping, and is willing to work with China to promote the development of the international order in a more just and reasonable direction, safeguard the common interests of developing countries, and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind,” a statement issued by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted Prime Minister Dahal as saying.

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Nevertheless, a Nepali official involved in negotiation with the Chinese side in Beijing has told kathmandupost.com over the phone, “As China wants to insert something related to the GSI and the GCI in the joint communique, we have some reservations. … We are negotiating with the Chinese side to remove any clause with security and strategic connotations. We are not going to be part of the GSI or give any word or commitment on it.”

“The prime minister is fully aware of the geopolitical sensitivity,” Haribol Gajurel, chief political adviser to Dahal, has said before leaving for Beijing. “We need to convince the Chinese as they are not happy with some of our positions, but we will not sign anything that will go against our country’s stated policy.”

CD Bhatta, a geopolitical analyst, has said, “As we refused to join the United States’ SPP, we cannot be part of the GSI, which is China’s security architecture,” adding China still hopes Nepal may join its security initiative.

And so, officials from Beijing have said the BRI implementation plan, which was said to have been the top Chinese priority for signing during Dahal’s visit, was unlikely to go ahead.

However, a mention of the Chinese concerns over the BRI implementation plan will be included, with mutual consent, in a joint statement to be issued after the talks, the report added.

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