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New Nepal-Tibet trade route from Mustang set for opening

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep21’23) – In further opening or reopening of trade routes with Nepal, China has given the go-ahead for establishing a new border trading facility in a village in occupied Tibet for which construction has been completed, as is the case with a similar facility on the Nepalese side, reported the scmp.com Sep 21.

Construction work on the Lizi Port – which sits at 4,600 metres (15,000ft) above sea level – has been completed and it passed an inspection by the commerce ministry on Sep 19, the report said, citing Chinese state media.

Lizi Port, when it opens, will “spur Tibet’s opening to the outside world, improve connectivity between China and Nepal, deepen China-Nepal friendly exchanges and cooperation, and promote high-quality economic and social development in Tibet,” China News Service was quoted as reporting.

The new facility has been built in the village of Lizi, in Yagra, Zhongba (Tibetan: Drongpa) county in Shigatse City. It is stated to be located some 935km (580 miles) from the Tibetan capital Lhasa, and 499km from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

The report noted that Lizi, which sits on the Korala mountain pass, had for centuries been a market hub where Himalayan residents had traded grain, salt and goats.

On the Nepalese side, the facility has been built 12 km away at Nechung in the district of Mustang. A road link to other parts of Nepal has already been completed, the report noted.

The Lizi-Nechung route will be the fourth trading channel to open along the 1,400km Tibet-Nepal border. In addition, there are plans for two more trading posts – Chentang-Kimathanka and Riwu-Olangchung Gola, according to a 2012 agreement between China and Nepal. These are in addition to the long-existing Purang-Yari, Gyirong (Kyirong)-Rasuwa and Zhangmu (Dram)-Kodari trading posts.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal in Oct 2019, the two sides agreed to open the Lizi-Nechung trade route “at the earliest possible time”. But the project was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, when the border was closed. No date has been announced yet for the route’s opening.

The Tibet-Nepal border only reopened five months ago, after freight transport resumed in Dec 2022.

China plans to build a Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network with Nepal – involving railways and communication links – as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, China’s Nepal BRI projects remain mired in seemingly intractable issues about funding and other matters.

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