KATHMANDU: The news headlines about the entry of China’s internet bandwidth in Nepal early this week drew attention of all stakeholders. The news was meaningful yet sensitive as Nepal was ending decades-long sole dependency on India to get internet connectivity in the country.
The internet connectivity in Nepal through China, which is supposed to be faster and reliable service, is also a metaphor to bringing the Nepal-China relations further close in the changed context. The Chinese internet in Nepal is just a part of Nepal-China relations on economic and development partnership but it heralds a long journey ahead indicating the future bonds.
It's for sure that China has done miracle in the last couple of decades and is continuing its race in a changed fashion after the current leadership embraced the policy of 'Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the 21st Century'. According to Chinese media, 2017 remained an extraordinary period for the country given China's tremendous strides in economy, the environment and culture.
The massive grant assistance and the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the Government of People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese investors have manifested a high level of bilateral relations. Under the Silk Road Economic Belt, Nepal is expected to submit some projects, mostly for infrastructure development and connectivity. South Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh have accepted Chinese grants and loans in subsidy meant for their economic advancement under the same Silk Road Economic Belt.
Former Ambassador and economist Prof Dr Bishnu Hari Nepal says that it is high time we accepted China's massive assistance in many sectors like economic, cultural, education and others.
During the last half decades' period, around 60 million people, exactly double of Nepal's entire population, came out of poverty in China while millions of other people witnessed progress and prosperity with massive advancement. Given China's top priority to the neighbouring countries, Nepal is expecting to be one of the beneficiaries from its FDI as well as grant assistance. And, the signs have been clear to that end in the recent days.
As Nepal has joined the Beijing proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) last year, bilateral talks and visits have also taken place for the extension of the China's railway network up to Nepal via Kerung. Expanding rail to Nepal via China has become a dream of Nepalis while a common commitment of all major political parties in Nepal. The upcoming government to be led by the left alliance is expected to chart out concrete plans and act firmly to reap more benefits from China's aggressive rise in economic development.
Analysts believe that a groundbreaking understanding on railway expansion in Nepal is likely in the upcoming high-level visit from China that is in the offing.
The support of Government of China is not just limited to the economic and infrastructure rather it is diversified. As a gesture of its support to Nepal, China is also extending its help to reconstruct some ancient treasures in Kathmandu that were damaged by the 2015 earthquake. "If we remain united on our plans, Nepal can bring in huge support both technical and financial from China.
We should step up our activities accordingly," Dr Nepal suggests.
China's is not only a top economic assister to Nepal but also a huge FDI supplier. In the recent years, Nepal has seen encouraging Chinese FDI inflows. The Chinese FDI is in namely cement factories, hydropower companies, hotel and hospitality sector and so on. However, due to Nepal's own intra-wangling political play resulted in the unilateral cancellation of the Chinese firm in Nepal's largest hydropower project. We missed a great opportunity to lure Chinese investment in Budhigandaki Hydropower Project of 1200 Megawatt. It would been better if Nepal had held intensive parleys before taking any decision once it was awarded to the Chinese investor for power generation.
Dr Nepal is also of the opinion that Nepal can prosper in a short span of time provided that we convince the Government of People's Republic of China and its leadership and we provide our sincere commitment to the BRI. "The new government should work without delay to that end," he suggests.
Finally, Belt and Road Initiative should not be just a venture for formal relations between Nepal and China rather Nepal should dig out opportunities for her development by taking advantage of the 'world's would-be first economy' and the immediate neighbor. And, the Nepal-China relations should be taken to a new high on the same basis of cooperation and high-level understanding.