By Sharachchandra Bhandary
Of late, the One Belt One Road (OBOR) or ‘Belt and Road’ initiative of China has become a buzz phrase amongst media, academia and think-tanks of Nepal and they have been arguing that such idea would open up avenues to Nepal’s socio-economic development opportunities. Development experts view the OBOR as a boon for our overall development. Nepal’s access to transit through China will be enhanced. Nepal, using the convenient transportation system in China’s Tibet, can explore trade with the central Asia and beyond. With best use of corridor, Nepal can develop a stronger freight clearance industry in generating a huge employment opportunity to people.
Since Nepal’s political situation is consistently transitional and stricken by instability, the present level of instability, the weakness in delivery of the government institutions, poor infrastructure conditions, and distrust among the political actors has posed a number of challenges to initiate the project at rapid pace. The OBOR proposal has not been widely discussed and people are perplexed by the terms. Viewing this reality, Kathmandu School of Law last week organized a workshop entitled ‘South Asia and China: Connecting in the Prospective of OBOR Project’
The emphasis was laid on joining the Chinese project at the earliest and the participants said an agreement should be signed on Nepal’s participation in the project during the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s upcoming China visit and suggested Nepal’s political leadership to rise above the petty political interest and work for promotion of national interest. They lambasted the political actors for not paying proper heed to nation building and ignoring the OBOR plan.
The key speaker of workshop, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong said other participating countries beside China too would reap benefits from the OBOR while expressing her confidence towards Nepal’s joining the project. “Talks with Nepal’s top political leadership are in progress on this issue. We have received positive response,” she added. She also revealed that both the governments are in consultations in connection with the project. The Chinese Ambassador said over 100 international agencies and countries have signed in the Memorandum of Understanding of OBOR so far. She added that Nepal’s potentials on energy development, physical infrastructure building, trade diversification, investment promotion, tourism promotion, civil aviation, cultural exchanges and people-to-people relations have facilitated Nepal-China development partnership.
Former parliamentarian and Ambassador Hiranyalal Shrestha said Nepal’s age-old relations manifested through the trade of gold, salt and wool (Sun, Nun ra Un) with China should be transformed into oil and rail (tel ra rail) and added that the OBOR could be an appropriate medium for the same. He said India had no power to stop Nepal from joining the project and she too was obliged as New Delhi had signed an international agreement on Asian Network Highway. Another former ambassador Sundarnath Bhattarai suggested that the government should implement the agreements in letter and spirit signed between Nepal and China during then prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s China visit. He urged the policy makers to work in tandem with Chinese leaders so as to reap maximum benefit of development to be unleashed by the OBOR. Senior Advocate Bishow Kanta Mainali said that Nepal’s participation in the OBOR should not be delayed as the project is directly associated with development not the politics.
Presenting a working paper on possibilities of OBOR on the occasion, Executive Director of Kathmandu School of Law Dr Yubraj Sangraula stressed for Nepal’s becoming the part of OBOR project by clearing the hurdles to that end at the earliest possible .According to him, Nepal can be the transit country for flow of goods in and out of India and China. He is of the opinion that China and India must have intensive discourse between them to initiate the project as soon as possible. The People Republic China has to adopt a pro-active approach to prepare India to initiate the project.
Highlighting the importance of the OBOR he observed, “Nepal can way develop a huge transportation industry to serve the both countries. The volume of financial transaction to be involved in this industry is beyond imagination at this point. Nepal can be hub of industrial enterprises to be set up by joint venture between China and India. Nepal can take a great advantage from this potentiality. Nepal can achieve improvement in economic structure and international competitiveness in collaboration with two countries”.