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Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speak during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China June 21, 2018. Greg Baker/Pool via REUTERS

Was Oli’s China visit successful?

By Our Reporter
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli returned home on Sunday after completing a six-day long visit to China. Upon his arrival, Oli claimed that his visit to China has given a new height to Nepal-China relations. Oli has also claimed that signing of understanding on railway line and connectivity are historical achievements.
Oli had left China with a jumbo team of 119-member delegation along with important ministers including Pradeep Gyawali, Ram Bahadur Thapa, Barshaman Pun, Raghubir Mahaseth.
Normally, there is the practice of including concerned ministers or secretaries at the ministries if there is to be a signing ceremony on any agreements or understandings. May be, Oli had included those ministers thinking that they are needed to sign agreements but most of them did not have much to do. On the other hand, the small Nepali mission in Beijing having just eight officers/staffers had to face a big challenge in managing the jumbo delegation from Nepal.
Oli had a chance to hold one-on-one meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping just for 20 minutes. One can assume what the two leaders talked in 20 minutes except from saying “Hello! How are you?” In fact, until the last hours, appointment with President Xi was not fixed and Oli was in a mood to postpone the visit for one week or so. According to a delegation member, just before the meeting with Oli, President Xi was holding a meeting with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un. Kim was returning from the Great Hall when Oli was proceeding to the Great Hall.
The entire Nepali population was expecting the signing of the protocol on trade and transit treaty during this visit. In their election manifesto, Oli and his election alliance team, in the last election, had included the agenda of bringing Chinese rail to Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini and endorsing a trade and transit treaty with China did not materialize. In result, the Left alliance was able to bag almost two-thirds majority. Unfortunately, in this long awaited visit, Oli was unable to sign on the protocol of the agreements that were endorsed in his previous visit to China in 2016.
Accordingly, during his last visit, it was agreed to import 33 percent of the petroleum-products from China — out of our total imports of the same from India. There is no mention about import of petro products from China. So far, Oli’s political advisor Bishnu Rimal, in an interview to the Kantipur FM on Monday, describing Oli’s visit as a grand success, said that by the second week of July, a protocol on trade, transit and transportation agreements will be signed between the two nations.
Accordingly, Rimal said that both the countries have agreed to keep all the bilateral cooperation under Trans-Himalayan Multidimensional Framework and under this framework the modality of investment including grant/loan projects and joint ventures will be decided.
According to Rimal, the protocol on transit was not signed due to lack of necessary homework. He said that the government had developed a similar type of format that it had presented to Delhi but that format was not enough for China. This is the reason that some agendas were kept pending for the time being.
These are the examples that the government is naïve on its foreign policy handling. Oli might have noticed that China is a serious country and will not take any decision in haste. Contrary to that, when Oli visited Delhi, he had not expected that India will become ready to construct the Laxaul-Kathmandu railway that also on grant and inland waterways to operate our ships in Indian rivers having access to the seaport. The difference is that India makes commitments very easily, but most of the Indian commitments have been impending for decades. China is interested in the construction of railway line from Kathmandi to Pokhara and Lumbini, but the Indian commitment for construction of the railway line from Raxaul to Kathmandu might have created trouble for Oli to talk on Kathmandu-Lumbini railway line.
Also, Oli and his government have maintained silence on Budhigandaki and West Seti hydropower projects. There is Chinese interest in these two reservoir model projects, but India doesn’t want to bring China in these projects as India needs water — specially during the dry season — from these reservoir model projects in Nepal. By showing a lollipop of the operation of inland waterways to Oli, India has become successful in stopping the handing over the two key projects to China. To completely end load-shedding during the dry season, Nepal must have such reservoir projects.
During the visit, Oli was advised by Nepali academicians and intellectuals to hold talks on Lippulake, from where India and China are planning to develop a trade route. Lippulake is a disputed tri-junction territory and Nepali soil has been occupied by the Indians in this area. Oli was unable to put forward this issue to his counterpart in China.
Out of the understandings and agreements signed during Oli’s visit this time, most of them were already agreed agendas. Besides, the private sector joint ventures have also been included to claim the visit as successful.

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