‘Nepal-China Relations and Development Prospects in Trans-Himalayan Region’
Speech by Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali at Sichuan University, Chengdu
20 April 2018
Mr. Vice President of Sichuan University
Members of Faculties
Researchers and Scientists
Dear Students and Scholars
Friends of Nepal
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to begin by thanking Sichuan University for inviting me to speak here this afternoon. As one of the earliest institutions of higher education in southwest China, Sichuan University has a rich history of pioneering research and educational reforms in China. The University has been at the forefront of supporting socio-economic development through education, and science and technology.
Its integrated multi-disciplinary approach to education and its emphasis on cultivating among the students qualities such as respect for humanity, drive for innovation and nurture international outlook are captured well by its motto, which says: Hai Na Bai Chuan, You Rong Nai Da (The Sea Receives Waters from All Rivers, and A Wise Man Listens to All Views).
Such noble gestures of welcome and acceptance are typical characteristics of Chinese culture. These profound values have played a great role in building the foundations not only of China’s great civilization but also, when speaking of cities like Chengdu, in developing vibrant cities of innovation and modernization through their eclectic, expansive and inclusive ambience.
Chengdu is the center of the Southern Silk Road. History tells us that ancient Sichuan, with Chengdu as its most important city, linked South Asia through Yunnan, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, India, and Thailand, and extended as far as the Middle East.
In the days ahead, we should build on these excellent roots of civilizational, geographical and cultural affinities to further connect our countries and societies in order to achieve common prosperity in the trans-Himalayan region.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Many people are familiar with the Silk Road traveled by Marco Polo to reach Beijing in the thirteenth century. Basically, this route included Western and Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the ancient caravan route which is now Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan, onward to the Gobi Desert before reaching the durbar of Kublai Khan in Beijing.
But there are other important Silk Routes as well. ‘The Trans-Himalayan Silk Road’ and ‘The Tea Horse Trail’ dating to millennia ago are ancient routes of great influence. Recent studies reveal that the grottoes of Dunawang of Gansu Province and Mustang of Nepal have similar characteristics and belong to the same time period. They leave us an onerous task of exploring the southern Silk Road stretching those two passes through Sichuan.
Nepal was an important lynchpin in that ancient Silk Road. The trans-Himalayan routes had immense influence on the life of a vast stretch of land extending from present-day western China, central China, Turkmenistan, Bamiyan (Afghanistan), Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh (Chittagong), Sri Lanka, and India (from Kolkata to Kashmir).
The entourage of royal attendants of Princess Bhrikuti in the seventh century CE brought not only Budhhism but also Nepali craftsmanship to Tibet. Some of this cultural heritage traveled to other places in China, which can be witnessed even today. For example, the Lama Temple in Beijing as well as some temples in other places in China, contain ancient relics with Nepal’s indigenous Ranjana script. Similarly, the White Pagoda of Beijing is an excellent example of the expanse of Nepali architecture in China.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The large-scale trade and cultural communication between South Western China and South Asia since ancient times contributed not just to cross-border trade and commerce but also to cross-civilizational cultural exchanges and cross-pollination of ideas across continents.
The wealth generated by the trans-Himalaya trade helped build marvelous architecture and monuments in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur in Nepal. The Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu valley were at the forefront of the entrepreneurial communities traveling to vast swathes of the Asian heartland. The influence of Nepali craftsmanship and trade was immense in Tibet and beyond. The pagodas, stupas and ancient Buddhist art Pauva from Nepal have great influence in Chinese society. The trans-Himalayan trade across the belt is also a classic example of exchange between two ecological zones.
The middle and lower regions of Nepal produce a surplus of grains, but suffer from a lack of salt. The arid Tibetan plateau that expands to Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Sichuan, contains many salt-lakes but not much grain-producing lands or climatic conditions. The constant demand for grains on one side and for salt on the other provided a basis for stable exchange system, facilitating payment, credit and exchange. Those specializing in trade, transportation, storage and distribution could settle in otherwise inhospitable climates, and keep the caravan of trade moving.
That was the underlying logic of trade between our two countries.
Indeed, trade was an important pillar of the economies of both Nepal and western China in ancient time.
Unfortunately, the vibrant commercial exchange that underlined such a long history of cultural interface slowed down considerably by the beginning of 19th century with a slew of factors, including colonization and innovation of new technologies in Europe. Europe became the center of knowledge, economy and power.
The need of the day is to envisage a new paradigm of co-operation and commerce across the Himalayas for a win-win outcome, embedding such collaboration in the frame of bilateral co-operation between Nepal and China.
Nepal wishes to promote peace and prosperity through mutual co-operation in enhancing and deepening connectivity. Being the conduit for commerce the exchange of civilizations has been Nepal’s forte in the past. We want to lay renewed focus on this comparative advantage that we enjoyed in the past and is equally relevant at present with brighter prospect.
To this end, I propose to suggest the outlines of this new basis of trans-Himalayan co-operation initiatives.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, the rich history of cultural and commercial exchange between Nepal and China is poised at revival and rejuvenation.
For Nepal, it is also a moment of pride as we work together with China in this historic mission for greater peace, prosperity and harmony.
The proposed BRI projects encompassing cross-border roads, railways, oil pipelines, information highways, energy grids, skyways and transmission highways should aim at utilizing the rich resources along the Himalayan range, and improving the quality of lives of peoples in those areas.
The facilities and infrastructures thus created will not only raise the standards of living of the people residing in those far-flung areas, but also support conservation efforts and help overall development of that region.
During its long history, Nepal always prospered when commerce flourished, and its economy faltered when trade dwindled across the Himalayas. I am fully confident that as the Himalayan range re-emerges as a vital connecting link, Nepal’s trajectory of economic development will witness a rapid and positive transformation. It is my pleasure to share you that Nepal and China shared common views on developing a trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional transport network with long term vision during my meeting in Beijing early this week.
I would like to stress that the aspirations for development in Nepal will remain elusive without setting up a proper manufacturing base and manufacturing can’t be competitive without innovative industry in the country. The manufacturing industry with innovative activities not only raises productivity but also creates jobs for the people. The challenge for us is how to retain the youths who leave the country every day in large numbers in search of job overseas, by creating decent job opportunities at home.
Development of cross-border railways between Nepal and China is a priority for the Government of Nepal along with other connectivity related infrastructure. Coupled with their geographical proximity as well as the proposed infrastructural projects across the Himalayas, Nepal and China can work together in promoting economic activities in the Himalayan belt by creating systems of value-chains to their mutual advantage. I believe that China’s enormous manufacturing base, advance technology and its huge domestic market, together with Nepal’s rich natural, geographical and locational resources, will create the right mix of value chain and complement for continued economic growth.
Similarly, agriculture development is the areas where there is huge scope for co-operation between the two countries.
Dissemination of Chinese agricultural technologies in Nepal can raise overall production, crop yields and raise incomes for farmers, including for those who rely on high-altitude and high value farming. Mechanization of agriculture in Nepal’s fertile lands will enable Nepal to increase exports and create employment for its young people. Chinese enterprises, on the other hand, will have opportunity to introduce and invest in advance technologies of agriculture production in Nepal to command fair return on their investment.
Similarly, Nepal has abundant natural resource endowments, whereas Chinese enterprises have the technological and financial resources for investments. We need to work assiduously to realize this vast potential opportunity for development. For example, hydropower has the potential to fundamentally transform Nepal’s developmental landscape, if exploited properly. Chinese enterprises have rich experience, capability, technology and fund to harness water resource for mutual benefit.
Chinese investors may utilize the investment opportunities in Nepal for mutual benefits. The Government of Nepal is fully committed to providing security to Chinese investors. Nepal enjoys duty-free-quota-free market access for its products in many developed and emerging economies. This could serve as an incentive for investors to invest in manufacturing sectors.
Resources such as forests and timber, herbs, cool climatic zones, are areas where we can develop together.
Tourism is an area where China and Nepal both can benefit through greater cooperation. Developing tourism services would be a promising area to forge bilateral collaboration for win-win cooperation since Nepal is endowed with natural beauty, cultural diversity and place for unique adventure not yet fully developed.
In the first three months of 2018 we received more than 36,000 tourists from China, ranking it as top source country of tourists visiting Nepal. Similarly, the number of Nepalis coming to China has increased in recent years. More than 6000 Nepalis are currently living in China, pursuing higher studies, or being engaged in employment and business. Many Nepalis are beginning to choose China as a destination for travel and tourism. In addition, sizable numbers of Nepalis are also coming to China for leisure, training, study visits, sports activities, seminars and research programs.
These figures and activities indicate the magnitude and intensity of our ever growing contacts between Nepal and China at people to people level. Exchanges between peoples of the two countries are growing steadily. As 21st century’s diplomacy is focused on public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy, such exchanges will help both countries to nurture and sustain better understanding and goodwill and contribute for creating harmonious society.
Co-operation and exchanges among academic institutions, think tank, research institutes and intellectuals between Nepal and China are equally important in order for optimizing and harmonizing the learning and development endeavor in either place. Production of knowledge for continued vitality of economic activities is the most essential ingredient and integral part of development endeavor. Sichuan University can play vital role in that area. I appreciate the Sichuan University for their efforts to go beyond border and collaborate with the universities in south Asia that includes Nepal. I also would like to thank the University for providing learning opportunities and platform to the academicians, students, and researchers of Nepal and substantially contributing for their capacity building endeavor.
China is a global economic powerhouse, which gives it an important role to play in promoting world peace, development and stability.
In this context, we appreciate China’s efforts at forging co-operative links between countries in the region and beyond. We appreciate the role of the BRI as an initiative aimed at addressing the infrastructural and structural bottlenecks of development. Building cross-border infrastructure is very important for landlocked countries like ours. We expect the Belt and Road Initiative to contribute to our development efforts.
Additionally, connectivity will help Nepal exploit the full potentials of its economic possibilities. Connectivity lies at the core of all development activities.
Meanwhile, it will also help cement our ties through enhanced people-to-people relations.
In the past five years, we have seen phenomenal political, economic, and technological changes globally and in the region.
Among these significant developments has been China’s various innovative programs and institutions for global growth and harmony under the broader theme of Belt and Road Initiative.
Time is ripe now to revive the ancient glory acquired from exchanges between Nepal and China. Nepal stands ready to work together for trade and economic integration towards common prosperity.
The development of infrastructures along the trans-Himalayan region is critical for promoting economic opportunities by ensuring efficient movement of people, services and goods across the region.
To attain this goal, cooperation and understanding is required to optimize the benefits of trans-Himalayan connectivity.
Therefore, Nepal and China should focus their cooperation arrangement for building the critical infrastructure in the Himalayan region and remove the barriers for a seamless movement of people, goods and services.
We have already reached an understanding to work together to attain this goal at the earliest, and I do believe that we will reach there soon.
Dear Friends, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before concluding, let me share with you my conviction that Nepal and China are set to gear up their cooperation to a new height for mutual benefit and win–win outcomes.
At a time of historic socio-economic transformation across the globe where poverty levels have fell down to record lows and global prosperity has shored, we cannot afford to let underdevelopment and poverty wean the talents and promise of people anywhere in the world.
It was in this spirit that I discussed the scope of further enhancing co-operation between Nepal and China with the leaders of China during my current visit. And I am very happy to share with you that China, as always, has remained an enthusiastic supporter of our efforts at national development.
I would like to appreciate the South Asia Institute of Sichuan University for their continued efforts to promote Nepal-China relations.
With this note, I also would like to thank you all for your presence and kind attention.
Long live Nepal-China Friendship!