Statement by Hon’ble Mr. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal on “Nepal-China Partnership for Trans-Himalayan Development” At China Foreign Affairs University, Beijing
08 September 2017
President of the Foreign Affairs University of China
Scholars and Academicians
Friends from Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure and honour to be amongst learned scholars, academics, youthful students, media persons and friends of Nepal. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the President of the University for extending kind invitation to join you all today.
I am standing in front of you in the University, which is the only institution of higher learning under the guidance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
The University has an illustrious history and legacy whose roots are imbedded in the birth of new China. Since its establishment in 1955 under the visionary inspiration of Premier Zhou Enlai, this University has been producing experts, professionals and think tanks in the fields of diplomacy, foreign affairs and international relations .
Thousands of professionals and students from many countries around the globe including Nepal have been trained or educated in this University. We deeply appreciate and thank the University for providing opportunities of training and higher studies for Nepali students.
Today, I will be speaking to you on the theme ‘Nepal-China Partnership for Trans-Himalayan Development’. The theme is selected in the context of growing engagements in socio-economic development between our two countries. Before going to the core part of the topic, let me share with you the historical relationship between our two countries.
Nepal and China are the nations with civilizational linkages. These linkages date back to antiquity and have co-existed and matured with the passage of time.
People-to-people relations have a long history. The teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha- an enlightened son of Nepal- have a special place in our relations. The visits of Nepali monks, scholars and artists to China such as Buddhabhadra in early 5th century, the marriage of Nepali Princess Bhrikuti to Tibetan King in first half of the 7th century and Araniko in the second half of 13th century are testimony to strong historical connections between our two countries.
Likewise, the story of life and teachings of Shakyamuni made it possible for the Chinese monks and scholars like Monk Fa Hsian and Monk Xuan Zang to explore Nepal and pursue knowledge. They were not only acquainted with Buddhism but also laid a strong bond of relations between our two countries.
Our visionary leaders laid the political foundations for friendship and good neighborliness with the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1955 is constantly nurtured and developed by the successive leaderships.
Since then, our countries have seen numerous changes and transformations both at home and abroad. But, Nepal-China relations are steadily growing and setting new milestones and benchmarks irrespective of changes in both countries and outside world. Our relationship serves as a model of relationship between the countries of different sizes and social systems. We enjoy trouble-free relationship.
Nepal is firm in its commitment to One China Policy. We do not allow our territory for any elements to work against the interests of our neighbours. No matter which political parties lead the government in Nepal, our friendship with China has always remained close and cordial. This is the uniqueness of Nepal-China relations.
Our relations are founded on the principles of peaceful co-existence. Moreover, the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference and respect for each other’s sensitivities are the defining features of Nepal-China relations.
Our political relations are underpinned by strong economic cooperation and partnership. We consider China as our reliable and trusted partner for our socio-economic progress and transformation. Our partnership transcends all human interactions.
Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake in April 2015. The generous support extended by China to Nepal in disaster relief and rescue efforts as well as in the ongoing post-disaster reconstruction truly signifies the breadth, depth and warmth of our relationship. We deeply cherish our friendship with this great friendly neighbour. Nepal’s foreign policy accords top priority to relations with our immediate neighbours. And, we are happy to note that China has also given priority to its relations with neighbours by adopting the policy of peripheral development.
It is a fact that global economic growth today hinges on the performance of major economies, notably the Chinese economy. China’s peaceful development has been possible by the farsightedness and commitment of the Chinese leadership supported by hardworking and dedicated Chinese people. Today, China is truly a global economic powerhouse. It gives it an important role to play in promoting world peace, development and stability. The economic performance of China and the unprecedented development transformation it has achieved remain a source of inspiration and emulation for many developing countries.
China’s One Belt One Road Initiative offers opportunities for collaboration and partnership. I would like to thank and appreciate President Xi Jinping for taking this visionary initiative. Development of infrastructure, improvement of physical connectivity, fair trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people relations are some of the areas in which we have vital interest. The most important expectation of Nepali people is their strong desire to realize the construction railways linking Nepal’s major cities with northern border. I hope this is a genuine demand and can be fulfilled with Chinese resources and state-of-the- art technology. Top leaders in both countries have committed to working towards this end.
In realizing Nepal’s aspirations for development and prosperity, we have already started a journey. By signing the cooperation MoU under the BRI in May 2017 we have upscaled our partnership.
Nepal has set the vision for attaining a middle-income status by 2030. But, we face several structural bottlenecks in our economy to realize this vision despite ample possibilities in terms of human and natural resources, country’s position and potentials. It is our expectation that the special development needs and requirements of countries like Nepal, which is an LDC and LLDC, will be given due consideration under BRI.
Nepal can no longer afford to be languishing in poverty while our neighbours make incredible progress in every sphere. We have already set the political course. Our focus is on economic development. We believe that an edifice for a peaceful and stable country can be erected only on the strong foundation of economic development and prosperity. Economic distress remains at the core of political instability. A peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal will be in the interest of our neighbours as well.
Nepal and China face each other across the Himalayas, and are linked by mountains and rivers. For millennia, the peoples of our countries have entered into commercial and cultural contact with each other despite the high Himalayas separating them, which has served as a link for our peoples, not as a barrier.
Looking at our partnership through an historic perspective, the Himalayas had remained the thoroughfare in our commercial interactions, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Just over one century ago, Nepal itself used to be a vibrant trade entrépot that connected parts of North and Central Asia with South Asia.
We have several avenues for partnership and collaboration. Recently, we have concluded important instruments to consolidate and expand our cooperation. We have committed to fully implementing the agreements and understandings reached in the past and ensuring deliverable for the benefits of our people. And, most importantly, our bilateral engagements and business linkages are major platforms to transform the prospects for growth and prosperity into reality. Last month we have signed an important MoU to improve investment climate and economic partnership between Nepal and China.
Early in March, we hosted Nepal Investment Summit-2017. The summit set a good example of what we can do in partnership. Of total investment pledges, more than 60 percent came from Chinese investors. Joint efforts and promotion are essential to realize such interest into reality for our mutual interest.
Currently China is the largest source of our FDI. It is growing and helping us to set the industrialization process encompassing the areas from construction to communication, tourism to transport, road to railway.
The Nepal-China Non-governmental Cooperation Forum remains active to promote the partnership in the private sector. In May 2017, the Forum organized its 14th Meeting in Kathmandu. Important exchanges were made among the businessperson and entrepreneurs on the matters such as new energy, including hydropower; hardware and building materials trade and tourism. On the margin of the Forum, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) and China Chamber of Tourism (CCT) to promote tourism between the two countries. Such initiative is a welcome step in deepening relations for mutual benefits in the private sector.
Last month, we successfully organized Nepal-China business forum to share views on enhancing partnership in trade sector and to contribute to the sustainable trade development between Nepal and China. But our partnership has to go a long way to seize the benefits in trade sector. Trade scenario is not satisfactory. We need more trade facilitating measures from China to arrest the growing trade deficit. We have the plan to work together for Nepal-China FTA and establishment of cross border cooperation and industrial zones.
Tourism sector has tremendous potential to transform the dynamics of our relations by bringing the people at the center stage. China is our second largest source of tourists. Still we need to take up joint actions to fully unleash the tourism potentials. It brings our people closer and contributes to our economies.
Nepal is the land of Shakyamuni Buddha- the light of Asia and fountain of peace, the land of Everest and the Himalayas. Nepal has diverse and rich culture, pristine nature, scenic and adventurous spots for all kind of visitors. Despite these cultural and natural heritages, we still lack adequate publicity of these attractions among the Chinese people.
We thank the Chinese Government for designating 2017 as Nepal Tourism Promotion Year in China. Last month, Nepal hosted a familiarization trip to media persons from China with the aim of familiarizing our tourism attractions among the Chinese people. As a token of friendship, we have been providing cost free visa to the Chinese visitors to Nepal.
We need supports from all sectors to give publicity to our tourism attractions among the Chinese friends. The major tourist destinations of Nepal can be publicized in major cities and in the public transport means of China such as rail and buses. We are seeking to utilize the mass media and popular online platforms of China to this end.
Connectivity is key to our relationship. It is a key enabler for development, lack of which hampers the process of development. We have overland routes through our border and air connectivity between cities. Yet, building cross-border railways, transmission lines, new roadways, transit corridors and info-ways would go a long way in transforming our development landscape.
Connectivity and transit transport facilities means a lot to a landlocked country like Nepal. In 2016, we signed Agreement on Transit Transport. Recently, we have started substantial work on the conclusion of its Protocol.
We have agreed to open, improve and upgrade our border points. Resumption of Tatopani/Zhangmu border point at the earliest is our priority. It holds both historic significance and current imperative in our partnership.
Energy security is crucial for economic development. Nepal is endowed with huge water resources. This resource can be harnessed to develop a clean energy base and reducing over reliance on fossil fuel at a time when the world is grappling to overcome the adverse effects of climate change. Investment in mega hydropower projects and related infrastructures can be beneficial to Nepal as well as Chinese investors.
The Chinese experience, ideas, innovation and engineering techniques for the development has established itself as the pioneer in railways, bridges, tunnel, expressways, agriculture, electronics, computing and smart technology. Such development experiences, ideas and technology are essential for our development drive. We want to draw from them, adapt them to address our development needs.
Nepal has demographic dividend. We have a large population of young and creative people. Our partnership in terms of investment can be instrumental in creating jobs for millions of youth who leave the country every day in large number in search of job opportunities overseas. This precious human asset must be used for the development of our own country.
Our collaboration also extends to the education sector. Every year several hundred Nepali students have been pursuing higher education in China. China is increasingly becoming one of the most preferred foreign destinations for Nepali students. The wealth of knowledge acquired by Nepali students in diverse disciplines has contributed to fulfill our human resource gap in the country.
I am pleased to state here that the number of Chinese students studying in various institutes and universities of Nepal is also growing.
The number of Nepal studies Centers is also growing in different universities of China. This would help bring our peoples closer. At the same time, our universities can initiate joint academic works and academic exchanges programs.
The gravity of the world power (economic) is shifting towards Asia. It is also called the coming of the Asian Century where China has an important role to play. Our collective efforts can make this century, the Asian century, a century of growth, development and prosperity.
Similarly, our engagements in the Asian Infrastructure Bank, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and ACD supplement our collaboration and partnership. We also have the tradition of working closely at regional and multilateral levels to push forward the matter of mutual interest.
As I said earlier, Nepal has undergone political transformation of historic proportions. Economic prosperity is now our topmost priority. We count on China’s continued support in our march towards economic transformation.
Before I conclude, allow me to thank Mr. President, for creating this platform, a platform for sharing my views on Nepal-China partnership for harnessing the prospects of growth and shared prosperity.
We must create a success story of partnership, a partnership for enduring prosperity and a partnership for transformation to visibly uplift the living standard of our people.
I thank you all!