Reference:CGTN | Updated: 30 April 2019
Nepal and China on Monday signed the Protocol on Implementing Agreement on Transit and Transport at the Great Hall of People, ensuring Nepal's access to seven Chinese ports for the supplies of goods. The much-hyped protocol has been deemed a milestone since it has formally ended Nepal's sole dependence on Indian routes to import and export goods to the third countries.
With the recent deal, the relation between Nepal and China has not only been further solidified but also established landlocked Nepal's unhindered right to use the sea port -- helping widen the vista of Nepal's international relations. For this historic move, China has received warm applause from Nepalese for offering an unconditional alternate access to the sea.
Nepal and China had agreed on the protocol during the visit of Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli in July 2018. Signing of the protocol took place during Nepali President Bidhya Devi Bhandari's state visit to China. And its coincidence with the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) is a great achievement since it has opened up Nepal's multiple choices for transports of goods to the third countries. If we put infrastructure in place, Nepal can enjoy the right to import goods from China's seven ports.
Prior to this, Nepal used to heavily rely on Kolkata port, and minor hassles in the Indian port would take a heavy toll on the traders and the consumers ultimately. So, the idea of trade and transit via Chinese routes was cultivated when India imposed economic blockade on Nepal in 2015. During the blockade, normal life in the landlocked country was thrown out of gear for lack of petroleum products, medical supplies and other key daily essentials. Since then, Nepal's “closet friend” India not only lost its grip in Nepal and its politicians but also encouraged Nepali politicians to find a long-lasting solution.
As agreed upon, China has agreed to let Nepal use four sea ports and three dry ports for trading with third countries. And discussions could be initiated for the access to other ports too, if needed for Nepal. As per the agreement, the traders from Nepal can receive and supply the goods only by furnishing the documents of e-payment unlike the obligation of submitting original documents of payment to the Indian customs office.
Likewise, all six customs points in the Nepal-China area, namely Rasuwa, Kodari, Kimathanka, Nechung, Yari and Olangchungola could be used for trade and transit. But, the use of Chinese ports is not a negation of the Indian ports that Nepal is using now but should be and is a tool to further diversity Nepal's trade and transit for the more benefits of our national interests.
By trading via the Chinese routes, Nepal's trade relations are expected to be diversified and promoted up to the central Asian and other South Asian markets too. However, these all depend on Nepal's capacity to utilize the market opportunity arising from the new routes to import goods. Equally imperative is Nepal's priority for infrastructure development.
Furthermore, the next step the Nepal government should carry out is to build smooth infrastructure for the easy and accessible flow of the goods-laden vehicles since mobility of goods-laden heavy vehicles is challenging given the tough geographical terrain and poor road infrastructure along the northern belt of Nepal. Additionally, Nepal should place a top priority for practical connectivity and build different corridors linking Chinese border to its other cities.
Likewise, the agreement to constitute two high-level permanent mechanisms to troubleshot possible problems in the course of implementing the protocol is a great way forward for its sustainability. So, Nepal is happy for China being an all-weather neighbor and understanding the woes and weal of the landlocked country. Endorsement of Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network in the BRF and signing of the Protocol on Implementing Agreement on Transit and Transport could be the landmark achievements in regards to promoting Nepal's development and furthering China-Nepal relations.