By Our Reporter
Nepal has finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation under One Belt One Road Initiative ending all speculations of the past 10 months.
Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and Chinese Ambassador to Nepal You Hong signed the MoU on behalf of their respective governments in Kathmandu on Friday (May 12).
The delay made by Nepal in joining the billion dollar project had raised suspicions in Nepal. The government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal had been hesitating to ink the OBOR initiative because of opposition of India to the Chinese project. Obviously, the government that came to power in the Indian support was not in position to disobey the Indian instruction.
Had Prime Minister Dahal not been to China during the recent Boao Forum, he would not have been ready to nod it. The Chinese officials had been exerting pressure on the government to sign the MoU on OBOR since long.
Nepal had in principle agreed to be a part of OBOR in 2014. But internal politics coupled with the earthquake of 2015 had prevented Nepal from signing the MoU. Moreover, the return of Dahal to power in the backing of NC in home and New Delhi had made Nepal’s participation in OBOR uncertain.
Foreign Minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat was once blamed for hiding document relating to OBOR.
Besides Chinese authorities, Maoist Centre leader Narayankaji Shrestha had to exert pressure on Prime Minister to ink the MoU on OBOR. However, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist leader Barsha Man Pun were not showing any interest in signing the MoU.
But PM Dahal who had expressed his commitment to sign the understanding during his Beijing visit in April this year had nodded the OBOR project days before he was to hand over power to NC president Deuba.
By signing the MoUDahal has managed to give a message that he would not follow all the instructions of New Delhi.
Although late, the government decision to formally nod the OBOR has pleased the Nepalese scholars who have been voicing for Nepal’s participation in the OBOR. The scholars and the people were fearing whether Nepal would be missing the OBOR project, which will be helpful in enhancing Nepal’s connectivity and trade with the countries beyond India and Asia. Improving the connectivity and cooperation between the countries of Eurasian area in order to promote trade exchanges in this vast region is the main objective of OBOR.
Nepal’s participation in the OBOR project will be key to introduce and expand railways service in Nepal connecting with her China and other countries. As a next door neighbour, Nepal cannot be isolated from the OBOR initiatives of China, and the government has taken a right decision to ink it, which is sure to help landlocked Nepal to expand her trade and connectivity beyond the neighbouring countries.
In South Asia, only India and Bhutan have been excluded from the OBOR.