By PR Pradhan
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has returned home with the message that Chinese rails will arrive in Kathmandu in the days to come. Chinese supreme leader and President Xi Jinping, during the meeting with our Prime Minister Oli, also hoped that the Chinese rails will reach Kathmandu after the completion of the railway line up to Kerung.
Currently, a feasibility study is underway regarding construction of the 75 kms long railway line. After the feasibility study, China has agreed to prepare a detailed project report.
In 1973, when late King Birendra was in Beijing, during the talks with the Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, the latter had talked of his dream of linking Tibet with Beijing through a railway line. During that meeting King Birendra had wished for extending the Beijing-Tibet railway line up to Kathmandu. Finally, both the leaders had agreed to construct cross-border railway line linking Kathmandu with China. Today, already, fast trains are being operated to Lhasa and now going further to Singatse. In the near future, the Chinese rails will arrive in Kerung, across the Nepal-China border. From Kerung, the Chinese rails may come to Kathmandu if we are strongly committed in our own efforts to help the Chinese in every way to achieve this target.
However, a section of the so-called local experts who like to dance to foreign tunes, have started to question about the benefit from bringing the Chinese rails to Kathmandu. They are of the view that this is an expensive project and it will cost not less than 2.5 billion rupees per km of the railway line. In total, 350 billion rupees is expected for the construction of the railway line. How will Nepal manage such a huge fund, they question. If Nepal will complete the project by taking loans from China, the country will become an economic slave of China as Nepal will not be able to payback the loan, they argue.
There is a popular saying, “where there is a will, there will be a way”. At the time when King Mahendra had inaugurated the East-West Highway (now Mahendra Highway), the nation’s treasury was empty. That time, the King had asked all the citizens to donate their labour to construct the road. Today, this highway has become the only link from east to west Nepal via a good road, otherwise, we had to travel from one part of the country to another part of the country via Indian soil. If we have a strong will, then the present dream will also come true.
We are facing a huge deficit in our trade with China. Experts believe that if we bring a railway line just to import Chinese products, the deficit will further increase, which is true. But China is also a huge nation and a big market for Nepal. If we study which products we can export to China and start to work on this from today, obviously, we can send the rail back to China loaded with our products. Today, along with economic prosperity, the Chinese lifestyle has also been improved. The labour cost has increased. Therefore, China is shifting its production plants to neighbouring countries where the labour cost is cheaper. If we will be able to provide a peaceful, disciplined and apolitical labour base along with guaranteeing further facilities, the Chinese investors will establish industries in Nepal and export the products to China.
Once, a Chinese scholar had said that the Belt and Road Initiative has been introduced not to make the neighbouring/partner countries poor but to make them rich. He had further explained that if one country will become rich by leaving all her neighbours poor, that country will not be able to enjoy the charm of prosperity. China believes, Chinese products can be consumed by the neighbouring countries only if they can afford the price. If the neighbouring countries become rich, then only can they afford the Chinese products, he explained, while talking about the BRI theme.
Be that as it may, one thing is clear that prosperity will not come along with the arrival of the Chinese rail. We have to think better and work hard to bring prosperity and the Chinese rails will become an effective economic tool for fulfilling such a task.