Will access to Chinese ports end Nepal’s dependence on Indian ports for trade with other nations? Is China trying to take advantage of the political barrier between Nepal and India? Kathmandu and Beijing have finalised a transit protocol that will allow Nepal to access Chinese ports for trade with China and beyond.
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The pact will bring to an end Nepal’s heavy dependence on Indian ports for trade with other countries. After a marathon meeting, officials of the two governments signed the protocol on Thursday night, giving conclusive shape to the core pact signed between the two countries when Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli visited China in March 2016 in the wake of economic limitation by India.
As per an official release, the formalisation of the deal allows the transportation of goods from other countries to Nepal via all of the ports in China, including Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianygang, Zhanziang and dryports that include Lhanzin, Lhasa and Shigatse.
Overland trade to and from Nepal is now routed largely through Kolkata which takes up to three months, officials said. New Delhi has also initiated the southern port at Vishakhapatnam for Nepali trade.
According to the traders, the plan to connect the country with China could encounter issues because of a lack of proper roads and customs infrastructure on the Nepalese side of the border. The closest Chinese port is also situated more than 2,600 km from its border.
“Nepal must develop proper infrastructure for smooth access to Chinese ports. Without this simply opening of ports will not be useful,” said Anup Malla, an exporter of woollen carpets.
China is making fast encroachments into Nepal with help and investment, challenging India’s long-held position as the ruling outside power. Beijing and Kathmandu are also having discussions for building a railway link into Nepal, building an electric transmission line and are conducting a feasibility study for a free trade agreement.