In many ways, the two-day state visit by the Chinese President Xi Jinping can be termed as ‘historic’ and ‘landmark’. First, it is the first visit by the Chinese president to Nepal in 23 years. During his stay here, Xi did not express anything that could displease Nepalis. He was able to receive Nepal’s commitments in ‘One China Policy’, China’s border security concerns and the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). His message that China is ready to assist its small neighbour ‘to transform from being land locked to land linked’ made a lasting impression among Nepalis who have always wanted to end the historic dependency Nepal has over India in terms of connectivity and trade.
Both countries also agreed to take bilateral ties to a 'strategic partnership'. The Chinese side has agreed to start feasibility study of the Trans-Himalayan Railway keeping the hope of Nepal to have a railway linking to China. Similarly, construction of the Kathmandu-Kerung Tunnel Road has also been agreed. In fact, having a tunnel road is a very pragmatic approach to link Nepal with its northern neighbour. The extradition treaty between the two neighbours did not happened as people have thought; both sides agreed to make necessary arrangements for exchange of legal information.
Meanwhile, the agreement for making arrangements for phytosanitary import requirements of citrus fruits is beneficial for Nepal. This has opened doors for Nepal to export oranges, lemons, grapefruits, citrons, among others fruits, to China. Furthermore, permission to open consulate at the eastern province of Shandong, one of the economic powerhouse regions of China, is also particularly benefitting to Nepal. Also, agreement to established a permanent mechanism under the leadership of commerce secretaries of both countries to facilitate Nepal’s import of goods and services to China is a welcome. It can be helpful to tame Nepal’s trade deficit with China which is widening every year.
However, due to the lack of proper internal preparations, Nepal is unlikely to benefit to the level from the visit of the world’s most powerful president. Xi did not give Nepal any ‘big surprise’ many people have hoped for long. Nepali officials who prepared a wish list of 11 projects they have thought the Chinese president would sign were largely left empty handed. It indicates lack of diplomatic efficiency on the part of Nepal government. Nepal’s northern border has played an important role in China’s security. The country has to spend billions of dollars should it manage its security on this part by itself. Providing a three-year financial assistance of Rs 56 billion to Nepal is not a big deal in this regard. Had Nepal persuaded China to understand its role in the security of China, the size of the financial assistance would have been much bigger.
The parts of Kathmandu traveled and visited by the Chinese delegation got a hurried facelift. The usually dusty and waste littered roads of the capital were cleaned and decorated overnight. Nevertheless, the preparations lacked farsightedness. There is no doubt that Xi’s Nepal visit has been more a goodwill gesture, and will further strengthen bilateral ties between the two neighbours. However, the real success of this visit will be evaluated on the basis of the implementation of the signed agreements and the benefits to Nepalis.