KATHMANDU, June 24: Main Opposition party Nepal Congress leader and former finance minister Dr Ramsaran Mahat has argued that Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s China visit has failed to make any breakthrough despite being a positive step in building better bilateral ties.
“Developing economic partnership with China is good for Nepal. Oli’s China visit has hinted at many positive outcomes in future. The agreements made with China are positive,” said Mahat at an interaction program organized by Reporters Club Nepal on Sunday.
Nepal and China signed 14 agreements on wide ranging issues during Oli’s six-day visit—which include deals on energy co-operation, investment and co-operation on production capacity, economic and technical co-operation, reconstruction of Friendship bridge and Rasuwa bridge, protocol on the utilization of highways in Tibet Autonomous Region by Nepal for cargo transport, human resource development co-operation, formation of Ministry of Foreign Affairs level mechanisms for facilitation on Nepal-China cooperation projects, building of 159-km long Kerung-Galchhi transmission line and Kathmandu-Kerung cross-border railway line.
He however said that the visit has failed to make any breakthrough. “Deals on opening checkpoints, infrastructure developments are not new. Both of the nations had already agreed on these projects in the past,” he said.
“Kodari and Rasuwa border were opened during our period,” he said.
“The then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had reached verbal understanding on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), when he visited China in 2014 August.”
He added that Oli’s China visit has added new dimension to the agreements reached with China in the past. “But now, focus should be on implementation of these agreements,” he added.
Commenting on deal on Marsyangdi hydropower project, he said, “Agreement has been done under engineering, procurement, construction and finance (EPCF) model of project development. To my knowledge, this model should be done between two governments not private sector.”
Eight different agreements were signed between the government and private companies of Nepal and China to develop hydropower projects, cement industries and establishing highland food parks, at the presence of PM Oli. An MoU on Framework Agreement for Cooperation in Marsyangdi Cascade Hydropower Project of 600 MW was signed between Butwal Power Company of Nepal and the representative of Sichuan Investment Group Company.
“I don’t understand what private sectors were involved in this MoU,” added Mahat.
Mahat further said the government should focus on the economic aspects of the country while bringing Kerung-Kathmandu railway. “Who will invest? How much investment will it require? Will it be grant or assistance or loan? It is better if China builds it. We should focus on these issues,” he said.
“It will probably cost about 5 to 6 billion USD. This amount is double than our current total loan,” he added.
“We cannot take big loans we will not be able to handle. We should hold serious discussion before making any decision on railway project,” he added.
“It will be a welcome relief if the railway project is built in Chinese grant,” he furthered.
“In overall, the prime minister’s China visit has added more positive dimensions in Nepal-China bilateral relation,” he said.