China woos Nepal with more infrastructure, hydro projects

Firming up ties with Nepal, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the two countries should strengthen cooperation in interconnectivity, infrastructure, and hydropower development as Kathmandu pledged to keep up the crackdown on Tibetans supporting the Dalai Lama.

China is willing to initiate talks on Free Trade Agreement withNepal at an early date, Xi said.

He suggested that the two countries should work on traffic interconnectivity, infrastructure, hydropower development, modernisation of agriculture and science and technology.

The Chinese President yesterday met his Nepalese counterpart Ram Baran Yadav on the sidelines of Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Xi welcomed Nepal’s participation in the Silk Road projects unveiled by him at the forum to improve China’s connectivity to Europe through a maze of road, rail and port network.

Though no specific projects were mentioned with Nepal, the two sides are planning to beef up the connectivity with rail and road links, amid concerns in India over China’s growing influence in the Himalayan country.

Early this month, China had increased its annual aid to Nepal to USD 128 million from USD 24 million.

Yadav was one of the 13 heads of states and government who took part in the annual conference at Boao town.

“China appreciates Nepal’s firm support on issues concerning China’s core interests, including issues related to Tibet and Taiwan,” Xi said, apparently referring to Kathmandu’s crackdown on Tibetan refugees crossing over to meet the Dalai Lama at Dharamshala in India.

Xi hoped that Nepal would not allow any forces to use Nepal’s territory to engage in anti-China separatist activities.

He said China will continue to support Nepal’s effort in safeguarding independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Yadav said Nepal would never allow its territory to be used by any anti-China activities.

Nepal called for strengthened cooperation between the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and China, in a bid to promote regional interconnectivity and economic development, he said.

China made a pitch to join SAARC at the last year’s South Asian regional grouping’s conference at Kathmandu which was stalled by India.

Yadav also said Nepal supports China’s initiatives of jointly build the Silk Road Economic Belt, 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.