Nepal set to welcome Chinese prez after 23 years

Chinese President Xi Jinping is arriving in Kathmandu on Saturday on a two-day state visit to Nepal. The visit of Chinese President after a hiatus of 23 years is being widely seen as a milestone visit from the northern neighbor to further deepen economic cooperation between the two countries.

President Xi is expected to land in Kathmandu at around 4:30 pm from Chennai, India, where he held a summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. President Xi will hold a bilateral meeting with his Nepali counterpart Bidya Bhandari at about 6:30 pm before attending the state banquet hosted by President Bhandari.

On Sunday, ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister KP Oli are scheduled to separately call on President Xi. Likewise, a one-on-one with Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba has been scheduled for Sunday morning, according to Deuba’s personal secretary.

Prime Minister Oli and President Xi will witness the signing of various bilateral agreements between the two countries on Sunday. A cabinet meeting held on Thursday evening decided to sign over a dozen agreements to develop various projects in partnership with China.

The major agreements to be signed with China include those related to the development of DPR of the much-talked-about Kerung-Kathmandu railway, construction of a 6-kilometer tunnel connecting Tokha (Kathmandu) to Chhahare (Nuwakot) and upgrading of the road up to Syaphrubesi in Rasuwa, according to cabinet sources.

The government has also decided to keep upgrading of Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali north-south corridors — in order to facilitate cross-country movement with China — on top of its agenda. Besides early upgrading and operation of the Kimathanka and Korala border points, the two countries are scheduled to reach agreements to lay a cross-country power transmission line and establishment of Madan Bhandari University. 

Although discussions on possible extradition treaty between Nepal and China are likely during the meeting, senior government officials ruled out the possibility of signing any agreement on the issue. Nepal and China are also likely to reach agreement on developing Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to Nepali exports to China in order to reduce ballooning trade deficit.  

The visit of President Xi comes in the wake of Nepal failing to expedite implementation of any major projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) to which Nepal agreed to be part of in May 2017. Earlier, Nepal had trimmed down to nine projects from 35 project of its wish-list at the request of the Chinese side. Nepal and China have also agreed to develop Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network. 

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