By Li Xiguang
To achieve the overall objective of building a major overland trade thoroughfare from Beijing through Himalayas to South Asia, Tibetan Autonomous Region has a construction plan of “One line, two bases and three ports.”
The three ports are Geelong, Zhangmu and Yadong, which will be linked to the Beijing-Tibet railway with two logistics centers built in Nagqu and Lhasa, as part of the China 13th Five-year Plan (2016~2020), according to Yang Yulin, the deputy director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Railway Office.
With the running and extension of Beijing-Tibet railway line in the Himalayas, the Himalayas will be no longer an impassable natural frontier. China-Nepal caravan route will usher in significant growth in the flow of people and goods.
The landlocked Nepal, which is sandwiched between two giant neighbors China and India, will have fast container trains to carry its goods through China to the world. The extension of the railway line sends a clear message of China’s efforts at upgrading its relations with Southeast Asian countries.
Hundreds of years of interaction among peoples in China, Nepal and India have created tremendous religious, ethnic and cultural affinities. The Himalayas and many rivers extend from Tibet to these regions making China-South Asia relations interdependent. China sticks to the policy of building friendship and partnership with neighboring countries. China cannot achieve sound development unless its neighbors also prosper along the way.
Over the past few years, China has been investing heavily on infrastructure for better connectivity among neighbors in the hopes of improving the economy, trade and personel ties. China and India are the world’s most dynamic countries in terms of economic development. If China and India put achieving common development and common prosperity as the top agenda in handling their relations, not only Chinese goods can easily enter the huge markets in the Indian plains, northern Indian people and states will also have increased access to equally huge markets beyond the Himalayas.
Although China has had long-running border disputes with India, bilateral trade relations have improved recently. Now China has become the largest trading partner of India. If Nepal succeeds in becoming a bridge between the two rapidly growing global economies, it will benefit not only India and China, but also Nepal greatly.
About China-Nepal future cooperation, I suggest that China increase its investments in Nepal in three major sectors: 1. Special economic zones on Nepal’s border with China; 2. Investment in hydropower; 3. Construction of an international airport and a fast track railway to Lumbini.
With the establishment of special economic zones on Nepal-China border, Nepalese products will reach China’s domestic market, creating more employment opportunities in Nepal and also cutting back bilateral trade deficit with China. Even though Nepal has a small market, considering its low labor costs and preferential policies in exports, Chinese companies will be attracted to invest and set up factories in Nepal, whose products will be exported to South Asia as well as Europe and the United States.
This “re-export economies” strategy can bring “win-win” results. The frequent flow of people and goods between China, Nepal and India will deeply and extensively improve relations among the three countries. Nepal is rich in water resources with a tremendous potential for hydro-electricity generation. Nepal adjoins Indian northern states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal that are facing energy shortages, and where the demand for energy is huge. It is lamentable that water from many of Nepal’s rivers flowing away without being used.
It is also worth noting that 75% of the energy used in Nepal comes from firewood. Because of continuous deforestation, Nepal is seeing a serious loss of soil, sediment deposition, and river bed rising at a rate of one foot per year. Construction of dams on the rivers exacerbates this trend, threatening downstream northern and eastern Indian plains with floods. If China, Nepal and India join hands to regulate the flow of these rivers in terms of flood control, irrigation or power generation, it will serve the common interest of the three countries.
Another area for attracting investors from China is Lumbini, to which Nepal could increase tourists from China by ten folds and where Chinese investors could make big returns. Some one billion followers of Buddhism or its philosophy of life in China would be very happy to pay a visit to the birth land of the Buddha once in their life time if the place is marketed well.
(Source: Second Page of APD 12th issue, published in September 2014)