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Nepal - China Relations

A Maoist insurgency began in Nepal in 1996. The Chinese were deeply embarrassed that rebel movement calls itself Maoist. When this insurgency began, it appeared to be anti-Indian, but in 2001 it was revealed that the Maoist were operating from bases in India.

King Gyanendra had clearly stated Nepal's stand on his state visit to Beijing in July 2002. "(Nepal) will not allow the emergence of elements running against the development of Nepal-Chinese ties," he was quoted as saying in the local press. "It will not permit within its borders any activities that undermine China's interests."

Prior to 2006, Nepals monarch maintained a generally balanced approach in dealing with India and China even though in practice Nepal had a closer relationship with India due to key factors, such as geography, socio-cultural closeness, and reliance on trade and transit through India. However, a great political transition occurred in Nepal during 2007. In 2008 the Maoists came to power. Since these political developments, China extensively increased its activities in Nepal.

On 06 October 2009, Reuters reported Nepal would deploy armed police along its largely unguarded border with Tibet, raising criticism that pressure from China, a key donor and trading partner, prompted the move. The article quoted Home Minister Bhim Rawal, "We want to secure our borders from any trans-border movement by any criminal elements...not because of the insistence of any country." A Nepalese editor told Reuters, "What this reflects is China's extreme sensitivity to the possibility of Nepal being used as a springboard for Tibetan nationalism." These reports overstate the reality of the buildup of the Armed Police Force (APF) along the Nepal-China border. The police presence on the 884 mile border has been limited to the temporary placement of a company of 100-120 personnel at each of the five major border crossings -- a total of 850 rotating personnel, far short of the intended 10,000 claimed by Nepali vernacular media.

With the People's Republic of China, the year 2015 marked the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Both the countries celebrated this occasion throughout the year by organising a series of commemorative events and programmes as well as exchanging visits at various levels. On 20-27 March 2016, the Rt. Honble Prime Minister Mr. K.P. Sharma Oli paid an official visit to China and visited Beijing, Boao Xian and Chengdu cities. During the visit, both sides signed a number of important agreements and understandings related to transit, transport, connectivity, energy and supplies. A comprehensive Joint Statement was issued during the visit. The Hon'ble Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs also paid an official visit to China on 23-29 December 2015. China warmly welcomed the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal recognising it as the historic progress in the political transition of Nepal.

Nepal received substantial and prompt support from the Government and people of China following the massive earthquakes of April 2015. China sent several aircraft carrying relief materials, medical supplies and rescue equipment. Nepal also received generous support from various Provinces, Autonomous and Special Administrative Regions of China. China pledged 3 billion RMB grant for the post-earthquake reconstruction programs. Nepal China relations received further boost during the official visit of the Rt. Hon'ble Prime Minister of Nepal, Mr. K. P. Sharma Oli to China on 20-27 March 2016 at the invitation of the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, H.E. Li Keqiang.

The Lanzhou to Xigaze China-Nepal rail-truck route relieved Nepal from being solely dependent on India for the transportation of international goods. This is part of Chinas soft diplomacy to create the ground for One Belt One Road (OBOR). A cross-border railroad link to the Rasuwagadhi area has already been discussed between the two countries. China completed the extension of the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet railway line to Shigatse, a town near the Nepal border in October 2014.

In China the railroad is expected to reach the Nepal border by 2020. The Chinese side has thought to have offered financial support to extend the line into Nepal, although Kathmandu responded cautiously to the offer in light of India's sensitivities. When the railroad reaches to Nepal, it would be the most convenient if Nepal could also build a good railroad to Rasuwagadhi. The Rasuwagadhi border point is a reasonable distance from the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. The Rasuwa district is also a very popular site for tourists and lies among pilgrimage routes. As it is not very densely populated, empty land is available and accessible for construction of the railway track and rail stations.

The 106-kilometer-long Pasang Lhamu Highway already connects the Rasuwagadhi border to China from Galchi, setting a precedent for another link. This road has been operating from the sixth century for trade between Tibet and Nepal. Kings in Kathmandu Valley traded with Tibet via this road to the west and with Kuti (Nyalam) to the east. In those days, Nepal exported food, silver, chili pepper, spices and garlic, and imported wool, cloth, gold and salt.

Chinese soldiers and civilians building a road from southern Tibet to Nepal set up a banner and Chinese national flag at the border in early September 2017, inviting Nepalese citizens on the other side of the line to help them extend the road farther into Nepal. The group, which appeared on Sept. 1 at Nepals border with Kyirong county in the Tibet Autonomous Region, distributed food and clothing to the Nepalese, promising to help them with the roadwork and other construction projects in Nepal if permission can be obtained from government authorities in Kathmandu, a resident of the area told RFAs Tibetan Service.

The Chinese began building a road from the Tibetan side of the border up to the Nepalese side about two years ago, and they have now finally finished that work. Now, a group of Chinese military and civilian officials have appeared at the border, raising a banner and the Chinese national flag to win the hearts and minds of the people on the border. The banner, which was written in both Chinese and Tibetan, urged loyalty to the Chinese motherland and called for harmonious living. This is a new development, and the local Nepali residents are concerned and have mixed feelings about Chinas distribution to them of free goods.

President Xi Jinping concluded a visit to Nepal on 13 October 2019, with 20 signed agreements and almost US$500 million in financial aid promised to the Himalayan nation. Prime Minister of Nepal KP Sharma Oli, and the Chinese President signed 18 agreements and two letters for renewing relations in areas like security, border management, trade, tourism and education. The first visit of a Chinese president in more than twenty years to Nepal was of "historic importance" according to Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali. "Our priority is to create opportunities for Nepal by uniting it with China's development," he said.

Separate agreements were also reached for a trans-Himalayan railway to Tibet and a tunnel. Recalling a railway cooperation memorandum of understanding signed in June 2018, the two sides agreed to conduct a feasibility study for a China-Nepal Cross Border Railway. The seventy-kilometer railway will connect Gyiron in Tibet with Nepal's capital Kathmandu, making it one of the country's most ambitious infrastructure projects. This is the first state visit by a Chinese head of state to Nepal in 23 years. During a bilateral talk between Xi and President Bidya Devi Bhandari, the two leaders agreed to upgrade relations between the two countries to a strategic partnership of cooperation featuring ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity.

China is now Nepal's largest investor and second-largest trade partner. In 2018, trade between China and Nepal reached $1.1 billion, an increase of 11.7 percent year-on-year.

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Page last modified: 14-10-2019 19:07:22 ZULU