Deal for cross-border railway project with China soon: Nepal

Deal for cross-border railway project with China soon: Nepal

Deal for cross-border railway project with China soon: Nepal

Nepal and China were set to sign the much-talked about agreement for a cross-border railway network that will pass through the Himalayan ranges, Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has said.

Mahara said the pact for the proposed rail network between the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, which stands at an elevation of nearly 1,400 metres above sea level, and Kerung, a bordering town of China, would be signed soon. "The government has proposed Kerung-Kathmandu-Pokhara- Lumbini railway project to be a part of the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative by China," said Mahara, also the minister for finance.

Speaking at a programme organised by China Study Centre and Nepal Institute for Strategic Centre on the ambitious OBOR initiative yesterday, he said the government sees the OBOR as a project that boosts economic and technical cooperation in the region.

Nepal was in the final stage to ink the pact for the railway project under the OBOR initiative, which is a far- sighted vision put forth by Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said. "As connectivity and trade were Nepal's priority, it could benefit a lot from this initiative," he said.

Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda had during his recent visit to China proposed the Kerung-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway project to be a part of the OBOR.

The necessary preparations were underway for this to materialise soon, Mahara said.

While it was uncertain whether Nepal would be a part of the OBOR, Mahara, who is set to lead Nepal at an OBOR conference in Beijing next month, said Nepal wanted to take advantage of the plan. "We have taken it as an opportunity to expand economic cooperation."

Though top Nepali officials, including the Nepali prime minister, have been insisting on Nepal's participation at the OBOR conference, unnamed sources privy to the development have told the Kathmandu Post that negotiations with the Chinese side were underway and no decision has been taken yet.

During his China visit, Prachanda had assured Chinese leaders that Nepal would be a signatory of the initiative by April 20. But Nepal could not meet the deadline because a text for the agreement was not ready, the report cited an unnamed official as saying.

During the programme, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong highlighted the advantages of OBOR while urging the Asian nations to become a part of the OBOR conference where representatives from more than 150 countries were expected. "It will fulfil the development appetite of South Asian nations," Yu said.

Mahara also spoke on the local-level polls scheduled for May 14, which the Madhes-centric parties oppose over their demands including the re-demarcation of provincial boundaries.

With the promulgation of the new Constitution, the long- pending political transition in the country was over, he said, adding that the government was set for the polls, besides preparing for provincial and federal elections as stipulated by the Constitution.

"The elections will be a milestone to institutionalise the federalism in the country", he said.