Amid hiccups in Indo-Nepal ties over the Madhesi issue, Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is set to embark on his maiden China visit soon, ignoring the usual practice of visiting India first by a new premier.
"PM Oli will visit China in the beginning of the New Year 2016 during which many agreements will be signed," Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa said.
Thapa, who returned to Kathmandu after concluding his week-long China visit, said the schedule has been finalised for Oli’s visit amid the political crisis over Madhesis.
Madhesis, who share strong cultural and family bonds with Indians, have imposed a general strike in much of southern Nepal, causing a shortage of fuel and other essential goods.
The proposed China visit of Oli, who took over as prime minister in October, is in marked contrast to the usual practice the new prime ministers of Nepal follow. Most of the Nepalese premiers have visited India, ahead of China.
Only Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ had rubbed India the wrong way when he chose China as the first destination of his foreign visit after taking over as Nepal’s prime minister and attended the Beijing Olympics 2008.
India has been rather cold to Prachanda over the years and sees him as someone keen on pushing Nepal closer to China.
Talking to reporters at the TribuvanInternationalAirport in Kathmandu, Thapa said a formal agreement to import fuel from China will be signed during Oli’s visit.
China, meanwhile, has agreed to provide 1.4 million litres of fuel worth 10 million yuan (about Rs 10 crore) to Nepal to meet its emergency needs, Thapa said adding that the fuel would be a grant.
Nepal Oil Corporation transported the fuel from Kerung of Tibet, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Earlier in October, China had provided 1.3 million litres of petrol to Nepal to cope with the severe fuel crisis due to the Madhesi blockade on Indo-Nepal border points over the new Constitution.
Madhesi leaders have submitted an 11-point demand to the Nepal government to end their protests launched in August over 'discriminatory' nature of the Constitution.
Their demands included re-demarcation of the provinces, fixing of electoral constituencies on the basis of population and proportional representation.
Nepal has already signed an MoU with Petro China to import all kinds of fuel, ending Indian Oil Corporation’s long-held monopoly on the Nepalese fuel market. Nepal has been buying over $1.3 billion (about Rs 8,600 crore) of petrol from Indian Oil annually.
Thapa said his visit to China strengthened bilateral ties. Moreover, it helped prepare a long-term framework for economic ties.
He said tax, transport and prices for ‘long-term fuel trade’ will be decided after discussions between concerned bodies of both countries.
He said Nepal and China forged consensus to go ahead after carrying out detailed study to promote open and free trade, to augment the transit treaty and increase investment.
Thapa said that they forged consensus on gradually resuming the nine border points with China and also discussed road and air connectivity and infrastructure development.
He said during the discussions, Nepal would also initiate preliminary works of constructing railway on its territory in the context of China’s plan to expand its railway up to the Nepal-China border.
Thapa said he met Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and high-level officials of Sichuan province, during which the provincial officials expressed desire to invest in hydropower.