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China reopens key border port four days after Prachanda becomes Nepal’s new PM

Soon after Maoists formed Nepal’s new government China has resumed trade through a key land border port

Kathmandu: China on Wednesday resumed a key land border port with Nepal for two-way trade, barely four days after Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda became the country’s prime minister.

Amid a ceremony held on Wednesday, officials from the Department of Commerce of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China announced that the Rasuwagadhi- Kerung-Jilong border port resumed its operation for two-way trade. Following the ceremony, six cargo trucks carrying Nepal goods left Rasuwagadhi for Kerung town of the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.

“The two-way trade through the Kerung/Rasuwagadhi border port has resumed today. After a ceremony, 6 cargo trucks full of Nepali goods passed through the port into China. Looking forward to more Nepal’s export to China,” the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu tweeted on Wednesday.

In a statement, Nepal’s foreign ministry also said that two-way trade has resumed from Kerung/Rasuwagadhi border port.

“The resumption of the ports is expected to augment bilateral trade between Nepal and China,” read the statement.

The ministry also said that Hilsa/Purang port with China has also been opened for one-way trade from December 26.

China, which is also one of the major development partners of Nepal, closed border points with Nepal three years ago with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them was the Kerung/Rasuwagadhi border port. But analysts say that the closure could also be attributed to the previous government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba’s refusal to permit big ticket China funded infra projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It now remains to be seen whether the new Communist-led government will allow BRI funding to flow into Nepal, despite apprehensions that like Sri Lanka, Kathmandu can also be snared into a debt-trap.

Nevertheless, China appears to move in aggressively to woo the new government led by the Maoists. A Chinese railway team is already in Kathmandu to conduct a feasibility study of a cross border railway that will link Tibet with Nepal.

Nepal imports ready-made clothes, footwear, apples, motor batteries, plastic products via this border point while the country exports pashmina, carpets, bamboo stools, wheat, ghee, noodles, pasta, biscuit, juice, jam, beaten rice, sugar, hog plum candy and chocolates to China.

Due to the border closure, Nepali importers doing business with China had incurred huge losses as Nepal-bound container trucks carrying their goods remained stranded in different towns of Tibet including Nyalam, Kerung and Shigatse. However, China resumed one-way trade with Nepal in July this year following the latter’s repeated requests. Since then, there had been limited trade via the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung-Jilong border point.

Even as China resumed Rasuwagadhi-Kerung-Jilong border port, it was immediately not clear when the country would reopen Tatopani-Zhangmu border point with Nepal, which has remained shut since early 2020.

China recently relaxed its “zero-COVID policy” and COVID-19 cases in Tibet apparently came under control. Nepal shares a 1,414 km border with Tibet. Nepal imported goods worth Nepali rupees 233.9 billion while the export of goods was valued at just Rs1 billion in the year 2021. China has remained Nepal’s second largest trading partner after India.

Also Read: Chinese team arrives in Nepal to conduct feasibility study for cross-border railway

 (Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal correspondent based in Kathmandu)