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Chinese dragon spits fire at Nepal after Kathmandu-New Delhi ties blossom again

Nepal China relations head downhill as China keeps border closed (IANS)

The Chinese dragon has begun to spit fire at Nepal after ties between India and Nepal begin to blossom. As China unleashes its aggressive wolf warrior attitude, Nepali traders and the people of Nepal are in the firing line.

Resentment is building against China for keeping its borders closed, due to which exports from the Himalayan nation are stuck on the borders. China, which had been considerably successful in building a reliable relationship with Nepal at the cost of India, is now feeling the heat amidst Nepal's political turmoil.

An article in Singapore-based The Strait Times says that Lekh Raj Bhatta, the Nepali Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, has publicly said that China had imposed an unsaid blockade against Nepal. The article says: "… China, on the pretext of containing the possible transmission of the novel coronavirus, is allowing only four to five truckloads of goods from each of the two key border points, Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani, to enter Nepal per day, which is only about five percent of normal cargo movement."

Both – the Tatopani-Khasa border as well as the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung customs point, remain closed causing losses to the tune of millions to Nepali traders. Consequently, the government too is losing out on billions of Nepali rupees in revenue as China refuses to open the border points citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 1,500 containers worth US$200 million, imported by Nepali businessmen from China as well as other countries, are held up on the China border with perishable goods rotting away. Traders have held demonstrations against China but Kathmandu has not been able to make Beijing change its mind.

Besides the covid pandemic, China also cites the movement of Tibetans across the Nepal-Tibet border as a threat owing to which it has kept the borders closed.

In a similar article, The Kathmandu Post says that trade between the two countries is almost nil, despite two borders between the countries. The newspaper says: "While Beijing appears to be reluctant to open border points on different pretexts, Nepal has failed to raise the issue strongly, much to the disappointment of traders."

Referring to excuses by China, Naresh Katuwal, president of the Nepal National Traders' Federation told The Kathmandu Post: “The Tatopani border has not opened even after completing maintenance works on the bridge.” Despite regular discussions between the foreign and the trade ministers of the two countries, particularly after the internal turmoil, re-opening of borders has not yet been discussed.

The anti-China sentiment is rising in Nepal.

China has reportedly told Nepal that there are no containers on its side of the border. However, Nepali traders paint a completely different picture. Katuwal told The Kathmandu Post that not only are the trucks stuck in China, but the communist country has also hiked transport costs fourfold from Nepali Rs three lakh to Rs 12 lakh.

The warmth is ebbing from Nepal China relations. That also relates to the coronavirus vaccines that China had promised but never delivered. Once India sent its vaccines, China woke up and decided to provide Nepal with Sinovac. However, Nepal has not cleared Sinovac due to lack of concrete data about the efficacy of the vaccine.

In the meantime Nepal completed phase-I of its vaccination with the India-made Covishield vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII). Earlier this month, it launched phase-II of inoculation with the same vaccines.

With a distinct thaw in relations between India and Nepal, the two countries have opened up their borders to movement of people as well as trade in Bihar. The Nepal government also ordered the opening up of all bridges on the border in Uttarakhand as well. 

The friction between China and Nepal has been rising after back-to-back visits to Nepal, led by India's intelligence Chief, Samant Kumar Goel last year, where he met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. China has been piqued at the split in the Nepal Communist Party with Oli leading a faction which may not be inclined towards Beijing. While China keeps the focus on uniting the warring factions of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), mutual relations between the two nations are sliding downhill.