As the country bordering China and India, Nepal is said by some foreign media outlets to be caught between the two powers. Some said Nepal is now walking a tightrope between China and India, especially amid the current border tensions. In India’s media outlets, many reports tarnished China-Nepal relations and accused the good development of bilateral relations as harming India’s national security. How does the new Nepalese ambassador to China, Mahendra Bahadur Pandey (Pandey) view these claims? How does he assess the development of China-Nepal cooperation? What’s the latest development of Nepal-India border tensions? Global Times reporter Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) interviewed the ambassador on these topics.
GT: As the new Nepali Ambassador to China, what are your priorities?
Pandey: Nepal and China are good neighbors and good friends. Diplomatically, we established the relations in 1955.
As the new Ambassador of Nepal to China, my priority goes to the agreement made between the two countries. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a visit to Nepal, which was a very successful visit. Almost 20 agreements were signed during the visit. Similarly, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and President Bidhya Devi Bhandari also visited China with some MOUs being signed. So my priority is to implement the MOUs that have been signed and the agreements that have been made.
Last year, we have developed some of the programs under the BRI anyway. There are projects in the field of education, health, infrastructure, and the maintenance of the ecological improvement that we should jointly move forward. So these are the areas of priorities to be done during my time here in Beijing.
GT: Some foreign media outlets, especially in India, said China’s increased ties to Nepal have triggered security concerns. What’s your take on this?
Pandey: It is not based on facts and it is a biased attitude. That is an expression of the fear psychology. Nepal has been an independent and a sovereign country when India was the colony. We are not inclined to any of the ideological groups or any sort of power.
The Indian media may be biased or they have been misled by someone. So they published some sort of fake news and propaganda. But it is not real. The cooperation between China and Nepal is natural and friendly.
This is not a matter of a regional question. It is a matter of understanding and helping each other. Both China and India are our neighbors. Neighbors should not be afraid of one another. Instead, we have to join hands, develop an understanding, and move forward with cooperation conforming to mutual benefits.
GT: Some Western media said Nepal is now walking a tightrope between India and China, and it is caught in the middle of China-India border tensions. How do you view this?
Pandey: Sometimes it happens. China and India are two neighbors; Nepal and China are neighbors; Nepal and India are also neighbors. In the territory between Nepal and India, we had some long, outstanding problems.
We previously had some problems with China, but we sat together when [late Chinese leader] Mao Zedong was in power and Zhou Enlai was the prime minister. At that time, we had a signed agreement and settled border problem. We do not have any border problem with China now.
India has occupied some of our land. In 1962, when there was a war between China and India and India was defeated at the time, some of the Indian army temporally stayed in our land. But later on, they claimed that belonged to them. So that is our problem. We are trying our best to sit together and resolve this border issue.
Every issue in the modern world cannot be resolved by using concerns and bullets. But we can resolve it by sitting together. We have to use our knowledge, skills, wisdom and we have to have the world outlook. Then we can resolve it.
The border problem, though, whether it is between China and India or between Nepal and India, is not a matter to be made into propaganda. It is a matter to be solved by sitting together to discuss on the basis of the historical records and the facts. Then we can come to a scientific conclusion. And that conclusion should be respected by each of the parties involved in it.
We have requested India [negotiate] many times but they were not very interested at the time. But now they have become more interested and want to sit together.
GT: What are the latest developments of the China-Nepal railway project? Is there a timetable for its completion?
Pandey: Both sides have been working very hard. Prefeasibility study had already been started, especially in Kathmandu. Because of the pandemic, the work has been slowed down. But work will be accelerated once the pandemic is controlled. Both sides are doing the paper work nowadays. They’re in communication to develop the plan on the program.
In my view, it may take more than five years to complete the railway and then people can use it.
GT: Last month, China hosted meetings with Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan on joint cooperation in fighting COVID-19 and supporting regional peace and security. How do you assess the meeting?
Pandey: There are more than 200 countries and regions in the world. The border lines that have been drawn among them are not the hills, but [they are] artificial lines. When the pandemic comes, it cannot be barred by these border lines.
So when this pandemic came, responsible leaders sat together and tried to control the pandemic like the Chinese leaders did here.
I always say China controlled the virus in favor of the freedom, in favor of the right to life here. Some of the countries claimed they are the champion of the right to freedom, but at the cost of the life of human being, one cannot claim for freedom. In the name of freedom, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by this pandemic.
In China, the leadership paid attention to the preciousness of the life of the people. Similarly, in the Nepal, we also extended our hands and joined the hands with China. And China has supported us.
If we fight against this pandemic together, we can control it. If we abuse each other and do not fight collectively, then the pandemic will continue and it will try to defeat the human beings. No matter what the political leaders have said, the people have realized the importance of collectivism.
Politically speaking, some of the countries turn to the unilateralism. But this is the 21st century. In this era, unilateralism does not work. Multilateralism is the demand of the people of the time.
GT: Nepal shares a long border with Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous region. How do you evaluate cooperation between Nepal and Tibet?
Pandey: Tibet is part of China. Tibet and Nepal are related. We have a long border between the two. We firmly stand with one-China policy.
No matter whether it is Macao or Hong Kong or Taiwan, or Tibet, every part of China is China; we firmly stand for this one-China policy.
Some of the people who left Tibet stay in India. Sometimes, because of the misusing of our open border between Nepal and India, some undesirable elements can enter Nepal. And they also try their best to go against our relations. We do not permit it and we control them. Our soil cannot be used against any of our friendly countries.
Some Nepalese people living in the border areas could come to Tibet and Tibetan people could go to Nepal. Another important thing between Tibet and Nepal is in the border areas, people share the same culture and languages. So between Tibet and Nepal, there is no problem at all.
Commercially, some of the Nepal’s [products] are exported to Tibet. And from China, we import the goods through Tibet.
There are still roads under construction. When we complete the roads and connect the two countries by the railway lines, then business activities will further increase.
GT: Some people said the pandemic would change the world order. Some reports in Indian media outlets said China-Nepal relations are deteriorating. What do you predict for the development of China-Nepal relations in the post-pandemic area?
Pandey: There is no doubt that so many reports often said that Nepal and China are not in good relations anymore, especially from India. It was the fake propaganda. We don’t have any reason not to have very good relations with China.
In the post-pandemic world, multilateralism will move forward and the collectivism will move forward. So those who are very obstinate and biased will be left behind. The world will have certain changes, but those countries which have been left behind should be helped by the countries which are in the leading position.
Even though there will be changes, our bilateral relations will not be influenced by these changes. We have different political culture, but we still share many similarities.
The BRI is a very good initiative proposed by China. But because of the ideological differences, it has been criticized. But that criticism will not get success because criticism is criticism. It will not bring about changes in the life of the people. People always want their lives to be prosperous and happy.
Source: Global Times