KATHMANDU, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Nepal and China began a new era in 2016 as the two countries witnessed major developments in their bilateral relationship, diplomats said here recently.
As many as ten landmark agreements spanning transit, trade, commerce, energy, cross--border connectivity and cooperation on physical infrastructure developments were signed between the two governments in 2016, elevating the age-old bilateral ties to a new level, the diplomats said.
The visit of Nepalese Prime Minister K.P Sharma Oli to Beijing in March this year was highly successful as the two sides concluded the Transit Transport Agreement that gave the landlocked Himalayan nation access to the sea from China.
These agreements came on the heels of a trade embargo on Nepal imposed by India that brought Nepal's trade and transit to a near-standstill until earlier this year, just six months after the promulgation of the much-awaited new constitution in September 2015.
"These milestone bilateral accords need to be implemented sincerely by the current Dahal-led government and future governments for the good of the country's long-term interests," Tanka Karki, a Nepalese Former Ambassador to China, told Xinhua.
On a pessimistic note, Karki expressed fear that these Nepal--China agreements may gather dust due to "unwarranted external pressure," especially from their southern neighbor India.
Another significant development during Oli's visit to China was that the two countries agreed to enhance cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative introduced by the Chinese leadership.
"Regarding Nepal-China bilateral cooperation, both sides agreed to synergize each other's development planning, formulate appropriate bilateral cooperation programs and to carry out major projects under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative," part of a joint communique issued during the former prime minister's visit to China stated.
"Both sides agreed to strengthen connectivity, further step up the land and air links and improve the land transport infrastructure," the communique stated.
Nepal initially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China in December 2014 though it has yet to finalize cooperation projects to be developed under the initiative, recent local media reports said.
Another major development regarding Nepal--China relations in 2016 was holding the ground--breaking ceremony of the Pokhara Regional International Airport in April, which will be constructed with Chinese assistance in the Kaski District, some 200 kilometers from the Nepalese Capital Kathmandu.
In June, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, Sun Jianguo, met then Defense Minister, Bhim Rawal, and Chief of the Army Staff, Rajendra Chhetri, to pledge further defense cooperation between the two countries.
Another major development of this year was China and Nepal being connected by an optical fiber network for the first time through the Keyrong--Rasuwgadhi border point in June, which ended Nepal's sole dependence on India for connecting the Himalayan country with global telecom services.
In the month of October, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on bilateral exchange of information on the areas of consumer right protection, when the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Zhang Mao, visited Nepal. This move was aimed at helping to create a competitive market environment and more particularly, accentuate trade relations between the two neighborly countries.
Even during the change of guard in Nepal in August, the two countries continued high-level political engagements and frequent exchanges of visits at different levels.
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led administration reaffirmed the country's one China policy and said it gives high priority to its relations with China. Meanwhile, the government pursued a policy of striking a balance between the two immediate neighbors, China and India.
The Nepalese premier sent Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara as a special envoy to China, where separate meetings were held with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and he pledged to continue a friendly and cooperative policy toward China.
The meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Nepalese Prime Minister Dahal on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Goa, India was another important occasion for both the leaders to exchange their ideas on enhancing friendship. On the occasion, Chinese President Xi said that his country is ready to align development strategies with Nepal and hopes to build a community of shared destiny between both countries.
Dahal, meanwhile, said the Nepal-China friendship is time-honored and unbreakable, as it is established on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and features mutual respect and trust.
Dahal conveyed Nepal's willingness to participate in connectivity construction within the frameworks of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Furthermore, from China, a senior Chinese official visited Nepal at the end of December this year with the visit further helping the promotion of bilateral relations as well as the party-to-party relationship between the political parties of Nepal and the Communist Party of China.
A member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and head of the CPC Central Committee's Publicity Department, Liu Qibao, noted that ties between China and Nepal have achieved continuous and steady development since the two countries established diplomatic relations.
As the year of 2016 is coming to an end, Nepalese Diplomats expressed high hopes that the upcoming year will be crucial for both countries to explore new areas of cooperation on hydropower, connectivity and trade.
"People have high hopes that the upcoming year will be the year of frequent exchanges of high level visits between the two countries, giving priority in the implementation of the past agreements on wide-ranging areas, such as cross-border railway and road connectivity," Shanker Prasad Pandey, a Nepalese Former Consul General to Lhasa of Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, told Xinhua.
The diplomat noted that excellent friendly relations between the two countries have witnessed steady progress in various areas of cooperation since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1955.
"China's generous support in Nepal's socio-economic development and post-earthquake reconstruction has always been praiseworthy," Pandey stated, adding that "China's prompt response in relief and rescue operations in Nepal after the devastating earthquake in 2015 also suggested that China is a true and trustworthy neighbor especially during such difficult times."
The former consul general was of the view the two countries needs to activate the historical Tatopani-Zhangmu border point between China and Nepal that has witnessed a very low volume of trade since the earthquake rocked Nepal in April 2015.
Bilateral relations have steadily developed over the past 60 years and the comprehensive cooperative partnership featuring ever-lasting friendship has been established, the diplomats said.
Nepalese people and the government are expecting a high profile visit from China in the near future to further strengthen the friendly relationship, officials said here in Kathmandu.