Beijing: China and Nepal have signed a protocol to operationalise their 2016 Transit and Transport Agreement (TTA) which will enable the landlocked Himalayan country to access Chinese sea and land ports for its foreign trade ending Nepal's dependence on India for goods and trade.
The agreement on protocol along with six other deals were signed during Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari's meeting with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping here on Monday.
Bhandari, who is on nine-day visit to China, earlier took part in China's 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF) held here from April 25-27. Nepal is signatory to the China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
While the official media here said, several agreements have been signed between the two countries, the Nepalese media reported that the protocol was among the agreements signed.
The protocol operationalises the TTA signed by Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oil during his visit to China in 2016 at the height of the Madhesi agitation leading to blockade of Nepal's access to Indian ports which had resulted in heavy shortages of goods and fuels.
Oli, widely regarded as pro-China, sought to open the second trade route for landlocked Nepal through Tibet and access Chinese ports, though transportation of goods through the rugged Himalayas would entail heavy costs.
The protocol will provide access to Nepal to the Chinese ports of Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang -- and three land ports--in Lanzhou, Lhasa and Shigatse--for third-country import. It will also allow Nepal to carry out exports through six dedicated transit points between Nepal and China, the Kathmandu Post reported.
Nepalese official Rabi Shankar Sainju, who held a series of negotiations with the Chinese side, said that Chinese ports are not a replacement for Indian ports. They are additional ports which we can use, Sainju was quoted as saying by the paper.
Since 2017, India has improved Nepal's access to Indian ports to ensure steady supplies of essential goods to Nepal besides rail and road connectivity.
Till now, Nepal uses ports of Visakhapatnam and Haldia in Kolkata for trade. Recently Nepal had reportedly sought access to use Mundra port in Gujarat as well as Dhamara in Orissa. China, which has enhanced its ties with Nepal with heavy investments, has vastly improved road connectivity with the country through Tibet and finalsing plans to extend the Tibetan railway line to Nepal.
In the just concluded BRF meeting, the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, including Nepal-China cross-border railway has been listed as one of the 35 corridors to be laid by China under the BRI format.
In his talks with Bhandari, Xi said China and Nepal should strengthen cooperation on infrastructure construction and continue to promote the construction of the China-Nepal cross-border economic cooperation zone.
Xi said China greatly values its ties with Nepal, and supports Nepal in maintaining its national independence, state sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as exploring a path of development that suits its national conditions.
He said that China will continue to support Nepal's economic and social development.
Bhandari said the Belt and Road is a historic initiative and has served as a good platform for Nepal-China cooperation.