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Nepal seeking more grants from Beijing for feasibility study of cross-border railway

Nepal and China are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for the feasibility study of the proposed cross-border rail link during the upcoming visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Kathmandu

Mar 21, 2022
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Nepal and China are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding for the feasibility study of the proposed cross-border rail link during the upcoming visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Kathmandu. In 2019, two nations had agreed to build a cross-border railway during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal.

Wang Yi, who is expected to visit a number of South Asian countries in the next few days, including possibly India, will be in Kathmandu for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020. Though the dates of the proposed visits are yet to be announced, the two countries have already begun consultations for agendas.

According to a report in The Kathmandu Post, the work on several projects signed earlier is yet to begin and Nepal this time is considering discussing those projects during Wang’s visit, instead of pitching more projects.

“We have received a draft MoU for a feasibility study of the Kerung-Kathmandu railway,” Rabindra Shrestha, secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, was quoted as saying by The Kathmandu Post.

Among those projects is the Kerung-Kathmandu railway, a proposed 80 km cross-border rail line between China and Nepal, for which two nations are yet to commence a feasibility study. A pre-feasibility study report by Chinese experts estimated the project cost around a whopping $275 billion.

There is also an issue with funding. Although Beijing in 2019 had agreed to fund the project when President Xi Jinping visited Nepal, Kathmandu is now looking for more grants for conducting a feasibility study of the complex project.

“Nepal is looking for an additional grant from China besides the amount promised earlier, to carry out the feasibility study. If the two sides consent, an MoU will be signed,” Shrestha said.

Chinese officials have estimated that the feasibility study will alone take at least 42 months to complete. Over 98 percent of the rail line would be in form of tunnels and bridges due to the complex geography of the mountainous terrain.

A senior official confirmed they were not looking for new projects and will just focus on the implementation of previously approved projects.

Wang’s visit to Nepal is coming weeks after the Nepali Parliament ratified a controversial US aid program which Beijing remains apprehensive about. Significantly, a US bipartisan congressional delegation is scheduled to visit Nepal soon after the visit by the Chinese foreign minister.
(SAM)

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