Nepal : Nepal and China signed the Beijing-led BRI in 2017 with an aim to become a middle-income country by 2030, however, reports suggest that promises are shattering.

Experts say China has lured Nepal in the guise of infrastructure development, promising commerce in exchange for cheap loans, in order to strengthen Beijing’s influence in the Himalayan area. Following that, the question becomes if Xi Jinping comes to the aid of small and poor countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal in order to bolster China’s debt-trap diplomacy by tempting them with inexpensive China-sourced projects.

Political analysts said that the superfluous promises made by Beijing to develop infrastructure projects in Nepal under the aegis of ‘Belt and Road initiatives (BRI)’ are falling apart.

Now, the problem arises when these countries fail to repay and keep up with rate interests of loans with increased chances of Beijing demanding concessions or other advantages in the name of debt relief. Thus, giving rise to Chinese hegemony in regions where it was not visible before the trade deal was struck and enforced. 

In fact, the proposed project at Hambantota port in Sri Lanka serves as a cautionary incident for those who perceive that Chinese aid comes at no or bare minimum costs. The concern holds relevance as China officially agreed to construct four seaports- Tianjin (Xingang), Shenzhen, Lianyungang, and three land ports- Lanzhou, Lhasa, Xigatse to Nepal with an objective to provide transit points. 

The awkwardness between Nepal and China over BRI projects was visible during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent visit to Kathmandu, between March 25 and 27. Reports suggest that no BRI related talks were held and Nepal officials made their preference for ‘only soft or concessional loan’ explicit.

Asserting the vicious debt trap cycle as it did in Sri Lanka, China had offered logistical support to Nepal under the scope of the China-Nepal Agricultural Technology Cooperation Agreement. The unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic and roadblocks compelled Nepal to seek an extension of the programme to one year. However, the Xi Jinping-led government dismissed Kathmandu’s concern and even forwarded a termination notice for the programme.