Nepalese diplomat talks up ties with China

Updated: 2013-10-30 00:14

By Wang Huazhong and Da Qiong in Lhasa (China Daily)

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Consul general says two countries expecting 'great things' of each other

Nepal views the Tibet autonomous region as a gateway to the markets of inland China and the wider world, according to a senior Nepalese diplomat in Lhasa.

Hari Prasad Bashyal, the consul general of Nepal in Lhasa, said China could also access Nepal, India and other South Asian economies via the plateau.

"The Chinese and Nepalese people are expecting great things from each other," he told China Daily in a recent exclusive interview.

He said Nepal and Tibet have had strong religious, cultural, business and interpersonal ties throughout history, ever since they first began trading food for salt, gold and wool.

"Trade nowadays is more dynamic and multifaceted between the two sides. Goods from China are very much loved by Nepalese people, according to their income capacity and the durability of the goods," Bashyal said. "We are working to develop trade hubs for bilateral and international trade."

Nepalese diplomat talks up ties with China
Hari Prasad Bashyal, consul general of Nepal in Lhasa

The key is Tibet, he said.

China Radio International cited official Nepalese sources who said that trade between Tibet and Nepal totaled $1.7 billion in 2012, an increase of about 80 percent on the previous year.

China-Nepal trade in 2001 was just $153 million, according to figures from the Chinese embassy in Nepal.

Nepal remains the biggest trade partner of Tibet, and an agreement signed in 2012 requires China to waive tariffs on 95 percent of products imported from the country.

Bashyal said Nepalese people doing business in Tibet are ready to explore other Chinese cities via Lhasa. "We have a common culture and geographical similarities. Nobody can distinguish Chinese Tibetans from Nepalese in the northern areas. So we can promote our goods through China to the world."

He added that the liberalization of Tibet's markets is bringing new business opportunities.

"I have been in Lhasa for a year and a half. Tibet's policy has been changing to become more open, to attract tourists and investment, and to become more liberal in providing facilities to Tibetans and foreigners."

When he first arrived at the airport in winter, he was inspired to see Lhasa's development, especially the road connectivity, which he had not expected in a "remote area that was supposed to be like northern Nepal," Bashyal said.

"I explained to my people every time I went home that I'm learning from Tibet. I said leaders should be models, committed to promoting development. In Tibet, not only leaders but all people are committed to development."

He said people in Nepal are also preparing themselves to tap into the opportunity presented by their northern neighbor.

He said 21 Nepalese customs officers went to Lhasa for training in quarantine inspection procedures last year. Meanwhile, students in the first through eighth grades of primary schools in Nepal's urban areas receive Chinese language lessons in order to promote relations, Bashyal said.

"We have a culture in common. Nepal's trade deficit with China will soon be reduced, which is in both countries' interests," he said.

He added that China can sell its products through the Tibet autonomous region and Nepal to India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries.

The Chinese central government is prioritizing the construction of a major road route for trade to South Asia, and plans to develop Gyirong Port, which will link the two countries at Xigaze.

Wangdu, deputy Party chief of Xigaze prefecture, said: "There is a great opportunity to access South Asian countries from Nepal. I'm confident and expect it to boost trade. We can provide safe bottled drinking water, construction materials, household appliances and daily necessities to the Nepalese market." More than 300 Nepalese businesspeople currently work or live in Lhasa, Bashyal said.

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