China Reopens Border With Nepal Amid Dwindling Supplies From India
Amid mounting pressure on Nepal’s government over dwindling supplies of goods from India due to the ongoing violent agitation over the new Constitution, China today reopened its border with Nepal in Tibet which Chinese officials say will see “explosive growth” in trade.
The border was closed after the road along the route on both sides was damaged during the massive April 25 earthquake in Nepal which also partly affected border regions in Tibet.
The border land port at Jilong, a county in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, reopened today, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The road leading to the port finally reopened after months of repair, allowing the port to operate once more, Sun Lijun, head of the port’s management committee in China said.
He said trade at the port will see “explosive growth” after a huge fall in border trade following the quake. Nepal has been Tibet’s largest trade partner since 2006.
The port, about 130 km away from Nepalese capital Kathmandu, used to be the largest port linking the two regions, but it gradually lost its importance due to weak infrastructure.
At the end of last year, the port was expanded to boost bilateral economic and tourism development.
Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying told media that Beijing is expediting efforts to reopen the border.
Nepal faces dwindling supplies of essential commodities from India due to the violent agitation by Madhesis – Indian-origin inhabitants of the country’s southern plains – over the newly promulgated Constitution.
Madhesis and Tharu ethnic groups are protesting for more representation in the Constitution. They see the model to split Nepal into seven federal provinces as flawed and discriminatory to their rights. More than 40 people have died in the violent agitation.
Nepalese politicians have been saying that they will turn to China for supplies. China has been providing substantial aid in recent years and has acquired strategic influence in Nepal, countering India’s support base.
It remains to be seen how much China can rush in terms of supplies due to logistical problems as the goods have to travel through the rugged Himalayan terrain of Tibet.
Observers say that though Tibet has been well connected over the years with rail, road and air links, providing Nepal with supplies of oil, gas and essential food supplies for a prolonged period could pose a challenge for China.
In 2014, the foreign trade volume of Tibet dropped by nearly 33 percent year-on-year, largely due to a major landslide in Nepal that disrupted road traffic between Tibet and the Tatopani trade port in Nepal from August to October.
Nepal, a landlocked country bordered by India on the south, east and west, and China on the north, is dependent on its neighbours for transit and supplies.