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Kathmandu: China has been attempting to gain Nepal’s support for its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but the Himalayan country is hesitant to join because it also seeks support from the US and India, both of which oppose Chinese policies, according to Kathmandu-based online magazine Epardafas.

According to the Epardafas research, Nepal has not yet agreed to participate in the BRI, but there are concerns that the projects proposed by China are truly useful. However, given recent global economic conditions, the country where BRI was implemented has formed the opinion that BRI is a Chinese debt trap.

The opening of Pokhara Regional International Airport in August of last year is an example of the pressure that China is attempting to apply. Acting Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wang Xin stated at the time that the airport was part of the BRI strategy. According to the Epardafas study, the airport was built with Nepalese government funding and a loan investment from a Chinese Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM).

The Chinese Embassy in Nepal tweeted the day before its launch, “This [Pokhara airport] is the flagship project of the China-Nepal BRI collaboration.” In reality, Nepal had obtained a forty-year concessional loan from the Exim Bank of China. It has an annual interest rate of 2.75 percent. The credit deal between the Civil Aviation Authority and China’s EXIM Bank was not mentioned in the tweet.

According to the Epardafas report, construction on the airport began before the BRI arrived in Nepal. The Nepalese and Chinese governments struck an agreement on the airport project in 2012. China CAMC Engineering was awarded the construction contract in May 2014, two years before the loan was agreed upon, at a time when China’s

According to the same article, while Nepal and China entered just a framework agreement of BRI with 35 projects to be performed, most of these projects were later withdrawn, lowering the number to nine, and the Pokhra airport project was not among them.

Aside from the airport project, China has also invested in the Damak Industrial Park and the Kerung-Kathmandu railway project, all of which are now stalled because work on these projects has not yet commenced, according to the same Epardafas article.

According to the deal for the Jhapa project, the park would take ten years to build and the Chinese will operate it for 40 years before handing it over to Nepal. According to the same study, this initiative is expected to enhance the country’s economic situation and provide employment for one lakh people.

According to the same Epardafas assessment, the real objective of the Jhapa project is to tease India by bringing Chinese influence closer to the Indian border. It has been eight years since the site for the China-Nepal Friendship Industrial Park, Damak, was purchased, and two years since the foundation stone was laid.

According to the Epardafas report, people in the vicinity are now voicing their dissatisfaction, claiming that the price recompense granted to them for their land for the park project is quite low. The same initiative has now become a victim of corruption, compensation conflicts, and recklessness on the Chinese side, according to the locals.

Investment initiatives like these demonstrate that China is attempting to compel Nepal to join the BRI. However, as other diplomatic friends of Nepal, such as the United States and India, oppose China’s policy, this may eventually cause problems for the country.

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