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China boosts Nepal ties with $128 million grant

Ananth Krishnan, Beijing, (IT): China has moved to broaden its already significant economic presence in Nepal by signing on Tuesday its biggest ever grant assistance to the country, pledging $ 130 million that will likely fund infrastructure projects.
China and Nepal on Tuesday signed a deal for the provision of 800 million RMB grant assistance (around $ 130 million).

The Nepal Finance Ministry said the grant would help implement “mutually agreed development projects”, with the Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi highway among several projects set to take off in the coming year.

This marks a more than five-fold increase in Chinese assistance, which amounted to around 150 million RMB last year. China has also, according to Nepali officials, overtaken India as the biggest source of foreign direct investment in the country.

“This is the largest amount of support extended by the Chinese government to Nepal and this reflects the closest, friendly and cordial relations between the two countries,” Nepal’s Finance Secretary Suman Sharma said. The agreement was announced in Kathmandu just as China has obtained Nepal’s support on its new Silk Road economic belt initiative. Nepal has joined Sri Lanka and other nations in voicing formal backing for the belt and maritime silk road project, which India is yet to endorse citing the lack of adequate information.

Beijing’s increase in economic assistance to Nepal has coincided with its demand for greater support in cracking down on Tibetan activists in the country. Just this week, Nepal’s Police Chief, Upendra Kanta Aryal, visited China on what Nepali authorities described as a week-long “goodwill visit”.

A Chinese expert on Nepal said it was no secret that security cooperation was focused on curbing Tibetans’ activities, both along the border and within the exiled community. Nepal is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans.

This week, Tibetan groups said Nepali authorities had banned any public activities to mark the March 10 anniversary of “uprising day”. Tibetan overseas groups said the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office had been denied permission to hold activities, seen by them as a sign of increasing restrictions imposed at the behest of China.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey will also visit Beijing this week, in the lead up to the March 24 trip of President Ram Baran Yadav, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

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