Nepal looks to China for trade amid India hiccups
Amid a diplomatic standoff with New Delhi over Nepal's new constitution and continuous unrest in the country's southern border with India, Kathmandu is now mulling an alternative to do business with China.
India and China are landlocked Nepal's two giant neighbours.
Nepal is surrounded by India from three sides and China on the north. Nepal's over 90 percent trade and economic activities are with India as nationals from both sides do not need visa to travel to each other's country.
According to Nepali media reports on Friday, with the supply of essential commodities being hit by disturbances at major custom points in the southern plains, the government has urged Beijing to reopen trade routes that have remained out of operation following the April 25 earthquake.
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Officials from the ministry of commerce and supplies of Nepal held talks with Chinese embassy officials here on Wednesday and Thursday.
They requested Chinese assistance for an early reopening of custom points at Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi, two key trading points between Nepal and China.
"With major festivals like Diwali and Dussehra around the corner, we have requested China to resume border operation as soon as possible," said Naindra Prasad Upadhyaya, secretary at the ministry.
He added that the Chinese authorities had responded positively.
The Rasuwagadhi route came into formal operation in December 2014. Since the April earthquake, the trade routes of Barabise-Tatopani-Khasa and Nuwakot-Rasuwagadhi-Kerung have remained closed.
According to the ministry, the Chinese government has been undertaking road repair on its side of the border.
"We are ready to open the border as soon as the Chinese side completes work on their end."
Upadhyaya said a meeting of the Central Monitoring Committee of Nepal on Thursday also decided to ask China for speedy road repair in Kerung (Rasuwagadhi).
The meeting also decided to coordinate with the ministry of physical infrastructure and transport to clear roadblocks on the Araniko highway in order to request the Chinese side to reopen the Tatopani customs point.
The initiative comes at the time when supplies from India have been affected by strikes in the Tarai region for the past 40 days.
In addition, tighter customs clearance and other delays reportedly from the Indian side after the promulgation of Nepal's new constitution have magnified the problem.
The current food stock in Nepal is expected to last two months, according to the government.
Nepal imports readymade garments, footwear, cosmetics, machinery parts and hardware, fruits and electronics from China.