Gobinda Karkee, who holds one of the most enviable diplomatic postings in the world, is fostering his nation’s relations with emerging superpower China, as Kathmandu also tries to balance its ties with Beijing’s regional rival India, South China Morning Post reported.
As Nepal’s consul-general to Lhasa, Karkee is the head of the only diplomatic mission based in Tibet, enjoying unparalleled access to the ethnically sensitive region in China’s far west.
“The Nepal government has adopted a balanced approach – a balanced foreign policy on how to balance good relations with both big countries,” South China Morning Post quoted Karkee as saying.
Sitting in his ageing office and residential compound not far from the Potala Palace, Karkee said: “Somehow, Nepal has been able to maintain balanced relationships [which is] good for regional peace and stability.”
With centuries of close ties with India, Nepal’s willingness to accept China’s offer to pump billions into its development projects has not always run smoothly.
Kathmandu decided last month to ditch a US$2.5 billion deal to build a dam with a Chinese firm.
Nepal and China finalised a 1.5 billion yuan (US$226 million) deal in May to build a new international airport at Nepal’s main tourist town of Pokhara, about 200km west of Kathmandu.
Export-Import Bank of China will grant soft loans which Karkee said came with “with fewer conditions and a lower interest” rate. “Nepal is really eager to get more benefit from this [belt and road] initiative,” he said.
Tibet, which shares a 1,200km border with Nepal, plays a particularly important role in the Chinese government’s desire for better relations with Nepal.
Karkee said that a number of other projects were under way, highlighting cooperation between China and Nepal.
These include the Tibetan authorities’ plan to extend a railway line from Lhasa to Shigatse across the Nepalese border by 2020, ultimately linking up to Kathmandu. Nepal sees the rail link with Tibet as a strategic alternative to its total reliance on Indian seaports, especially Calcutta.
More checkpoints were also planned on the Chinese-Nepali border to boost exchanges of goods and people, Karkee said.
Karkee said the Tibetan government was keen for him to have a full understanding of political decisions in the region.
Nepal was eager to reap more benefits as China expands overseas investment, Karkee said.