Chinese Ambassador Yang Houlan has recently completed one year in Nepal. In this connection, Yang spoke to our Hong Kong-based special correspondent Purna Basnet, on his experiences in Nepal, China’s strategic interests, Tibet, investment, among other issues.
Having completed one year in Nepal as Chinese envoy what is your impression of the country?
Firstly, Nepal is a beautiful country. Since I came here one year ago, I have visited many places, both in cities and rural areas and encountered many Chinese tourists. The beautiful scenery, pleasant climate, rich cultural and religious heritage here, which also attract Chinese tourists, impressed me.
Secondly, Nepal is a friendly country. Since taking office here, I have met all kinds of people representing Nepali government, political parties, commercial sector, academia and media. I felt there was a consensus on developing China-Nepal friendship. The excellent friendship between China and Nepal was deeply rooted in the heart of both peoples.
Thirdly, Nepal is a land of great potential. You have rich natural resources and Nepali people are hard working. The country is rich in hydropower, tourism and agricultural resources. Although Nepal is now in a period of political and social transition and faces many problems, I firmly believe that industrious and brave people of Nepal have the ability to realize their country’s political stability, economic development and social progress.
Nepal’s Constituent Assembly failed to promulgate a new constitution and the prime minister has called for a new election on November 22. What is Chinese view on recent political developments in Nepal?
Currently, Nepal is at a critical moment of political transition and faces a historical task of writing a constitution. Through my contacts with Nepali people from various walks of life, I feel that everyone has a strong desire for national stability and development. Although there are differences on some issues, I feel all want to achieve the goal of peace, stability and development. China respects the choice of Nepali people and believes that parties will make joint effort to resolve the disputes and seek consensus through negotiations.
Prolonged political uncertainty in Nepal must be worrying China. How do you examine Nepal government’s cooperation on Tibet issue?
China and Nepal keep close contact and a high level of cooperation on Tibet issue. China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal, and the road chosen by the Nepali people. Chinese side highly appreciates that all administrations in Nepal have firmly pursued one-China policy, and held the position that the territory of Nepal would never be allowed to be used for anti-China activities by any forces. I’m confident that we will be able to further develop comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.
Besides Tibet, what are China’s major concerns in Nepal?
As one of the 14 continental neighbors of China, bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region, Nepal has an important place in China’s neighborhood diplomacy as well as in China’s overall diplomacy. Politically, China and Nepal share a relationship as good neighbors, good brothers, good partners and good friends. We corporate on international and regional issues and attach great importance to mutual concerns. Economically, Nepal, which is located between the two emerging economies of China and India, is an important potential trading route between China and South Asia. The economic and trade cooperation has witnessed progress in the past few years and there is potential for further progress.
Nepal and China have started formal security talks. Is this aimed at tightening security on Tibetan border?
The borderline between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China is over 1,400 km. The two sides have strengthened cooperation on security and law enforcement and are working together to fight against cross-border crimes so as to safeguard the security and stability in the border area.
Acts of self-immolation by Dalai Lama supporters are on the rise. What is your view on resolving this issue?
I feel deeply upset with recent incidents. The fundamental rule of Buddhism is to cherish one’s life; the sin of suicide is inferior only to murder. Self-immolations show no mercy and no wisdom. Those who encourage, glorify and help self-immolations should be condemned by conscience. As pointed out by Mr Schmidt on Daily, one of Germany mainstream media, “Dalai Lama, regarded as the incarnation of the merciful Bodhisattva, doesn’t focus on the lives of those committed self-immolations, but on the very impacts of self-immolations”. Those who advocate an independent Tibet and try to separate it from China can never succeed by depriving lives of others.
Do you think that further negotiation is possible between Beijing and Dalai Lama in the near future?
Chinese Central Government remains sincere and patient in its contact and discussions with Dalai Lama. The stand and policy is consistent and explicit and the door for talks with Dalai Lama is still open. It is time for Dalai Lama to show his sincerity for discussion and create positive atmosphere for discussion by taking real action.
Since Nepal is a neighbor to rising economies of China and India, what should be the Nepal’s role in regional affairs?
Maintenance of simultaneous friendly relations with these two countries not only serves the interest of Nepal, but it also promotes tri-party cooperation among China, Nepal and India. The Chinese side wants Nepal to make use of this sound opportunity and unique geographical advantages to develop and play a positive role on regional issues. The Chinese side would like to enhance cooperation in various areas between China, Nepal and India.
Have there been any major changes in the dynamics of Nepal-China bilateral relationship after the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Nepal earlier this year?
During his visit, Premier Wen held a talk with Prime Minister Bhattarai, met with President Yadav and also communicated with party leaderships. Premier Wen spoke highly of Nepal’s unswerving position on one-china policy and its understanding and support of China’s core interests. The Nepali side also appreciated China’s policy and selfless support for Nepal. The two sides signed eight agreements on economic assistance, culture cooperation, border management, trans-frontier pasturing, and cooperation between two Foreign Ministries and issued a Joint statement, which tabulated important achievements. Premier Wen’s visit further consolidated traditional China-Nepal friendship, deepened mutual cooperation and promoted common development. The visit brought China-Nepal comprehensive partnership based on cooperation to a new height.
Besides West Seti and Pokhara regional Airport, what are China’s major investment interests in Nepal?
As the major economic cooperative projects for China and Nepal, West Seti and Pokhara regional airport are still at an early stage. I hope both sides work at strengthening coordination and cooperation and start construction of the two projects at the earliest. I also believe that with the completion of above-mentioned projects, the problems of electricity shortage and traffic jams in Nepal would be resolved and socio-economic development promoted. Regarding future projects, the Chinese side would like to discuss with Nepal strengthening cooperation in the fields of hydropower, agriculture, tourism and infrastructure. We would listen to and take into consideration the suggestions and advice from Nepali side and give priority to the major projects benefiting Nepali people’s wellbeing.
Some Chinese enterprises have shown keen interest in Lumbini’s development. Would you specify particular plans for Lumbini?
Nepal has announced 2012 Visit Lumbini Year, which has attracted the attention of international community including China. As the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini has important historical, religious and cultural significance. The Chinese side is positive about developing Lumbini and would like to discuss the issue with Nepali side.
How are China’s plans of greater connectivity between Tibet and Nepal faring?
During the past few years, both governments have been trying to expedite construction of roads and trade ports between the two countries. With the improvement of infrastructure, bilateral trade and people-to-people exchanges would witness gradual increase and economic relations would get more intimate, all of which will contribute to promoting economic development and cooperation between China and Nepal. I am highly optimistic about the extension of Tibet railway to Nepal.
In an op-ed article titled “Shining Tibet” in this daily you highlighted achievements in Tibet. As a bordering country with Tibet, how should Nepal take advantage from China’s development?
Tibet Autonomous Region is a very beautiful place. Due to its unique history and culture, Tibet holds special significance in Chinese culture. The development there is also a shining example of China’s rapid advance. TAR’s GDP has expanded by above 12 percent through last three years. The peasant income has gone up by 18.5 percent in last one year. China’s 12th Five Year Plan is critical for developing a well-off society in TAR. I strongly believe that various strategies to enrich the Tibetan people and make Tibet prosperous that have been adopted by the government of Tibet Autonomous Region will show gradual progress.
Nepal and TAR share border of more than 1,400 km. The rapid development of TAR will create better opportunities for strengthening bilateral interaction and promoting mutually-beneficial cooperation. Meanwhile, in a unique geographic position, Nepal could act as a bridge between China, including TAR, and South Asian region. Then all parties could realize the goal of common development.