KATHMANDU: China has long been a special friend of Nepal. These two nations have maintained a cordial and sound relationship with each other for decades. In fact,

Nepal strictly follows the One-China policy and doesn’t allow any anti-China activities on its soil, unlike India. China needs to be proactive when it comes to investment and strategic support for Nepal.

The commitment by China to Nepal can already be seen. In a recent conference, Nepal Investment 2017, China was the numero uno country to provide investment to Nepal worth $8.3 billion. India, on the other hand, only pledged $317 million. This stark difference clearly reveals the intentions of the neighboring nations. The question is, however, if Nepal can capitalize the pledged investment made by China?

China’s involvement in Nepal so far has been lacklustre and defined by its lukewarm activities. If it wants to have a strong hold in Nepal, then it should definitely change its tactics.

Firstly, China should focus on cross-cultural exchanges and set up Chinese and Nepali schools in both nations. There are already such setups but unless cross-border interaction doesn’t happen then Nepalis won’t feel close to China. Language is a major barrier between the two states as often translators are used for communication. Both governments should focus on working on this defect.

Secondly, Nepal is ever grateful for China’s stand on non-interference. But if China wants a strong foothold in Nepal then it should at least express its concerns and desires. Interestingly, a lot of conferences are being held in Kathmandu and China to establish this intellectual bridge. Often think tanks, lawmakers and policymakers can play an important role in influencing the government. This route can safeguard China’s foreign policy interests too.

Thirdly, China should help Nepal in upgrading its infrastructure and provide access to trade routes. It is commendable that the OBOR initiative is being pushed in Nepal. Sadly, PM Dahal and co. aren’t that interested in implementing the OBOR although they have said in principle that Nepal would be a part of OBOR.

In a nutshell, China doesn’t need Nepal but it’s the other way around. However, the changed international scenario calls for China to rethinks its policy on Nepal. How should it engage in the future? Should China use its soft power to push Nepal to rapid development?

Nepal lags economically, and political instability has pushed this Himalayan nation to the brink of failure. Nepali leaders should realize that China remains committed to assisting Nepal in every manner to help it leapfrog underdevelopment. But the question is: Can Nepal capitalize the success story of China? The answer remains obscure.

(Arun Budhathoki is Nepal Editor of The Citizen)