China Expanding Its Influence in Bordering Himalayan Districts, Making Pokhara a Strategic ‘Station’
China has initiated a strategic expansion of its influence in Nepal, specifically targeting the western region, including popular destinations like Pokhara. . China, which provided loans to build Pokhara International Airport, is now looking to further enhance its presence in areas like Manang and Mustang, which share a border with it.
China is currently involved in numerous significant projects in Nepal, and Chinese businessmen are actively establishing themselves in the tourism sector by operating hotels and restaurants in popular tourist areas such as Thamel and Pokhara in Kathmandu. Expanding its influence to regions connected to the Korala border, such as Pokhara and Manang, Mustang, is the next step for China.
The recent surge in China’s activities in Nepal has led to an increase in geopolitical complexities. The areas where China is extending its influence are of interest to the United States and Western countries as well. These nations are concerned about the potential for various illegal activities if China’s influence grows in these regions. From Nepal’s perspective, the presence of any foreign country, including China, in the region may not be advantageous.
China is actively promoting language education and citizen-to-citizen plans in accordance with the agreements made during former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China. Initially focused on major cities, China intends to extend these initiatives to rural areas. The government aims to integrate these efforts with the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), a concept introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Additionally, China is providing assistance to Nepal Police, Armed Police, and the National Investigation Department by selling and distributing essential equipment and firearms. These activities are planned to be aligned with the President’s Global Security Initiative (GSI).
Government officials state that the realization of China’s ambitious plan in Nepal is anticipated to occur under the leadership of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. It is rumored that an agreement may be reached during Prime Minister Prachanda’s visit to China. In this regard, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Narayankaji Shrestha’s ongoing visit to China is believed to be for the purpose of advancing these objectives. Minister Shrestha is currently in China as part of his official visit.
China is set to enhance its presence in Pokhara and surrounding areas by utilizing the Pokhara International Airport. On January 1, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ inaugurated the regional international airport, which was constructed with assistance from China, in the popular tourist destination of Pokhara in western Nepal. Initially, the airport served only domestic flights but, six months later, on June 21, it welcomed its first international flight from Chengdu Airport in China, operated by Sichuan Airlines.
The construction of Pokhara International Airport was funded through a loan of Rs 22 billion from China’s Exim Bank. However, Nepal is facing challenges in repaying this debt, as the country must generate profits from operating the airport to cover the loan. China has further fueled controversy surrounding the project by stating that it falls under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, once again reiterated that Pokhara International Airport is a significant flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). His remarks were made during the first international commercial plane landing event at the airport on 21st June.