Nepal was in dire need of an alternative land trade route with China because of the massive landslides damaging the Araniko highway in last August. So, the opening of the Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong route this week is, indeed, good news.
Hari Prasad Bashyal, Nepal’s consular general in Lhasa, and Dong Mingjun, vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, jointly inaugurated the route.
This route had been briefly opened when the Tatopani border, the sole trade transit with China, was closed owing to the landslides. Many Nepali traders were using this rout for importing goods from China. But it was closed before this year's Dashain by China pointing out the deficiency of infrastructure on its side.
But, now the second land route has formally come into operation for facilitating the bilateral trade and the cross-border movement of people.
It became possible due to the efforts on the part of both the Nepali and Chinese sides.
Nepal set up its new immigration office while China opened the Kyirong Port on the Rasuwagadhi border.
The northern neighbor assisted in systematically activating this rout in synch with its commitment to upgrade six dry ports at major customs points, including Rasuwagadhi
Beijing had expressed such commitment in the agreement on “Management of Ports on the China-Nepal Border” reached in January, 2012.
There are clear hints that the opening of the route will tremendously help further buttress the Nepal-China ties.
Currently, as high as three-fourths of the total trading of goods between the two countries take place through sea route due to limited cross border land trade routes. The worth of the total bilateral trade stood at Rs 75 billion in the last fiscal year.
So, the opening of the Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong route can safely be expected to streamline and augment the trade between the two countries. Specifically speaking, it could prove pivotal in reducing the import costs for Nepali traders.
Nepali importers now could use the Rasuwagadhi checkpoint without any obstruction as the Chinese authorities would provide visas and one-day pass to them.
The newly established immigration office in Rasuwagadhi has also started to issue on-arrival visas for the Chinese and other third countries' tourists coming to Nepal.
Similarly any Nepali citizen can now visit up to Kyirong without any hassle. Earlier, only the residents of Rasuwa were enjoying such facility.
Although lately modernized, the Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong route is also a historically significant trade link between Nepal and China. This was a busy route for trading between Tibet and Nepal during the Lichchhavi and Malla periods. The route was also heavily used even during the Rana regime in Nepal.
The newly opened route is linked with the Chinese government’s plan to extend the Qinghai-Tibet railway networks to the Nepal border.
So, this route can safely be expected to help inject a new momentum to Nepal's trade with the northern neighbour.
Not to be outdone, the construction of the proposed Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Rasuwagadhi by China will be yet another viable measure in bolstering the bilateral trade ties.
The Chinese government has already expressed commitment to construct an ICD in the area which includes a number of facilities like quarantine, warehouse, customs office and inspection and security, among others.
Remarkably, the Nepali and Chinese officials are also currently mulling over developing roadway along Galchhi-Dhunche-Rasuwagadhi.
If the infrastructure really sees the light of day, it will greatly supplement the efforts being made to take the Nepal-China economic ties to newer heights.