Ground report: China imposes 'undeclared blockade' against Nepal

KathmanduWritten By: Saloni MurarkaUpdated: Feb 10, 2022, 06:48 PM IST
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The blockade is causing Nepalese traders to bear losses of millions of rupees

China's imposition of 'undeclared blockade' against Nepal has severely disrupted traffic of consumer items across the border between the two countries. This is resulting in loss of millions of rupees. China is attempting to tighten its grip on Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani, the two most crucial trading points.

China is using the pretext of Covid prevention and only allowing two to three truckloads of goods each day from the trading points into Nepal.

“Since two years the trading with China has come down drastically. After the 2015 earthquake, Tatopani was shut down for almost four years, and later when it was opened, the border once was again shut down by Chinese authorities citing COVID which slowed down the trading," says Ashok Shreshtha President of the Nepal Trans Himalayan Border Commerce Association.

He added that China should make arrangements for easy import and export of goods from the border.

Concerns are mounting in Nepal. At least 300 trucks are stuck at Kerung and Tatopani border points for last 16 months, Shreshtha said.

He stressed that traders were incurring heavy losses. Chinese government is not issuing visas to Nepalese traders as a result of which  they are not ordering any goods from China.


(Map shows location of trading points)

Earlier, it used to take only two weeks for container trucks to reach Nepal through the northern land border with China, but it now takes nearly three months for Chinese goods to reach Nepal when imported through Indian ports.

It appears unlikely that Chinese government is unaware of the reality at Nepal-China border. 

A statement released by the Chinese side earlier said that they had opened cargo transportation to nepal

“The Chinese side opened one-way cargo transportation to Nepal by overcoming great difficulties and has continuously enhanced the ports' cargo handling capacity, which played an important role in ensuring the supply of anti-pandemic and livelihood materials in Nepal. We look forward to working with the Nepali side to overcome the present difficulties and make efforts to restore the economy and normal personnel exchanges.” Chinese Embassy in Nepal said in this statement on Jan 13, 2022.

However, China has not initiated any step to ease the trade deadlock between the two countries. 

In addition to the blockade, the Chinese side has also banned entry of Nepali citizens under the pretext of Covid prevention. Nepalese MBBS students in China have been barred from entering the country.

Communist parties warm up to each other

While Nepali citizens face difficulties, Communist parties of both countries are warming up to each other.

Nepal adheres to the “One China” policy and had also signed China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for different infrastructure projects when Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal was the Prime Minister in 2017. 

Recently, Dahal held an hour-long hush-hush virtual meeting last week with Song Tao, the high-ranking head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC). 

Chinese leader Song Tao said China wants to deepen traditional ties with Nepal's political parties based on mutual political trust. 

It appears that China is hina is being heavy-handed in dealing with Nepal and enforcing an undeclared blockade because the present coalition headed by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is perceived as being 'pro-India' and 'pro-West'.

As per Trade and Export Promotion Centre in Nepal:

Chinese imports to Nepal have shrunk by 3 per cent of its imports in a span of 2 years 

2019-20: 17.6%

Current: 14.6%

China mainly exports electronic goods and garments to Nepal. 

Nepal export to China have been reduced to lowest ever percentage in these countries' trading history.

2019-20: 1.8%

Current: 0.4% 

Nepal mainly exports carpets, handicraft items, traditional items to China.