Xi Jinping has become the first Chinese president to visit Nepal since 1996. Sandwiched between regional titans India and China, the mountainous country is increasingly looking to Beijing for investment.
Xi Jinping wrapped up his brief visit to Nepal on Sunday. He is the first Chinese president in over 20 years to visit the Himalayan country.
Nepalese and Chinese officials signed 17 agreements dealing with health, agriculture, industry, tourism and infrastructure, among other areas, the South Asian country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sunday.
Xi had arrived for a brief stopover on his way home from India, where he had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks on combating terrorism and rebuilding ties after the Kashmir dispute.
Nepalese authorities said that President Xi promised to help their country transform from a landlocked to a land-linked nation.
"I hope the countries will enhance their connectivity," said the Chinese president, adding that Beijing and Kathmandu would elevate their relationship to strategic partnership.
In 2017, Nepal signed up to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multinational infrastructure program that includes the building or upgrading of highways and airports in the country.
Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, who on Saturday hosted a banquet to honor Xi, urged Chinese investors to invest more in Nepal.
"We need foreign investment. We urge Chinese investors to invest in areas such as infrastructure, hydropower," she said.
Xi also held talks with Nepal's former prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and senior leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party.
History of tensions
The short visit by the Chinese leader was not welcomed by everyone in Nepal. A number of Tibetans had been rounded up amid fears of protests.
Sixty years ago, China ordered troops to crush a revolt in Tibet against Beijing's rule, leaving the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, fleeing to India, where he still resides.
Roughly 20,000 exiled Tibetans live in Nepal, but under pressure from China, the Nepalese government has taken an increasingly hard-line stance on their activities.
Tanka Prasad Karki, a former Nepalese diplomat, elaborated further on the lack of a presidential visit. "China was waiting for a strong government in Kathmandu, as the last few decades were marked by a Maoist war, frequent changes of government and political instability."
shs,jsi/cmb (AP, AFP)