Relaxation in international travel plays significant role in sustainable post-COVID recovery: Nepali Ambassador to China
Published: Jan 10, 2023 10:46 PM
Nepali Ambassador to China Bishnu Pukar Shrestha Photo: Courtesy of Nepali Embassy in China

Nepali Ambassador to China Bishnu Pukar Shrestha Photo: Courtesy of Nepali Embassy in China

China's adjustment of its COVID policy is a welcome gesture, which symbolizes a move towards fulfilling the aspiration of China to open up further across the world for its modern and high-quality socio-economic development, Nepali Ambassador to China Bishnu Pukar Shrestha told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

"The relaxation in international travel plays a significant role in trade promotion and increment, as well as sustainable post-COVID recovery. When there is more travel, there will be more transactions creating more opportunities for socio-economic development," Shrestha said.

China downgraded the management of the infectious disease from Class A to Class B from January 8 and a series of provisional measures have been introduced. Inbound travelers with no issues to report in their health declaration can enter China without being subject to quarantine.

"From January 17 onward, direct flights from Beijing to Kathmandu will take place via Himalayan Airlines. This will help tourism promotion and people-to-people contacts in both countries," the ambassador revealed.

He told the Global Times the new arrangement will greatly facilitate economic cooperation as well as people-to-people exchanges.

"It is obvious that a number of Nepalese business groups or students will come to China after the cancellation of quarantine for international arrivals on January 8. I am not sure about the exact group, but I am confident that there will be more exchanges of visits, delegations, entrepreneurs, think-tanks, academicians, media persons, students, artists, and the like in 2023," he said.

"In 2022, only a number of Nepali students entered China to resume their studies. We are thankful to the government of China for the cooperation and coordination accorded to Nepali students. Nepal is confident that China's downgrading of the virus and implementing relaxation measures will certainly help foster excellent bilateral relations subsisting between Nepal and China in the political, economic, socio-cultural arenas, and at the people-to-people level," he stressed.

Currently, the Gyirong port in Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, the largest land border crossing between China and Nepal, has resumed two-way trade, which will help boost trade and economic development between the two countries, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to Shrestha, China is one of Nepal's largest trade partners. Nepal's exports to China include carpets, leather, metal ware, wheat flour, micro electrical appliances, scarves, handicrafts, and silver jewelry, among other goods. Nepal's imports from China include communication and technology products, computers, crocheted garments, shoes, instruments, medical appliances, steel irons, vehicles, and the like.

"With the lifting of border restrictions, the travels will increase in number. Both countries will resume economic cooperation. I hope more businessmen will visit Nepal and more investment will take place in the prioritized sectors of Nepal," he told the Global Times.

He said that China can invest more in prosperous areas including trade, hydropower/energy, infrastructure development, connectivity encompassing vital components such as railways, roads, airports, mining, food/agro and herbal processing industries, and tourism and hospitality industry, and information and communication technology, among others.

"Both Nepal and China need to enhance bilateral relations through close and productive engagements in these areas of mutual interest based on the win-win principle."

China is also the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nepal. Chinese investment in Nepal had been diversified and increased prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The ambassador told the Global Times that Nepal always welcomes Chinese tourists to experience the incredible beauty of Nepal, as Nepal is naturally beautiful and culturally rich.

"I believe that Chinese tourists traveling to Nepal will return home with fond memories and experiences," he said.

There is an increase in the visa applications by Chinese people, he said. With China reopening its borders this year, "it is hopeful that more Chinese people will visit Nepal and will enjoy the natural heritages of Nepal."

Last week, Shrestha visited Xi'an, capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. He said that he personally and truly appreciates the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in China.

"The diplomatic activities in the mission were confined to virtual or online diplomacy [before]. However, the relations were sustained through e-governance partially. The reopening will allow Nepal and China to continue with more exchanges of high-level visits, more visits at working levels and in various sectors as well. Visa facilitation will allow entrepreneurs and investors from both countries to resume their businesses. The implementation of previous agreements and projects will be fast in completion. More exchanges will occur in tourism and socio-cultural promotion. I believe that far from Nepal but the entire world is enthusiastic about the adjustments of COVID-19 policy in China," he told the Global Times.

Nepal and China have enjoyed age-old, deep-rooted, and close bilateral relationship since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1955. The multi-faceted relationship between the two countries has continued to grow in various areas of cooperation including trade, investment, tourism, education, health, agriculture, and people-to-people exchange.

"Needless to say, the relaxations of policies around COVID-19 control and prevention will further enhance bilateral ties between Nepal and China," he stressed.