By Mei Jingya, Sina English
India has always been wary of Nepal’s warming up with China. Citing the latest example, the Times of India in its Monday report accused a Chinese company of bribing Nepal leadership in order to get construction contracts in the Himalayas country.
In the specific allegation, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leaders, Prachanda, finance minister Barsa Man Pun and PM Baburam Bhattarai's wife Hisila Yami were reportedly paid kickbacks by a Chinese firm to allow bidding of an airport project at a high cost.
The deal aforementioned is the construction of an international airport at Pokhara. According to the Indian report, the government of Nepal and China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd signed a MoU for construction of the airport on September 20, 2011.
But the deal got stuck after the public accounts committee questioned how the project cost was raised to US$305 million from the initially assessed US$180 million, triggering a controversy.
India suspects that Nepal’s Maoist leaders will do anything in their power to rescue the stalled deal with the Chinese firm. They may even stir agitation in Pokhara to pressure the government, said the article.
Since the end of civil war in Nepal, the Chinese government has stepped up economic aid and soft loans to the country and many Chinese companies have been seeking investment projects there as well.
Both the Nepal leadership and the public welcome foreign investments, especially those on large hydropower projects. The private sector in Nepal has been calling for more preferential loans from China.
Before the airport project, China and Nepal struck a deal on preferential loans to the Trishuli hydroelectric project in central Nepal. Construction of the Pokhara airport is the second such deal Nepal proposed to the Chinese side.
About a decade ago, Nepal unveiled a draft for the airport’s construction, which would cost US$179 million in an assessment. Before the bidding invitation, Nepalese finance ministry applied for a loan of US$287 million from China.
A Nepalese expert told reporters on Oct.8 that Nepal has been stuck in a political turmoil after its parliament was dissolved and some opposition parties are spreading rumors on big projects out of ulterior motivations.
In response to the Indian accusation, Nepalese media pointed out that India has kept a sharp outlook on Chinese aid to Nepal.
Given the strategic importance of Nepal and a strong need to boost Pokhara’s economy, Indian media are deliberately distorting the truth and misleading people in an attempt to obstruct the airport construction.