Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli today embarked on his first official visit to China during which he will call on the top leadership and clinch key deals including on transit and importing fuel to avert a future blockade like the one the landlocked nation recently witnessed at the border with India.
The 64-year-old premier is leading a 50-member delegation for the week-long visit, being undertaken at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.
Oli's visit to the communist nation, which comes just over a month after he travelled to India in his first visit overseas, is being dubbed as the highest-level interaction between China and Nepal since establishment of the new Nepalese government last October.
Oli is expected to finalise agreements on importing fuel and gas besides transit and transportation deal to facilitate entry of Chinese goods into landlocked Nepal through Tibet.
It was being reported that Oli may clinch Transit and Transportation Agreement on importing fuel and gas from China to reduce dependence on oil imports from India, ties with which suffered due to a crippling blockade of key border trade points by Madhesis who are largely of Indian-origin.
Agreements on oil exploration, trademarks, and for the construction of an international airport in Pokhara and a bridge over the Simikot-Hilsa road section that will connect Humla district to Tibet will also be signed during the visit, Minister for Industry Som Prasad Pandey had said.
Oli is accompanied by his spouse Radhika Shakya, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa, Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel, Minister for Commerce Deepak Bohara, Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel, chief advisor to Prime Minister Bishnu Rimal, according to sources at the Prime Minister's office.
Chief Secretary of the government Somlal Subedi, other senior government officials, business entrepreneurs and some media representatives are also included in the premier's entourage.
During the visit, Oli is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Tomorrow, the Nepalese premier will attend the welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People and hold bilateral talks with Li and discuss the matters relating to mutual interests and common concerns, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a press release.
Following the talks, the two leaders will witness the signing ceremony of bilateral Agreements and Memorandum of Understandings by senior officials of both Nepal and China.
Nepalese Prime Minister's foreign affairs advisor Gopal Khanal said the two countries are considering a transit and trade agreement that would allow Nepal - whose only sea access is currently through Kolkata - the use of China's ports for third-country trade.
"This visit is aimed at diversifying Nepal's ties with China and preparing Nepal to be more independent," Khanal said.
During the visit, Oli will meet chairman of the Peoples' Political Consultative Conference Yu Zhengsheng and other other senior officials.
He will also witness the signing ceremony of MoU on Granting Nepal the Status of Dialogue Partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Oli is scheduled to address scholars, academics, business people and students on the theme of 'Nepal-China Relations in the context of Belt and Road Initiatives'.
He will also address the Chinese and Nepali business community at the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the annual Boao Forum for Asia-2016 being organised under the theme "Asia's New Future: New Dynamics, New Vision" at Boao, Hainan province of China on March 24.
He will also inspect earthquake reconstruction zone and a hydroelectricity project in Sichuan province before returning home on March 27.