Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on Thursday said that South Asian countries can take huge advantage from the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Addressing a two-day international conference titled “Belt and Road for development and prosperity of South Asia” in Kathmandu, the Nepali Minister said that the Belt and Road Initiative offers win-win situation for the participating countries by creating new economic opportunities.

He said that Belt and Road has achieved global importance as increasing number of countries and international organisations have conducted cooperation with China to become the part of this initiative.

“The Belt and Road Initiative has been established as the most important initiative of the world. This is the fact of our time,” he said.

Gyawali said that the Belt and Road Initiative lays emphasis on boosting physical connectivity among the participating countries.

“The Belt and Road Initiative is an inclusive concept which aims to promote shared benefits, good governance, enhanced railroad connectivity and sovereign decision-making of the relevant countries,” the Minister said.

Gyawali said that South Asia region holds tremendous potentials for economic development as countries in this region have many commonalities on language, culture, civilisations and they strive for sustainable peace.

“We want to develop ports, railways, highways, information ways under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Landlocked countries like Nepal want to reap benefit from the enhanced connectivity,” he said while talking about the importance of the BRI.

On the occasion, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi said the South Asia region plays important role in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

“We want to have more meaningful cooperation with South Asian countries under the BRI framework. We are currently constructing the China-Pakistan Economic Cooperation and Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka,” she said.

The Belt and Road Initiative follows the principle of mutual benefit, shared interests and win-win cooperation. “No countries have fallen into debt trap since China launched the BRI,” she said.

Delivering a key note speech, member of the Parliament and president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal of Bangladesh, Hasanul Haq Inu highlighted the priorities of foreign policy of Bangladesh, saying that his country is pursuing a balanced foreign policy on the basis of mutual benefit and friendship.

He said that Bangladesh has been engaged in regional and multilateral forums like Belt and Road Initiative, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and these forums are important to promote regional and bilateral connectivity among the countries.

Delivering his welcoming remarks, Chairman of the Nepal-China Friendship Forum, Kalyan Raj Sharma said that Belt and Road Initiative provides mutual benefit to the participating countries in the field of connectivity and physical infrastructure development.

“BRI is upholding the principles of mutual support and win-win cooperation. It is creating various economic opportunities for South Asian countries including Nepal,” he said.

Sharma said that Nepal as a participating country of the BRI is working with China to improve its livelihood and bring more Chinese FDI to the country.

The two-day conference is witnessing the participation of scholars and experts from Nepal, China and other Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The first day of the conference ended with a high-level plenary session on Belt and Road for shared development and prosperity of South Asia.

On the second day of the international conference, scholars and experts will deliver their remarks on “BRI lessons from ASEAN,” “BRI for trade and connectivity in South Asia” and “Trans-Himalayan cooperation for shared prosperity.

“The conference is being organised by Nepal-China Friendship Forum.