Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, once again reiterated that Pokhara International Airport is a significant flagship project of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
His remarks were made during the first international commercial plane landing event at the airport today.
Ambassador Song also previously had emphasized the airport’s connection to the BRI during its inauguration. On December 31, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal proudly declared the Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) as a prominent flagship project of the BRI. The statement by Acting Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Wang Xin, during the airport’s inauguration, further solidified the airport’s association with the BRI plan.
However, in reality Nepal had taken a concessional loan of Rs 22 billion for forty years from Exim Bank of China. Its interest rate is 2.75 percent per annum.
The loan agreement between the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and China EXIM Bank had not mentioned the BRI.
The work of Pokhara International Airport had already started even before the BRI scheme enters Nepal. In 2012, an agreement was reached between Nepal and China to build the airport in Nepal. In May 2014, two years before the loan was agreed, China CAMC Engineering was given the construction contract, at a time when China’s BRI was in a nascent phase. Chinese President Xi first announced the idea of BRI in 2013 as ‘One Belt, One Road’.
After Nepal and China signed the framework agreement on BRI in 2017, Nepal had initially selected 35 projects to be undertaken under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship connectivity project. Later, upon Beijing’s request, the total number of projects was whittled down to nine with Pokhara airport off the list.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on January 1 inaugurated a regional international airport built with the Chinese assistance in western Nepal’s tourist hub of Pokhara.
Ever since its inauguration, Pokhara Regional International Airport has been only catering to domestic flights, connecting the beautiful city of Pokhara with various destinations within Nepal.
Six months after the airport came into operation, the first international flight landed at Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) in Kaski today. A narrow body A319 of Sichuan Airlines touch down in Pokhara, with a scheduled flight from Chengdu Airport in China at 9:06 am.