Protesters Rally Against China's Influence At Pokhara Airport In Nepal, Criticize BRI Initiative

A group of protestors comprising locals and activists gathered in front of the China-built Pokhara International Airport, denouncing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a tool for intervention in Nepal. Over 200 people participated in the protest organized by the Rashtriya Ekata Abhiyan (National Unity Movement) on Monday afternoon.

A group of protestors comprising locals and activists gathered in front of the China-built Pokhara International Airport, denouncing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a tool for intervention in Nepal. Over 200 people participated in the protest organized by the Rashtriya Ekata Abhiyan (National Unity Movement) on Monday afternoon. The protest coincided with a visit by a parliamentary committee investigating allegations of embezzlement during the airport’s construction, which currently only operates domestic flights.

Rajendra Prasad Lingden, a member of the parliamentary committee, met with the protestors at the site. The protestors staged a sit-in in front of the airport, chanting slogans demanding “Full operation of Pokhara International Airport,” “Investigate corruption during its construction,” and “Convert Chinese loans to grants,” among others.

READ MORE: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina To Evaluate Both India and China Proposals for Teesta River Project

Binay Yadav, chairman of the National Unity Movement, criticized China, alleging its ambitions to control Pokhara International Airport similar to Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka and Gwadar Port in Pakistan, citing its strategic significance. “Nepal cannot afford to repay the expensive loans and interest. Embezzlement during its construction also needs thorough investigation,” Yadav emphasized.

The construction of Pokhara airport, primarily funded and executed by Chinese firms, has raised concerns about construction quality, oversight manipulation, and Nepal’s increasing debt burden. Its association with China’s BRI has also strained diplomatic relations with India, hindering efforts to attract international flights.

Diplomatic Tensions and Geopolitical Concerns

Signed in May 2017, Nepal’s cooperation with China under the BRI framework has stirred diplomatic tensions, notably with warnings from Nepali Congress lawmakers about the risks associated with BRI loans. Former foreign minister Narayan Prakash Saud cautioned against accepting loans without proper consultation and feasibility studies, advocating instead for grants aligned with Nepal’s existing agreements with other countries.

Challenges and Criticisms

Critics highlight the Pokhara airport project as a cautionary tale of China’s infrastructure influence, emphasizing financial sustainability and transparency concerns. The project underscores broader geopolitical rivalries in South Asia, complicating Nepal’s foreign policy and economic strategies.

ALSO READ: Indian Authorities Caught Off-Gaurd: Satellite Images Show China Digging Underground Bunkers