China and Nepal study feasibility of cross-border power grid

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KATHMANDU, March 26 (Reuters) - China and Nepal will conduct a feasibility study to construct a high-voltage power transmission line across the Himalayas to facilitate the exchange of electric power, officials said on Saturday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Nepali counterpart Narayan Khadka witnessed the signing of an agreement following talks in Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

Nepal faces power shortages during the dry season and the planned grid would alleviate the problem through imports from China.

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In recent years Beijing has spent millions of dollars building or upgrading highways, airports, power plants and hospitals in Nepal, eager to gain influence on the country which acts as a natural buffer between it and India.

In 2019, China and Nepal agreed to conduct a feasibility study for a railway network under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative that Nepal joined in 2017. But no progress has yet been made to that end, officials said.

Wang's visit comes a month after Nepal's parliament approved a controversial $500 million infrastructure grant from the United States. Supporters of communist parties, including some allies of the ruling alliance, questioned America's motive.

Wang arrived in Nepal on Friday after a trip to India. He handed over the new international airport constructed with a $216 million Chinese loan in the resort city of Pokhara, 125 km (80 miles), west of Kathmandu.

The airport is expected to be operational by the end of this year, project chief Binesh Munakarmi told Reuters.

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Reporting by Gopal Sharma, Editing by Rupam Jain and Christina Fincher

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