China and Nepal are seeking to promote pragmatic cooperation in various sectors under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and projects such as ports, highways and hydropower facilities are progressing steadily and have brought benefits for the development of Nepal, a Chinese official said on Tuesday.
The comment came after US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Joe Felter said during a visit to Nepal that some activities associated with the BRI are very much in China's interests and not necessarily in the interests of the country involved, which can be seen in increasing debt burdens, the Kathmandu Post reported on Tuesday.
"We welcome a constructive relationship with China, we welcome the investment by China, as long as that investment is designed to serve the interests of Nepal and not just China," he was quoted as saying in the report.
Felter also said that China should improve its transparency in the quality of its investments.
Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding on the BRI in May 2017 in Kathmandu.
The BRI follows the rule of shared benefits through consultation and contribution. While advancing the initiative, China upholds the principles of equality, openness and transparency, and it sticks to enterprise-oriented market operations as well as market rules and well-accepted international rules, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"The support and assistance China has offered have no political strings attached and [China] does not interfere in [Nepal's] domestic affairs," Hou said. "They welcome and appreciate what China has done, and commend China as the most trustworthy partner of all the participating countries, including Nepal."
The ambassador said that insufficient industrial capacity, lack of internal development capability, backward infrastructure and financing difficulties constitute bottlenecks for the development of many underdeveloped countries.
"Having faced the same problems over quite a long time, China shares the feelings of these developing countries."
"So we know their pressing needs and have conducted mutually beneficial cooperation with these countries…with no political strings attached, based on our own experience," she said.
If a country cannot provide help for developing countries, it should at least refrain from blocking others from assisting these developing countries. Even less should it diminish the benefits for these people to serve its own political needs and sow discord, according to Hou.
Though faced with plentiful facts and statistics, the relevant country has played up the so-called issue of non-transparency of China's investment and increasing debt burdens from the BRI and made irresponsible remarks out of its political needs, the ambassador said.
It is "very ridiculous" for some to attempt to interfere in friendly cooperation between China and Nepal, Hou said.
"I hope that the relevant country can do more practical things for developing countries, instead of making indiscreet remarks or criticisms. It is my belief that the cooperation under the BRI between China and Nepal will continue to produce new and greater achievements, benefiting the two countries and the two peoples."
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal Pradeep Gyawali said the BRI can contribute significantly to changing Nepal's growth landscape and the "debt trap rumor in Nepal is aimed at instilling fear."
"The BRI is a big economic concept and people are free to interpret it [the way they want]. But for Nepal, it is an important project that can make a huge contribution to our efforts to change our development landscape," Gyawali was quoted as saying in another report by the Kathmandu Post.
"Nepal wants to be a part of it so that we can diversify our trade and transit facilities, among other issues," he said. "We want to rise above one-sided dependency."
When talking of concerns of a debt trap, the minister said "I don't think there is any confusion in Nepal about this. I believe this is an imported psychology."