Protests Erupt at Pokhara Airport: Activists Slam China's BRI for Intervention

Jul 10, 2024

Pokhara (Nepal), July 09, 2024 (ANI): A group of protestors comprising locals and activists protested in front of China-built Pokhara International Airport, denouncing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a tool to intervene in the Himalayan nation. Over 200 people took part in the protest called by the Rashtriya Ekata Abhiyan or National Unity Movement, on Monday. The protest comes during the visit by a parliamentary committee to inspect and investigate claims of embezzlement at the time of construction of the airport which only operates domestic flights. Rajendra Prasad Lingden, one of the members of the parliamentary committee met with the protestors at the site. The protestors also organized a sit-in in front of the airport raising slogans demanding "Full operation of Pokhara International Airport", "Investigate the corruption during the construction of Pokhara International Airport", and "Convert the Chinese loan to grant" amongst others. Binay Yadav, the chairman of the National Unity Movement, criticised China and alleged that the nation wants to capture the Pokhara International Airport. The construction of Nepal's Pokhara airport, primarily funded and executed by Chinese companies, has raised concerns about the quality of work, the manipulation of oversight, and the burden of debt on Nepal. Additionally, the airport's association with China's BRI has ignited diplomatic tensions with India, making it challenging for the airport to attract international flights. The Pokhara airport serves as a stark example of the pitfalls associated with importing China's infrastructure development model, highlighting concerns about financial sustainability and transparency, all while fuelling geopolitical rivalries in the region.