By Purna Basnet, Republica | May 11, 2014
HONG KONG, May 11 : Following a Chinese NGO´s proposal to invest three billion US dollar for the development of Lumbini, its executive vice-president Xiao Wunan on Thursday said that the NGO is ready to launch the project but its implementation will be determined by the policy devised by the newly formed government.
Talking to Republica at Four Seasons Hotel in central Hong Kong on Thursday, Xiao Wunan of Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation (APEC) Foundation said, “We are still putting our efforts to gather international support to transform Lumbini into the center for world peace.”
But, joint initiative by the government of Nepal, political parties and the United Nations is a must to materialize the plan, Xiao added.
“Geopolitics of Nepal, which stands between India and China, is so sensitive that it has complicated Lumbini´s development,” Xiao said. “Other countries have also expressed their interest in the APEC Foundation´s project for Lumbini development.”
Stating that other countries´ interest was not a surprise to him, Xiao further said, “Currently different rounds of discussions with Japan, India, South Korea and UNESCO are being held on how the project should be implemented. Soon the discussions with the government of Nepal and political parties will take place.”
Three years ago, the Beijing-based APEC foundation had proposed an investment of US $ 3 billion for the development of Lumbini, which is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and many had hardly believed the project could materialize. The ambitious project was heavily criticized from different quarters as the Chinese NGO, which has involvement of great well-to-do businessmen from America, Europe and Asia, consisted of UCPN (Maoist) chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal, UCPN Maoist Chairman and former prince Paras Shah as co-chairmen. Soon after its proposal came into light, Paras Shah was removed from the position.
The project proposed by the foundation aims to develop Lumbini as an international religious tourist destination and it physical infrastructure includes construction of international airport, auditorium hall, roads and railway between Lumbini and Tibet via Kathmandu.
Earlier, it was misinterpreted that the Chinese government was planning to invest in the project through the NGO. The project had courted further controversy as the APEC foundation had allegedly initiated the project without consulting the government and also it lacked transparency in matters related to investment.
The issue had later received international attention after Indian analysts had argued that Chinese agency´s involvement in the project would pose threats to India´ security.
Following the row, the government led by Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattari had prepared a master plan for Lumbini´s development some two years ago and formed Greater Lumbini Development National Steering Committee under the chairmanship of UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Dahal, which was given the responsibility of raising the fund from the international community.
Even the national steering committee had consisted of representative from Nepali the Congress and CPN-UML and an agreement was reached between the committee and APEC Foundation to collaboratively work on the project. But, the project could not move forward.
Xiao has indicated that the project would now gain momentum in a changed political scenario in the country following the election.
Informing about his near-future visit to Kathmandu to resume talks with the government and political parties to implement the project, Xiao claimed that the foundation is raising fund in Europe and America and that it has not given up on the project.
He further said that the foundation´s Nepal based office would soon be resumed.
Xiao added that the current executive team of APEC foundation consists of nine members including Dahal and two other members from Europe who have been recently inducted.