Nepal will roll out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is paying a two-day state visit to the Himalayan nation from Saturday, during which several agreements are set to be inked.
During his 20-hour stay in Kathmandu, Xi will hold a whirlwind round of meetings with Nepali leaders and officials, including President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and former premiers Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Kathmandu Post reported.
Xi will be overseeing the signing of at least a dozen agreements between Nepal and China.
On Friday evening, Prime Minister Oli held an hours-long meeting with several ministers to finalise the pacts to be signed during Xi's visit. However, there were no details about the agreements.
While a number of articles on the agenda for Xi's visit were approved by a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, officials have remained tight-lipped on the number of agreements to be signed with the Chinese side as negotiations were ongoing. Both sides exchanged the texts of various agreements as of Friday evening, the Kathmandu Post said.
High on the agenda is the preparation of the detailed project report of the cross-border Kerung-Kathmandu railway on a Chinese grant.
Nepal will also be seeking an understanding on the railway's investment modality, which will be discussed during the visit, but agreed upon later, the Kathmandu Post reported, quoting two senior officials privy to the Xi visit agenda.
Possible financing modalities include a grant, a soft loan from China, and investment from Nepal. Finances, however, will only be finalised once the detailed project report is complete.
Officials familiar with negotiations told the Post that the revival of the 1,200MW Budhi Gandaki Hydroelectricity Project, which has been in limbo for quite some time, is almost certain. The project has been handed to the China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC).
The Oli administration had earlier instructed the Ministry of Energy to negotiate with China Gezhouba Group Company to develop the project under the 'engineering, procurement, construction and finance' (EPCF) model.
On Thursday, Oli told former Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers that a few pacts relating to infrastructure and connectivity, and an understanding on reducing tariffs for Nepali products exported to China would be signed during Xi's visit, according to Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
"We were briefed on some agreements regarding road connectivity, the Madan Bhandari University, the detailed project report for the Kerung-Kathmandu railway, upgrading of the Araniko Highway, and the construction of a port at the Korala border point in Mustang," Shrestha told the Kathmandu Post.
"Other issues like cross-border transmission lines and ways to reduce the widening trade gap with China will also be discussed during meetings with the Chinese side."
Meanwhile, security has been stepped up across Kathmandu ahead of the visit.
The Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the National Investigation Department have been mobilised to provide fool-proof security during the Chinese president's visit, Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the Kathmandu Post: "All necessary security arrangements have been made, right from Tribhuvan International Airport to the hotel where the Chinese president will be staying."
The Nepal Army has been working in close coordination with the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the National Investigation Department.
More than 15,000 security personnel in multiple layers will remain on standby for round-the-clock security, according to the Nepal Army.
Officials said that Chinese security personnel in great numbers are also in Kathmandu for Xi's visit.
The Army will also conduct air patrols across the route Xi will be travelling.
In addition to regular patrols across Kathmandu, the police presence has notably increased around Tibetan refugee settlements in Ekantakuna and Boudha.
According to locals, police personnel have been stationed in large numbers at the entrance to the Tibetan refugee settlement in Ekantakuna.