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VOA Asia Weekly: India, China Seek Influence in Nepal as Infrastructure Projects Stall

VOA Asia Weekly: India, China Seek Influence in Nepal as Infrastructure Projects Stall
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US and Japan plan to upgrade security coordination. Thai lawmakers overwhelmingly approve marriage equality bill. Chinese leader Xi Jinping asks US business leaders to invest in China. Why did an ostrich cross a South Korean road?

Finishing a road to nowhere in Nepal.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is just ahead, but first, making headlines.

The US and Japan are planning the biggest upgrade in security coordination in 60 years. An announcement is expected next month when Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visits Washington.

12,000 more Afghans who supported the US mission there will now be eligible for Special Immigrant Visas through the end of 2025. The measure is part of a 1.2 trillion dollar spending package passed earlier this month.

Thai lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill on Wednesday that would make the country the first in Southeast Asia to legalize equal rights for marriage partners of any gender. Next it must be approved by the Senate and endorsed by the king before it becomes law.

New Zealand says a Chinese state-sponsored hacking operation targeted its parliament in 2021. This comes after American and British authorities announced criminal charges and sanctions against seven hackers believed to be living in China and linked to the Chinese government.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with US business executives Wednesday to ask them to invest in China. He acknowledged issues with the slowing domestic economy but says the government can handle them.

Projects are at a standstill in Nepal, as India and China compete for influence in the Himalayan country. Nepalis are growing frustrated at the lack of development. VOA’s Henry Wilkins has more.

These rough, dusty tracks are where the Kathmandu-Terai Expressway was due to be finished this year. But the project that was supposed to link the capital to the country’s south is only one-quarter of the way done, local media reports say. And officials say it won’t be completed until 2027, at the earliest.

Residents along the route say they’re tired of the lack of progress.

Berung Tamang is a farmer. He says,

“The faster it is built, the faster the citizens of Nepal can develop. Also, this is an open area. The dust from the current road even makes it into our house. For the cows and animals, the dust gets into their food as well.”

Road construction has been held up in a court battle between Indian and Chinese companies who bid for the project.

India and China are vying for influence here largely by offering development projects and financing for them. The country is strategically important for both as the Himalayan mountain range, which runs through Nepal, forms a barrier between them.

Analysts say Nepal is walking a tightrope to stay neutral.

"They just try to work attuned to their interest. Both the countries put their interest first before serving us. We need to tread consciously while taking any help from them. We don’t want to fall in the geopolitical quagmire."

Pokhara International Airport serves one of Nepal’s tourism hotspots. It was built by Chinese contractors with Chinese financing and opened in January 2023. It is yet to welcome any scheduled international flights, however. Local media say India is dragging its heels in allowing flights to go there because of the airport’s Chinese connections.

Politicians say that India is a more natural partner for Nepal.

"We are situated in between two giant countries, so we have to borrow the technology and resources of both sides. But you know, because of geography, because of history, because of religions, we are close to India. That we must say. At the same time, our relations with India must not give any negative impact to China."

As Nepal continues the balancing act, this stretch of the ring road round the capital, Kathmandu, recently expanded thanks to a Chinese-Nepali joint project.

"Now shoe shops, hotels, cell phone shops have all opened here.”

As delays to other projects continue, so too does India and China’s battle for hearts, minds and roads in Nepal.

Henry Wilkins, VOA News, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories. I'm Chris Casquejo.

So – why did the ostrich cross the road?

That’s what police in the South Korean town of Seongnam are asking after a four-year old male ostrich named Tadori -- escaped from the zoo. He spent about an hour dodging through traffic until he was caught. The zoo says Tadori was likely in distress after losing his female companion.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.