President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit to Nepal and Kathmandu’s typical uncertainty

Krandan Chapagain
By Krandan Chapagain, Kathmandu

11 Aug 2016: The doubt over President Xi Jinping’s visit to Nepal has been put to rest, for now, with a five-member delegation of Chinese international relations experts visiting Kathmandu this week. The team, led by Dr Ji Zhiye, has already had consultations with the newly-appointed Nepalese prime minister on Tuesday. They reportedly discussed, among other, Mr Jinping’s yet-to-be-locked-in tour of Kathmandu.

Dr  Zhiye is the president of China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a government-affiliated think tank based in Beijing. His media interviews as well as a statement released by the office of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal suggest that the change of guard in Kathmandu has not discouraged China from planning the proposed presidential visit which is likely to take place in October – either before or after his visit to India where he will be attending the BRICS Summit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping / Picture courtesy: Global Times

It all depends on what Nepal wants, Dr Zhiye told media yesterday. “There is no problem from Chinese government regarding Xi’s visit to Nepal. It depends on the situation here. The date and other procedure will be move ahead based on the same,” he said speaking to local media in Kathmandu.

He added that the change of government was an internal affair of Nepal and that China had no interest in it whatsoever, “China never tells any country to do this and that. Political stability should be maintained. China always wishes that the parties work together for the same.”

During their meeting, Prime Minister Dahal is understood to have told the Chinese representatives that he was “eager” to have President Xi in Kathmandu because it would further “cement” the relationship between the two nations.

It is noteworthy that the Chinese team was in India before arriving in Nepal on Monday which clearly indicates that China is eager to work together with Nepal and India on matters concerning the three neighbours.

Prime Minister of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal welcoming the Chinese delegation in his office. Source: Office of the Prime Minister
PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal welcoming the Chinese delegation. Source: Office of the Prime Minister of Nepal

In a country where alliances and allegiances are formed and broken in accordance with the selfish needs of the hour rather than through a careful consideration of national interests, it is a wait and watch game until the presidential itinerary is locked in, if at all. For now, it appears everything depends on whether or not Mr Dahal alias Prachanda is ready to welcome the Chinese president.

Some in Kathmandu are concerned that there are elements seeking to disrupt the visit of President Xi Jinping in order to further alienate China from Nepal.

There are also those who may want to see the Dahal government fail, that is, fail to organise the presidential visit in question. Even if it may be good for China-Nepal bilateral relations, some political leaders may want to the wrong pull strings to derail the diplomatic process – much in the fashion of how politics is done in Kathmandu.

China came closer than ever to Nepal during the nine month something term of former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli attracting a lot of scrutiny from the Indian media. So when Mr Oli finally resigned after the Maoists stabbed him on the back, the same media was in an instant party mode. Reports after reports had but one central news peg – that China’s days in Nepal were over with the fall of Oli government and that India was back in business in the mountain nation.

It is ironic that the proposed visit of the president of Mao Zedong’s land should be under doubt just when the staunchest follower of the communist leader became the prime minister of Nepal.

Speaking at a workshop titled China-Nepal-India Economic Corridor: Feasibility and Approaches, the Chinese team leader said that his country wanted “to see the building of links with Nepal”. The programme was organised by the Kathmandu-based China Study Centre on Wednesday.

The visiting Chinese delegation has also met with President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Thursday.

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