Nepal PM begins China trip
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Saturday began his first official visit to northern neighbour China amid a
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claim guaranteed to trigger the anger of the opposition Maoist party.
The 21-member delegation, including Nepal’s wife Gayatri Nepal, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, Finance Minister Surendra Pandey and Energy Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat left for Lhasa amid a claim by the state media that it was the “first official visit by a prime minister of Nepal to China after the restoration of democracy in April 2006”.
In August 2008, after Nepal went to the hustings and officially became a republic, the first prime minister of the nascent republic, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, had visited Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games. The state media claim reduces the stature of Prachanda’s visit and aims to show better ties between the ruling party and China’s ruling communist party.
Despite the claim, the agenda of Nepal’s China visit remains obscure. While ministers have said that the delegates would seek Chinese help in boosting hydropower, infrastructure and tourism-related projects, Nepal told journalists before departure that it was a goodwill visit intended to strengthen diplomatic relations.
However, the timing of the visit is bound to come under criticism. The Maoists, who imposed a three-day general strike this month, have begun their fourth phase of agitation against the ruling coalition amid the warning that they would begin an indefinite closure from Jan 24. Though Nepal’s visit seems to be an attempt to spread the message among the international community that the peace process is on track, the ground reality is different.
When he returns after five days, Nepal is bound to run into Maoist criticism. The former rebels called Nepal’s earlier visit to India this year a flop while Prachanda dismissed Nepal’s attendance at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen as an insult to the country, saying the prime minister could not project the nation’s interests but focused on how India and China had pledged to support his government.
While Nepal’s gains from the visit remains unclear, China will however be reassured by the reiterated commitment by Nepal to the One China policy, holding Tibet and Taiwan to be integral and inalienable parts of China. Nepal will also freshly pledge that it will not allow its soil to be used for anti-China activities by Tibetan refugees or allow the office of the Dalai Lama’s representative in Nepal to be re-opened.
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