Beijing recalibrating its Nepal policy as political situation unfolds fast

Radio Darpan

Kathmandu, December 31

Caught unawares by the KP Sharma Oli government’s move of dissolving the House of Representatives, which then had an immediate impact on Nepal’s governing Nepal Communist Party, Beijing hurriedly sent a team led by a senior leader of the Communist Party of China to Kathmandu.

The four-member delegation, led by Guo Yezhou, a vice-minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, over the past three days has held a whirlwind of meetings. After meeting with President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Oli, who is now leading a caretaker government, on Sunday, the day they arrived, the Chinese team on Monday met with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal of the other faction of the Nepal Communist Party. The same evening, it held talks with Baburam Bhattarai, chairman of the federal council of the Janata Samajbadi Party.

On the third day of the visit—the Chinese team is in Kathmandu for four days—on Tuesday, it held talks with Sher Bahadur Deuba, president of the Nepali Congress, which was the main opposition until Oli dissolved the House on December 20.

During their meetings with the Nepal Communist Party leaders, the Chinese tried to explore a formula that could keep the party unity intact.

While meeting with Bhattarai, the Chinese team said their visit is aimed at strengthening Nepal-China ties.

According to Bishwadip Pandey, a personal aide to Bhattarai, the Guo-led team said they are “not in Kathmandu to discuss any issues related to Nepal’s internal affairs”.

During its meeting with Deuba, the Chinese delegation said that ties between Nepal and China have always remained excellent. The Chinese delegation also extended an invitation to Deuba to visit China, according to Dinesh Bhattarai, who served as foreign relations adviser to Deuba when he was prime minister in 2017-18.

Observers say the way the Chinese delegation has held talks with a wide range of leaders and sought to know various aspects of Nepali politics after Oli’s December 20 move, it looks like Beijing wants to recalibrate its approach when it comes to Nepal-China ties. According to them, it had already dawned upon Beijing that the situation in the Nepal Communist Party had gone beyond repair when Oli dissolved the House and the party virtually split.

So the objective of the visit is to assess the ground reality and see whether Beijing needs to form a new Nepal policy, and if that is needed, how and what, a senior Nepal Communist Party leader said.

“Beijing knew that it could not save the party unity,” the leader who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post. “The delegation hence explored whether there is still the possibility of a working alliance between the two factions, especially in view of the elections that have been called.”

While going for the House dissolution, the Oli government also recommended that snap polls be held on April 30 and May 10. Accordingly, the President called elections for the said dates.

However, Oli’s House dissolution move has been challenged in the Supreme Court, which is testing if it was done under constitutional provisions.

According to leaders familiar with the Chinese delegation’s series of meetings, they were also concerned about Nepal’s future political course depending upon various conditions—if the House is restored by the court, if it is not restored, if elections happen on the said dates and if elections fail to happen.