China’s Plan-B for forging anti-Oli front in Nepal likely afoot

Analysts say that China has high stakes in the unity of the NCP, which it sees as the most suitable vehicle for carrying forward its broader geopolitical agenda in the high Himalayas.
Xi Jinping KP Sharma Oli
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli at a welcome dinner in Kathmandu on October 12, 2019. Photo: AFP via The Rising Nepal / Handout

New Delhi, Dec 30: China is continuing to mount an all-out, if not desperate, effort to salvage lost ground in Nepal, by now trying to forge a united front against Communist faction led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who had last week announced dissolution of parliament, and fresh elections next year.

Guo Yenzhou a vice-minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, who is on a fire-fighting mission in the Nepalese capital since Sunday has now conversed with Sher Bahadur Deuba, President of the Nepali Congress, which has roots in India.

Guo is working on a double track. Nepal watchers say that he is making a last-ditch effort to keep the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) united, which is facing an irreconcilable split. The faction led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is at loggerheads with flock led by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known by his nom de Guerre, Prachanda. Former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has joined Prachanda in the internal feued.

But analysts say that the Chinese also appear to be now embarking on a plan-b-a frantic effort to forge a united anti-Oli front that includes the disgruntled communist factions and the Nepali congress.

Narayan Khadka, shadow foreign minister, and Dinesh Bhattarai, former foreign relations adviser to Deuba told Kathmandu Post that during discussion relations between Nepal and China also took place. The Chinese side has apparently invited Deuba to Beijing next year, marking the centenary of the CPC’s formation.

Hindustan Times citing Nepal watchers earlier reported that President’s Xi Jinping’s CPC wants the PM Oli-led government to rescind the presidential order dissolving parliament and has offered to use its influence with the rival faction led by Prachanda and Madhav Nepal to get them to back off and guaranteed that he would be able to complete his five-year term.

It added that the buzz in Nepal’s political circles is that PM Oli stood his ground and indicated that he would rather let the Supreme Court take the call on the presidential order. Five judges of Nepal’s top court have started hearing dozen-odd petitions filed against President Bhandari’s order dissolving the House of Representatives.

PM Oli is also learnt to have pointed to his previous discussions with Chinese ambassador Hou Yenqi, who at one point, wanted him to step down, and asserted that it would not be possible for him to roll back his cabinet’s recommendation.

China is concerned with the disorder in the NCP as it has invested considerably in Nepal over the past few years, in a bid to structurally integrate Kathmandu within its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Nepal has emerged as one of the battlegrounds of the new great game between India and China to remain the dominant force in South Asia.

Analysts say that China has high stakes in the unity of the NCP, which it sees as the most suitable vehicle for carrying forward its broader geopolitical agenda in the high Himalayas.

Over the past two days, the Chinese side has been trying to de-construct the current crisis, which has apparently taken them by surprise. Kathmandu Post is reporting that China is also concerned that political turmoil in Nepal could put the efforts, amplified by President Xi Jinping’s visit in October last year, made to elevate Kathmandu-Beijing ties to “strategic partnership” go down the drain.

A joint communique issued after the conclusion of Xi’s visit last year categorically mentioned that both sides have “decided to elevate Nepal-China Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation Featuring Ever-lasting Friendship to Strategic Partnership of Cooperation.”

Many say Beijing is now worried if the Nepali leadership that made the commitment is now backtracking.

The daily added that Beijing’s concerns had started to grow in the wake of a series of visits from Delhi-chief of Indian spy agency in October and chief of Indian Army and foreign secretary in November.

Those visits coincided with India and the US signing an agreement aiming at strengthening strategic ties in the face of growing Chinese influence in the region.

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