On December 20 last year, Nepal plunged into a political crisis after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, known for his pro-Beijing leanings, in a surprise move, recommended to dissolve the Parliament amid a tussle for power with former premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
Immediately after Oli’s recommendations, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House the same day and announced fresh polls on April 30 and May 10, fuming protests from a large column of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Prachanda, also a co-chair of the ruling party.
After China’s ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi failed to patch up the differences between them, a wary China sends its four-member delegation to Kathmandu led by Vice Minister of the International Department of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) Guo Yezhou, who personally knows all senior NCP leaders, to sort out differences between them.
This was not the first time China has intervened in Nepal’s internal affairs.
Before the abolition of the monarchy, China urged Nepal’s parties to resolve internal political issues by themselves without direct intervening and was more close to monarchy. After the abolition of the monarchy, China began to increase its clout with regard to all political parties.
When the monarchy was routed Maoist emerged as the single largest party in Nepal and China worked to strengthen their government. But soon after the Maoist government collapsed, China worked to maintain unity inside the Maoist party. In 2013, Beijing urged Maoist faction, led by senior Maoist leader Mohan Baidya, not to split the party. Ultimately, the party suffered two major splits in 2013 and 2015. Beyond the Maoist party, China had urged other communist party to maintain unity and form a single communist front, which in a country like Nepal was not an easy walk.
Another instance of China’s intervention was when Nepal was busy in drafting its first republic Constitution. China showed concern over the federal structures in Nepal and suggested the Nepali heavyweights decrease the number of total provinces and stay away from ethnicity-based federalism.
In 2015 when drafting of Constitution was completed, two communist parties, the CPN (Maoist Center) and CPN-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), formed a coalition government, led by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. He inked down a Transit and Transport Agreement with China, which put an end Nepal’s dependence on India for its supply chains and fuel requirements. A few months later that coalition government was collapsed and gave another chance to China play a mediator to keep the coalition intact.
After the resignation of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, China continues to maintain its strong ties with NCP. A new trend of tour diplomacy was observed when NCP leaders made a series of visits to China. One such visit was in 2019 when a 15 member delegation of ruling NCP led by Dev Gurung, visited China. There CCP leaders met with NCP leaders and underlined the importance of strengthing relations between communist parties. After that, there were a series of visits by leaders of ruling NCP at the invitation of CCP.
Beyond NCP, China is nurturing its ties with other like-minded communist parties as well.
In 2019 before the arrival of Chinese premier Xi Jinping, the NCP organised a symposium to flaunt its loyalty to China. For the last two years at least, there have been regular interactions between the NCP and CPC on ideological issues and it often figures prominently in the bilateral relationship.
In 2020 May and July, Chinese ambassador Hou held separate meetings with the president, the prime minister and other senior NCP leaders, including Prachanda, when Oli was facing mounting pressure to step down.
Besides increasing its political footprints in Nepal, China is escalating its financial profile as well by investing billions of dollars under its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, including the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
A number of political party leaders had termed the Chinese envoy’s series of meetings with the ruling party leaders as interference in Nepal’s internal political affairs.
However, China outrightly rejects the claim of meddling in politics and trade and give the impression that it enjoys cordial ties with all political factions of the country.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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