The ongoing political crisis in Nepal seems to have provided China with a perfect opportunity to meddle in the internal affairs of this tiny Himalayan nation. India, however, prefers to stay out of Nepal’s domestic politics.
Earlier this month, Nepal’s President dissolved the parliament and announced fresh elections, following which Beijing rushed a high-level delegation to Kathmandu to “take stock” of the situation.
After a major internal crisis in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recommended the dissolution of the Parliament, which was ratified the same day by President Bidya Devi Bhandari. However, former prime minister and party rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda opposed the move.
In 2018, Prachanda, a former Maoist guerrilla chief, had decided to merge his Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre with Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and formed the Nepal Communist Party. The Prachanda-led faction of the NCP recently removed Oli as party chairman and appointed Madhav Kumar Nepal to the position.
On Sunday, Vice Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Guo Yezhou reportedly held talks with Oli in an hour-long meeting. According to the Himalayan News Service, the Chinese delegation was likely to meet NCP leaders Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal during their stay.
The report added that in recent months, the Chinese Communist Party had sent its leaders to Nepal several times to sort the internal feud in the Nepal Communist Party.
On Monday, protests were held in Kathmandu against the Chinese delegation with opposition parties raising slogans like ‘Stop Chinese interference’, ‘Back off China’, ‘Return encroached Nepali land to Nepal’, and ‘Stop casting an evil eye on Sagarmatha’.
Nepal observers say that Chinese President Xi Jinping wanted Oli to rescind the order of dissolution of the Parliament and extended the offer to President to “back off” and let Oli complete his 5-year tenure, reported Hindustan Times. The report added that Oli rejected the Chinese delegation’s offer and is in the favour of Nepal’s Supreme Court to take the decision.
The visit of a Communist Party of China (CPC) delegation to #Nepal was to conduct exchanges on issues of common interests, such as epidemic control, and the CPC upholds principles including non-interference: Chinese FM https://t.co/xz0x3MjYow
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) December 28, 2020
India and China have been vying for influence in Nepal, however, after an initial rift between New Delhi and Kathmandu over the borders, Beijing clinched the opportunity to further its ties with the common neighbor.
The Chinese high-level meeting comes at a time when New Delhi is trying to woo its South Asian neighbors to corner Beijing. India and China have been locked in a military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), their de fact border, for more than seven months now.
Indian Army chief, General M.M. Naravane, indicated that Nepal’s objection to India’s newly-inaugurated road via the Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand was likely at the behest of China.
India and Nepal have been trying to normalize ties since the friction appeared. In early November, General Naravane visited Kathmandu to settle and restrengthen the ties between the two countries.
On the other hand, Nepal-China ties have been expanding as Beijing has poured billions of dollars of investment in Nepal to build infrastructure under its flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Reacting to the latest development in Nepal, India said it is Nepal’s “internal matter”. “We have noted the recent political developments in Nepal. These are internal matters for Nepal to decide as per its democratic processes,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi.
“As a neighbor and well-wisher, India will continue to support Nepal and its people in moving forward on the path of peace, prosperity, and development,” he said.