Nepal has gone far away from the one-China policy and the non-aligned foreign policy, not declared but unannounced. The latest example of this is, Dr. Narayan Khadka woh was appointed foreign minister, as soon as the Taliban government came to power in Afghanistan. As soon as the Taliban government came to power, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that Nepal would not recognize the Taliban government. It was wrong for all aspects to say that Nepal, the chair of SAARC, would not recognize another member state, Afghanistan. That should not have been done.
On the other hand, China had said that it would support the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Another thing is that Russia is attacking Ukraine. That is not a war. In the name of establishing peace there, Russia wants “its opposition not to stand.” This is exactly what China might want in Nepal, once the MCC is passed. Nothing official has happened so far. But observing China’s sensitivities, it’s not sure that is unlikely to happen. If that happens, Nepal will suffer immensely. What happened in that was a proposal came to the United Nations. When the proposal came, Nepal supported Ukraine. India and China did not participate. Nepal voted in favor of Ukraine. At first glance, Nepal has given up non-alignment policy. Seen in this light, it seems that almost all the processes for connecting Nepal to the American axis have been completed. There was a difference in the stance, ideology than our two neighbors.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who arrived in Kathmandu via New Delhi, the capital of India, and Narayan Khadka the counterpart, did not go to Tribhuvan Airport to receive him. He, sending the secretary of his ministry, not only insulted but also conveyed the message that Nepal has moved away from China. Understanding all these developments, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has succeeded in sending a silent message from Nepal. Foreign Minister Wang’s Nepal schedule was not busy when he landed in Kathmandu on Friday, March 25. He observed Kathmandu more than the meeting. He visited Shivpuri hill. Kathmandu is not new to him as he has visited Nepal many times. The character of the Nepali leaders is not a new subject for him.
After concluding his visit to South Asian countries, Foreign Minister Wang did not speak to Nepali officials about the growing American interest in Nepal. Many thought he would do so even if he complained about the growing American influence in Nepal. Some even thought that Foreign Minister Wang was interested in the MCC. Those in the government were terrified by the news that he was going to visit Nepal.
During the visit, Foreign Minister Wang indicated that China’s relations with the current government were not very good. Foreign Minister Wang could not be friendly during a meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. He informed about the discussions held with his Nepalese counterpart Dr. Narayan Khadka. During the meeting, which focused more on the formal signing of the Pokhara airport and the formality of the photo session, Prime Minister Deuba said only three things. First of all, welcome to Nepal. second, reiterated Nepal’s old-fashioned stance in favor of the one-China policy and said the talks with the foreign minister were already known. Third, in response to Foreign Minister Wang’s invitation to Deuba to visit China, ‘Ok, I will come at the appropriate time. In this regard, my Foreign Minister Dr. Narayan Khadka will inform.’
Prime Minister Deuba works for an independent Tibetan. The Chinese do not have to wait to understand that US Ambassador to Nepal Berry is behind Deuba. Therefore, Foreign Minister Wang invited Deuba to visit China. Earlier, during the visit to Nepal, Chinese President Xi Jinping had invited Deuba to visit China.
During the visit to Nepal, Foreign Minister Wang and Nepalese officials’ discussed issues of mutual interest is not public yet. However, a report released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the talks focused on three issues.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Wang had expressed dissatisfaction indirectly with the government’s activities with the Chairman of the CPN-Maoist Centre and former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Foreign Minister Wang said in a meeting with Maoist leaders that the Americans were moving forward strategically. According to leaders participating in the talks, Foreign Minister Wang said the United States was entering countries around China under various names. Foreign Minister Wang’s sarcastic remarks on Maoist Chairman Dahal, who was working hard for passing the MCC. At the outset, President Dahal reiterated that Nepal was in favor of the one-China policy, and sought to normalize the talks by justifying the deteriorating situation caused by Oli-Nepal and others. During the 40-minute talks with Dahal, Maoist Chairman Dahal spoke for only ten to fifteen minutes. Foreign Minister Wang spoke most of the time. Apart from Chairman Dahal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Shakti Basnet were also present at the meeting. After a lengthy meeting with UML Chairman Oli, they waited in the lobby of Hotel Marriott.
America in Centre:
One of the reasons behind Foreign Minister Wang’s visit to Nepal is the United States. After the MCC pass, American influence in Nepal has greatly increased. The US embassy in Nepal has been holding various programs against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A banner with the slogan “We are in favor of Ukraine” is displayed in front of the embassy building. Nepal has also indicated in the United Nations that it wants to stay in the American pole by voting for Ukraine.
On Friday morning, on the day Foreign Minister Wang’s visit to Nepal, US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry met with Prime Minister Deuba. Ambassador Berry, who arrived in Baluwatar at 9:45 a.m., suggested that no agreement be reached with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang on issues including the BRI. Due to an emergency meeting with him, Prime Minister Deuba arrived at the Army Command and Staff College in Shivapuri 45 minutes late. Chief of Army Staff Prabhuram Sharma, Inspector General of the Armed Police Force Shailendra Khanal, Inspector General of Police Shailesh Thapa Chhetri and Chief of the National Investigation Department Yadu Kharel arrived at the staff college at Shivpuri at 9.15 am to welcome Prime Minister Deuba.
Foreign Minister Wang sought to clarify the purpose of the visit during his talks with the three Maoist leaders. That too by using diplomatic language in general. He did not want to be named in the visit about BRI promoted by China. One of the reasons behind this is MCC. He has returned to China cautiously avoiding the possibility of discussing on the MCC in the name of BRI. Foreign Minister Wang’s visit was expected by many to move the BRI project forward.
However, he did not speak about BRI anywhere. One of the reasons behind this is the declining faith of Nepalis. He knew that if anything was said about MCC, it would not be confined to Nepal only. He was clearer than the Nepali leaders that such issues would not take long to cross the border of Nepal. Therefore, during the visit, Foreign Minister Wang kept his words in balance. Announced some package of assistance to Nepal.
During Foreign Minister Wang’s visit, the UML seems to have been more explicit than the CPN (MC). UML Chairman Oli presented a list of tasks that China should immediately do for Nepalis with Foreign Minister Wang. “All issues of mutual interest were discussed,” said Rajan Bhattarai, chief of the UML’s foreign department. ‘Understanding between Nepal and China was discussed. We emphasized the need to move forward and accelerate BRI projects.’
During the talks with Foreign Minister Wang, UML Chairman Oli had stressed on reopening the closed checkpoints. Chairman Oli had urged that the students should complete their studies, who had dropped out of their studies due to Corona and return to Nepal. Oli also urged for the return of stranded Nepalis to the border area of Humla. During the discussion, the UML also discussed the development of physical infrastructure at Korola Naka and support for the control of Covid.
UML Chairman Oli, who was present more clearly than the government, stressed on the need for Chinese assistance in the construction of infrastructure on the Nepal side at Korola Naka in Mustang. Bhattarai said, “China has built that kind of infrastructure on its side. We have asked for assistance from Nepal as well.’ Expressing gratitude for China’s assistance in controlling the Corona epidemic, Oli expressed confidence that such assistance would continue in the days to come.
During the 50-minute talks, Foreign Minister Wang said he took all issues positively. He said efforts to resolve the issue would continue, adding that the process of resolving the issue could take some time, said Bhattarai. But, the problem will be solved.’ During the talks with UML, Chairman Oli had presented some views on BRI. Foreign Minister Wang didn’t enter on the issues raised by Chairman Oli.
Foreign Minister Wang’s visit is expected to have an effect until the next election. It is not possible from the Nepali Congress to weaken the growing American influence in Nepal. Therefore, the Chinese seem to have a little more hope from UML. During the meeting on Sunday, UML Chairman Oli also urged China to move ahead with various projects. This request should have been made by Prime Minister Deuba. When Deuba was pressed by American thinking, he could not open up with Foreign Minister Wang. That is why negotiations can be assumed to be like negotiations, which was different from what China wants.
Foreign Minister Wang did not want to question Oli on one-China policy. Oli also did not consider it necessary to enter into the matter. CPN (MC) Chairman Dahal, on the other hand, expressed his commitment that Nepal’s land would not be used against China. Foreign Minister Wang may not have thought that Dahal’s response was different from the Nepali proverb about cutting off a thief’s leg.
UML president Oli was clearly present during the meeting. This shows that China has some faith in UML. Dahal has always been viewed with suspicion by China, the chairman of the Maoist center. The situation is the same now. Foreign Minister Wang’s visit to Nepal provided an opportunity for the Chinese side to know to some extent how the Americans were trying to play in Nepal after the MCC. Foreign Minister Wang was already aware of the Nepali leaders working on one side and committing on the other.
China’s role seems to be important in reducing Nepal’s growing American influence. For that, China should take initiative more than Nepal. This time it was seen that China still does not have an effective mechanism to work at the political level in Nepal. In Nepal, the Chinese mechanism has not been able to play an effective role at the decision-making level due to its inability to provide accurate information and analysis at the right time. On the other hand, some decisions made by Beijing are delayed when they arrive in Kathmandu. The effect of all this is to stay fresh forever.
Therefore, China’s current role should be more focused on bringing Oli to power. For this, the cooperation of Maoists and Oli is needed now. If the two recent ideas put forward by the US (1. Making Maoist Chairman Dahal a puppet of the Congress 2. if not, then the next parliamentary elections establish a non-Maoist parliament) succeed, China may have no choice but to lose the fish in its hands. Or another mechanism will have to be set up in opposition to the present system. So China should try to stop this thinking of Americans in time. The local level election process that will start in the next few days will make this clear.
‘China-India Plus’ cooperation:
During his visit to India, Foreign Minister Wang met with India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on March 25 (Friday). During the meeting, Foreign Minister Wang said that China is ready to work on the alternative of ‘China-India Plus’ cooperation in South Asia and to develop a model of concrete interaction. He was confident that this cooperation would be mutually beneficial and would result in victory for all at a high level and in a wide range.
After the Doklam dispute, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in April 2018. President Xi made the proposal during a meeting in Wuhan, China. The concept aims to help Asia’s emerging China and India co-operate in development and liaison projects with their neighbors.
The then Prime Minister of Nepal Oli was also briefed by President Xi during his visit to China. Oli took it positively. This concept was discussed even when Maoist Chairman Dahal was the Prime Minister. This concept put forward by China has not been put into practice due to lack of clarity by India.
India’s role in Ukraine seems to suggest that India will sooner or later agree with this matter. As this concept moves forward, Nepal seems to be facing the most difficulties. At that time, Nepal could not side with the United States even if it wanted to. When two neighbors live in mutually, it would be another foolishness for Nepal to try to choose another place. However, when India does not come to its side, the only American option that will embarrass China is Nepal. At that time, Nepal will be under double pressure.
During Foreign Minister Wang’s visit, the government mechanism remained inactive. This means that American influence in Nepal has deepened in the government mechanism. Americans are now more active in political mechanism than in government mechanism. They are equally active in making an impact at the local level. Looking at all these situations, it is not easy for Nepal to go for ‘China-India Plus’ cooperation.
On the other hand, Nepal has not had good relations with India for more than half a decade. Nepal is not interested in China either. It is also clear from the fact that he sent his secretary to welcome his counterpart instead of the foreign minister. Lately, Nepal’s attention seems to be focused only on the United States. It is too late for Nepal to be clear on how to benefit from such future cooperation between the two countries.