By Ayushi Agarwal
New Delhi [India], September 12 (ANI): Ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October and general and provincial elections in Nepal in November, top Chinese official Li Zhanshu paid an official visit to Nepal on Monday.
Li, who is a confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping and is the third highest-ranking member of the Chinese leadership is seen as a very high level visit from the Chinese side after China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Kathmandu in March.
Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae sees this visit as important in the context of Chinese involvement in the domestic political affairs of Nepal and amidst a growing US-China contestation.
"This is a very important visit. The speaker of the National Assembly of China is the third-ranking member of the Chinese leadership. So, it's a very important visit," Ranjit Rae said today.
It is to be noted that the Nepalese Foreign Minister also visited China in March.
He added: "The Nepalese Foreign Minister also visited China. So, if you see in the last couple of months, there have been a series of high-level visits from China. So, this shows the importance that China attaches to Nepal. And I think there are certain contexts."
"Basically, one in the past, we have seen that the Chinese were quite closely involved in domestic political affairs. And in particular, they were trying to get all the Communist parties together and they did succeed to a certain extent. But then this Unified Communist Party split because of differences. So, the Chinese I think may make no pretence of the fact that preference in Nepal is really to deal with the Communist parties and they want to consolidate them to stabilize them," the fFormer Indian Ambassador to Nepal said.
Rae who is also the author of the book, 'Kathmandu Dilemma - Resetting India-Nepal ties' said that Lee's visit to the Himalayan country may raise a few eyebrows in Nepal as the visit is taking place just before the national and provincial elections in Nepal.
"There is a growing US-China contestation. This is something global, but it is also happening in Nepal. And we saw that in the adoption of the Millennium Challenge Corporation project. This was a 500 million dollar grant project by the Americans and this went through a lot of debate and discussion even in Nepal," he said.
"The Americans actually said that the Chinese are instigating the Nepalese not to endorse this project. Eventually, it was adopted and the Nepalese are very conscious of Chinese priorities. For instance, the Nepalese are not part of the Indo-Pacific dialogue. They have a lot of reservations largely because of China's antipathy. So, I think these are the contexts in which this visit is taking place. Also, this visit is taking place just before the national and provincial elections are to be held, and it has raised quite a few eyebrows in Nepal," the former envoy added.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary of Nepal Bharat Raj Paudyal will be in India from September 13-14.
The Foreign Secretaries will hold discussions on bilateral issues covering the entire range of multifaceted cooperation between India and Nepal, in particular, reviewing the progress on the various initiatives/announcements made during the recent high level visit of Prime Minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal, in April and May 2022, respectively, according to Ministry of External Affairs statement.
Responding to this, the ambassador said that he expects a lot bilaterally can be discussed including the boundary dispute between the two countries.
"The Nepalese Foreign Secretary is visiting India to discuss bilateral cooperation. There are a lot of issues, including sensitivity issues relating to the 1950 treaty relating to the boundary dispute between the two countries. And I'm sure a lot of these issues will be discussed, but from my perspective, I think the most important issue to be discussed is the economic engagement and considerable progress has been made in terms of energy cooperation between Nepal and India. So, I think it's very important to move ahead on many of the projects that we are discussing and particularly the 5,000 plus Megawatt Pancheshwar hydro project," the former ambassador added. (ANI)