BEIJING, Mar 21: Ahead of Nepal Premier Prachanda’s fence-mending visit to China this week, state-run media here has slammed him saying that ties have fallen to a “low ebb” with most of the Chinese projects stuck due to his “pro-India” policies.
An article in the state-run Global Times said for quite some time Prachanda, the Prime Minister and the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), had been friendly toward China.
The article recalled his past close association with China as well as his anti-India rhetoric.
However, since assuming office for the second time as Prime Minister in August last year he has visited India twice and warmly welcomed President Pranab Mukherjee in Kathmandu last November, the article noted.
“Given Prachanda’s pro-India foreign policy, the Sino- Nepalese relationship has fallen into low ebb,” it said.
Prachanda, who succeeded ‘pro-China’ Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, will embark on a five-day visit to China from March 23 during which he will attend the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference.
He is also expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, who last year skipped Nepal during his South Asia tour, apparently upset over lack of progress over much-advertised projects like China-Nepal rail linkages and instead met Prachanda in Goa on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.
For China, the fall of the Oli regime was a big disappointment and a setback to its planned big push into Nepal through Tibet with rail and highway linkages to expand its influence in the landlocked country which was dependent on India for all its supplies, according to analysts.
Today’s article was critical of Prachanda for the fall of the Oli government and for failing to push projects.
“It is widely believed in Nepal that Prachanda has toppled the pro-China government led by Oli under New Delhi’s manipulation and paved the way for the Nepali Congress to build a pro-India government in the future,” the article said.
Prachanda and Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress “both vowed that they would carry out the deals signed with Beijing during Oli’s China visit last March, but actions speak louder than words”, the article said.
“Until today, no substantial progress has yet been made,” it said.
“Prachanda will transfer his power to Deuba soon after May 14, when the local-level elections will be held. Even if Prachanda would ink some vital deals with Beijing, they will most likely face the same fate of those signed during Oli’s China visit being suspended by Deuba,” the article stated.
However, although the tour takes place towards the end of his second term as Nepal’s Prime Minister, it is undoubtedly good news for ties between Beijing and Kathmandu, the article said.
“Nevertheless, in order to win more support for his party in the upcoming local elections and dispel the accusation of being pro-India, Prachanda might sign some critical agreements with Beijing this time,” it noted.
Among the pacts that he may sign are the construction of Sino-Nepal railway, upgrading the China-Nepal Araniko Highway and the road linking the Gyirong Port in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and Kathmandu as well as a Sino-Nepalese free trade deal, the article said.
“Yet when examining whether a foreign government or party is friendly to China, implementation of the agreements is more important than signing the deals,” it said.
“Several projects in Nepal involving Chinese companies, such as Upgrade Kathmandu Ring Road Second Phase Project, the Pokhara International Airport, the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Lumbini and the West Seti Hydropower Project have been consistently blocked for various reasons,” it noted.
China has every reason to require the Nepalese government to safeguard the interests of Chinese investors and contractors, the article contended.
The article also said “Beijing, New Delhi and Kathmandu ought to abandon the outdated zero-sum mindset, set aside their disputes, agree to disagree, start to seek common interests and strive for prosperity.”
“Prachanda’s term is about to come to an end. A China tour at this point and possible deals with the Chinese side can be a significant sign of improvement in the bilateral relationship,” it said.
No matter which political party comes to power, China would like to advocate cooperation. China is always ready to help Nepal to develop its economy and achieve prosperity, the article said.
“Nepal can become another ‘iron friend’ of China in South Asia,” it said. PTI