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Chinese defence minister to visit Kathmandu, 2 days after Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe will visit Nepal Sunday where he will meet President Bidya Devi Bhandari, PM K.P.S. Oli and Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa.

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New Delhi: Two days after Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s visit to Nepal, Chinese State Councilor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is slated to visit Kathmandu Sunday.

Wei will be on a one-day working trip to Nepal where he will meet Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister K.P.S. Oli and Nepal Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa, according to a statement issued by Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Saturday.

According to diplomatic sources in New Delhi, this is yet another attempt by China to “drift Nepal away from India”.

“It will be a constant work in progress. Nepal finds itself in the happy position of being between two competing giants. Like all our neighbours, they will use this to their advantage,” said a top official who refused to be named.

Kathmandu, meanwhile, continues to roil in political turmoil, with severe infighting between two factions of its ruling Nepal Communist Party — one led by PM Oli and the other by former PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ over a power-sharing deal.

Tensions had also been rising between New Delhi and Kathmandu over the issuance of Nepal’s new political map showing the disputed border areas of Kalapani and Lipulekh as its territory. But Shringla, during his recent visit, had discussed ways to take India’s bilateral ties with the Himalayan nation forward.

The foreign secretary had met PM Oli and Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, among others, in Nepal during his two-day visit that ended Friday.

Also read: Foreign Secretary briefs envoys of P-5 nations on J&K encounter, foiling of JeM terror attack

China watching visits ‘very closely’

While controversy surrounding the new Nepalese map was at its peak, New Delhi had blamed China for “ratcheting up” the border issue and anti-India sentiments in the Himalayan country.

Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane had then said that Nepal was acting at the “behest of someone else and that is very much possible”.

According to sources in Nepal, China has been watching the recent high-level visits from India — by RAW Chief Samant Goel and Army Chief Naravane — “very closely”, even as it wants Kathmandu to not become a part of the Indo-Pacific framework that New Delhi has been promoting.

China is believed to be also concerned with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), under which the US has offered $500 million to Nepal as grant to build transmission lines and strategic roads as part of America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

“China is definitely more concerned with Nepal becoming part of the Indo-Pacific strategy under the MCC. It does not want the present dispensation to become part of this at any cost. Beijing will continue to be distressed as high-level visits between India and Nepal have started in full force. But they are also aware of the present political situation in Nepal, which is Kathamandu’s own doing,” Vijay Kanta Karna, a professor of political science at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University, told ThePrint.

Karna, a veteran Nepali diplomat, added, “But one thing is for sure. The nationalistic fever which we saw in May and June, when the map row had reached its peak, that has now completed dissipated.”

The next high-level visit between New Delhi and Kathmandu will take place when its Foreign Minister Gyawali visits India next month to attend the Joint Commission meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

Also read: India plans to ‘steer Myanmar away from China’ amid democratic transition after Suu Kyi win


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