July Analysis: International Relations

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Recently appointed International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, Liu Jianchao visited Nepal leading a seven-member delegation from July 9-13. During his visit, he met with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba as well as communist leaders amidst rumors of an electoral cooperation among communist forces. After meeting with the Chinese delegation, the Maoist chair, Pushpa Kamal Dahal visited India from July 15-17 at the invitation of the President of BJP, JP Nadda as a part of the “Know BJP” campaign. Dean R Thompson, currently serving as the US State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs is set to take up his new assignment as the United States Ambassador to Nepal and has
stated his intention to push for the rights of Tibetan refugees. The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu made a visit to Nepal on July 29. Although the US Embassy in Nepal said Donald Lu’s arrival was a regular affair, the government’s recent decision to shelf SPP and the lack of information on the agenda of his visit raised speculations about further talks over SPP.

Timeline of Major Events:

DatesEvents
July 10Liu Jianchao, the head of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party, arrived in Nepal for a four-day visit.
July 15CPN Maoist Center’s Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal leaves for New Delhi, India for his three- day visit.
July 22The House of Representatives endorsed an amendment bill to the Citizenship Act, 2006.
July 29US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu arrives in Kathmandu for a two-day visit.

Nepal – China

Recently appointed head of the International Relations Department of the Communist Party of China, Liu Jianchao visited Nepal leading a seven-member delegation from July 9-13. During his visit, he met with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba as well as communist leaders K P Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and others. China has consistently engaged with communist forces in Nepal and the latest visit comes amidst speculations over a possible reunification or an electoral alliance of the left parties of Nepal for the upcoming federal and provincial elections.

Some claim that Liu’s visit should be seen in the context of his appointment as the CCP’s new head of the International Liaison Department making familiarization with the ground realities of Nepal-China relations. However, during his visit, Liu urged Nepali communist leaders to reunite or at least form a coalition. China, by pushing for the communist coalition, aims to reinstate its lost influence over Nepal – which had reached a new height when the erstwhile communist alliance led by the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was at the helm of the Kathmandu administration.

Nepali officials have time and again maintained that foreign forces do not have a role in Nepal’s internal affairs. However, Nepal has experienced various instances of Chinese overreach in its

domestic affairs over the past few years – Liu’s push for a communist coalition is yet another Chinese step in extending its interference in Nepal’s internal matters. Just a few months back, China had facilitated the disinformation campaign against the parliamentary ratification of the highly politicized MCC compact of the United States. The compact’s eventual ratification, however, had served as a moral defeat for China. Now with Liu Jian Chao’s visit, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit in late March, China has demonstrated that it has enduring ambitions in Nepal – and is ready to go to length in facilitating the communist coalition.

Liu’s visit also came at a time when yet another American program – State Partnership Program (SPP) – has triggered debates, reminiscent to the MCC compact. Moreover, along with meeting with Tibetan leaders and visiting refugee camps in Nepal, American officials have been putting pressure on the Nepali leadership for Tibetan refugee rights during their visits. Tibet remains a sensitive issue for China. Nepal’s official acknowledgement of the One-China policy and the core tenet of its foreign policy to now allow its territory to be used against other countries makes it a geopolitically sensitive issue for Nepal as well. Government officials have said that Nepal should continue to reassure its bilateral partners and especially its neighbors that all decisions related to its partners will be taken for Nepal’s own national interests and not against anyone.

Nepal – India

The Maoist chair, Pushpa Kamal Dahl visited India from July 15-17 at the invitation of the President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), JP Nadda as a part of the “Know BJP” campaign. In what he called a “goodwill visit” to India he also met with in-charge, Department of Foreign Affairs (BJP) Vijay Chauthaiwale, Indian Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval59. While media reports said that he was also scheduled to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian officials claimed that a visit between the two was never scheduled. Pushpa Kamal Dahal labelled the visit as a fruitful one while S Jaishankar remarked that “India will remain a steadfast partner of Nepal in its quest for progress and prosperity, reflecting its Neighborhood First Policy.

Dahal’s relationship with India over the last few years has been tumultuous at best – and therefore, the visit was primarily guided by a motive of improving the CPN Maoist Center’s ties with the Delhi administration and the ruling party BJP. Further, the current coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba is perceived to be friendly to India, unlike the previous one led by then NCP leader KP Sharma Oli. Given that the current ruling coalition also includes CPN Maoist Center, the BJP’s invitation to Dahal at the same time Beijing has been pushing for the communist coalition in Nepal hints at Delhi’s attempts to take Dahal and his party into confidence.

Nepal – USA

Succeeding Ambassador to Nepal reiterates commitment to pushing rights for Tibetan Refugees:

Dean R Thompson, currently serving as the US State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs is set to take up his new assignment as the United States Ambassador to Nepal, succeeding Randy Berry. In a hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate he said that he felt well prepared to serve in the capacity. He also said that he would” push for the rights of all Nepali citizens and residents including the Dalits, marginalized communities, and refugee communities, including Tibetan refugees. In his statement, Thompson also highlighted that Nepal had ratified the MCC compact despite China’s disinformation campaign against the compact. The United States has been pushing for rights of Tibetan refugees in Nepal for decades but it has become a point of focus for American delegations visiting the country since the ratification of the MCC compact. However, the issue of Tibetan refugees remains a sensitive geopolitical issue for both Nepal and China.

US assistant secretary Donald Lu visits Nepal:

PM Sher Bahadur Deuba meeting US South and Central Asia Assistant Secretary Donald Lu. Photo: RSS

Prior to any formal statement released by either United States or the Nepal government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu’s visit to Nepal on July 29. He had played a key role in Nepal’s eventual endorsement of the MCC compact earlier this year. Therefore, Lu’s visit weeks after the government’s recent decision to shelf SPP and the lack of information on the agenda of his visit raised speculations about further talks over SPP.

Although the US Embassy in Nepal said Donald Lu’s arrival was a regular affair, media reports have widely reported it to be a surprise visit, alluding that he had not been invited to visit. The Assistant Secretary met with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Narayan Khadka. In an interesting development, Minister Narayan Khadka announced on the day of Lu’s arrival that Nepal had formally informed the United States about its decision to withdraw from the program. While the exact contents of the meetings are unknown, Prime Minister Deuba said that they “exchanged views on friendly and cooperative Nepal-US relations during the meeting”.

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