News Digest – International Relations & Foreign Affairs (December 24 – December 30, 2020)

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Chinese Ambassador seen lobbying once again: Since PM Oli dissolved the House of Representatives unconstitutionally, ambassador Yanqi has “stepped up” her meetings with Nepal’s political leadership. She first met with President Bidya Bhandari and then with NCP’s chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. This doesn’t come as a surprise since the Chinese interest in Nepali politics has been apparent as Yanqi is often seen meddling in internal matters to keep the party intact— to push China’s best interest.

The Ambassador further held meetings with Madhav Nepal, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, and Barsha Man Pun.

India comments on Nepal’s current political scenario: India has become the first country to comment on Nepal’s political events. Anurag Srivastava, the spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, acknowledged that Nepal needs to deal with its internal affairs as per the democratic process and further extended India’s support to Nepal’s people. India committed to helping Nepal in “moving forward on the path of peace, prosperity and development.”

China sends its envoy: Amid the political turmoil in Nepal, China sent Guo Yezhou, vice-minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China, to assess the situation in Nepal for four days. The team has had meetings with the political leadership. China was visibly concerned about India’s recent visits and the dissolution of the house “shocked” them. Analysts have said that China picked its envoy very strategically and Yezhou personally knows all senior Nepal Communist Party leaders. He will communicate President Xi Jinping’s message to the political leadership in Nepal during his visit.

The Chinese diplomat initiated meetings soon after landing at the international airport. He held meetings with President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on December 27. However, no sources divulged the details of both the sessions. Furthermore, foreign ministry representatives were not present during the meeting with KP Oli.

The next day, Yezhou held a meeting with Pushpa Kamal Dahal. According to sources, the two discussed the recent political turmoil in Nepal along with Sino-Nepal cooperation. After that, the delegation met with leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. Additionally, the Chinese delegation held meetings with former senior party leader and prime minister Jhananath Khanal and former prime minister and leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party Baburam Bhattarai.

On December 29, Yezhou while assessing Nepal’s political future met with Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba. They reportedly discussed Sino-Nepal relations in the meeting.

The Chinese not only assessed the political turmoil but also “discussed possible political ramifications of house dissolution.” The northern neighbour wants to understand whether this will impact Nepal’s development, the status of Nepal-China relations, progress made in China-funded projects in Nepal, and implementation of past accords and agreements, among others.

The significant take away from the meetings was to explore strategies that could reunite the two factions of NCP— Oli led, and Dahal-Nepal led. China is now re-assessing its Nepal policy based on the political scenario and course— whether the house will be reinstated or not and whether the elections will be conducted on the given dates. The Chinese had heavily invested in the NCP during the 2017 elections to maintain its influence.

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