International Relations & Foregin Affairs
The realignment in coalition to form the federal government, although, was home-grown, it nonetheless has geopolitical connotations and implications attached to it. Since Beijing has been pushing for the communist coalition in Nepal for years, China has been upbeat since two main communist parties joined hands to form the government and has sought to increase its political engagements. Immediately after the government formation, on 27 December, the Chinese expert-team arrived in Kathmandu to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Kathmandu – Keyrung Railway. And on 28 December, China opened up the Rasuwa-Keyrung border which has remained closed for three years from 2020. Further, although the Pokhara International Airport (PIA) hasn’t been included in the nine proposed projects to be carried out under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, China nonetheless claimed the PIA as the BRI’s flagship project, on December 31, just a day before its inauguration. This false claim drew flak from across the spectrum. The PM Dahal government has sought to not tilt towards any sides, and maintain amicable ties with all powers. However, China’s proclivity to extend its influence over Nepal through ties with communist parties remains a challenge. The path ahead is tricky – and if or not, the Dahal government becomes able to maintain geopolitical balance, is yet to be seen.
Timeline of Major Events
||Surya Kiran XVI done by Nepal Army and Indian Army
||Nepal elected member of Peacebuilding Commission
||Several ambassador Congratulates PM Prachanda
||Chinese team arrive for feasibility study
||Chinese Engagement after Prachanda Sworn as the new PM
||Pokhara International Airport under BRI or not?
Formation of the New Government and Geopolitics
The November polls elected a hung parliament giving a way to different possibilities of realignment between parties to form the federal government. Although the Nepali Congress-led Democratic Left Alliance was expected to form the government, the CPN Maoist Center joined hands with the CPN UML and four other parties to form a government under the leadership of its top leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda). With this, two main communist forces are together once again after the dissolution of the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party in 2021. This realignment in coalition, although, was home-grown, it nonetheless has geopolitical connotations and implications attached to it.
Beijing over the years has been seeking to increase its influence over Kathmandu through its ties with the communist parties. In the 2017 federal and provincial polls, China had gone to lengths in facilitating the merger of the CPN UML and the CPN Maoist Center. China’s influence over Nepal had reached its heyday when the NCP was leading the government – and in 2021, China had put efforts to prevent
the split of the NCP but to no avail. Even after that, China had been tried to push for the communist coalition
in the 2022 federal and provincial polls, particularly during the high-profile engagements. Therefore, the unity of two main communist parties is read to be in the interest
of China – and Beijing is reportedly upbeat about these recent developments. China then heightened its political engagements as soon as two communist parties joined hands.
China’s Heightened Engagement after Prachanda Sworn in as the new PM
On December 25, 2022 Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu congratulated the new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal; followed by this event, Spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mao Ning also congratulated the new PM. On 27 December, the Chinese expert-team arrived in Kathmandu to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Kathmandu – Keyrung Railway. And on 28 December, China opened up the Rasuwa-Keyrung border which has remained closed for three years from 2020. This false claim drew flak from across the spectrum. On 29 December, 2022, Director General of Department of Asian Affairs at Chinese Foreign Ministry holds meeting with Chinese Ambassador and then on 30th
December 2022, Wang Xin Charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy calls PM Dahal to convey message of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and discuss Nepal-China relations. Further, although the Pokhara International Airport (PIA) hasn’t been included in the nine proposed projects to be carried out under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, China nonetheless claimed the PIA as the BRI’s flagship project, on December 31, just a day before its inauguration.
These heightened Chinese engagements after the formation of the new government are indicative that China could try to restore its lost influence after the split of the Nepal Communist Party in 2021. The ideological affinity of the Chinese Communist Party with the communist parties of Nepal makes it easier for China to up its influence in Nepal when communist parties run the government. However, China’s proclivity to practise diplomacy via party-to-party ties rather than through institutional mechanisms is against standard diplomatic practices, could increase China’s interference over Nepal and doesn’t even portend well even for the Sino-Nepal relations.
Tricky Path Ahead for the Dahal Government
PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) has maintained that the government with maintain amicable ties with both the neighbors, India and China while maintaining equally friendly relationship the US and other major countries. While China seems to be upbeat with two communist parties joining hands to form the government, PM Dahal has sought to signal
that his government wouldn’t tilt to any sides, and main equi-proximity with all the major powers. The dramatic last-minute alignment between two main communist parties to form a government is perceived
by both the New Delhi and Washington circles as a score for Beijing. This could further add challenges to the Dahal-led government. Whether or not, PM Dahal-led government succeeds in doing so, is yet to be seen.
Surya Kiran XVI done by Nepal Army and Indian Army
On December 16 2022, Nepal and Indian Army conducted
Surya Kiran Joint military training in Nepal at Nepal Army Battle School, Saljhandi. Nepalese Army and Indian Army have been conducting joint military training exercise on a yearly basis, the aim of the joint military exercise training is enhancing interoperability in jungle warfare, counter terrorism operations in high altitude terrain and HADR for UN Peacekeeping operations. The Nepal and Indian Army maintains cordial relationship due to similarities in culture, tradition and Nepali men have served for decades in the Indian Army under Gurkha regiment. In addition to this, Indian Army has assisted Nepal in disaster relief, weapon dealing, providing aid and equipment. Nepal’s military engagement is mostly seen in joint military training, peace keeping mission, disaster relief and management areas etc.
Nepal Elected Member of Peacebuilding Commission
In the 56th
United Nations plenary meeting, Nepal has been elected
as the member of Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) for two years starting from January 2023. As per statement by MoFA, Nepal has served in the PBC in 2009-10, 2011-15 and 2019-20, Nepal also served as the Chair of the Working Group on Lessons Learned of the Peacebuilding Commission in 2010. Nepal’s participation in peacekeeping mission is to maintain international peace and security. Its first mission was in Lebanon, in 1958. Nepal’s selfless bravery has been recognized by all member states and been widely appreciated. By this date, Nepal stands the third largest troop to and Police Contributor in peace keeping mission. Nepal’s participation in PKO mission is very important to Nepal to endeavor soft power and establishing military relations, extending military assistance and fulfilling the objective of Nepal’s foreign policy to maintain world peace. The other aspects of such mission are developing professionalism, impart knowledge.
PM Prachanda Congratulated by His Counterparts and Foreign Envoys
On December 25, 2022, President Bidya Devi Bhandari appointed
CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal as the prime minister of Nepal. After Pushpa Kamal Dahal was sworn as the Prime Minister, the Indian envoy to Nepal, Ambassador Naveen Srivastav, reached the official residence of the Prime Minister to hand over the congratulatory letter sent by PM Narendra Modi. During the meeting both the parties spoke of enhancing bilateral ties between Nepal and India. Similarly, the US ambassador to Nepal Dean R. Thompson, also paid a courtesy call to the Prime Minister and congratulated him. During the meeting, various issues concerning bilateral relation
between Nepal and US were shared. The Chinese Embassy in Nepal also congratulated PM Prachanda. Both the meetings held by India and US could be understood to enhance bilateral cooperation with the new government.
Arrival of the Chinese Team for the Railway Feasibility Study
Chinese high level expert team arrived in Nepal to conduct feasibility study and survey for the Kathmandu-Kerung railway project. The arrival of Chinese team was confirmed by the Embassy of China and Department of Railway. According to the spokesperson of Department of Railway, the feasibility study
will take place in collaboration with the Chinese experts and the department. The joint coordination between two countries is significant for the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network project. The Chinese arrival in Nepal occurred immediately after the communist Prime Minister came into power. It can be speculated that with the new ruling coalition, comprising of CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, the Chinese Communist Party may have an opportunity to increase its influence over Nepal via its ties with the ruling communist parties.
China Falsely Claimed Pokhara International Airport as the BRI Project
On January 01, 2023, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal inaugurated the much-awaited Pokhara International Airport (PIA). With this, the Pokhara International Airport will fully be operational. The PIA was constructed with the help of China’s Exim Bank as loan and grants. The airport is built in 215 million USD. Currently, the controversary is surrounding on whether PIA is under BRI project or not. The issue was brought when Chinese Embassy tweeted quoting the PIA as the flagship of the BRI project. In response to this, former Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat who signed the BRI agreement on behalf of Nepal also stressed that PIA does not fall under BRI project. While Nepal presented the nine projects under BRI, the PIA was not mentioned in the list. To build this airport contract was awarded
to the China Automobile Manufacturer Company. Nepal’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Bishnu Pukar Shrestha then clarified
that the PIA wasn’t under BRI projects.