A. Nepali Perspective:
With the current visit of a Chinese delegation led by its foreign minister Wang Yi, Nepal’s hope of seeing Xi Jinping in Nepal has heightened. Wang’s visit gave a positive impression to Nepal for the long-awaited visit of the Chinese president. After meeting Wang, Nepali leaders said that China has been using its diplomatic channels to make the visit successful.
During Wang’s visit, Nepal made different proposals to the visiting foreign minister regarding China’s economic support for Nepal’s development. Nepal acted enthusiastically, but the proposals were presented without proper planning and research. Nepal cannot be fully blamed this time, as the Chinese team had preponed their visit after their meeting with India was canceled. The Nepali leaders tried to clarify their intent for Chinese support by requesting Wang to move BRI projects forward and to implement the transit and transportation agreement as soon as possible.
Nepal is seeing Wang’s visit as China’s preparation to make Xi’s visit a success. As China has not announced the date for Xi’s visit, Nepali political and civil communities are reluctant to believe that President Xi’s visit would materialize even this time. Maybe for this fact, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a brief press release on Wang’s visit compared to Chinese.
Nepali media devoutly wrote about Wang’s visit. The pages of Nepali daily newspapers were covered with the news. No Nepali media criticized about the visit even when Wang and Gyawali signed letters of exchange for insignificant agreements involving foreign minister-level representatives of two countries.
Although Nepal, as a country, is positive about Xi’s visit, adequate preparations are yet to be seen in the country. Nepal is yet to thoroughly prepare for hosting the visit of this magnitude economically. Also to take care is the security issue, for if Xi really visits Nepal, the security arrangement should be flawless as this visit shall be a milestone to Nepal-China relations.
B. Chinese Perspective:
Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s three-day visit to Nepal has resulted in a series of crucial meetings with various leaders ranging from Pushpa Kamal Dahal to Prime Minister KP Oli and even President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali. In this series of meetings, FM Wang Yi conveyed a carefully curated message to each Nepalese leader. Wang Yi’s interactions with each leader seem to have yielded a common string of messages being passed on from the Chinese government. There are five main recognizable elements that are common to each statement made by Wang Yi and has also been released officially by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
First of all, China confirms that Nepal is an integral component in its neighborhood policy as “China and Nepal have been connected by mountains and rivers and enjoy ever-lasting friendship.” Through Yi’s use of an exalted picturesque long-lasting friendship between China and Nepal, the Chinese government is setting the tone for current and future dealings between the two countries. The second identifiable element is that of China’s pledge to prioritize the vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.” This adage is supplemented with China’s desire to strongly support Nepal in “exploring a development path in line with its national conditions.” With these commitments, China is portraying itself as a stronger proponent for Nepal’s social and political development.
The third element is a promise to jointly push forward the Belt and Road Initiative with a special mention of the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network in order to transform Nepal from a land-locked country to a land-linked country. For the Nepali Populace, this statement will raise many questions on whether this is a commitment by the Chinese side to implement the much-awaited railway plan. However, if one were to look closely at the statement, two key elements are clearly laid out. The first is there is no precise mention of the railway project, merely a commitment to expand connectivity which in its vagueness could mean only road connectivity or may even extend to a rail link. However, without an exact commitment, it would bode well for the Nepali side to not jump to conclusions. Second, Wang Yi clearly outlined that the Chinese side is looking forward to working “jointly” with the Nepali government to deepen such ties. This means that Nepal must not participate in such talks with an expectation of being the sole beneficiary but must approach it as a cooperative project between the two countries.
The fourth and perhaps the most closely related element to China’s security concerns in Nepal – the Chinese Foreign Ministry carefully marked its appreciation for Nepali foreign policy which stands resolute in support of a One China Policy and its refusal to allow any anti-China activities on Nepali soil. Pushpa Kamal Dahal allegedly went as far as making a statement condoning the Hong Kong protests, dubbing the recent upheaval as “terrorism in the name of human rights.” Inciting further controversy, a statement by Dahal pointedly said that Nepal, while following a policy of non-alignment, “disagrees with the ‘so-called’ Indo-Pacific Strategy.” This has sparked consternation from the US Embassy in Nepal which is now demanding an explanation for such a statement.
Lastly, Beijing is sending out another message through Wang Yi that Nepal and China are entering a new chapter in their diplomatic relations, a chapter that is being pushed by new historical conditions and will bring more cultural exchanges and partnerships. Prominent Chinese news agencies such as the Xinhua and the China Daily have also carried articles covering Wang’s visit to Nepal outlining these five elements as China’s priority in Nepal. To conclude, these five elements showcased by Wang Yi’s visit to Nepal will serve as a compass to navigate Chinese foreign policy in Nepal.
Nepali Perspective by Kunja Rai and Chinese Perspective by Natasha Todi