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When Wang comes calling

When Wang comes calling

Since the parliamentary endorsement of the MCC compact, China has stepped up its engagements with Nepali politicians. Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi has started reaching out to politicians, and as of this writing had met CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Speaker Agni Sapkota.

Her leg-work comes ahead of the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s impending Nepal visit at March-end, in what will be the first high-level visit from China since the formation of the Deuba government in July 2021. The Chinese foreign minister’s visit is being seen meaningfully as it will come hot on the heels of the compact’s endorsement—something that China did not want (See story here).

Ruling Nepali Congress spokesperson and former foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat says Nepal’s message to Wang on the compact will be simple: it is a purely development project and it will not create any problem in Nepal’s relation with China.

Following the compact’s endorsement, China is expected to push its pending BRI projects in Nepal. Mahat says the government is also ready to implement the BRI projects that are beneficial for Nepal. “Under the BRI, we expect more grant and nominal interests on loans,” says Mahat.

In a Feb 7 press conference, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka had said there were some pending issues with China. Perhaps he was referring to the tightening of border points and Nepali students enrolled in Chinese universities being stranded in their own country due to China’s strict Covid-19 protocols.

Foreign policy analyst Milan Tuladhar who also served as foreign policy advisor to former Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal says it is inappropriate to link Wang’s visit to the compact. “There are many pending bilateral issues like the long delay in cross-border railway, problems at border points and implementation of past agreements,” he says. Not everything, he adds, needs to be related to the MCC compact.