Chinese Leader Ai Ping came to Kathmandu and left after issuing his official statements. However, Nepal’s media were full of speculations, news and views. Although Chinese leader Ai Ping met the top political leaders of Nepal’s major political parties, media circles and analysts are busy speculating the reasons behind his departure without meeting Nepal’s president and prime minister.
Since Nepal was unified by Prithivi Narayan Shah, any visit from the north has always got the attention in Nepal. The first British resident representative to Nepal Brian Hudson mentioned this. The situation remains the same today.
Recently, a Norwegian Minister visited Nepal. Then a UK Minister came. Both of them met the president and the prime minister. However, the visit of Chinese delegation led by Ai Ping received wider coverage on just the speculations on why he did not hold similar meetings.
At a time when the Nepalese media is full of Ai Ping’s meeting with various political leaders, Chinese Embassy’s website, which always covers all formal activities including minor events of the Chinese government, did not mention anything about the visit.
Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yang Houlan went to the Airport to welcome Ai Ping in an unofficial dress. This indicates that this is just a visit of a leader of Chinese Communist Party. “Mandarins in Beijing placed it like a visit of a leader of communist party,” said an analyst.
“Ai Ping came to Nepal to gauge the overall state of political parties following the demise of the CA and it has nothing to do with Chinese official position,” said a Chinese Embassy official on condition of anonymity. “Take this visit as a visit like that of political leaders of India.”
Whatever one says, the visit of a high level Chinese delegation led by Ai Ping, vice minister for Asian Affairs in the International Department of the Community Party of China, and his intensive discussion with the leaders of major political parties do have the meaning.
During his meeting with senior leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Sushil Koirala, Jhalanath Khanal, leader of Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic) Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar and Mohan Baidya, Ai Ping inquired about the formation of the national consensus government, holding elections, reason behind the demise of the CA and issue of state restructuring. Ai Ping asked the reasons behind the creation of more than half a dozen single identity based provinces bordering with Tibet Autonomous region and just two provinces in Southern Nepal.
Besides that, Ai also queried with leaders about the status of the peace and constitution-writing process. Ai said he was hopeful that the political parties would be able to forge consensus and resolve outstanding issues.
“Ai is much concerned about the number of provinces in northern parts of Nepal. He asked economic viability of such provinces. Finally, he said China does not have anything to say on the number of provinces. However, his suggestion for Nepal is greater decentralization,” said Milan Tuladhar, CPN-UML leader Jhalnath Khanal’s foreign policy advisor.
This has nothing to do with China’s likes and dislikes about the prime minister. “China’s policy towards Nepal remains the same as they always maintain good relations with the person or party in power. Skipping the meeting with prime minister is an indication of displeasure of China towards prime minister,” said a China expert on condition of anonymity.
Ai, who arrived in Kathmandu on Friday evening, is accompanied by senior Chinese officials from the Foreign Ministry, including the Director General of South Asia, the Nepal Desk chief and South Asian researchers.
Before leaving to the country, Ai Ping commented, “the visit was successful in enhancing cooperation between Communist Party of China and Nepal’s political parties. Nepal should learn lessons from the development in the neighborhood.”
Many see the recent Nepal visit by Ai Ping, vice minister for Asian Affairs in the International Department of the Communist Party of China as significant. However, Ai Ping, who met all the leaders of major political parties including Nepali Congress, skipped meeting with president prime minister Baburam Bhattarai. It is too early to draw the conclusion that it is an expression of displeasure towards prime minister.