When Chang Wanquan, China’s Minister of Defense, comes to Kathmandu next week to garner support for President Xi Jinping’s signature One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) initiative, he is likely to return home empty-handed. The government of Pushpa Kamal Dahal is in no mood to sign up to OBOR, not yet.
Prime Minister Dahal will still visit China, right after the end of Chang Wanquan’s Nepal trip, for he wants to avoid the OBOR Summit being held in Beijing in May. If Dahal is in Beijing specifically for the OBOR summit, it will be hard for him to reject Chinese request for his signature on the OBOR dotted line. But if he goes now, purportedly to attend the annual Boao conference in China’s Hainan province, with so many other heads of state present at the time in China, Dahal reckons he will be under less pressure to agree to the OBOR proposal.
By going to China now he will also be able to deflect the criticism of his government which stands accused of tilting a little too much towards India, an unpopular position after the 2015 border blockade. Moreover, while Dahal is in China, he hopes to make progress on trade and transport agreements KP Oli had signed with China and thereby steal a little of Oli’s nationalist thunder. If he can convince President Xi to come visit Nepal, even better.
It is no secret that Dahal, who replaced Oli as prime minister, came to power partly with India’s support. India was unhappy with Oli, who was showing no inclination to amend the constitution to the liking of Madheshi forces.
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My Republica, March 16, 2017