China Interferes in Nepal to Save KP Oli’s Government

China Interferes in Nepal to Save KP Oli’s Government

Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Oli is a veteran of the Nepalese politics who spent years in fighting against erstwhile Monarchy. In 1994 he became Home Minister and then Prime Minister in 2015.

However, he became dignified after accusing India of the alleged blockade at the India-Nepal border in 2015, and eventually he garnered mass public support in lieu of this. His victory in 2018 was the product of his nationalistic posture, but his favouritism and unilateral means of Governance are forcing the country into prolonged political instability.

During India- China faceoff, trouble in another part of India’s northern neighbourhood has flared up. Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli has accused India of hatching a conspiracy to topple him for publishing the country’s new map that depicts disputed territories as parts of Nepal.

Some strategic experts are of the firm opinion that there is Chinese hand behind the strain in India-Nepal ties. , they warn that growing Chinese influence in the region could pose a challenge for India in the rest of South Asia as well.

On Monday, June 29, Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli started his tirade on his anti-India rhetoric by indirectly blaming New Delhi for attempts to oust him. "Efforts are being made to remove me from power, but that will not succeed,” Oli claimed, without naming anybody directly.

He said: "I have smelt undercurrents of movements. There have been various kinds of activities in the embassies and hotels," he claimed, adding that if you listened to the news media from Delhi, you will get the gist. "In the past, when I signed trade agreements with Beijing, my minority government collapsed. But, this time, we have a government with a full-fledged majority, so no one can remove me now,” Oli said.

However, on Tuesday, Prachanda demanded Oli's resignation, saying his recent anti-India remarks were "neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate". Besides Prachanda, senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and Narayankaji Shrestha also asked Oli to provide evidence of his accusation and asked to quit the power.

Meanwhile, China has been playing an active role in the intra-party dispute. Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has been holding discussions with top NCP leaders, including former prime ministers. China does not want the infighting to destabilise the Nepalese communist government. Hou met Prachanda and other

leaders of his faction at their residences in Kathmandu in May, and discussed different aspects of the close relation between the two countries.

Vijay Kant Karna, former diplomat and professor of political science at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University is of firm belief that Beijing wants to tarnish age-old relations between Nepal and India and have a regime that is more sensitive to China’s interest and one that is able to resist Indian influence.

That Oli is close to China is hardly a secret, but under his regime, Beijing’s influence on Nepal’s internal politics has only been growing. This is also because Oli is himself cornered in the Nepal Communist Party, with Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’,Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal out to oust him.

Sources in the government say a significant amount of the influence in Nepal, meanwhile, is now being exerted through China’s ambassador to the country, Hou Yanqi.

According to highly placed sources in the ruling party, around early May, Hou held a meeting with these key leaders of the Nepal Communist Party, and convinced them to work together instead of fighting.

With this, Oli was able to buy peace for a while. But at an intra-party meet Tuesday, June 30, he was cornered again. Sources privy to what happened in the closed-door meeting say Prachanda asked Oli to resign as both PM and chair of the party, and in a heated argument, said it wasn’t India but he who was asking for this.

Along with him, Khanal, Madhav Nepal and Bamdev Gautam also accused Oli of “deteriorating” equations with India and “degrading” the party position with his statements. Sources say given this backdrop, another meeting with Hou could be organised soon.

Experts in Nepal believe Oli’s confrontationist position with India could not have been possible without China’s active support.

“PM Oli is no longer afraid of annoying India. In between, he held consultations with the Chinese ambassador. PM Oli also defended China’s role in the Kalapani dispute. He, in fact, has held consultations with the Chinese ambassador several times,” Prof. Karna added.

Hou gave a detailed interview to Rising Nepal, published Tuesday, where she detailed the “long-standing” Nepal-China friendship.

It is also true feared that India’s recent disposition towards Nepal hasn’t quite helped matters either — from what it views as India’s ‘unilateral’ opening of the link road to

Kailash Mansarovar, to Army chief General M.M. Naravane’s comments that Nepal’s protests were perhaps at the behest of “someone else”.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, the focus on Nepal is even stronger. Experts also view this Beijing tilt as Nepal’s desire to hedge its bets and reduce economic dependence on India. Control over Nepal’s affairs also helps Beijing reduce Indian and Western influence in the country.

There is an increasing convergence between the current government’s nationalist,anti-Indian position and China’s ambitions to reduce Indian influence in South Asia. China is making hectic efforts to protect Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government in Kathmandu amid rifts within top leadership of the ruling dispensation

Amid heightened intra-party row within the NCP, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi has intensified her political meetings with ruling class.

On Friday morning, Ambassador Yanqi held an-hour-long talks with NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Prachanda. During the meeting held at Dahal’s residence in Kathmandu, the duo are learned to have discussed Nepal’s current political developments, particularly the rift within NCP. China has been particularly concerned over the latest political developments of Nepal.

The meeting with Dahal has been crucial at a time when Dahal and NCP senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal are determined on ousting Prime Minister KP Oli amid intra-party row, especially after PM Oli brought two ordinances last week in an effort to secure his position as the PM.

Both Dahal and Nepal are adamant that Oli should step down despite the fact that Oli proposed party Vice President Bam Dev Gautam as the new PM during the party’s Secretariat meeting held last Wednesday, sources informed.

Yanqi also met Nepal and discussed political developments, including the rift between two factions within the NCP.

Yanqi also held around two-hour-long talks with Oli at the latter’s official residence in Baluwatar and discussed in length the latest developments seen in the ruling party. This is the second meeting between Oli and Yanqi in one week.

Earlier on Monday Yanqi met with Nepal’s President Bidya Bhandari and discussed the political developments.

In fact, the meeting was held soon after President Xi Jinping held a conversation with Bhandari and expressed China’s firm support to Nepal in its fight against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Nepal last week held a video call with Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China and discussed various issues, including the current status of coronavirus in the country.