As Nepal has become a new geopolitical hotspot, China has strengthened ‘strategic communication’ with Nepal’s political parties in a clear bid to minimise the Western influence in its backyard. In his recent four-day Nepal visit, Liu Jianchao, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC), interacted with major political forces, seeking their role in enhancing Nepal-China relations and addressing its growing security concerns here.
Liu made Nepal first sojourn of his foreign trip after taking the helm of the CPC’s powerful foreign wing. He seemingly wanted to give two messages – his party wants to enhance ties with all legitimate forces, including ruling Nepali Congress (NC), and it does not want to exert much pressure for the alliance or unity of divided Nepali communist parties though it wishes to be so.
Following the formation of Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government in 2018, CPC was more engaged with the NCP than the NC. The euphoric bonhomie between the NCP and CPC did not last long as the former got split into multiple factions owing to factional feud. The NCP's vertical division gave a rude awakening to the CPC that has comradely ties with different communist groups since early 1950s. Unable to comprehend fissiparous nature of Nepali communists, the Chinese side realised the need to take the non-communist forces into confidence so as to avoid any potential geopolitical snare in the Himalayan nation.
In his meeting with Prime Minister and NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba and its other leaders, Liu stressed that CPC and NC should promote mutual cooperation, exchanges and learn on issues related to each other’s core interests. Moreover, he reminded the NC leadership of BP Koirala’s historic role in shaping Nepal-China relations. To demonstrate China’s affinity with late Koirala, the Chinese leader visited BP Koirala Memorial Planetarium at Sundarijal in Gokarneshwor Municipality-1, garlanded BP's statue and planted a sapling on its premises. He came to know more about BP’s revolutionary life and his relations with first generation of CPC leaders.
Indeed, Nepal’s first democratically elected prime minister was one of the architects of Nepal-China relations. Koirala not only played a vital role in sorting out the border issue between the two nations but also urged the international community to grant United Nations membership to communist China at a time when the capitalist world was hostile to it.
In his landmark speech delivered at UN General Assembly on September 29, 1960, Koirala said: “In our opinion, the United Nations can neither become universal nor can it reflect the political realities existing in the world today until the People's Republic of China is given its rightful place in the organisation. The United Nations will not be able to fulfil effectively some of its most important purposes and functions until the People's Republic of China is brought in. It cannot be fully representative of the peoples of the world when 630 million people have been deprived of the beneficent.”
These statements amply suggest Koirala rose above the ideological leaning while showing mature diplomacy and greater understanding of global power balance of that time.
In March 1960, BP embarked on a historic visit to China and held talks with Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou Enlai and other top leaders. Important agreements on border demarcation and economic cooperation were signed between the two nations. ‘Agreement Between the Government of the People's Republic of China and His Majesty's Government of Nepal on the Question of the Boundary Between the Two Countries’ was crucial in scientifically delineating and formally demarcating the boundary based on friendly consultations and the existing traditional customary line. The agreement paved the way for inking Nepal-China Peace and Friendship Treaty in Kathmandu on April 28, 1960 and Nepal-China Boundary Treaty in Beijing on October 5, 1961.
Prior to signing the agreement on border issue, BP and Mao had a candid and long conversation that covered a wide gamut of topics, including Nepal-China border, opening Nepali embassy in Beijing, Cold War and Sino-India ties. Mao said: “Sino-Nepalese border should be peaceful and friendly forever.” During Chou’s visit to Kathmandu in April of the same year, both BP and his Chinese counterpart signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in which the two nations agreed to recognise and respect the each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. BP also took a patriotic stand on dispute over Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) and showed diplomatic aptitude in handling the Mustang incident.
In 1955, Nepal and China established their diplomatic relations based on Panchasheel (five principles of peaceful coexistence). Their bilateral relations that now cover diverse fields, including politics, economy, trade, education, health, investment, tourism and culture, have been elevated to strategic partnership during President Xi Jinping's visit to Nepal in 2019. Two year earlier, Nepal joined China’s ambitious global connectivity project – Belt and Road Initiative.
The CPC has networked with 500 political parties across the globe. As an immediate neighbour, it is natural for it to have a sound bond with Nepali political parties. In addition to having fraternal ties with the Nepali communist parties, the CPC has attached importance to NC apparently to check its tilt towards the West. And Liu has invoked history to serve his purpose.
(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)