China’s Ambassador Intervenes in Nepal’s Leadership Struggle

July 27, 2020 Updated: July 28, 2020

China’s ambassador to Nepal has emerged as a major dealmaker in the political duel happening between Nepal’s prime minister and the co-chairman of the Nepalese Communist Party, which both represent.

“China wants the Nepalese Communist Party [NCP] to continue in power for its benefit,” Dr. S. Chandrasekharan, director of the South Asia Analysis Group, told The Epoch Times over the phone from New Delhi. According to him, after China, North Korea, and Vietnam, Nepal is the country with the largest number of Communist Party members.

Problems appeared in the Nepalese government because of a stalemate between the co-chairman of the Nepalese Communist Party, P.K. Dahal, and Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, and in the first week of July, 31 of the 45 members of the Communist Party’s standing committee members had asked Oli to step down.

The Nepalese Communist Party, an alliance between Nepal’s former Maoist rebels and the liberal Communist Party of Nepal UML (Unified Marxist–Leninist) came to power in May 2018 after defeating the pro-India Nepali Congress Party—a first majority government in 19 years in a nation plagued by unstable coalitions.

Due to infighting, this coalition was about to meet the fate of the older coalitions when in the second week of July, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi held consultations with the leaders of both the factions and prevented a split, according to various Indian media.

The Chinese Embassy in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, described the meetings as part of regular communication, though experts think otherwise.

This isn’t the first time Hou has intervened in the persisting problems of Nepal’s ruling alliance. She had earlier on July 5 also talked with senior NCP leader and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, and on the same day, she called Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari, whom Indian media link with the current political crisis.

Bhandari, the first woman president of Nepal, joined the Communist Party of Nepal UML in 1980.

“We do not know whether it was the lure of incentives or threat of vulnerabilities that settled the round [in mid-July]. But what is definitely known is that the Chinese had a major role to play in avoiding the bust-up,” a Western diplomat based in Kathmandu said, according to the Indian national newspaper Hindustan Times.

For @IndiaToday, I assess Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi’s tenure:
1) Recent Chinese ambs. more visible in Nepal, part of global push
2) China wants NCP to remain united
3) As @akhileshU said, China had been seen as non-interefering, unlike India. No longer the case. pic.twitter.com/1sXXf7vPcD

— Amish Mulmi (@amish973) July 18, 2020

While under pressure to step down from power, Oli managed to recommend the prorogation (shutting down) of the parliament session on July 2, and his recommendations were approved by Bhandari. Nepalese experts called this move unconstitutional, according to The Kathmandu Post.

Chandrasekharan, who served as an Indian diplomat in Nepal for four years, said Hou’s role was decisive in reaching a deal between the two leaders, and it has enabled the government to survive.

“The active role of the Chinese Ambassador, who met the individual leaders more than once to ensure that the party does not split at any cost due to differences within the top leadership, was decisive. Her approach of unity through continuous dialogue won the day and perhaps that a final outcome should be through a consensus was also her idea,” he wrote in an analysis published on July 23 on the South Asia Analysis Group’s portal.

Hou, who according to the Hindustan Times has a PLA intelligence background, is set to play a greater role in Nepalese internal politics as the alliance’s standing committee meets on July 28 to decide on the cabinet reshuffle.

Another Indian political analyst, Harsh Pant, told The Epoch Times over the phone from New Delhi that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may get some leverage in South Asia by the role it’s playing in Nepal’s internal politics, but there could likely be pitfalls.

“The CCP does get some short-term advantage, but whether it will give it any strategic advantage is not readily evident, as an explicit role in government formation in Nepal might make Beijing unpopular in Nepal,” said Pant, who works with the Observer’s Research Foundation.

Pant said that Hou is also interested in Nepal’s internal politics because the CCP and the NCP share a close connection.

In 2019, before Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his two-day trip to the Himalayan nation, the NCP organized a symposium on “Xi Jinping Thought” and invited CCP leaders to share the doctrine with 200 members of the NCP, reported the Kathmandu Post, which said the activity was part of a Chinese move to export its ideology.

The communist Nepalese regime also recently voted in favor of the CCP’s draconian security law in Hong Kong at the UN Human Rights Council.

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