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The mystified China in Nepali politics

2017-11-10    Published: 2017-11-9

The "aftershocks" of political tremors caused by Nepal`s newly formed communist alliance in the national and international arena have multiple dimensions.

It has sparked a frenzy of speculation as there is a trend of taking every development in Nepal to be a result of a concentration of "power centers." After the dramatic announcement of the alliance, many conspiracy theories have emerged in Nepal and abroad over the search for the "mysterious glue" that could successfully stick two major rival communist parties.

Analysts are pondering on who actually helped forge the alliance. Many people including a significant section in New Delhi suspect Beijing is behind the latest perky political episode.

Immediately after the announcement of the alliance, some Nepali media tried to portray the "China factor" citing recent high level bilateral visits and growing Chinese engagements in Nepal. Even the top leaders seem to carry such speculation. Senior leader of Nepali Congress Ram Chandra Paudel consulted Chinese Ambassador Yu Hong in Kathmandu suspecting whether China`s backed the alliance.

The "China factor" behind the left alliance has been a matter of debate though no conformist discourse has yet been formed. But, everyone shares a common view that China is happy with the leftist parties` bond. Many analysts in Nepal agree that regardless of its alleged involvement, China is in high spirits after the announcement of a left alliance on the eve of federal and state level parliamentary elections in strategically neighboring Nepal.

While filling the nomination for the House of Representative in district Taplejung bordering China, (CPN) UML influential leader Yogesh Bhattarai said, "China wants political stability in Nepal and is happy with the formation of left alliance but India wants continuation of chaotic situations in Nepal and is unhappy."

Having his own reservations, veteran Nepali journalist Yubraj Ghimire shares a feeling that China may have some reasons to be happy for the recent political developments in Nepal but defines it more as a failure of Indian diplomacy in Nepal. He adds, "When Dahal (Puspa Kamal Dahal`Prachanda`) ditched Deuba (Sher Bahadur Deuba) and joined ranks with Oli (KP Sharma Oli), it marked the failure of India`s Nepal policy, yet again."

While negating the role of China to forge the alliance, Ghimire suspects Christian donors to be behind itas they are worried about the fragile and ambiguous secular provisions in Nepal`s constitution which, according to him, can be secured only when there is communist majority in the parliament.

Senior communist leader Radha Krishna Mainali has offered a different opinion on it. He thinks that though the alliance has given communist China reason to be happy, there is not been any direct involvement from the northern. He says, "It is all done by pro-Indians within CPN-UML who want to weaken anti-Indian and pro-China rhetoric of alliance`s top leader KP Sharma Oli."

One of the ideologues of the alliance and chief of the Maoist Centre "Prachanda" has categorically denied any Chinese role in the formation of left alliance. Talking to The Himalayan Times (10-23-2017), Prachanda said, "China had no role, but they might be happy when the left alliance proceeds in Nepal. It is wrong to say the Chinese have invested in creating the left alliance." Prachanda`s remarks make it clear that there is a belief even among top political figures of the alliance that China is happy with the alliance formation.

All these comments reflect a certainty that China is still a mysterious factor in Nepal and Nepali politics.

I expressed my curiosity to Dr. Chen Xiaochen, a researcher at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies in Remnin University of China who recently visited Kathmandu, about the Chinese attitude towards the newly formed left alliance in Nepal. He simply shrugged and believed that there is hardly any "Chinese thought" on the alliance formation because in his opinion China was too busy with its own internal affairs as the five-yearly communist party conventions was going on in Beijing. "I don`t think China has any `thought` on it as such at the moment because we were too busy with our own businesses and next thing we shouldn`t forget is, China keeps itself always from any kind of intervention on domestic affairs of its neighbors.” Completely negating any emotive reaction from Chinese side towards the left alliance, Dr. Chen said China wants good relations with all the existing parties in Nepal.

In the past China was supposed to be across the Himalayas. Now, its presence is substantially more visible in the international arena and also in the neighborhood. The interesting thing is that one of the biggest economies in the world is bordering Nepal and Nepal seems to have much difficulty in understanding the Chinese psyche. The million dollar question is "why is China so much of mystery in Nepal to this day?"

Analysts in Nepal share a common feeling that despite being closer geographically, lack of easy access is the main hindrance between China and Nepal. Being a neighbor yet not having easy access is a question to mull on.

People to people relations have not been as close as possible because of cultural and linguistic gaps. The books and the media content written by Westerners are not sufficient for Nepalese to understand China the way it is. But, there is no alternative for commoners and even to politicians in Nepal. Our limited understanding of China has significantly limited our capacity to judge it and its actual attitudes towards our affairs.

Chen Xiaochen is director of the International Studies Department at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words:Nepal   China   Alliance   Chen Xiaochen  

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