Prachanda’s China visit: Meaningful or coincidence?

Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, the former PM and Chairman of the UCPN-Maoist, is on a week-long China visit since October 11 with his two senior comrades and his son. Krishna Bahadur Mahara is the newly appointed chief of the foreign department and Mohan Baidya Kiran is the seniormost member and critic of Prachanda’s policies, and an advocate of an anti-Indian lobby in the party.

While talking to media persons at the airport, Prachanda outlined the purpose of the visit: getting the support of neighbors to end the ongoing political impasse, for having serious discussions on issues of

mutual benefits and for reaching a new height in

relations between the two parties. Despite his request for not attaching any

more meaning to his visit, hardly any one will

believe that he has gone their merely to enjoy delicious Chinese dishes after getting fed up with Nepalese ones or his liking for Chinese hosting in the future by discarding the Indian hosting which he had during his underground days.

Observers feel that the plan of his hurried visit was set in motion during his last visit to Hong Kong only a few weeks ago. Although his visit was planned earlier, it could not materialize due to his resignation from the post of the prime minister in May this year. However, his proposed visit was also marred by the leak of the draft of treaty of peace and friendship, and the extradition treaty to be signed by him during his visit. These two treaties were never discussed publicly. The establishment in Beijing might have thought it proper to have his approval on any strategic issues, including these treatises right now, as his commitments may not attract public attention. Since his party is more likely to come to power once again with its strength of members in the House, which has also made the Maoists indispensable in the national politics, and in the peace process, it is diplomatically prudent for China to have some sort of commitment by Prachanda. It also falls in line with Chinese silent diplomacy.

It can be recalled that Prachanda had a very hectic visit to China at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in September 2008, but could not avail of the opportunity to share his views with his counterpart in Beijing. Since the Maoists left the government abruptly, they could not exchange views over their mutual interests. It is interesting to note that while the presence of Prachanda is more necessitated here as the disruption of the Legislature-Parliament has continued for long threatening the very peace process, he preferred to go to China, perhaps to meet the pressing needs there. Naturally, a question crops up: Is his visit more urgently required by China or by him?

Interestingly, during Prachanda’s tenure, Kathmandu was visited by a large number of delegates both political and military, unprecedented, from

China and India, one after another. There have been various protests by Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu.

The government tried its best to stop them and put some of the agitators in jail as well. All these do not satisfy China, it expects more from Nepal. Politically, Xinjiang and Tibet are the two minority regions in China that are called

“autonomous regions”.

Tibet is inhabited by Buddhists, and Xinjiang by Uighur Muslims in

minority who are quite different from China’s Han majority. It is said that they have been given the semblance of local leadership, but decisions are

made centrally in Beijing. Minorities are in a better living condition than before with access to new roads, hospitals and other infrastructures. But Han arrivals are in much better condition than the minorities and inequality is growing fast. It leads to dissatisfaction among the minorities.

These regions have

witnessed two very bloody riots in the recent past.

The Chinese government appears to be serious that such events are not repeated. Perhaps, China appears to have changed its strategy of fighting its dissidents not inside its own territories, but in another land adjoining the border. China, being a super power with veto right in the Security Council of the United Nation, appears to be at a weak wicket with regard to its handling of the minorities.

During the British regime in India, Tibet was treated

as a buffer state between China and India. Since

Tibet is no longer a buffer state, Nepal appears to have replaced it.

Whenever the Tibetan dissidents are hard pressed, they try to escape via Nepal to India, where their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his supporters have taken refuge. It seems that the shelter given to the Dalai has never been taken kindly by China.. To some, the presence of the Dalai in India too affects the relation between China and India in getting normalized.

Interestingly, China’s oldest ally in south Asia, Pakistan, whose Prime

Minister is having consultations with the Chinese establishments when it is much pressurized by India and the USA to check militancy against India, the visit of Prachanda has coincided. Only time will show whether it has any meaning or it is a sheer coincidence.