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Opinion

China cannot dictate terms to a free medium in Nepal. Can you resist PM Oli? Analysis – analysis

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On February 19, which coincided with Nepal’s Democracy Day, the Nepalese media faced an unusual situation emanating from a statement drafted strongly by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. He said an article reproduced by Kathmandu’s post on February 18 The herald of Korea written by the former US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, was published with “malicious intent”, and that “deliberately disseminates the efforts of the government and the Chinese people” fighting the new coronavirus epidemic. The critical article of China’s response to Covid-19 also included an image of China’s leader, Mao Zedong, on the country’s 1,000 yuan bill with a mask. The embassy accused the newspaper of “brutally attacking China’s political system.”

But the statement did not end there. By personally pointing to SendThe outgoing editor, Anup Kaphle, said there were “hidden motives” behind the constant attacks on China, and that “it is unfortunate that Anup Kaphle, editor in chief of Kathmandu’s post he has always been partial on issues related to China. “In the most inappropriate and un diplomatic language, the statement said:” This time he (Kaphle) went as far as ignoring the facts and becoming a parrot of some anti-Chinese forces and , therefore, its subsequent purpose is destined to fail, “and he added without details,” The Chinese Embassy in Nepal has made solemn representations to the newspaper and to itself, and reserves the right to take additional measures. “The threat was immediately condemned by a group of 17 Nepal newspaper and magazine editors who said the statement violated “diplomatic norms.”

This was unusual and surprising because until now China has always opted for diplomatic routes through national and foreign ministries to express their dissatisfaction with certain events in Nepal. China is also considered a pragmatic player in Nepal, and public opinion is a “friendly and supportive” neighbor. The Chinese ambassador to Nepal, How Yanqi, who is quite popular in the country due to her fluency in the Nepalese language and her affection for Nepalese music and culture, immediately tweeted the statement that sparked a fierce debate on social networks and many called it a challenge to the sovereignty of Nepal and an interference in the operation of free media. Some even asked what kind of violent reaction would be seen in Kathmandu if the Indian embassy issued such a statement, given past experiences and in light of India being perceived as an interfering neighbor. But there were also strong opposing voices that questioned the justification of the article in the first place at a time when a close neighbor “is going through a difficult time.”

But clearly this is a sign of the high presumption of a diplomatic mission, emboldened by its high level of comfort with the ruling establishment in Kathmandu. This also highlights how the Chinese commitment to a small country is leading to its diplomacy becoming arrogant. There is no evidence of such a statement from the Chinese embassy in Seoul, where the article was first published. But in the case of Nepal, this stems from the efforts of communist leaders to do the impossible for China to replace the excessive dependence on India.

In recent years, Nepal has developed deeper bilateral ties with China, a country that for decades limited its role as a friendly country and felt happy that Nepal adopted the One China policy and restricted the activities of some 20,000 Tibetan refugees present in the country. country. But slowly, and especially since 2015, the year Nepal was devastated by the devastating earthquake followed by a border blockade due to protests against the Constitution of the people of the Terai region, China-Nepal relations went from a development association to a strategic one. If you are a signatory of the Belt and Road Initiative, Nepal now has access to seven transit points and three land ports in China. In addition to the development of crucial infrastructure in Nepal, the two neighbors have committed cooperation in very diverse sectors, from energy to culture, tourism, education, traditional medicine and others, which makes bilateral relations integral and cover everything. President Xi Jingping’s visit to Nepal in October 2019 raised bilateral ties to secure China the space in Nepal that India traditionally occupied.

These developments have taken shape taking into account the current desire of the Nepalese establishment to cultivate closer ties with China as a counterweight to India. The deep political link between the leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal and China has manifested itself in a more visible way. It will be seen if KP Oli, whose Communist Party of Nepal fought the last general elections with a strong “nationalist” agenda (which translates into being anti-Indian in Nepal), would show the same audacity in dealing with China and reminding the latter. that the constitution of Nepal defends freedom of expression, and that a foreign power cannot dictate terms to a free medium in a democratic policy.

Akanshya Shah is a Nepalese journalist and researcher based in New Delhi.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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