China sends Defense Minister to Nepal days after Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit
China will send Defense Minister Wei Fenghe to Nepal on Sunday for a one-day visit, just days after Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla concluded a trip to Kathmandu aimed at boosting bilateral ties affected by a border row.
Nepal’s Foreign Ministry announced the visit of Wei, a general of the People’s Liberation Army who also holds the rank of state councilor in the Chinese cabinet, on Saturday.
A short statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu said Wei will pay a one-day working visit to Nepal on November 29.
Wei will meet with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who also has the defense portfolio, and Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa during his day trip, according to the statement.
There was no official news from Beijing about the visit.
Wei will be the highest ranking Chinese leader to visit Nepal since President Xi Jinping’s trip to Kathmandu in September last year. He will be in Nepal just two days after Shringla concluded her two-day trip to Nepal.
Shringla, who traveled to Nepal after back-to-back visits by the chief of the Indian army, General MM Naravane, and the chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Samant Goel, had focused on ways to boost the bilateral relationship, especially the cooperation on connectivity and border infrastructure, during their high-level meetings in Kathmandu.
People familiar with the events had said that the two sides also focused on the importance of respecting each other’s sensibilities in discussions during Shringla’s visit.
Relations between India and Nepal were affected when Kathmandu issued a new political map in May claiming the Kalapani region, which is controlled by India, after New Delhi blazed a new trail into the strategic Lipulekh region. India rejected the map and Shringla, during their meetings, discussed ways to move the border issue forward through appropriate bilateral mechanisms.
China has stepped up its efforts to increase its influence in Nepal in recent years, including investments in major projects and a rapprochement with the leadership of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (PNC). Reports have suggested that Beijing played a key role in unifying two left-wing parties to create the PNC.
China’s ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, meets frequently with PNC leaders, including co-chairs Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal. When the differences between the two leaders came to light in July, Hou had reportedly played a key role in holding the party together.
The Chinese defense minister will receive an honor guard at the Nepalese Army headquarters and discussions between the two sides are expected to consider resuming Chinese military aid, said Nepalese Army spokesman Brigadier General Santosh Ballav Paudyal, according to The Kathmandu Post. .
Nepal and China had signed an agreement for a RMB 150 million military assistance package during former Nepalese defense minister Ishwor Pokharel’s visit to Beijing last year and a protocol to this agreement is expected to be signed during Wei’s visit. The Post reported.