Chinese Foreign Minister Wang to arrive in the second week of SeptemberWang’s visit is likely to set the stage for a possible visit in October by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi will be arriving in Kathmandu on a two-day official visit in the second week of September, according to foreign ministry officials. Wang’s arrival is expected to set the stage for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s likely visit in October, a visit long awaited in Nepal.
Wang will be the first high-level Chinese politician to arrive in Kathmandu since the formation of the KP Sharma Oli government in February last year.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had invited Wang to visit Nepal when he travelled to Beijing in the first week of July to attend the 13th World Economic Forum annual meeting in Dalian. He had later visited Beijing and held talks with Wang, his counterpart.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, however, refrained from confirming Wang’s visit, which is most likely to take place on September 15 and 16.
Gyawali refused to divulge the date but told the Post that security agencies have been instructed to make necessary preparations for a possible high-level visit from the north.
“We have not received any official confirmation about the visit but we are expecting the Chinese foreign minister soon,” said Gyawali. “To avert any kind of last minute urgency, we have instructed security agencies to make all the necessary preparations.”
The security agencies have also been instructed to check the activities of Tibetan refugees living in various camps in Kathmandu and a possible demonstration during the visit, one senior security official told the Post on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, however, said it had not received any information regarding [Wang’s] visit. But it is usual practice for Chinese authorities to keep the foreign visits of senior leaders under wraps, especially if there are security concerns, said a Nepali official who has worked with Chinese officials.
“They always make announcements at the last hour,” he said.
Since the Oli administration took office, there have been a number of high-level visits from Nepal to China, with almost no reciprocity.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Vice-President Nanda Bahadur Pun, Prime Minister Oli, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, Foreign Minister Gyawali, and some chief ministers have already visited China in the last year-and-a-half.
Nepal’s engagement with China took off after India imposed a border blockade in 2015 following the promulgation of the constitution. Nepal and China have since signed two important pacts and a slew of partnership and cooperation deals, including participation in the China-led Belt and Road Initiative.
Wang’s upcoming visit is likely to set the tone for a possible visit by Chinese president Xi. At least two foreign ministry officials told the Post that an advance Chinese team has already visited Kathmandu in connection with Xi’s visit to assess security arrangements, infrastructure at Tribhuvan International Airport, a possible hotel for the Chinese president, and other logistics. Xi is likely to visit Nepal upon his return from India in October, according to foreign ministry officials.
As October will be the festive season, it will be relatively easier for security agencies to ensure security arrangements and other preparations as Kathmandu will empty out, said a national security official, who also requested anonymity.
During the President Bhandari’s visit to China in April, Xi had assured that he would visit Nepal at an appropriate time. Xi has already visited other South Asian countries, except for Bhutan and Nepal.
Officials and diplomats said that since Xi is visiting Varanasi, India on October 12, there are chances of a stopover in Kathmandu while returning home. Xi is visiting India at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of what has been dubbed the second series of the Wuhan Summit.
Given China’s economic might, expectations in Kathmandu are high that Xi could announce a significant economic assistance package during his visit. The visit is also expected to help expedite a number of projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.
A former ambassador to Beijing, however, said that Nepal should first do its homework and figure out what it wants from the northern neighbour.
“Our economic cooperation with China is not moving fast,” said Mahesh Maskey, who served as Nepal’s ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016. “We had agreed to execute several projects with China, including a cross-border economic zone to reduce trade deficits. We had also developed a blueprint of cooperation with China during Oli’s visit in 2016 and some of them have been expedited. But others remain idle.”