President’s message aired at China’s GSI event despite government’s reservationsKathmandu-based diplomats call government officials to register their concerns over the President’s virtual participation in the event.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s statement was aired at the Global Security Initiative (GSI) event organised by the Chinese Communist Party, amid reservations from various quarters.
According to the President’s Office, the recorded statement of President Bhandari was sent to the organisers in advance and was broadcast on Wednesday.
“As per the communication we received from the Chinese side via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a pre-recorded statement of President Bhandari was sent to the organiser through an ‘appropriate’ channel,” said Tika Dhakal, Information and Communication expert to President Bhandari. The statement was recorded by a team of Nepal Television some three days ago after receiving consent from the highest levels of government, he added.
But there were reservations from some sections of the government including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others regarding the President’s participation in the event, because the theme of the function was related to security and its blueprint is not out yet.
“But it was too late for us to withdraw the President’s statement from the event because we had already sanctioned it and got approval from the foreign ministry and also completed the recording,” an official privy to the development told the Post.
Officials at the President’s Office said that even on Monday, Bhandari had spoken with Prime Minister Deuba regarding her plan to participate in the event and deliver a speech.
Nepal has not joined the China-led GSI despite repeated calls from Beijing to support the new security initiative undertaken and announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Boao Forum for Asia in April.
Nepal, citing its policy of non-alignment, has so far refused to join any military alliance or initiative.
In July, Foreign Minister Khadka told Parliament that Nepal would not be a part of the US-led State Partnership Programme (SPP), as he expressed reservations over its military component.
Recently, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that under the guidance of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the Chinese People’s Association of Peace and Disarmament was organising a conference on Wednesday.
According to the embassy, the event themed “Acting on the Global Security Initiative to Maintain World Peace and Stability” is being convened in a hybrid format with both online and offline participants.
After the Post reported about the President’s planned participation in the event, several government officials said foreign diplomats called them and expressed concerns over why and on what basis the President was participating in the event.
The Nepal government has not received any formal request to join the GSI from Beijing and what GSI entails to Nepal and the rest of the world is still not clear, according to officials.
One of them is Arun Subedi, foreign relations adviser to Prime Minister Deuba who received dozens of calls from Kathmandu-based diplomats.
“Attending the GSI event does not mean we have supported the GSI or we have become a part of it,” said Subedi. “I have received many calls from the diplomatic community who expressed concerns over the President's participation in the event.”
After the Chinese Embassy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited President Bhandari to participate in the event, the ministry communicated the matter to the President’s Office. But the Prime Minister’s Office cautioned Sheetal Niwas that the theme could contradict Nepal’s stated foreign policy and the President should consider reviewing her plan if possible.
“Initially, the foreign ministry was positive about the event and coordinated with the President’s Office, but later, upon learning that the event was associated with GSI, we discussed it at the top level and advised the President against attending or making a speech,” an official familiar with the development, told the Post.
Only last week, the North-East Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that looks after China, had written to the President’s Office through the ministry asking Bhandari not to participate in the event.
But the President’s adviser Dhakal told the Post that the President recorded her statement for the event after receiving a nod from the foreign ministry.
In her video message, the President, without touching upon the GSI, highlighted the basic tenets of Nepal’s foreign policy that includes non-alignment and avoidance of any military alliance.
“But it was too late before the foreign ministry intervened in the matter. The President's office had already communicated to the Chinese side that Bhandari would deliver a speech at the function. It is a debacle on the part of the foreign ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office to first give their nod and later request her to skip the event,” a senior foreign ministry official said, requesting anonymity.
The reservations of the Prime Minister’s Office about the President’s planned participation were communicated to the President’s Office by Chief Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi, according to officials.
The Chinese authorities, on three back to back occasions in the recent past, have insisted that Nepal support the Beijing-led Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to react to the Chinese claim, particularly on the GSI.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not commented over the issue and had not communicated about Bhandari’s participation in the event.