Kathmandu readies itself for Chinese president’s visitAgreements related to infrastructure, connectivity, trade, commerce and energy are expected to be signed during Xi Jinping’s visit.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will be arriving in Kathmandu on Saturday, officials from both Nepal and China confirmed on Wednesday. It will be the first visit by a Chinese president in 23 years, since Jiang Zemin landed in Kathmandu in 1996.
Xi, president of the People’s Republic of China, will be paying a two-day state visit to Nepal—on October 12 and 13—at the invitation of President Bidya Devi Bhandari, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. About an hour later, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi quoted Xinhua news agency, confirming Xi’s visit to Nepal.
Though preparations for Xi’s visit have been going in full swing in Kathmandu for about a week now, official confirmation came only three days ahead of the visit, just as the Chinese president’s visit to India was confirmed.
Xi will be flying to Kathmandu from Mamallapuram near Chennai in India where the Chinese president and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting on October 11 and 12 for a second ‘informal summit’ after the Wuhan Summit in April last year.
Xi, considered one of the most powerful Chinese leaders after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, will be in Kathmandu for two days and is expected to sign some agreements.
Xi’s visit follows a symposium in Kathmandu on ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ for leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Nepal signed up to Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in May 2017 and the KP Sharma Oli administration is expecting massive support for various development projects under the initiative. Nonetheless, there has not been much progress in that regard, which analysts attribute largely to Nepal’s failure to do its homework and a lack of commitment from Beijing.
While some big-ticket projects are expected, foreign policy experts say that the Chinese president’s visit to Kathmandu is largely a part of his exercise to expand his influence in South Asia.
Though Nepal and China share over six decades of diplomatic relations, Nepal’s tilt towards the north became visible in the wake of the 2o15 Indian border blockade in response to the promulgation of the constitution.
Oli, who was the prime minister then, during his visit to Beijing had signed a slew of agreements, including one on transit and transport. A related protocol was signed in April this year, which allows Nepal access to seven Chinese sea and land ports for third-country trade. As that agreement has yet to be implemented, it could be high on the agenda, an official who requested anonymity told the Post. Discussions are also expected on projects under the BRI, including the Kathmandu-Kerung railway, said the official.
During the visit, Xi will meet with President Bhandari, who will host a banquet in honour of the Chinese president and his delegation.
“President Xi will hold delegation-level official talks with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli,” the Foreign Ministry said in its statement. “Following the talks, both leaders will witness the signing of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding.”
Agreements related to infrastructure, connectivity, trade, commerce and energy are expected to be signed.
Senior Nepali leaders are also expected to call on Xi during his time in Kathmandu, said the ministry.
Oli himself is directly overseeing preparations for Xi’s visit in terms of logistics and agenda, said two officials familiar with the developments.
Several advance Chinese teams have arrived in Kathmandu to inspect the airport, hotel, roads and the areas Xi will visit. They are taking stock of security, mostly around Tibetan settlements in and around Kathmandu, according to the official.
“There will be no compromise on security and we are ready to provide security for the visiting VIPs,” Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the Post. “The government has approved VIP security guidelines for visiting foreign dignitaries.”
Under the command of the Nepal Army, personnel from various security agencies will be deployed in and around Kathmandu while dozens of intelligence agents have been dispatched to maintain a vigil on the activities of Tibetan refugees and others, according to security officials.
Nepal is home to 11,000 Tibetans, and the Chinese side has constantly expressed its concerns over their activities. Government officials say that since Nepal adheres to the ‘One China’ policy, no activity on Nepali soil against any friendly nation will be tolerated.
Multiple sources in the government told the Post that both sides are now exchanging lists of projects to be signed during the visit but there is no confirmation.