China moves ahead with economic diplomacy in Nepal

A 60-member Chinese delegation headed by Zhou Yongkang has wound up their three-day visit to Nepal.

Kathmandu: A massive 60-member Chinese delegation headed by President Hu Jintao`s special envoy wound up their three-day formal visit to Nepal on Thursday with the message that Beijing would now be surging ahead with economic diplomacy, much as it has been doing in Africa.

China, despite supporting King Gyanendra`s Army-backed regime in the past and the government`s anti-Maoist drive, has been able to project itself as supportive of any party that comes to power in Nepal.

Headed by Zhou Yongkang, the ninth high-ranking politburo member of the Communist Party of China, the delegation has proposed to Nepal`s caretaker government greater future cooperation in sectors that are not overtly political and are likely to be honoured by any party that succeeds it.

China has suggested greater cooperation in trade and investment, agriculture, transportation, information technology, infrastructure development, hydropower projects and poverty alleviation.

In addition, Beijing is also seeking greater role in education, human resource development, tourism and cultural exchanges.

Nepal`s position as a UN member makes it an important ally vis-à-vis international diplomacy and Beijing has also mooted close cooperation on major global issues like the prevailing financial crisis, climate change, energy, food security and SAARC issues.

The political agenda has been presented in a subtle way with the delegation proposing more high-level visits from both countries and greater cooperation between the CPC and Nepal`s political parties.

Though the three-day visit ended with the signing of four pacts worth USD 50 million, the visitors have offered more soft loans and concessions in future.

The agreements that were inked during the delegation`s visit include a pact on providing a USD 24 million soft loan for a hydropower transmission line project, a USD 2.5 million security project to strengthen the capacities of Nepal Police, and a preliminary agreement to provide other concessional loans.

Though one of Beijing`s prime concerns in Nepal - the possibility of fresh anti-China activities or protests by Free Tibet activists - were not discussed formally, it was not necessary, with Nepal`s major political parties respecting the dragon`s sensitivities on their own and reiterating their commitment not to allow Nepal`s soil to be used for anti-China activities.

The security arrangements for the visitors were elaborate with police beginning a crackdown on Tibetans prior to their arrival.

The Nepali representative of exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, Thinlay Lama, had to leave Kathmandu for the duration of the visit while his office was warned by police not to get involved in any anti-China protests.

Rights organisation International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said Tibetan community leaders received phone calls from police and officials the day before the visitors arrived, warning them that they should cooperate with the police and would be arrested if they did not.

Zhou Yongkang`s visit, ICT said, underscores the high priority given to Nepal by the Chinese government.

Zhou is responsible within the CPC for "maintaining stability" and has multi-layered connections to Tibet.

He served on the Central Tibet Work Coordination Working Group between 2002 and 2007 while he was minister for public security. He was also party secretary of Sichuan province, which includes large parts of the eastern Tibetan region of Kham.

As Sichuan party secretary, he oversaw the drastic reduction in size of two important monastic encampments, including the expulsion of monks, nuns and Chinese Buddhists, that had played a pioneering role in the revival of Tibetan Buddhism following the Cultural Revolution


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