After Prachanda, Koirala’s party heads for China

August 29th, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 29 (IANS) Even before the furore over Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s visit to China could die down, now leaders from former premier Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) party are heading for the communist republic.A five-member NC delegation, headed by Vice President Prakash Man Singh, who was also the first lawmaker to be elected in the historic April election, is going to China on a week-long visit.

The NC, now the main opposition party in Nepal, was invited by the foreign affairs department of the Communist Party of China.

The delegation will depart Saturday and also visit Lhasa city and Shanghai.

China has stepped up courting Nepal’s major parties with a view to renewing their commitment to the One China policy that regards Tibet and Taiwan as inalienable part of the socialist republic.

During Prachanda’s controversial visit, Beijing extracted from him the promise that the new government would impose stiffer curbs on the anti-China protests in Kathmandu by Tibetan exiles, that have been continuing since March.

The NC is regarded as being traditionally close to India’s Congress party. In the past, the two parties jointly took part in pro-democracy and independence struggles in both the countries.

During the April election, India’s federal government had tacitly supported Koirala and his party. According to the Maoists, India tried to prevent them from heading the government and also sought to get Koirala elected as Nepal’s first president.

It would be the NC’s first visit abroad after the formation of the Maoist government.

Last week, Maoist premier Prachanda triggered a raging controversy in both Nepal and China by choosing to break with tradition and make Beijing his first destination abroad after assuming office.

The decision created a coolness between New Delhi and Kathmandu which Prachanda has been trying to thaw, by saying that while he went to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, his first formal and political visit would be to India.

However, the Indian parties that are critical of the Maoists, like the Bharatiya Janata Party, have not been mollified.

Now, with the NC also going northwards, there is clear indication that China is seeking to extend its sphere of influence in Nepal.

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