Prachanda begins power stint with China trip

August 18th, 2008 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 18 (IANS) Nepal’s new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda will make his first visit abroad with a trip to Beijing this week to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. The Maoist leader will fly to the Chinese capital Saturday, marking a diplomatic victory by China over India, that had in the past been the first destination abroad for Nepal’s top leaders.

Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala had made New Delhi his first port of call abroad after assuming the reins of government.

Though Beijing too had issued an invitation to him, Koirala failed to avail of that during his two-year tenure due to a succession of political crises and the major task of holding the country’s first constituent assembly election.

Nepal’s first President Ram Baran Yadav was also invited by the Chinese government to the glittering opening ceremony of the Olympic Games that was attended by the heads of state and government of nearly 80 countries.

However, Yadav declined the invitation on the ground that he was needed at home where preparations were afoot to elect a new prime minister to succeed Koirala.

A section of Nepal’s media subsequently reported that Yadav cancelled his trip upon pressure from India.

On Sunday, China’s ambassador to Nepal Zheng Xianglin met prime minister-elect Prachanda to congratulate him on his win as well as issue an invitation to the Olympics closing ceremony.

Prachanda, who had said he would love to visit the village where Mao Zedong, the revolutionary leader whose philosophy inspired Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas, was born, has accepted the invitation, Nepal’s foreign ministry said.

A red carpet treatment awaits Prachanda in Beijing, where there is mounting concern over the continuing anti-China protests in Kathmandu by Tibetans.

Beijing will undoubtedly try to use the visit to extract a renewed pledge to the “One China” policy.

Nepal says it recognises both Tibet and Taiwan as integral parts of China and would not allow any anti-China activities on Nepali soil, but China wants greater commitment.

China’s communist government has been asking Nepal’s communist parties to unite and form a single communist party that would have better control. It is also urging Nepal to inflict harsher punishment on Tibetan protesters.

The SAARC Summit in Colombo was to have been the first foreign trip by Prachanda, who was poised to be Nepal’s new prime minister following his party’s victory in the national elections in April.

However, with outgoing prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party delaying the formation of a new government, Prachanda failed to make it to the summit.

It was Koirala who went to Colombo instead and met Indian leaders in New Delhi on the way back home.

Now with the Maoists coming to power, India will have to launch a major diplomatic drive to woo them.

The former insurgents have hardened their stand towards New Delhi, accusing it of interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs and trying to prop up Koirala.

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