Prachanda’s China trip proves costly for NepalAugust 28th, 2008 - 1:24 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Aug 28 (IANS) Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s China visit has proved costly for the cash-strapped Himalayan republic, causing it financial, economic and diplomatic losses.Barring a meagre $300,000 flood assistance from the Chinese government, the Maoist leader has returned home Wednesday not just empty-handed but also shrunk in stature and having ruffled its other giant neighbour India in the bargain.
On Saturday, Prachanda led an 11-member delegation to Beijing on an “informal” visit, ostensibly to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Though pleased that the revolutionary chose to break with the tradition of Nepal’s prime ministers visiting India first, the protocol-bound Chinese government declined Nepal’s suggestion to give the virtually impromptu visit additional depth.
In June 2006, when Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala went to New Delhi soon after assuming office, he was met at the airport by his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in a rare honour.
India also issued a joint statement with Nepal at the end of the visit and pledged an economic package worth Nepali Rs.15 billion to accelerate the insurgency-ravaged nation’s economic recovery.
In contrast, Prachanda was received in Beijing by a vice minister and his much hyped meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao did not fructify in any concrete deals.
China, despite its earlier promise to positively look into the Nepali request for extending the Tibet railway to the border of Nepal, has not made any further commitment after Chinese experts advised the government that the fragile mountain soil in Nepal would make any attempt to construct tunnels extremely hazardous.
Hu also did not make any commitment on Prachanda’s request to help build a road connecting Kimathanka on Nepal’s northern border with China’s Dingri for better connectivity and trade.
However, Beijing managed to extricate a promise from the Maoist chief that his government would implement sterner measures to prevent anti-China protests by Tibetans in Kathmandu, that have been continuing since March, much to the country’s ire.
During the four-day visit, that has come under rising public criticism in Nepal as a wild junket the crises-hit country can ill afford, the Nepali delegation experienced an acute loss of face when it was asked by the authorities of the China World Hotel, where it was billeted, to pay its dues.
The room charge alone came to almost $500 per room and the frantic visitors were forced to ask the Chinese authorities for help.
Besides the unsatisfactory visit, the Maoist regime is now facing a coolness from its biggest trade partner and ally India.
New Delhi showed its displeasure by instructing the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, to skip going to the airport Wednesday to welcome back the prime minister.
India, according to diplomatic sources, had advised the new government to focus on pressing domestic issues first.
They include extending the cabinet, which is still being boycotted by the Maoists’ major ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, tackling the flood threat jointly and providing relief to a nation racked by food and fuel scarcities.
The flood, food and fuel scarcities especially relate to India and could have been tackled more effectively if Prachanda had made a business call to India instead of frittering away valuable time and money on his pleasure trip in Beijing, diplomatic sources told IANS.
Koirala’s trip to New Delhi in 2006 made the Indian government waive a large part of Nepal’s dues to its sole fuel supplier, Indian Oil Corporation, and improved fuel supplies to Nepal till the election in April this year.
Realising his error, Prachanda tried to offer an olive branch to New Delhi Wednesday saying while the China trip was an informal one, his visit to India would be his first political one.
However, New Delhi is not mollified and is likely to wait and watch first before it sits down for talks with the blow hot-blow cold Maoist chief.