Former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ returned to Nepal on Saturday, after a week-long visit to China, where he had met the new Chinese leadership and repeatedly emphasised a need for increased economic cooperation between China and Nepal, and also had requested Beijing to implement “3-way” ventures in Nepal with India.

The trip had culminated on Thursday, when Mr. Dahal and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, discussed ties at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

“Chairman Prachanda invited Chinese investments in hydro power, tourism, Lumbini, ring road, and the mid-Hill highway,” Chudamani Khadka, Mr. Dahal’s aide, told The Hindu from Beijing. “President Xi was positive to the proposal. And he expressed wishes for a timely Constituent Assembly election and economic progress.”

The Global Times ran an online story of an interview with Mr. Dahal, where he reportedly said that he “advocated equal ties with both of Nepal’s neighbours while calling upon Nepalese leaders to understand the importance of this new strategy”.

A departure?

“Equal ties” is often interpreted here as a departure from the “special relationship” politicians claim Nepal has with India.

At a programme at Sichuan University on Monday, Mr. Dahal had pointed out the inability of the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) to spur trade in the region and said that “China’s involvement may energise Safta”.

This was Mr. Dahal’s third visit to China since his party abandoned the “People’s War” in 2006 and joined the peace process.His first visit to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which was his first foreign trip as a Prime Minister, is remembered for breaking the norm in Nepali politics of making New Delhi the first destination.