Wen Jiabao makes brief Nepal visit, offers aid

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao travelled to Nepal on Saturday for a brief half-day stopover aimed at boosting economic ties, one month after his visit to Kathmandu was postponed at the last minute amid security concerns.

Mr. Wen arrived in Kathmandu at noon on Saturday, the State-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Mr. Wen's official visit was at the invitation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. He would spend half a day in the capital en route to West Asia, where the Chinese Premier, the first to visit the region in 20 years, will spend four days.

The Foreign Ministry said a large entourage will accompany Mr. Wen in his meetings in Kathmandu, including Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Ping, and Commerce Minister Chen Deming.

Boosting Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in Nepal is expected to be top of the agenda.

The Nepal government is expected to request a line of credit worth US$ 5 billion for construction of hydropower projects and an international airport in Pokhara. Nepal is seeking Chinese assistance to improve infrastructure and for highway projects. The signing of a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPAA) is also expected to be discussed.

Mr. Wen was scheduled to visit Kathmandu – the first high-level visit to Nepal from China since that of former Premier Zhu Rongji’s in 2001 – in December.

His visit was postponed at the last minute after preparations were already under way. While the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Yang Houlan, was understood to have conveyed to the Nepali government that the reasons for the delay were internal, some reports in Nepal suggested that security fears triggered by activities of the large community of exiled Tibetans were also behind the postponement.

China’s security concerns over Tibet, which neighbours Nepal, will also figure prominently in Mr. Wen’s talks. China has asked Nepal to tighten security in the border areas and clamp down on the activities of Tibetan separatist groups.

Hu Shisheng, a leading South Asia scholar at the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), told The Hindu in an interview last year that China wanted “to do whatever it can to stabilise Nepal.”

“The unstable situation in Nepal provide golden opportunities for those who want to play the Tibet Card to create problems for China in Tibetan regions,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2020 4:34:02 PM |

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