Irked by Prachanda’s visit to New Delhi, state-run Chinese media today criticised India for trying to “turn tables” against China and lashed out at the new Nepal Prime Minister for “tricking” Beijing and putting bilateral ties on “back burner” at the behest of India.
China “feels tricked” that Nepal got close to Beijing to “relieve pressure” from India and signed a number of crucial agreements with Beijing to help get rid of its reliance on New Delhi but later put ties on “back-burner” after the “pressure” somewhat relaxed, an article in state-run Global Times said.
In a scathing attack on Prachanda and India, two articles in the newspaper pointed to China’s anger over the regime change in Kathmandu replacing pro-China former Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.
“Prachanda is no more “furious” as he was once described, but rather has more realistic considerations for political interest,” one article said, recalling his choice to visit China first in 2008 during his previous tenure.
During his tour to India this time, the Pancheshwar Project, reconstruction after the earthquake and the East-West Railway programme were on the agenda of high-level meetings. However, all those are among the “core subjects” of China’s Belt and Road (Silk Road) initiative that can benefit Nepal, it said.
“Against such a backdrop, people cannot help but ask whether Prachanda is seeking reconciliation with New Delhi or maintaining Nepal’s status of being controlled by India,” it said.
“It seems that the relationship between Nepal and China stalled abruptly, and a visit by Chinese leaders to Nepal has allegedly been suspended – an unprecedented situation,” it said, without directly referring to postponement of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned to visit to Kathmandu next month.
The article said that the bilateral relationship between China and Nepal seems to have “suddenly turned fragile and sensitive”.
“Obviously, China feels tricked. When Kathmandu needed Beijing to relieve pressure from New Delhi, it got close to China and signed a series of crucial agreements with Beijing which would help Nepal get rid of its reliance on India.
“But once India’s attitude toward Kathmandu relaxed a bit and the former made some promises to the latter, Nepalese politicians immediately put the nation’s ties with China on the back burner,” it said.
The article added that in the Sino-Nepalese relationship, Kathmandu is the “one that always gets more. Beijing will lose nothing, but it is Nepal that needs to consider whether it will miss more opportunities”.
Another article in the same daily titled “Good ties with China, India in Nepal’s best interest” accused India of ‘turning tables’ against China.
“Alarmed by China’s rising influence in Nepal, India is now trying to turn the tables. But such narrow-minded geopolitical logic will do favour to nobody,” it said. “Perhaps these politicians have not intended to treat Beijing as a tool to counterbalance New Delhi, but apart from pressure on Nepal from India, Nepalese politicians’ realistic short-sighted motives are also influencing Beijing-Kathmandu relations,” the first article said.
“Taking China as a bargaining chip with India, instead of sincerely developing ties with Beijing, will fundamentally hurt Nepal’s independence and reputation. Compared with relations between India and Nepal, where there is no defence force along the borders and many channels of communication, China’s ties with Nepal are not as nearly as good.
“That means if Beijing and Kathmandu want to seek a balance between the three parties, the two must develop ties very quickly,” it said.
Prachanda had once gone very far on this path in 2008 and Oli has inherited this strategic reform. However, “under pressure” from India, Prachanda is likely to derail the process, it added.
“Has he forgotten his initial determination? People are waiting for an answer,” it said. “But whatever the answer will be, China will stay aloof from it.”
During the tenure of Oli, China and Nepal inked a number of agreements including extending China’s Tibet railway network to Kathmandu, establishing special economic zones for Chinese companies in Nepal and a long-term petroleum deal for Nepal to import fuel from China.
“All those have made New Delhi worried,” the second article said.
If Nepal wants to gain maximum benefit from the situation and thrive, it “must not let itself turn into any side’s pawn”. Keeping good relations with both China and India is Kathmandu’s “optimal choice”, it said.
It added: “China also welcomes India’s increasing support to Nepal’s development. If New Delhi insists to see it as Beijing’s attempt to cozy up to Kathmandu, India should at least realise the fact that China’s support to Nepal has stimulated India to increase its assistance to Kathmandu, which means that this is nothing but a healthy competition.
“Times have changed, and adhering to the outdated mindset of scrambling for spheres of influence will not only win no hearts, but also disrupt one’s own development.”