Beijing:China’s Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe has lauded Nepal’s leadership for resolutely pursuing the one-China’ policy and offered firm support to the Himalayan country in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, the defence ministry said here on Monday.
Wei, who is also a State Councillor, met Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and exchanged views on matters of mutual interest and held talks with Army chief Gen. Purna Chandra Thapa on ways to resume military cooperation and training impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic during his one-day visit to Nepal on Sunday.
According to a Chinese defence ministry statement, Wei told the Nepalese leaders that China highly appreciates Nepal for resolutely pursuing the one-China’ policy, and also firmly supports Nepal to safeguard its national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Under the one-China’ policy, Beijing emphasises other countries to recognise Taiwan and Tibet as part of China, it said.
As China firmed up its ties with Nepal, which shares borders with Tibet, with heavy investments besides loans and financial assistance, Beijing wants Kathmandu to stop the free-flow of Tibetans to travel to Dharamshala in India to meet Tibet’s highest spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the statement said. Nepal also has a large chunk of Tibetan population.
The 85-year-old Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a crackdown on an uprising by the local population in Tibet. India granted him political asylum and the Tibetan government-in exile is based on Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then.
China views the 14th Dalai Lama as a “separatist” working to split Tibet from China.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement, giving details about Wei’s visit to Nepal, said that he told the Nepalese leaders that China will continue to keep close communications with the Nepalese side and provide support and assistance for the military development of Nepal and make more contributions to the benefits of both peoples and regional peace and stability.
He held bilateral talks with Nepal Army chief Gen. Thapa at the army headquarters here during his “working visit” to Nepal, the highest-level visit from China after President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit that took place in October last year.
Wei’s visit, however, received low-key coverage in the Chinese state media.
His visit comes days after India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla wrapped up his maiden two-day visit to Nepal.
In the first week of November, Indian Army chief Gen. M M Naravane paid a three-day visit to Nepal aimed at resetting bilateral ties that came under severe strain following a bitter border row between the two countries.
Wei’s visit also comes amidst an ongoing political rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) that resurfaced following a meeting between Prime Minister Oli and his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
China’s political profile in Nepal has been on the rise in the recent years with billions of dollars of investments under Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the building of the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
Besides the investments, China’s ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has made open efforts to garner support for Oli, who faced a massive rebellion in his party from the faction led by ‘Prachanda’, also a former prime minister.