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K P Oli and Jinping

China is accused of meddling in Nepal's political affairs.

Nepal in turmoil: Is China playing with fire?

Nepal has descended into another political turmoil. The protesters are out on the streets. And democracy is under threat as the chorus for the restoration of the monarchy has gained momentum. Ironically, the 2015 constitution had spurred the hopes of political stability, promising a future of five-year rules in the Himalayan country. Because, full-term governance has been elusive in Nepal since 1951, when parliamentary democracy was first introduced in the nation, only to be removed and brought again twice.

Political ambitions above national interest in Nepal

Nepal has a long history of political squabblings. The personal ambitions of its politicians have been invariably taking precedence over the interest of the country. Now the ‘game of thrones’ in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has plunged the nation into turmoil that was simmering since the government formation in 2017.

When the feud between the warring factions in the NCP reached a crescendo, and a no-trust motion against the govt seemed imminent, Prime Minister Kharga Prasad Sharma Oli carried out a ‘constitutional coup’ against his political nemesis Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, dissolving parliament, two years before the completion of its term.

Why China is wading into Nepal’s political crisis

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Amid the political instability in Nepal, China has sprung into action. The Xi Jinping govt has dispatched a senior functionary to Kathmandu to safeguard its business interest in the country, ensuring the government’s survival by brokering peace between Oli and Prachanda. The man on the Chinese mission, Guo Yezhou, vice-minister of the international department of the Chinese communist party central committee, had played a crucial role in the foundation of NCP in 2018, uniting separate Communist parties headed by Oli and Prachanda.

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The Chinese delegation so far has failed to make much headway to end the stalemate. After Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Guo Yezhou with his team has met all three stakeholders, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, his bete noire former PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and his close aide former PM Madhav Nepal separately, but the discussions have little chance of reaching fruition.

Xi Jinping not ready to lose control over Nepal

Beijing is desperate, but K P Sharma Oli is adamant, as his political career is at stake. He is heartbroken that despite his full cooperation to Xi Jinping dispensation in bolstering Sino-Nepal economic ties, China is prepared to replace him with Prachanda or Madhav Nepal or any other political face to save the ruling NCP and the government. But the party is headed for a split since the Central Committee led by Executive Chairman Prachanda has removed Oli from the post of chairman, nominating Madhav Kumar Nepal in his place as the second chairman.

Now, media reports claim that Prachanda and Madhav Nepal may join hands with the opposition parties – Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Party – to form the next government. But the move hangs on the decision of Nepal Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions against the presidential order to dissolve the house of representatives. If the apex court declares the order of Oli government null and void, it will set in motion a flurry of political negotiations to form a new alliance and government.

Nepal Communist Party China’s political tool to expand business

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China doesn’t want the Nepali Congress to return to power owing to its close ties with India. With the Nepal Communist Party at the helm of affairs, Beijing has succeeded in expanding its business in the country over the years, investing billions of dollars in various projects. China fears that Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative may hit a roadblock if the NCP loses its grip on power.

China’s Ambassador in Kathmandu, Hou Yanqi wields enormous influence over the NCP. With her diplomatic and negotiating skills, she has strengthened her stature in the corridor of power. So much so that sometimes she is accused of meddling in Nepal’s political affairs dictating terms to PM K P Sharma Oli at Beijing’s behest.

Beijing explores all options to retain grip over Nepal

Hitherto, Hou Yanqi has been successfully handling the crisis in the Nepal Communist Party, mediating between the rival factions, protecting the Oli government and advancing China’s interest. But, with the party staring at a full-blown internal crisis now and a disheartened Oli shutting the door on Yanqi, things have gone out of her hand, forcing the Chinese communist party to rush Guo Yezhou to Kathmandu.

While China isn’t ready to give up on Nepal due to its massive investments in the country, exploring all available avenues to retain its control, PM K P Sharma Oli is unwilling to become Beijing’s sacrificial lamb. He has shown his grit dissolving the house. He may make it worse for China splitting the Nepal Communist Party.