KATHMANDU, May 25: At a time when preparations are underway for Prime Minister K P Oli's visit to China, a senior leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Narayan Kaji Shrestha has left for the northern neighbor for a five-day visit.
Although the detailed itinerary of his visit has not been made public, insiders of the newly-formed party say Shrestha is likely to hold meetings with the top Chinese leadership and discuss ways to strengthen the relations between NCP and the Chinese Communist Party and ensure close cooperation with China.
Shrestha, who played a crucial role in the unification of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) into the NCP, is now a member of the NCP Secretariat and the party's official spokesperson. Also a former foreign minister, Shrestha is one of the confidantes of Prime Minister Oli as both share similar nationalist stands on a number of issues.
Prime Minister Oli during his previous stint as the prime minister immediately after the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015 had reached various key agreements with China including on trade and transit and railway connectivity. However, the governments formed after the ouster of Prime Minister Oli had not shown any interest in implementing those agreements reached in the backdrop of India's unofficial economic embargo.
Shrestha as a member of NCP Secretariat, which is mandated to oversee day to day activities of the government, is likely to hold discussions with Chinese officials on the issues concerning the implementation of those deals during his meetings with Chinese leadership.Despite public perception of being close to China, foreign policy experts say the Oli-led government is said to be gradually losing trust of the Chinese side. Sources said China wanted the Oli government to roll back the decision of the erstwhile government to scrap Budhi Gandaki Hydro project deal with a Chinese company—something Oli government has refuted to do so far.
As a study panel recently recommended withdrawing West Seti hydro project from Chinese company over lack of progress in its works, the Chinese side is apparently not happy. It may be recalled that the Chinese government had not extended invitation to Nepal to participate in the Boao Forum this year even though the Oli government had been formed.