PM in fix whether to visit China first

- ANIL GIRI, NIRMAL SHRESTHA, Kathmandu, Hong Kong
PM in fix whether to visit China first

May 18, 2014-

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is in a dilemma whether to attend the second China South Asia Expo to be organised in Kunming on June 6-10, without first visiting India as many Nepali PMs have done.

Koirala has expressed his desire in his inner circle to visit China but he does not want to break the often-followed tradition of making India the first official destination, sources say.

On March 24, Li Jiheng, governor of Yunan Province, met Koirala to extend an invitation to participate in the expo. Nepal is the country of honour at the event this year.

The Prime Minister’s Office and Koirala’s private secretariat have not yet conveyed anything to the Foreign Ministry regarding the Kunming visit, senior Foreign Ministry officials said. The annual expo is expected to boost regional trade between China and South Asia.

“There is no decision yet but we are trying to participate at the highest level,” said PM’s Foreign Relations Advisor Dinesh Bhattarai. The matter has not been discussed in the Cabinet so far.

It is not going to be easy for Koirala to make Delhi his first port of call given the new Indian prime minister’s likely hectic schedule next few months. The chances of the Indian PM visiting Nepal any time soon are even slimmer. The earliest Koirala could get to meet the new Indian PM is November during the 18th Saarc Summit to be held in Nepal. “Clearly, PM Koirala is in a big dilemma and is seeking some kind of a win-win solution so that relations with the countries [India and China] can be balanced. If the PM is not able to visit China, he will assign Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Development Prakash Man Singh to represent Nepal at the expo,” said a highly placed government source.

PM Koirala had sent Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala, his two advisors Dinesh Bhattarai and Economic Advisor Chiranjivi Nepal and two businessmen to Kunming some three weeks ago to assure the Chinese side of a high-level participation without confirming that it would be at the PM level.

In response to the invitation from Governor Li in March, Koirala had sent a letter to the organisers saying that a high-level team would attend the event organised by the Chinese Commerce Ministry and the Yunan Province government.

“The Chinese side has agreed to arrange a meeting for Koirala with Chinese PM Li Keqiang if Koirala’s visit is ensured. However, Koirala is not willing to make this visit official,” the government source added.

The Chinese side is keen on the PM’s participation as Nepal has been recognised a theme country for the exposition.

“We have already suggested that the PM’s participation would be great. The Chinese side has emphasised on the PM’s visit as Nepal has been made the country of honour in the trade fair this year,” Nepal’s ambassador to China Mahesh Maskey told from Beijing on the phone.

The organisers say they have made special arrangements including a special flight for Koirala’s team, asking Nepal to decide on the visit within this week. Bhattarai said the visit will be decided this week.

Published: 19-05-2014 08:57

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