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Is Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi aiming to counter US influence in Nepal?

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reaches Nepal for a three day visit

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who arrived in Nepal after a pitstop in New Delhi for a three-day visit, is expected to rekindle bilateral relations between Kathmandu and Beijing. While Nepal signed up for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2017, no project has taken off. A slew of thorny issues has also cropped up between the two countries though they have shared traditionally shared cordial relations.

Wang’s visit naturally will be monitored closely across the world, including the US.

Recently, in a foreign policy shift and shedding its traditional neutral stance, Nepal has backed the UN resolution demanding withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. The move has been much appreciated by the West.

“The US card is at play in Nepal though Kathmandu has always maintained its neutrality though this visit could even have ramifications on the South Asian region,” Navita Srikant, foreign policy expert, who has been focusing on Nepal, told India Narrative.

Analysts told India Narrative that the agenda of the visit will be latently driven by the MCC pact and its ramifications. In September 2017, the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a $500 million compact with Nepal to maintain road quality, increase the availability and reliability of electricity, and facilitate cross-border electricity trade between Nepal and India. The pact is also aimed at boosting investments, accelerate economic growth, and reduce poverty, the official website of the MCC said.

Also read: Will Wang Yi’s likely visit lead to a thaw in India-China relations?

Srikant added that Kathmandu’s Russia policy may not have any bearing on Wang meetings. “The main agenda will be determined by the MCC pact..I don’t see the Russia-Ukraine issue playing a very significant role,” she said.

Wang’s trip to Nepal is the first high level visit by a Chinese delegation since Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba took charge in July last year.

Wang Yi is expected to meet Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Deuba during the visit. A host of agreements are slated to be signed during Wang’s visit.

“The visit also comes amid geopolitical flux as well as emergence of some irritants in Nepal-China ties in the recent times, especially in the wake of Kathmandu’s ratification of a $500 million American grant,” the Kathmandu Post said in a report.

According to the Himalayan Times foreign policy analyst Geja Sharma Wagle said the Chinese FM's visit was aimed at moving the BRI project ahead in Nepal. But Wagle underlined the need for the government to make all documents related to BRI projects, including memorandums of understanding, public so that people could see and comment on them as they did with the US-led MCC compact, the news organisation said.

Will Wang’s visit to Nepal provide a platform to both countries to iron out differences?