Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is believed to have suggested to Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi last week that he is capable of handling challenges within his party without any assistance from other countries, according to people familiar with the matter.
Oli’s comments, the people who asked not to be named added, may have been prompted by happenings in his Nepal Communist Party (NCP). A faction of the party, led by former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has become strident in its opposition to Oli. HT learns that Oli has told his supporters he is open to a split in the party – an eventuality China has been working to avert. China has been seen as playing the role of a peacemaker in the NCP in the past.
The prime minister’s change in stance comes at a time when he is making a concerted effort to mend ties with New Delhi and get the two countries to start discussions on differences over Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh.
A Nepal watcher in India said the shift in PM Oli’s approach could be attributed to an attempt to reclaim the nationalist agenda that was the mainstay of his campaign that resulted in the NCP’s win in 2018. That China lately appeared indifferent to his continuation in the government if this helps avoid a split in the party is also believed to have contributed to Oli’s stand.
Interestingly, Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe is visiting Nepal over the weekend and it is expected that some of the conversations that he has could be linked to the NCP’s affairs.
“Gen Wei will spend four hours at army headquarters,” a diplomat in Kathmandu said on condition of anonymity, suggesting that the Chinese outreach to the army could also be linked to the political flux in the government.
Through November, Oli has faced unusually sharp attacks from Prachanda who had put out a 19-page document hugely critical of the prime minister. Oli is expected to put forth his counter-proposal at the meeting of the communist party’s Saturday meeting of the nine-member secretariat that comprises the NCP’s most senior leaders, although a discussion on this is likely only later.