By Zhang Shubin
The first phase of Nepal’s federal parliamentary and provincial assembly elections was held successfully in 32 districts in the hills and mountains on Saturday. The second phase of the election will be held in the remaining 45 districts on December 7. It is the first parliamentary and provincial assembly election since a new constitution became law two years ago. People hope that through this election, Nepal can end its long-term political turbulence and concentrate on economic development so it can shake off persistent poverty.
Right before the election, the Nepalese cabinet scrapped the memorandum of understanding to construct the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project which was signed between the former Nepalese government and China Gezhouba Group Corp. The media has now over-interpreted the decision as a Sino-Indian power struggle connected to the Nepalese election.
The election is now a contest between the left alliance of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) led by KP Oli and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal (known as Prachanda) and the democratic alliance, which is dominated by the centrist Nepali Congress (NC) and led by current Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
It is their respective internal needs that drove the two communist parties in Nepal to form an alliance. The former wants to return to power; the latter wants to have a good result in the two-phase elections given its disadvantageous position in local elections. China has always pursued a policy of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and ascribing the formation of the left-wing alliance to the influence of China is undoubtedly an exaggeration and an excuse that aims to harm the interests of China.
The previous Prachanda government was comprised of the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the NC. The Prachanda government negotiated with the NC and decided to grant the right to build the Budhi Gandaki hydropower project to a Chinese company. However, the capricious backtracking on the agreement by the current NC government not only does harm to the legitimate rights of Chinese corporations and shows an unfriendly attitude toward China, but also demonstrates its tendency to form a more intimate relationship with India.
Right before, China had incorporated the project into the framework of the Belt and Road initiative in September in response to the request of the government of Nepal led by Deuba himself.
Ironically, Nepal’s Ministry of Finance issued a five-day deadline on Monday to different ministries to submit a list of projects that could be built under China’s Belt and Road initiative.
To impede the ever larger influence of the Belt and Road initiative on Nepal, certain individuals within India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi respond with a One Culture, One Region (OCOR) plan. They hope to curb China’s influence on Nepal through the cultural and religious affiliations of India and Nepal. However, the Nepalese people can’t forget the painful memory of India’s 2015 border blockade. As a result, it remains to be seen how important the role of the OCOR will be.
The smooth advance of Nepal’s provincial and parliamentary assembly elections will mean a successful political transition. Whoever wins, China will continue to support the development of Nepal. We believe the Nepalese people are endowed with the wisdom to elect a leader who will help them shake off poverty and develop the economy, as well as achieving political stability.
As a good neighbor, China will continue to help Nepal to carry out reconstruction after the devastating 2015 earthquake and infrastructure construction like power stations, roads, bridges and airports. To ensure the legitimate rights of Chinese companies remain intact, the Chinese government has the right to ask that the Nepalese government guarantees signed agreements between it and Chinese entities.
China pursues a regional diplomacy of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and wants to forge a community of shared future under the framework of the Belt and Road.
We hope India can abandon its zero-sum mentality and help develop Nepal with China. Thus the three countries can construct China-Nepal-India economic and cultural corridor and bring well-being to the people of the three countries.
(The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute and director of the Nepal Study Center at Hebei University of Economics & Business. [email protected])