Friday, April 17, 2009

After Maoists, China woos Nepal's communists

While Nepal's first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda made no secret of his political preferences by opting to make China his 
first port of call abroad immediately after being sworn in and is poised to make another trip in the coming weeks, the Maoists' coalition ally and also deadly rival, the communists, are also not lagging behind. 

On Saturday, the new chief of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), Jhalanath Khanal, will head for Beijing on a 10-day visit at the invitation of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Khanal will be accompanied by four senior members of his party, including two former ministers. 

Besides seeking repeated assurances from Nepal's major parties that they would not support anti-China activities in Nepal, especially movements for a Free Tibet by Tibetan activists, Beijing is also trying to get Nepal's horde of left parties to merge and form one powerful monolithic party like the CPC. 

Heeding the advice, two minor left parties have already merged with the ruling Maoist party, causing it to rechristen itself the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). However, there seems little possibility of a quick union between the Maoists, the biggest party, and the UML, the third-largest, given the continuing clashes between their cadres. For a long time, the UML boycotted cabinet meetings to protest the recent killing of one of its youth leaders, Prachanda Thaibe, allegedly by the youth wing of the Maoists. 

However, despite the bonhomie China enjoys with the ruling parties of Nepal as well as the opposition and the frequent delegations it has been sending to Kathmandu, Beijing was caught on the wrong foot recently when its draft for a proposed new peace and friendship treaty with Kathmandu was leaked to the media. 

In the draft handed over to Prachanda last month, Beijing still referred to Nepal as a kingdom, forgetting the fact that it had been transformed into a federal republic last May.

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