Kathmandu, November 29
China’s Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe arrived here on Sunday to meet Nepal’s top leadership and bolster military cooperation and take the existing friendly bilateral relations to a new height.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa welcomed him at the Tribhuvan International Airport, according to the state-run Nepal Television.
The Chinese Defence Minister, also a State Councillor, told reporters that his visit is aimed at implementing bilateral understandings reached between the two governments in the past.
Wei said that the visit will promote bilateral military cooperation between Nepal and China, and take the existing friendly relations between the two neighbours to a new height.
This is the highest-level visit from China after President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit that took place in October last year.
According to Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wei will pay courtesy calls on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister and Minister for Defence K P Sharma Oli during his brief stay in Kathmandu.
He is also scheduled to hold a delegation-level meeting with Nepal’s Chief of Army Staff General Purna Chandra Thapa.
The Chinese Defence Minister, who is leading a 21-member delegation, will return to Beijing on Sunday evening.
His visit comes days after India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla wrapped up his maiden two-day visit to Nepal. In the first week of November, Indian Army chief Gen. M M Naravane paid a three-day visit to Nepal aimed at resetting bilateral ties that came under severe strain following a bitter border row between the two countries.
Wei’s visit also comes amidst an ongoing political rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) that resurfaced following a meeting between Prime Minister Oli and his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
China’s political profile in Nepal has been on the rise in the recent years with billions of dollars of investments under Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the building of the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
Besides the investments, China’s ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has made open efforts to garner support for Oli, who faced a massive rebellion in his party headed by ‘Prachanda’.
In August this year, Chinese President Xi said that he attached great importance to the development of China-Nepal relations and was willing to work with his Nepali counterpart Bhandari to push for the continued advancement of the bilateral relationship.
During his two-day state visit – the first by a Chinese leader in 23 years – in October last year, President Xi said China will provide Nepalese Rs 56 billion assistance to Kathmandu over the next two years to help Nepal’s development programmes and transform the landlocked nation into a land-linked country. PTI