China calls on Nepal’s factions to unite for stability

Newly elected Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, (L) greets outgoing Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli (R) upon their arrival during the administers of oath of office to the newly-elected Prime Minister at the presidential building "Shital Niwas" in Kathmandu, Nepal August 4, 2016. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday he hoped all political factions in Nepal would unite and promote stability, after Nepal sent an envoy to Beijing to clear up questions over the future of bilateral agreements.

Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda, 61, who led a decade-long insurgency that ended a feudal monarchy, replaced communist K.P. Oli this month amid uncertainty about a slew of deals made by Oli during a visit to Beijing in March.

Those deals included permission for Nepal to use Chinese railways, roads and ports to trade with third countries, and signalled a shift by the landlocked Himalayan nation away from its traditional reliance on overland trade with its southern neighbour, India.

Wang told the envoy, one of Prachanda’s trusted lieutenants from the insurgency period, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, that China’s friendship toward Nepal would not change even with the political shift.

“China expects that all political forces in Nepal will strengthen unity and jointly advance Nepal’s peace, stability and development,” Wang said.

He said China hoped “to carry out the consensus already reached by the two countries’ leaders” and deepen cross-border transport, trade and energy cooperation, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Mahara told Wang the foundation of bilateral ties was firm and would not change because of the new government, according to the Chinese statement.

Prachanda led a Nepali uprising in the name of the Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, but it did not enjoy the overt backing of Beijing. The conflict ended in 2006 when the rebels laid down their arms under a peace deal.

Instability in the young republic – Prachanda is the eighth prime minister in as many years – has also raised doubts over a planned visit by President Xi Jinping in October, which would be the first by a Chinese president in two decades.

Mahara had said he was carrying an invitation from President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to the Chinese leader to come as planned.

Nepali officials have said Prachanda would send another deputy, Bimelandra Nidhi, as an emissary to India this week to give reassurances that closer ties with China would not come at a cost to India. China and India compete for influence in Nepal.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)