The Nepal government on Wednesday sought to play down reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping had cancelled his visit to the country next month, with officials saying no dates had been finalised for the trip.
The reported cancellation of Xi’s visit was described by the media as a “major diplomatic setback” to Nepal’s new government headed by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, who is perceived in some quarters as pro-India.
Foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat told Hindustan Times that dates for the visit are being considered in both capitals though a decision is yet to be made. “So how can someone say it has been postponed or cancelled?” he said.
The foreign ministry issued a statement to deny reports that Chinese ambassador Wu Chunatai had communicated the postponement of Xi’s visit to any senior Nepali officials. The ministry said that “it was also a baseless rumour that Nepal government was not making any preparations to that regard”.
However, there was no clarity about when Xi would visit and what would be on the agenda.
During a recent visit to Kathmandu, senior Chinese military officials and members of think tanks had indicated that Xi’s visit was very much in card despite the change of government in Kathmandu. They also said Xi’s trip to Nepal was expected to coincide with his visit to India for a BRICS Summit.
Chinese and Nepali officials have been unable to fix dates for the visit even though Nepal’s special envoy for China, deputy prime minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara recently visited Beijing and held talks with the Chinese premier and foreign minister.
Officials said two meetings of the foreign secretaries and finance secretaries of Nepal and China – which are key to fixing the agenda for Xi’s visit – also could not be held.
Prachanda’s predecessor KP Sharma Oli was perceived as being closer to China. Political circles in Kathmandu were full of speculation that India threw its weight behind Prachanda to topple the Oli government because it wanted to counter China’s growing influence in Nepal.