KATHMANDU – Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe is arriving in Kathmandu on Sunday for his one day visit to Nepal.
Chinese Defense Minister Fenghe will land in Kathmandu only a day after the Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla returned to New Delhi after concluding his two-day official visit to Nepal.
Chinese Defense Minister Fenghe’s visit is the highest-level visit from China after Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Nepal in October last year.
After landing at the Tribhuvan International Airport at 11 am, Chinese Defense Minister Fenghe will be directly heading to Chinese Embassy in Baluwatar to attend a function related to bilateral cooperation, according to a source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He will then meet the Chief of the Army Staff Purna Chandra Thapa at the Nepal Army Headquarters. The Nepal Army has already deputed Major General Bal krishna Karki, who has completed the National Defense Course from China, for the preparation of the visit of the Chinese Defense Minister.
Earlier in October 2019, Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel had visited China when he was the Defense Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Pokharel is said to have a good rapport with Chinese Defense Minister Fenghe.
During his China visit, the two countries had signed an agreement to provide military support worth 150 million Renminbi (2.5 billion Nepali rupees) to the Nepal Army.
The Deputy Prime Minister had also extended an invitation for the Nepal visit to his Chinese counterpart during his China trip last year.
Chief of the Army Staff in the Nepal Army Purna Chandra Thapa had also visited China in July.
The visit of Chinese Defense Minister next week is a part of high-level exchanges between China and Nepal, according to MoFA sources.
China had also provided some support to the Nepal Army during the Covid-19. During the visit of the Chinese Defense Minister, the Nepal Army is also preparing to discuss the supply of remaining supports.
Army Chief Thapa is also expected to raise the issue of resuming the training and other military support halted due to the pandemic.The exchange of army officers for training has also been suspended due to Covid-19.
Santosh Ballav Poudel, the Nepal Army’s Spokesperson, said that the meeting of the army chief with the Chinese Defense Minister will mainly focus on bilateral military support and cooperation.
“The meeting will mainly focus on strengthening bilateral military cooperation as well as resuming the halted military support,” he said. The Nepal Army is also preparing to provide a guard of honour to the Chinese Defense Minister Fenghe.
During his one-day Nepal visit, he is paying a courtesy call on President Bidya Devi Bhandari as well as Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. He will start his formal meeting after 2 pm.
Wrapping up his meeting with Prime Minister Oli and Army Chief Thapa, the Chinese Defence Minister will reach the airport. Defense Minister Fenghe will be leaving for Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Issuing a press release only on Saturday, the MoFA said that Chinese Minister Fenghe is paying a one-day working visit to Nepal on November 29.
Though the release states that Fenghe will pay courtesy calls on the President and the Prime Minister and also meet with Army Chief Thapa, the ministry did not say anything formally about the issues that will be discussed during his meeting with high dignitaries.
However, a MoFA source said that the Chinese Defense Minister will discuss security cooperation along with other bilateral issues during his Nepal visit.
Defense Minister Fenghe, who is also a State Councillor, is the highest serving official in China to visit Nepal after the Chinese President Jinping who came to Nepal for his official visit in October last year. Chinese Defense Minister Fenghe is also considered to be a close confidante of the Chinese President Jinping.
The high-level visit from China comes in the wake of recent string of senior Indian officials arriving in Nepal or planned arrivals.
While Indian Foreign Secretary Shringla returned to New Delhi after wrapping up his two-day official visit to Nepal, Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane had travelled to Nepal on November 4. Prior to that, India had sent its external intelligence agency RAW Chief Samant Goel to Nepal last month to meet Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
Chinese interest in Nepal is also growing in Nepal as India and the US intensify their strategic cooperation in South Asia.
Analysts say that China is bolstering its ties with South Asian countries as the US and India get closer to counter the growing Chinese influence in the region. India is also making efforts to improve its ties with all South Asian neighbors to assert its dominance in the region.