A delegation led by Deputy Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Guo Yezhou, that also met Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Chair of the Federal Council of Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal Baburam Bhattarai separately yesterday, have claimed they were not in Nepal to discuss Nepal’s domestic affairs as rumoured in the media.

According to a member of the Central Committee of Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal Biswadeep Pandey, the Chinese delegation told Baburam Bhattarai that they had come to Nepal to further strengthen CPC’s relations with political parties of Nepal.

Political analyst Uddhab Pyakurel has criticised China’s move of sending a delegation after widening rift within Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

“No matter what the Chinese side say to justify their visit to Nepal, we all know that they are trying to interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs. For this, NCP leaders and Nepali media, which helped build the narrative that Chinese leaders had played a role in unifying the erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, are responsible,” he said.

He added that Chinese activities would turn Nepal into a strategic playground for three forces — China, India and the western powers, including the USA.

Political scientist Dev Raj Dahal said China was using its soft power to influence Nepal by sending CPC leaders.

He said China was concerned about stability in Nepal also because it was eyeing India’s vast market and doing business with India through Nepal would succeed only if Nepal remained politically stable.

According to Dinesh Bhattarai, who was present in the Chinese delegation’s meeting with Deuba, the Chinese side appreciated the role of the NC in promoting relations between Nepal and China both at party-to-party and country-to-country levels.

The Chinese side also remembered the role of late BP Koirala in the promotion of bilateral ties, saying China and Nepal amicably settled border issues while Koirala was in power in the 1960s.

The Chinese delegation invited Deuba to visit China next year on the occasion of CPC’s centenary celebration.

Since Sunday, Chinese leaders have met President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, co-chairpersons of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, and senior NCP leader Jhalanath Khanal.

The visit of the Chinese delegation comes on the heels of a split in the NCP triggered by Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives.

Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi has also been accompanying the Chinese delegation while she has separately met with top NCP leaders urging party unity.

In recent months, CPC had sent its leaders to Nepal following the deepening of the intra-party feud within the ruling NCP.