A wary China is rushing a high-level delegation led by a vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party to Kathmandu to assess the ground situation and avert a vertical split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), according to media reports on Saturday, nearly a week after embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli got the House of Representatives dissolved.
Nepal plunged into a political crisis last Sunday after Oli, known for his pro-Beijing leanings, in a surprise move, recommended dissolving the 275-member House, amidst a tussle for power with former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'.
Acting on Prime Minister Oli's recommendation, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House the same day and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10, sparking protests from a large section of the NCP led by Prachanda, also a co-chair of the ruling party.
China is sending a high-level delegation led by Vice Minister of the International Department of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) Guo Yezhou to Kathmandu, The Kathmandu Post reported.
'Leading a four-member team, Guo is scheduled to land in Kathmandu on Sunday morning on a regular China Southern Airlines flight,' the paper reported, citing sources in both factions of the NCP.
Bishnu Rijal, Deputy Head of Department of Foreign Affairs of the NCP's Prachanda-led faction, said that the Chinese side has communicated about Gou's visit to Kathmandu.
'I don't have much detail to share with you at this point of time,' Rijal was quoted as saying by the paper.
The Chinese embassy here did not respond to its multiple calls and messages, the paper said.
Although no specific details about the agenda of the visit are available, senior NCP leaders confirmed that Guo is scheduled to land in Kathmandu on Sunday morning, leading a four-member delegation, My Republica newspaper reported.
Observers here believe that the visit could be to assess the ground situation in Nepal following the decision of Oli to dissolve the House of Representatives and the rival faction within the NCP taking to the streets, it said.
Citing sources in the ruling party, the paper said during his four-day stay in Kathmandu, the Chinese vice minister is scheduled to meet top leaders of both factions of the party.
The development comes after Chinese ambassador in Nepal Hou Yanqi held a series of meetings with the president and top leaders of the NCP, including Prachanda and Madhav Nepal, who has replaced Oli as chairman of the Prachanda-led faction.
During her meeting with Madhav Nepal on Friday, Ambassador Hou, who was concerned about the split in the NCP, inquired about the future political course of the ruling party among other things, the paper quoted Rijal as saying.
Hou on Thursday met Prachanda, who claims control over the ruling party after removing Prime Minister Oli from the posts of the party's parliamentary leader and chair.
She had also met the Standing Committee member and former energy minister Barsha Man Pun on Thursday, the paper said.
Hou's meeting with Prachanda came two days after she called on President Bhandari at the latter's office in Sheetal Niwas on Tuesday.
The envoy was said to have discussed the latest political development following the president's move to dissolve the House of
Representatives and announce mid-term elections.
This is not the first time that China has intervened in Nepal's internal affairs at a time of crisis.
In May, Hou held separate meetings with President Bhandari, the prime minister and other senior NCP leaders, including Prachanda, when Oli was facing mounting pressure to step down.
In July, she again met a number of top leaders, including the president, prime minister, Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam to save Oli.
A number of political party leaders had termed the Chinese envoy's series of meetings with the ruling party leaders as interference in Nepal's internal political affairs.
Dozens of student activists carrying placards with anti-China slogans had staged a demonstration in front of the Chinese Embassy here to protest against Hou's interference in Nepal's internal affairs.
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 has made open efforts to garner support for Oli.
The Chinese Communist Party and Nepal Communist Party were regularly engaged in training programmes.
In September last year, the NCP had even organised a symposium, inviting some leaders from the Chinese Communist Party to Kathmandu to impart training to Nepali leaders on the Xi Jinping Thought ahead of the visit of the Chinese president, his first to Nepal, the Post reported.
In a guarded reaction to the fast-paced political developments in Nepal, India on Thursday said it was an 'internal matter' of the neighbouring nation and it was for the country to decide as per its democratic processes.
"We have noted the recent political developments in Nepal. These are internal matters for Nepal to decide as per its democratic processes," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi.
"As a neighbour and well-wisher, India will continue to support Nepal and its people in moving forward on the path of peace, prosperity and development," he said.