Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Nepal
KATHMANDU — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday for talks marking the first visit to Nepal in a decade by a leader of the world's second-largest economy.
The agenda for the visit has not been disclosed but analysts expect Wen and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to discuss investment from Beijing worth billions of dollars for wide-ranging infrastructure projects.
"Baburam Bhattarai himself welcomed his Chinese counterpart at the international airport in Kathmandu. The visiting prime minister will be escorted to the premier's office, where the two will hold talks on bilateral political and economic issues," said Bishwadeep Pandey, Bhattarai's personal secretary.
Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun said the leaders would sign agreements "on increasing Chinese assistance to Nepal" and discuss the impoverished Himalayan nation's fractious peace process.
Wen is also expected to seek support for Beijing's policies in the restive region of Tibet, which has seen a wave of self-immolations over the past year in protest at Chinese rule.
Nepal, home to 20,000 Tibetan exiles, is under pressure to stem the flow of Tibetans fleeing their homeland.
Hundreds make the difficult and dangerous journey to neighbouring Nepal every year, fleeing what they say is political and religious repression in China, though their numbers have fallen sharply in the past few years.
More than 200 Tibetan exiles have been arrested in the past few days for illegally entering the Himalayan republic, Nepali police said, as part of a security crackdown in the capital.
Sudhir Shahi, a police inspector at Thankot checkpoint, the main entrance to Kathmandu by road, said the detainees were held on Thursday and Friday.
Premier Zhu Rongji was the last Chinese leader to visit Nepal, in 2001, although recent years have seen a flurry of visits by Chinese delegations.
"This is the highest-level visit from China to Nepal in more than 10 years. It will be an important platform to strengthen the relationship between the two countries," said Tanka Karki, a former Nepali ambassador to Beijing.
"We can expect Chinese support in infrastructure development. China's support for peace and constitution-making is also important."
Wen is expected to hold talks at a lunch meeting with the leaders of Nepal's major political parties and pay a courtesy call to President Ram Baran Yadav.
The Chinese leader had been due to visit in December but the trip was cancelled amid speculation over security concerns.
He is due to depart for the Middle East later Saturday on a trip to key oil-producing nations.
Analysts say that while India has traditionally been the influential player in Nepal, China is making huge inroads in a country which is recovering after the end in 2006 of a decade-long civil war which killed 16,000 people.
Since the end of the conflict, political infighting has paralysed the country but recent progress has been made in key areas of the peace process, including an agreement on the integration of 6,500 former Maoist fighters into the army.