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After Dahal stand down in round 1, fight with Oli is now for cabinet berths in Nepal reshuffle ahead

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After a dramatic stand down by Nepalese Communist Party co-chairman P K Dahal during a political duel with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli last week, the stage is now set for a possible cabinet reshuffle in the Himalayan Republic after the party standing committee meets on July 28. It is the allotment of cabinet berths to various factions of NCP which will define the politics ahead.

While it is known that the morning meeting between co-chair Oli, Dahal and Madhav Nepal on July 15 was acrimonious to say the least, it is still not clear who ensured the stand down from Dahal after a lunch with Nepalese PM the same day and at what cost. It is only after this crucial lunch meeting with two associates of the two leaders negotiating on the sidelines that Oli refused to step down either from PM post or the party post and Dahal caved in by saying that he was opposed to the division of the party. Oli got a walkover in the duel last week and Dahal is now looking towards more Cabinet berths to maintain his political clout. The Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yonqi, on her part is preparing for another political battle ahead in an uncertain Nepal. “We do not know whether it was lure of incentives or threat of vulnerabilities that settled the round last week. But what is definitely know is that the Chinese had a major role to play in avoiding the bust-up,” said a western diplomat based in Kathmandu.

Ambassador Hou, the master handler of Kathmandu

Although the politics in Nepal continues to be fluid and uncertain, Hindustan Times explored the background of Ambassador Hou, who is at the centrestage of the political games in the Republic.

Born in Shanxi province in March, 1970, Hou is a master of arts and holds a major in Urdu language from Peking University, and is fluent in Hindustani language. While many assume that she has an PLA Intelligence background as she was Director, Department of External Security Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2012-2013, Hou for the record is a career diplomat with a firm belief that diplomacy is war by other means.

For the past 24 years since 1996, Ambassador Hou has been attached to department of Asian Affairs and rose up to one of the four Deputy Director Generals in that department from 2015-2018 before becoming a master handler of Nepal. Barring a stint as Attache in Pakistan in 1996-2001 and 2007-2009 tenure as Consul at the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, Hou has served only in Asian Affairs department to date.

While Ambassador Hou has been successful in keeping the NCP flock together and orchestrated Oli’s needling of India through cartographic expansion, Beijing has not been so-successful in reading the Nepalese society. Even though China has now offered to revive one of the two hydropower projects in Nepal for free, the hill people of Nepal are still to be enamoured.

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