Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with his Nepalese counterpart Bidya Devi Bhandari on Saturday as he began his two-day state visit, becoming the first head of the Communist nation to visit Nepal in 23 years during which the two countries are expected to sign a number of agreements, including an extradition treaty.
Xi, who arrived in Kathmandu after a two day informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was received by President Bhandari and Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli at the Kathmandu International Airport and was offered a ceremonial guard of honour by the Nepal Army.
Later, Xi held talks with Bhandari at her official residence Shital Niwas.
He is also scheduled to meet the main Opposition Nepali Congress leader, Sher Bahadur Deuba before joining the banquet being hosted by the Nepal President at Hotel Soaltee, where Xi is staying.
President Xi will meet Prime Minister Oli and co-chairman of ruling Nepal Communist Party Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" on Sunday. There will be formal dialogue between the Nepalese delegation led by Prime Minister Oli and Chinese delegation led by president Xi at Singhdurbar secretariat," the official said.
During the meeting the two sides are expected to ink a number of agreements and MoUs, including an extradition treaty, official sources said, amid concerns that Beijing can use it against Tibetan supporters of the Dalai Lama living in the country.
The draft of the treaty, finalised by officials from Nepal and China, will be discussed as per the spirit of the statement issued jointly by the two countries during Prime Minister Oli's China visit in June last year, officials said on Friday.
Officials familiar with the matter said that the Nepali side had held several rounds of negotiations with a Chinese team that had come to Nepal for the purpose, the paper reported.
"The treaty is a priority for both the Nepali and Chinese sides,? said an official at the Law Ministry on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak on the matter.
Expert worry that Beijing is pressing to sign the treaty mainly to extradite Tibetans involved in "anti-China" activities in Nepal.
China accuses the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" working for Tibetan independence.
Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since. The Dalai Lama fled to India in early 1959 after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule.
Nepal shares a long border with Tibet and is home to around 20,000 Tibetan exiles. Every year some 2,500 Tibetans illegally enter Nepal crossing Tibetan border on their way to Dharamshala to meet the 84-year-old Dalai Lama.
A leader from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) confirmed that discussions on the treaty are on Xi's visit agenda.
"There will indeed be a discussion on the matter, but the rumours about an agreement are baseless. Nepal is discussing a similar treaty with India, so discussions will be held with China as well," Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the ruling party spokesperson, told the Kathmandu Post on Friday.
However, during an all-party meeting called by the government on Thursday to discuss Xi's visit, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali said there were no preparations to sign an extradition treaty with China.
Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai had urged the government not to sign the treaty for now as discussions for a similar agreement with India were ongoing.
Nepal signed an extradition treaty with India on October 2, 1953, when Matrika Prasad Koirala was the prime minister. The Indian side, however, has been demanding a revision to the treaty.
In 2006, Nepal and India were close to signing an Extradition Treaty and the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance. Negotiations however failed due to disagreements among the parties in Nepal. Similar attempts collapsed in 2008 and 2010.
The treaty would allow the two countries to hand over criminals from third countries to each other.
Even in the lack of an agreement, police forces from both Nepal and India have been handing over criminals on an informal basis to each other.