China's Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan will this week visit Nepal, where he will discuss bilateral military cooperation and the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative, an ambitious project viewed with suspicion by India. Gen Chang, who leads the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army (PLA), the world's largest, will reach Kathmandu on March 23 from Sri Lanka, leading a 19-member delegation. He will discuss the OBOR initiative, the Maritime Silk Road, and military cooperation with Nepal, sources at the Defence Ministry here said. The visit comes ahead of the Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat's four-day official visit to Nepal from March 28. Gen Rawat's proposed trip has been described as a "regular visit" by the Nepal Army spokesperson and the army chiefs of India and Nepal exchange their honorary titles to mark the special ties. Gen Rawat will meet President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Prachanda, Defence Minister Bal Krishna Khand and his Nepali counterpart Gen Rajendra Chhetri during his stay in the landlocked country, where India and China vie for influence. India has some concerns over the OBOR, which includes a maze of projects connecting China with Euro-Asia and is floated by Beijing as a connectivity and economic project. The Chinese defence minister's three-day visit to Nepal coincides with the first joint military exercise between the Nepal Army and the PLA scheduled later this year.
Gen Chang will receive a briefing on the joint exercise and also visit Nepal Army's Kathmandu Valley unit. The delegation accompanying him will discuss the ideas floated last year by then Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during his visit to China. A possible support to Nepal Army from China is also on the cards for discussion. Gen Chang is visiting Nepal at the invitation of Defence Minister Bal Krishna Khand extended during his trip to China in October, Defence Secretary Shreedhar Sapkota said. The Chinese delegation will also meet the Nepalese president, the prime minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi.
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