In what looks like growing interests in Nepal, two major powers – both with whom Kathmandu shares long-standing relations – have intensified their engagement.
The United States is set to send a two-part congressional delegation, probably in the second week of April, days after the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is also Minister of State, on 26-27. March.
Nepalese officials confirmed that the delegation, probably the largest from Washington, consisting of 25 members, is visiting Kathmandu.
Because of background of the passage of Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact After years of controversy, Beijing’s growing concerns about the US subsidy and Wang’s planned visit to Kathmandu, it is clear that powerful countries have renewed their interest in Nepal, according to officials and experts.
In the run-up to the ratification of the MCC Nepal Compact, a $ 500 million grant from the United States to improve electricity supply and roads, Washington’s pressure on the Nepalese leadership had become apparent, while Beijing warned against “coercion diplomacy ”.
Following the ratification of the MCC contract on 27 February, China said so had noted the eventbut at least two Chinese governments nozzles produced strongly formulated leaders who said the US subsidy undermines Nepal’s sovereignty.
Washington’s plan to send the 25 members of the delegation on its heels on a high-profile visit from Beijing, many say, comes as an indication that the United States wants to mediate insurance to Nepal.
At least two officials familiar with the planned visit from the United States said Washington would like to thank Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Nepalese leadership for ratifying the agreement. According to them, the visit itself is also a message to Beijing.
The visit of the US congressional delegation is also expected to lay the groundwork for more high-level exchanges later this year from both sides to mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Nepal and the United States, well-known sources said.
Political divisions and controversies in Nepal over the MCC agreement, signed in September 2017, had clearly left Washington frustrated as the rejection of the U.S. grant could have come as an insult to Washington. Continued delays in ratification had prompted Beijing, which had not previously explicitly objected to the grant, to take part in the struggle.
One of the officials said the visit of the two-part congressional delegation should be seen in context.
“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Nepal and the United States, and a lot of political and social engagements are taking place between the two counties,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Post. “The United States has also sent an invitation to Prime Minister Deuba to visit Washington. There is also talk of inviting US Vice President Kamala Devi Harris or US Secretary of State Antony John Blinken to Kathmandu within this year as part of the celebration of the 75 years for the establishment of ties between Nepal and the United States. “
The US Embassy in Kathmandu refused to confirm any visit, but did not rule it out.
“Although we do not have any confirmed visits to announce at this time, the US Embassy in Nepal expects to host US officials during the year – especially as part of the 75th anniversary of the US-Nepal Diplomatic Partnership – to explore the country’s culture, strengthen ties between people and discuss common values such as our commitments to human rights, a free economy and democracy, ”said Anna Richey-Allen, spokeswoman for the embassy, in a short email response to Posten.
A source familiar with the development said the 25-man U.S. bipartisan delegation will have members of U.S. congressional committees – including foreign affairs and justice, energy and trade, human rights and finance – as well as a senior State Department official.
The last time a large team from the United States had arrived in Nepal was in 2017, when the Democratic leader of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, led an eight-man two-part congressional delegation to Kathmandu. Later in February 2020, Representative Ami Bera, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Subcommittee on Asia-Pacific and Non-Proliferation, led a fireman bipartisan congressional delegation to Kathmandu.
Following the passage of the MCC compact, Beijing appears to be pushing for some projects under the Belt and Road initiative, such as Nepal signed in May 2017, months before the signing of the MCC Nepal Compact. But in the last five years, not a single project under BRI has gained momentum in Nepal.
However, US officials have previously made their reservations to BRI in Nepal.
In February 2019, during his visit to Nepal, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, Joe Felter, said that some activities China has become engaged in the past across the region – in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Malaysia – is a cause for concern.
“We welcome a constructive relationship with China, we welcome China’s investment, but as long as the investment is designed to serve Nepal’s interests and not just China,” he said.
Experts say rivalry between the United States and China on the world stage is known by all, but as far as Nepal is concerned, it must tread carefully to avoid getting caught up in geopolitical games. Kathmandu should navigate through to take advantage of all friendly nations, including the United States and China.
“Great powers and big neighbors are now looking at us, but that does not mean that they are exercising their influence in Nepal or that they are intensifying their rivalry and competition,” said former Foreign Minister and Ambassador Madhu Raman Acharya. “If healthy competition is there and we can use the lever in our interest, it’s good for the country.”
According to Acharya, it is crucial how Nepalese leadership manages to handle major powers in the country’s greater interest.
“Recently, we have ratified the MCC. It will do good for the country. Now comes the Chinese Foreign Minister. But I do not know how much preparation we have done to benefit from BRI,” said Acharya. “If great powers and neighbors are pay attention to us, it’s good for us and we should try to give them equal terms. “
Nepalese politicians have long failed to build and pursue a robust foreign policy, thereby exposing it to the dangers of the geopolitical game of powerful countries. Kathmandu has more often than not shown a tendency to tilt towards one or the other country depending on which party has the power.
“The more commitments from major countries, the better for Nepal. We should focus on economic development and cooperation,” Acharya said. “Commitments are not always linked to security or strategic or military interests.”
Foreign Ministry officials said that as the Covid-19 pandemic situation is easing, they expect some high-level visits from different countries.
“We look forward to some high-level visits and exchanges from different countries in the near future,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sewa Lamsal. “It is too early for us to publish at this time.”