Kathmandu, February 12
The Nepal Communist Party (NCP) taskforce formed to study the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact agreement has sought extension of the deadline for submitting its report.
The taskforce was mandated to submit its report today, but its coordinator Jhalanath Khanal said the taskforce had applied for deadline extension as they had yet to complete the study. “Hopefully a decision from the party will come by this evening,” Khanal told THT.
Other members of the three-member taskforce are Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and NCP Standing Committee member Bhim Rawal.
Gyawali also said since they had many documents to study, they needed a few more days to submit the report. “It is just that the study is taking time and nothing else,”
Gyawali told THT. “We are on schedule as far as the MCC’s parliamentary endorsement is concerned, so if the taskforce takes some more time, it will not make much of a difference.”
NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, acknowledging the receipt of deadline extension request from the taskforce, said NCP chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal would take a decision on the matter soon.
The recently-concluded central committee meeting of the ruling NCP had formed the taskforce on February 2 after a number of NCP central committee members raised questions about the MCC Compact.
There’s sharp division within the ruling party over some of the ‘contentious’ clauses in the pact. The leaders are of the view that the USbacked grant scheme could be implemented after an amendment.
However, the US side has clearly stated that since the agreement was signed in September 2017 after two years of negotiations, amendment was not possible at this point of time.
MCC Vice-precedent Jonathan Brooks, who wrapped up his fourday Nepal visit on Monday, also communicated the same message during his high-level meetings.
During his Nepal stay, Brooks met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Foreign Minister Gyawali, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basanta Kumar Nembang, Khanal and Rawal.
Moreover, the NCP leaders have also raised questions about the MCC’s link with the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy, which they say is a military alliance aimed at containing China.
US officials have said the MCC is part of the economic pillar of the IPS, with the other two pillars being governance and military. However, they have also said the IPS is a new name given to the existing US policy that encompasses every US engagement in the region.
The US side has also made it clear that the MCC itself did not have any military component to it as US law prohibited it.
The government too has made it clear that the MCC agreement does not mention any military component. Since the agreement was signed before inception of the IPS, the government sees it as nothing more than development assistance.
PM Oli and Foreign Minister Gyawali have expressed commitment to get the MCC agreement endorsed by the House in the ongoing Bills Session. The main opposition Nepali congress is also in favour of the pact’s endorsement.
A version of this article appears in print on February 13, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.