‘MCC, Indo-Pacific Strategy not linked’

Kathmandu, June 2

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali today said the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact Programme and United States Indo-Pacific Strategy were two different things, and that there was no need to link them together.

Gyawali’s assertion comes less than three weeks after a visiting US State Department official said Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact programme was one of the most important initiatives being implemented in Nepal under the US Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Visiting Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia at the US Department of State David J Ranz had told a group of journalists on May 14 that the MCC Compact would not only provide critically needed infrastructure to boost Nepal’s energy sector, but also boost regional connectivity — a crucial goal of the Indo Pacific Strategy.

US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry had also told a group of journalists on February 25 that the MCC Compact was completely established in the principles that underscored the Indo-Pacific Strategy. He had said that the MCC was an example of how Indo-Pacific Strategy played out in real terms.

However, Gyawali said Nepal interpreted the MCC Compact as a development partnership, and nothing else.

Negotiation process for the MCC Compact partnership had begun in 2014; Nepal formally signed an agreement for $500 million assistance in 2017. US President Donald Trump coined the term Indo-Pacific Strategy later, according to Gyawali.

“It is different if all past assistances come under the Indo-Pacific Strategy. But I think there’s no need to link these two different things,” said Gyawali at a media briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today. “How the US interprets this is a different thing.”

Moreover, Indo-Pacific Strategy Report published yesterday by the United States Department of Defence has stated that the US seeks to expand its defence relationship with Nepal, focused on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, peacekeeping operations, defence professionalisation, ground force capacity and counter-terrorism.

“Our growing defence partnership can be seen in the establishment of the US Army Pacific-led Land Forces Talks in June 2018, our senior-most military dialogue with Nepal. This year has already seen several senior-level visits to Nepal by US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) commander and deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia to further advance our defence relationship,” read the report.

According to the report, the US is working to operationalise its major defence partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal.

The report states that the Indo-Pacific region contributes more than one-third of all UN peacekeeping personnel, with Nepal being one of the major contributors. It states that USINDOPACOM will maintain strong regional partnerships through Global Peace Operations Initiative, whose 12 Indo-Pacific partners include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga and Vietnam.

In this context, Gyawali reiterated that Nepal would never be a part of any military alliance. “This is our principled and consistent policy,” he said. “We’ll maintain friendship with all. We’ll not allow creation of a situation in which our friends develop any kind of scepticism.”

Stating that Nepal accorded highest importance to its relations with the US as a major development partner, Gyawali said there were already some military cooperation initiatives in place in areas of disaster management, skills development and training of peacekeeping personnel.

“We believe in further strengthening these existing relations,” he said. “We’ll not be a part of any strategic alliance.”