KATHMANDU, JUNE 15
There is no proposed SPP agreement. Any claim to the contrary is false. Nepal applied for SPP in 2015 and again in 2017. The United States accepted Nepal's application in 2019.
The US Embassy in Nepal has said that the document published by some online outlets claiming that there is a military deal between the United States and Nepal is fake.
"State Partnership Programme (SPP) is not, and has never been a security or military alliance. SPP has existed for 25 years worldwide and is recognised as a beneficial bilateral programme," said Charge d'Affaires of US Embassy in Nepal Manual P Micaller, Jr.
"There is no proposed SPP agreement. Any claim to the contrary is false. Nepal applied for SPP in 2015 and again in 2017. The United States accepted Nepal's application in 2019," he added.
According to a source, former chief of the army staff General Rajendra Chhetri had written twice to the US government for Nepal's participation in SPP after taking consent from the head of the government.
The letters were copied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, the source revealed.
In response, the American government sent its letter of endorsement to Nepal in 2019 when CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli was the prime minister.
Micaller said the SPP was an exchange programme between an American state's National Guard and a partner foreign country.
The United States National Guard domestically supports US first responders in dealing with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and wildfires.
In the event of natural and other disasters, ranging from hurricanes to earthquakes, floods, and fires, the United States seeks to share the best practices and capabilities of our National Guards - our first-line responders, Micaller said.
When asked if there was a military component in SPP, Micaller said, "The US National Guard domestically supports US first responders in dealing with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and wildfires. Through SPP, the National Guard has military-to-military cooperation in support of both the countries' security goals. This especially includes a focus on humanitarian and disaster readiness which the National Guard is uniquely trained to address. The ability or inability to respond to disasters is a security issue."
When asked if SPP was a China containment tool, Micaller said, "No. SPP has existed for over 25 years and includes over 80 partnerships with over 90 countries, the majority of which are not in this region.
"A majority of these partnerships began long ago."
When asked if the US was pressuring Nepal for an SPP, he denied that.
In fact, Nepal applied to join SPP in 2015 and 2017 before the US accepted Nepal's request in 2019.
"Through the SPP, the United States works with over 90 other countries to share the best practices and capabilities of US National Guard - our first-line responders. SPP can be an effective means of facilitating this type of cooperation," Charge' d'Affaires Micaller, Jr said When asked if SPP was a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, he said SPP was mentioned in Indo-Pacific Strategy reports, but this post-dates Nepal's two requests to join SPP, which began in 2015.
"It is once again important to remember IPS is not a military alliance. That's disinformation," he added.
When asked why General Flynn visited Nepal now, Micaller said, "During the past two years official visits of all kinds, including diplomatic, political, and military, were significantly curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that travel is normalising around the world, General Flynn visited Nepal to meet senior leadership of the government of Nepal and the Nepali Army to discuss the long US-Nepal partnership on humanitarian assistance and disaster management, and to commend Nepal for its strong support for United Nations Peacekeeping Missions."
He said throughout 'our decades-long bilateral relationship', the US had consistently supported Nepal during times of crisis and strengthened its disaster preparedness capabilities.
He said there was no connection whatsoever between SPP and MCC. Efforts to link the two smack of malice, he added.
When asked who he believed was behind the disinformation campaign against SPP, Micaller said, "We do not know, but it is clearly someone intent on using humanitarian-focused US programmes as a means to an end, whether political or strategic."
Besides SPP, the US maintains a robust and growing relationship with Nepal's security apparatus.
"In December 2019, the State Department delivered the first two C-146J Skytrucks to Nepal, a small, fix-winged cargo aircraft that immediately improved their humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief capacity," a source said.
A version of this article appears in the print on June 16, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.