Recently, an infrastructure pact (MCC)dominated by the US is stirring up Nepalese Society.
The MCC pact was signed by the Nepal government and US foreign assistance agency in 2017. The US plans to provide $500 million to promote Nepal’s infrastructure projects construction and road maintenance. Although this pact may seem a nice one,yet it aroused heated controversies in Nepal.
It is considered that this pact aims to buy Nepal’s sovereignty with cash-“Nepal’s sovereignty only worth $500 million.
Some scholars claimed that MCC is a part of US-dominated Indo-Pacific Strategy, which will be a tool to contain China’s BRI.
MCC has been suspended several times, and it is yet to be approved by Nepal’s Parliament.
Now, the US cannot wait any more.
In order to promote MCC, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and US deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs Kelly Kidderling both arrived in Nepal on during Nov 17 and 18.
On Nov 19, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu made some clarifications about MCC before ending the visit.
He denied that the US is forcing Nepal to ratify MCC, arguing that “we have not set any deadline”, while threatening that “if Nepal rejects this assistance, we will grant it to other countries”.
He claimed that the US hopes to maintain sound relations with Nepal and its neighboring countries including China. He also sent invitation to prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to attend The Summit for Democracy. In the press release of MOFA, Nepal announced that Prime Minister Deuba confirmed to attend this summit due to be convened in December this year.
As one of the poorest countries in Asia, Nepal’s economic development is haunted by high cost of transportation and power shortage. So it is natural to imagine how attracting the $500 million for infrastructure are for Nepal.
Millennium Challenge Corporation(MCC), founded in 2004 with the back of US Congress, is responsible for this pact. According to its website, MCC is an innovative and independent foreign assistance agency, aiming at investing in infrastructure projects in developing countries so as to help them shake off poverty. This pact seemingly fits Nepal’s needs. It supports Nepal to construct a 400 KV electricity transmission line (300km long )and the upgrade of around 100 kilometers of roads along the East-West Highway. Nepal signed the agreement on the Compact in September 2017. Considering frequent political turmoil in Nepal, the US demanded Nepal’s Parliament to ratify the pact before its implementation to ensure that it won’t be disrupted by changing ruling parties.
And then, the pact was stuck in Nepal’s Parliament for 4 years.
Now, the US is obviously anxious.
In order to push Nepal’s Parliament to ratify the pact as soon as possible, the US sent MCC Vice-President Fatima Sumar to pay a four-day visit to Nepal ( Sep 9-Sep 12), pressuring top leaders to facilitate the pact.
Fatima Sumar stated that “Nepal has to make a choice, either passing this pact in no time, or giving up $500 million. The US cannot wait endlessly”.
She described the pact as the gift delivered by US people to Nepal’s counterparts.
To her disappointment, Nepal’s Parliament adjourned on Oct 29,deciding to postpone the ratification of the pact.
US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and US deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs Kelly Kidderling arrived in Nepal in Nov. Donald Lu held talks with Nepal’s top leaders including Prime Minister Deuba and foreign minister Narayan Khadka. While Kelly Kidderling held talks with civil society leaders to eliminate misgivings of the Nepalese society.
In the press release of MOFA, Prime Minister Deuba discussed about many areas of key development programs including MCC. The Kathmandu Post reported, it is cited by person with source that Donald Lu urged Prime Minister Deuba to ratify the pact as soon as posble during their meting, saying that ratification will make Nepal benefit from the pact to the utmost.
On Nov 19, before the ending of his visit, Donald Lu announced that the US is not forcing Nepal to ratify MCC, arguing that”we have not set any deadline”,while saying that “if Nepal rejects this assistance, we will grant it to other countries.
This is threatening!
Some Nepal English medias echo US officials’ pressuring and promoting for MCC pact.
These medias published articles supporting MCC, claiming that it is in the interests of more than 20 million Nepalese. Non-ratification of the pact will severely dent Nepal’s credibility, harm its relations with the US, and hamper aid and investment in Nepal.
Some media even made a plot theory by claiming that anti-MCC activists are backed by Chinese, arguing that if Nepal doesn’t approve the pact, then Nepal will be the puppet of China.
One English media called Khabarhub in Nepal published an exclusive report,saying that a confidential file blaming a Chinese intelligence officer(the surname is Lin) participated in anti-MCC publicity activities, which played a role in worsening the relations between Nepal and other countries particularly the US. This report cited a political analyst named Ganesh Mandal, claiming that if Nepalese government doesn’t accept MCC, then it should quit BRI.
The purpose of these medias is clear to see.
To the contrast of sweeping anti-MCC voices and opinions,
there are few criticism in Nepalese mainstream English medias.
It is hard to doubt the shadow of US behind these medias.
Actually, anti-MCC activities in Nepal do occur now and then. For instance, there are Nepalese carrying a coffin with “MCC”printed on it, determining to bury it.
Some one threatened AP1,”if AP1 doesn’t stop the advertisements of MCC, we will burn your TV station into ashes”.Finally,AP1 has to stop advertisements of MCC.
On Sep 3, ten Nepalese protesting in front of US embassy in Kathmandu were arrested by the police.
Just as a Nepalese scholar said, “Its Nepalese who are battling, not China at all”.
Why Nepalese react like this facing a gift of $500 million?And why Nepal’s Parliament postpones this pact for several times?
The reason lies in the inequality to Nepal by the affiliated political conditions of the pact regardless of US so called clarifications and denials.
First, The section 7.1 of the agreement reads that “the parties understand that this compact, upon entry into force, will prevail over the domestic laws of Nepal”. Well, this is extraterritoriality, a product of imperial colonial era, which means that MCC agreement is above Nepal’s domestic law, and, that seriously infringes upon the land-locked country’s sovereignty.
Second, the MCC pact stipulated that it must be consented by India before its implementation, which is an insult to a sovereign country.
Third, the audit of MCC program is at the hand of US. Nepalese government has no right to audit.
Nepalese government also promised to invest $130 million for MCC program besides $500 million the pact provides. However, even Nepalese government cannot audit $130 million!
There is no doubt that some scholars sighed, MCC pact is the answer of a stupid and provoking question: what’s the price of Nepal’s sovereignty? The answer is, $500 million.
Besides, Nepal will be adopted into Indo-Pacific Strategy upon the ratification of MCC. And this pact will be a tool to contain China’s BRI. That’s the very reason for US to promote it with such zeal and anxiety.
In December 2018,during the then Nepalese foreign minister Gyawali’s visit to US, Pompeo announced that Nepal was the partner of Indo-Pacific Strategy. Gyawali denied this term by saying that the meaning of US was that Nepal could play a key role in Indo-Pacific region. There was a difference between “region”and “Strategy”
However, in May 2019, during the then assistant secretary of state Lanz’s visit to Nepal,he clarified that MCC was a part of Indo-Pacific Strategy, which aroused public outcry in Nepal.
In June 2019, the Indo-Pacifi Strategy Report wrote that Nepal was one of the partners, and US seeked to deepen defense relations with Nepal. Nepalese worry that whether MCC will be used for military purpose? Will it drive Nepal into military alliance with US?
It is noticeable that the tweet account of US embassy in Nepal published photos showing that US and Nepalese soldiers are conducting joint drill in Mustang, a northern county in Nepal. It is a sensitive move considering that Mustang is near to Tibet.
No matter what the outcome is, Nepal is witnessing delicate and intricate changes. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, US troops wandered around in Nepal in the name of handing out oxygen bottles and help Nepal build oxygen factories. On 16 July this year, some US servicemen even attended handover ceremony of a blood bank in Tengri, the far western region of Nepal. According to international routine practice, foreign servicemen can wear uniforms only at the time of joint dill o training.
A military expert named Deepak Bhatt suspects that US is trying to send some message to the outside, otherwise it is not necessary at all for US servicemen to wear uniforms.
This is really an alarming signal! If MCC was approved by the Parliament, the sovereignty of Nepal is at risk! And US military presence is bound to expand further with the implementation of MCC programs. Is Nepal getting prepared for the grip of US?