In a reactive move, the government on Monday decided not to go ahead with the US government’s state partnership program, following pressure from various quarters.
It is however in a patch. How to do that?
The Foreign Office said it received the Cabinet decision on Thursday, but has not yet decided on its action.
“We have received a communication from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Council of Ministers regarding the decision on the PPS taken by the Cabinet just today [Thursday]said a Foreign Ministry official. “We are coordinating with political leaders and discussing the decision because it categorically says nothing.”
The official said the ministry understands the seriousness of the matter and will act as instructed by political leaders.
While deciding not to go ahead with the PSP, the Cabinet also decided on Monday that all communications with foreign governments should go through the Foreign Office.
It is now up to the department to communicate to the US government in accordance with the Cabinet decision, which officials find vague.
The delay in writing to the United States despite the Cabinet’s decision has given rise to speculation whether the Americans in Kathmandu have conveyed, through unofficial channels, their dissatisfaction to the most senior leaders.
The SPP has become a hot potato in Nepal with almost all political parties arguing against Nepal’s participation in it.
A debate over the SPP took center stage after some sections of the media circulated a document that was dubbed a draft agreement between the Nepal Army and the US Utah National Guard.
The American embassy was quick to react, calling the document “false”. He however said that the United States had accepted Nepal into the SPP in 2019 after his two requests in 2015 and 21017. But the Nepalese army issued a statement on June 15, stating that it did not participate and will not participate in the SPP.
A day later, the army had to scramble for a vindication, as a letter dated October 27, 2015, signed by then army chief Rajendra Chhetri fell into the public domain. In the letter written to the then US Ambassador, Alaina B Teplitz, the Nepal Army requested its association with the SPP. The military confirmed the authenticity of the letter but said it was to seek support for earthquake relief and rescue efforts.
At a House committee meeting last week, Foreign Minister Narian Khadka and army chief Prabhu Ram Sharma said Nepal was not part of the SPP and did not have one. not the intention. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was summoned on Sunday, skipped the House committee meeting, citing his busy schedule.
As the main opposition CPN-UML attacked the Deuba government over the SPP, Congress Secretaries General Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma also urged the Prime Minister not to join the partnership as this could have security and military consequences.
Amid the confusion over whether Nepal is indeed part of the SPP or not, it was the US Embassy in Kathmandu that issued a statement in which it said a country can end its association with the SPP by writing a letter.
The government then said that Nepal would not move forward on the SPP, but refrained from explicitly saying how to end its association, if at all.
Foreign Ministry officials said they would act on the decision only after further consultations with government and political leaders.
On Tuesday, a day after the Cabinet decision on the SPP, Anna Richey-Allen, spokesperson for the US Embassy in Kathmandu, told the Post that whether or not to participate in the State Partnership Program was the decision. from Nepal.
“Around the world, the State Partnership Program brings together U.S. National Guard and military/civilian personnel for a variety of training and education in the United States and in the partner nation,” she said. . “Of the nearly 90 countries with the state partnership program, only Belarus has ended its participation.”
Over the past 75 years of bilateral relations, the United States has provided several types of assistance to Nepal, including military assistance.
The SPP, however, stoked concerns as the issue emerged in the wake of Nepal’s ratification of the Millennium Challenge Corporation pact amid opposition from some quarters who branded it part of the strategy. Indo-Pacific led by Washington. The United States also placed the SPP under the IPS.
Critics of the MCC pact said its ratification would pave the way for Americans to have boots on the ground in Nepal. Since the SPP is also about military-to-military exchanges, political and intellectual circles have expressed concern if US military personnel set up barracks in Nepal.
The US embassy, however, has ruled out such initiatives.
“Apart from the PSP, the U.S. bilateral relationship that has focused on people-to-people relationships, including student and professional exchanges, diplomatic engagement, military partnership, commerce, and shared values, remains strong,” he said. said the US spokesman.
There are also fears that the dispute over the SPP could affect Deuba’s planned visit to the United States. Deuba is due to travel to the United States in mid-July, but no official announcement has been made yet. The army chief of staff, general Prabhu Ram Sharma, who has already embarked on a trip abroad, will join Washington on June 27.
The embassy said Nepal’s decision [on the SPP] will not affect any bilateral trade.
“Visits by Nepali officials to the United States and vice versa will continue to be an important part of our relationship,” she said.
Meanwhile, Beijing said it welcomed the Nepalese government’s decision not to go ahead with the SPP.
Speaking at a regular press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that as a friendly and close neighbor and strategic cooperation partner, China welcomes the government’s decision. Nepalese. [not to move ahead on the SPP.]
“Various political parties and factions, the government, the military and the people of Nepal regard the PSP as a military and security initiative closely linked to the Indo-Pacific strategy,” Wang said, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. , “and they consider it contrary to Nepal’s national interests and its longstanding balanced and non-aligned foreign policy to be part of the SPP.
Earlier in February, Beijing spoke of Washington’s “coercive diplomacy” as a debate raged over whether to ratify the Millennium Challenge Corporation pact. The Chinese see both the MCC and the SPP as a US strategy to expand Washington’s influence and counter China.
Despite China’s concerns, however, the Nepalese parliament ratified the MCC on February 27.
Thursday, saying China will continue to support Nepal in maintaining its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and support Nepal’s commitment to its independent and non-aligned foreign policy.
“China stands ready to work with Nepal to jointly safeguard the region’s security, stability and shared prosperity,” he said.