Nepal as a battleground in the era of ‘Great Power Competition’ – Telegraph Nepal

Rajan Karki

Nepal-USA relation was founded in 1947 which later developed into the establishment of embassy of USA in 1959.

Since then, the volume of US assistance to Nepal has reached more than 8 hundred billion US dollars. Over the last couple of years, the US Aid has dispensed 40 million dollars assistance or even more.
On the other hand, diplomatic ties between Nepal and India were established on 17 June 1947.

The 1880 Kms. border area between Nepal and India is open with no effective regulatory measures to check cross-border movements.

Nepal, which has a budget of Rs.1647 billion a year has been bearing Rs. 16 billion trade deficit due to its inability to promote export trade.

Debt burden per head has crossed 52 thousand rupees. Owing to the reasons such as political anarchy, bad governance and the remittance-oriented economy, Nepal is likely to become a failed state soon.

Nepal has no alternative measures for development and prosperity. Earlier, the green forest was taken as a boon which doesn’t exist now.

Yet for now, there is some water and natural resources. In order to harness such resources, there needs a healthy relation, better communication link and tremendous efforts.

Nepal-China relation is a historical one.

The relation is so ancient that it stems up from Buddhabhadra in 5th century, princess Bhrikuti and Arniko in 7th century, Chinese traveler, Fa shian, Suan Jiyang of Tang dynasty to the present day friendly ties which had culminated in establishment of the diplomatic ties in the year 1955.

Economic assistance from China began from 1956.

As of now, China is the greatest investor in the present day Nepal.

Nepal-Britain relations witnesses a long and outstanding history and Britain is respected as a big and generous donor-country. Besides this, the World Bank, ADB, Japan, Germany, South Korea, European Union, Australia including Covid-Fund and many INGOs are serving in Nepal economically.

Nepal is a country which runs its administration through the collection of revenue and develop country with the help of foreign aid.

China has forwarded the Belt and Road Initiative- BRI- with the objective of establishing Trans-Himalayan connectivity for the control of world economy and thereby become a world power from military and economic point of view.

The BRI is comprised of 34 countries from Europe and Central Asia, 6 from South East Asia, 25 from East Asia and pacific region, 38 from sub-Saharan Africa, 17 from Middle East and the North Africa and the 18 countries from Latin America and Caribbean.

America, by enacting a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) law in 2003 have been advancing it implementation stage declaring the countries like Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Ghana, Hondurus, Georjia, Lasotho, Madagaskar, Mali, Mangolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nikaragua, Senegal etc qualified.

America is the world power and is in the campaign of forever becoming a world power. Trade and business competition between America and China has been tightening day by day.

India, contending to America, wants to galvanize the earlier affinity with Russia and move ahead. In totality, the power tussle in the world scale is escalating.

To recall, in the year 2011, Barshaman Pun, a Maoist leader, was the finance minister.

It is said that, he had requested America through repeated correspondences to release MCC project for Nepal.

On 12th September 2017 the then finance minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki had signed in the MCC compact- while visiting America.

So far, Nepal is the 46th country to sign in such an agreement. After the ratification of the agreement, Nepal will get 50 million dollars which will be spent, it is believed, in infrastructure development like construction of Lapsephedi-Galchhi-Damuli-Sunaul transmission line and the roads.

But the condition was this that the agreement is necessary to be approved/ratified from the parliament.

Nepal has been accepting development aid from the United States, China and many other countries for years.

There was no wrangling in that relation and always were made in Nepal’s interest.

Donor countries have its special interests behind any assistance being made available. Nothing comes for free.

Each and every friend of Nepal are the development partners. Therefore, Nepal needs not to become a ‘pro or an anti’ towards any country.

The main question is of management. Do we have the capacity to manage well the offer? If the leaders of Nepal are occupied by a mentality that when it is to beat India, bend towards China and vice-versa and, to call America if needed to chase away China.

This is to become a flirt, a shameless guy and is suicidal to oneself.

MCC is in dilemma now in Nepal. From the part of Nepali Congress, there is no objection in approving it.

It says, MCC is our need, we are to approve the US MCC project but Prachanda, leader of Maoist Center is apparently confused.

He sees problems in MCC and says they are subject to correction or say necessary amendments.

Earlier, when Krishna Bahadur Mahara was the Maoist Speaker, he denied to get MCC enter into Parliament.

The reason thereof is still mysterious. In those days, Maoists were dubbed pro-Chinese.
Now the Maoist spoke person Dev Gurung and Lilamani Pokherel are the strong opponents of MCC.

Chairman Prachanda did not like to give straight forward answer about this. Lilamani’s wife is one of the ministers in the government.

She too appears non-resonant.

Erstwhile UML government, now in opposition, was in a hurried mood to get the MCC passed at all cost, when it was in office.

Even today, it wants to get the deal approved by the government. The force which, when in government had championed the slogan of development and prosperity now appears reluctant.

This is the government formed on the agreement of five parties, Today there lacks unanimity among these parties. The dispute about whether or not to accept MCC grant has become a bone of contention within each parties.

The same debate is trickled to the people’s level. The voices of extremists have begun resounding from the street that the hands of those who will put signature on MCC compact will be chopped off. The US Assistant minister Lu, during his Nepal visit has given a dead line of 15 Dec. to take decision on MCC by Nepal.

The Nepali parliament has resumed as per routine however, the MCC lacked in the agenda. Twenty-six parties organized a huge protest rally in the street to avoid MCC from getting approved.
USA is not a liar. MCC documents as well as His Excellency the Ambassador Randy W. Berry have clearly mentioned that- MCC is the part of Indo Pacific strategy.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, published in June last year, says that the strategy broadly envisions linkages between security, governance and economics. Though it doesn’t talk about the MCC, another report that came out two months ago clearly says that support under the compact is a part of the IPS.

There is dispute over SAARC, there is dispute over BIMSTEC, There is dispute over BRI, but the dispute regarding MCC has been difficult to solve affirmatively.

Of late, the American MCC and Chinese Belt and Road initiative have been portrayed ad “either or” propositions in some circles.

This is a false choice: Nepal does not need to choose between the United States and China.

Instead, Nepalese should continue to accept development grants, like the MCC, when available and should avoid foreign debt. This will benefit ordinary Nepalese.

Misinformation in the journalism space has made complication use Nepal’s ability to make clear-headed decisions about MCC. For example, a recent Khabarhub article published in November raised allegations of Chinese Ministry of State Security attempts to discredit the MCC.

It is not fair to criticize MCC by China or the BRI by America- linking them to Nepal. Nepal should demonstrate diplomatic efficiency of keeping continue the friendly relations with all and possess the ability of taking decision on its own about whether or not to accept any such grants or assistances.

China will hurt Nepalese if it seeks to spread misinformation for its own interests. Failing to pass the MCC grant will take food off the table of the poor. Socialism is intended to benefit the poor, not the Chinese Communist Party or any other government or corrupt political leader.

The Nepali government should take the allegation seriously and investigate. If true, we must ask China to abide by its stated policy of Non-interference in other countries affairs.
Large countries are welcomed to help Nepal develop.

That said, they should not spread mis-information and use Nepal as a battleground in this era of “great power competition”.

MCC is in Nepal’s interest. It is needed for Nepal’s development.

All the political parties as well as intellectuals should feel free to answer the deal positively.

MCC should not be the cause of inviting unrest in Nepal. Govt. is eager to find solution.

It is hoped that all the stake holders of MCC, including the government will surly reach of correct decision. The debate over MCC should now be finalized anyway.

The author is the Chief Editor of the Gorkha Express Weekly, Kathmandu, Nepal.


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