Gyawali and Pompeo before their official talks in Washington earlier this week. Photo courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
KATHMANDU, Dec 22: Days after the United States of America sought Nepal’s central role in its ambitious Indo-Pacific strategy, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has said that Nepal does not believe in any strategic alliances and will not enter into such activities.
Gyawali, who is also a leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, made the remarks during the party’s standing committee meeting on Saturday.
“The US side shared their Indo-Pacific vision and talked about Nepal’s possible central role in it. In response, we conveyed them that Nepal does not believe in any strategic alliances and will not enter into such activities,” a standing committee member quoted the foreign minister as telling the meeting.
Briefing the standing committee members about his visit, the foreign minister downplayed the announcement made by US side saying that Nepal had not taken any decisions to participate in the US-led grand strategy.
Foreign policy experts opine that Nepal’s participation in the US strategy aimed at countering China could bring mistrust between China and Nepal, because Nepal has already become a signatory to China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. The strategy is aimed at reshaping America's regional approach and coalescing efforts to manage a rising China.
“… the two leaders discussed Nepal's central role in a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific, [and] global issues, including North Korea,” Deputy Spokesperson at the State Department Robert J. Palladino said in a press statement on December 18 following a delegation-level meeting between Foreign Minister Gyawali and his US counterpart Michael R. Pompeo.
As a part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump administration had earlier announced $113 million in investment to promote digital, energy and infrastructure connectivity in the Indo-Pacific in the midst of China scaling up its infrastructure loans to various countries in Asia Pacific including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Maldives in recent years.
At the ASEAN Regional Forum on August 4, US Secretary of State Pompeo announced the intent to provide nearly $300 million in security assistance to improve security relationships across the Indo-Pacific region. This assistances includes $290.5 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to strengthen maritime security, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR), and peacekeeping capabilities, and $8.5 million in International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INCLE) funds to counter transnational crime.
This funding commitment came shortly after Secretary Pompeo and other senior US Administration officials announced new economic and development initiatives at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Washington DC, demonstrating a strong, whole-of-government U.S. commitment to both economic and security engagement and assistance in the Indo-Pacific.
On the other hand, the US is currently seeking to strengthen its alliance and partnership with various countries in the Indo- Pacific, mainly those within the orbit of China, as disputes linger between the two countries on issues of trade and the South China Sea.
The Chinese side takes the US Indo-Pacific strategy as a geostrategic measure to contain China.
Chinese experts say that the ambitious Indo-pacific strategy seeks to use political (emphasizing democratic values), economic (exclusive institutional economic and trade arrangements), diplomatic (strengthening bilateral alliances and sowing discord between China and other countries), military (joint military exercises and arms sales) and other means to co-opt China's neighboring countries to contain China's rise, and ultimately maintain US hegemony.