KATHMANDU, Dec 23: Failing to forge consensus in the party's standing committee on whether to endorse the $500 million US grant, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has entrusted its secretariat to seek clarity from the US about the terms and conditions of the grant and decide the issue accordingly.
The party's leaders intensively discussed the issue of endorsing the US grant from parliament at the standing committee meeting which concluded on Sunday without making headway after some leaders continued to raise questions about it despite efforts from the line minister to clarify the issue.
The decision to this effect was taken after some standing committee members said they were not fully satisfied with the line minister's response and demanded that the leaders clarify whether it is a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS). Emerging from the meeting, party leaders said the top leaders will seek clarity from the US about whether the grant is a part of the IPS, which according to some leaders, is an Indo-Pacific military alliance in the Asia Pacific.
The ruling NCP is sharply divided over endorsing the US grant from parliament after some leaders within the party questioned whether the grant was a part of the IPS. Previously, the grant was supposed to get endorsed from the previous parliamentary session.
Differences within the ruling party prolonged its endorsement and it is not sure when this will be endorsed although the government officials have been assuring of endorsing it from the winter session of parliament.
Most standing committee members including PM KP Oli and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali are for endorsing the agreement shortly. But a section of leaders are opposing the agreement which they say undermines the spirit of Nepal's constitution, arguing Nepal cannot be a part of any military alliance.
In a bid to settle the debate, the standing committee entrusted the party secretariat which includes nine top leaders including Prime Minister Oli to seek clarity over the grant from the US and decide about its endorsement.
“The US must clarify whether this [MCC grant] is a part of the IPS. And, this will get endorsed from parliament only when members of the secretariat are clarified about the grant,” said the party's standing committee member Bhim Rawal.
Party insiders say the decision to entrust the secretariat to take the final call on the MCC grant has increased the possibility of it getting endorsed from parliament. A majority of members of the nine-member secretariat are for endorsing the grant soon instead of complicating the issue.
In 2017, the US and Nepal had signed a 500 million US dollar grant to develop the 400-KV Butwal-Gorakhpur electricity transmission line between Nepal and India and to upgrade some roads.
The endorsement was delayed after differences emerged within the ruling party as some leaders argued that accepting the grant will be tantamount to joining a US-led military alliance and abandoning Nepal's long-held foreign policy of non-alignment and Panchasheel.