KATHMANDU, Dec22: The standing committee meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party has been prolonged after top leaders couldn’t make a clear position on whether to endorse the $500 million grant provided under the Millennium Challenge Corporation as agreed earlier.
The meeting was supposed to conclude on Saturday. But the party decided to continue the meeting as the discussion on the matter could not be concluded.
NCP is sharply divided about endorsing the US grant from parliament after some leaders within the party questioned whether the grant was a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS). The party’s standing committee member and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali has urged the party leaders not to drag the agreement into controversy but to endorse it from parliament as stated in the agreement.
Gyawali defended the agreement saying “it is not a disputable issue”. The agreement, according to Gyawali, was was signed to build cross-country transmission and upgrade the road projects.
But party members said they were not fully satisfied with the responses and demanded that the leaders clarify whether it is a part of the IPS.
In Saturday’s meeting, standing committee members Dev Gurung and Bhim Rawal among others, who are critical of the MCC agreement, had sought clarification from top leaders saying that US officials have been consistently saying that MCC is a part of the IPS.
“During her Vietnam visit in February, Alice G Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary at the bureau of south and central affairs of the US Department of State, had mentioned that 500 million USD has been provided as part of IPS,” said Rawal adding that IPS is a military alliance, “Our constitution doesn’t allow us to be part of any sort of military alliance.”
Rawal asked Foreign Minister Gyawali to seek clarification from the US if the grant is provided as a part of the IPS. “Since we consider the constitution as the supreme law, any agreement contradicting with it cannot be effective,” he said.
NCP leader Devendra Poudel said the meeting was prolonged after the party leaders were not convinced with the responses made by Foreign Minister Gyawali and party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
“Some fellow comrades in the party couldn’t be convinced by the response from the foreign minister so the discussion will continue tomorrow as well,” said Poudel. At the meeting Chairman Dahal had assured of seeking the US government’s response about the MCC grant.
In 2017, the US and Nepal had signed a 500 million US dollar grant to develop the 400-KV Nepal-India Butwal-Gorakhpur electricity transmission line and to upgrade some roads.
The agreement was supposed to be endorsed by the previous parliament. But 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.