KATHMANDU, Dec 24: Refuting reports that Nepal has decided to be part of the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali has said that Nepal does not have global or regional strategic ambitions.
Addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Sunday, Gyawali said that the only ambition Nepal has now is to bring development to the country and graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) to middle-income country at the earliest. Minister Gyawali said he shared the same aspiration during his meeting with senior US officials including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington DC last week.
Asked if Nepal had already chosen to be part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy — a US move widely seen as a counter to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative — Foreign Minister Gyawali said no such agreement was reached during the bilateral meeting held after a hiatus of 17 years. “Many things are discussed during such meetings. This is like an exchange of ideas. All that was said during the meeting was that Nepal can play a role in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
“It is not about strategy. Indo-Pacific region and Indo-Pacific strategy are two different things. This could have been said due to the successful hosting of the BIMSTEC Summit in Kathmandu last year and Nepal’s current status as chair of SAARC and its unique geographical location,” Minister Gyawali further said.
Gyawali also clarified that the issue of Korean peninsula and ongoing efforts to ensure denuclearization in the region figured during the meeting. “During our meeting, not only North Korea but the entire Korean peninsula was discussed. He [Pompeo] had said that they want to see peace in the region. He had shared with us that he wants cooperation from all sides to achieve that. It is good to understand exactly what has been said,” said Minister Gyawali, adding that there is no need to interpret the issue beyond that.
Gyawali said that Secretary of State Pompeo also inquired about SAARC and how the regional body could be made effective. Issues such as giving momentum to BIMSTEC also figured during the meeting, he said.
Gyawali claimed that the visit was very successful.
Gyawali held a bilateral meeting with Pompeo and other senior officials of the US government during his visit. “The meetings focused on mutual benefits between the two countries and dwelled on ways to take the bilateral ties to a new height,” he said.
Gyawali said he informed the US officials about Nepal’s peace process, latest political developments and the government’s development priorities. During this meetings, he also urged the US government to facilitate the investment summit to be held in Nepal toward the end of March.