KATHMANDU, July 1: Dismissing suggestions by a section of opinion makers and politicians that Nepal had chosen to be a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy under the US-led military alliance, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali has clarified that Nepal’s participation in both Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are not guided by any strategic considerations.
Speaking at a one-day National Dialogue on Foreign Policy organized jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) in the capital on Saturday, Minister Gyawali said the only expectation of Nepal from the Indo-Pacific Strategy and BRI is the country’s economic and infrastructural development.
“Nepal has neither become a part of any military alliances nor will it be a part of any such alliances in the future. Our interest in both the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the BRI is only economic and infrastructural development,” he said.
Gyawali said that it is the policy of Nepal to enhance relations with the immediate neighbors, major powers and all development partners as a part of its guiding foreign policy to maintain “amity with all, enmity with none” for the country’s development and prosperity. While maintaining that Nepal is aware of the strategic interests of major powers, Gyawali said that Nepal has been pursuing balanced diplomacy to manage the conflicting interests of these power centers.
Although US officials have been clarifying that the Indo-Pacific Strategy is not a military alliance that excludes China and that it is not about picking sides with some signing arrangement, there are some apprehensions in Nepal that it could be a US strategy to contain China and that Nepal should be cautious of it. Except for the change in name (Indo-Pacific instead of previous Asia-Pacific) and some of the tactics including emphasis on private sector, US officials say the Indo-Pacific Strategy consists of the same strategies that the US has been pursuing as a part of its foreign policy objectives for long.
Speaking in the session entitled, “Changing Geopolitics: Neighbors and Major Power Countries,” Former Ambassador of Nepal to China Mahesh Maskey said that a section of opinion makers had blown the issue of Nepal’s participation in the Indo-Pacific Strategy out of proportion. Stating that there is no arrangement to sign the Indo-Pacific Strategy as such, Maskey complained that a section of opinion makers had misinterpreted some sentences like “US seeks to deepen cooperation with military” in the Indo-Pacific Strategy report as Nepal becoming part of the US-led military alliance.
In a first of its kind program, the MoFA and IFA had organized the one-day National Dialogue on Foreign Policy with the objective to bring consensus among the major political parties of the country on Nepal’s Foreign Policy in view of the changed political context and the fundamental changes seen in the external factors that shape foreign affairs.
Former foreign ministers, senior leaders of major political parties, foreign affairs experts, academicians, researchers and people from various walks of life had participated in the event. While Prime Minister KP Oli, Co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chairman of Rastriya Prajatantra Party Kamal Thapa and Joint General Secretary of Nepali Congress Prakash Sharan Mahat addressed the event, Foreign Minister Gyawali, Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav and Former Foreign Minister and senior NCP leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha had moderated four different sessions that revolved around formulating new foreign policy in line with the changes seen in geopolitics, economic diplomacy and the threats posed by emerging challenges including climate changes.
Addressing the function, ruling NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal said that Nepal had not been able to protect its national interests due to inconsistency seen among the country’s political forces on issues of foreign policy. While underscoring the need to forge “pro-Nepal” foreign policy, Dahal argued that foreign actors had received opportunity to unnecessary meddle in Nepal’s internal affairs owing to the divergent views of major political actors on foreign policy issues.
RPP Chairman and former foreign minister Kamal Thapa underscored the need to forge consensus among political parties on issues related to the country’s foreign policy. He also shared his experience as foreign minister that sometimes contradictory remarks from top leaders of major political parties had put MoFA in a fix to deal with some sensitive issues of foreign relations.
Almost all panelists and speakers in the programs had urged the government to formulate appropriate policy while acknowledging the fundamental changes seen in various areas that shape international relations. While underscoring the need of strong institutions and trained human resources to implement the foreign policy, they also suggested to the government to strengthen and equip MoFA with necessary financial and human resources.