KATHMANDU, June 3: Allaying concerns from various quarters that Nepal has already fallen into the US-led strategic military alliance as part of its Indo-Pacific Strategy, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said on Sunday that Nepal does not intend to be part of any such pact that gives an impression of strategic military alliance.
Foreign Minister Gyawali dismissed suggestions that the deepening engagement of the US military with Nepal Army (NA) was a consequence of strategic military alliance between the two armies.
“Nepal won’t become part of any military alliance. This is our firm principle and consistent foreign policy,” he said.
The remarks by Minister Gyawali come at a time when there are speculations that Nepal has already become part of the US military alliance under the Indo-Pacific Strategy. A report on the Indo-Pacific Strategy released on Saturday said the US Department of Defense wanted to further expand defense ties with Nepal, while highlighting a number of areas in which the US military is currently engaged with Nepal Army.
US officials consider Nepal as an “important security partner” in South Asia, while expressing their intention to further enhance military-to-military cooperation in various areas such as capacity enhancement, military professionalization, civil-military relations and modernization of the army.
A recently unveiled Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of the US has outlined a number of strategies to promote its security interest in the Indo-Pacific region, with a provision to appropriate $1.5 billion for each fiscal year from 2019 through 2023.
Analysts in Kathmandu have interpreted the renewed interest of the US to further deepen military cooperation as its desire to bolster cooperation in security and political fronts as well, besides its decade-long cooperation in socio-economic development. Some have even gone to the extent of interpreting this as becoming part of the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy that is aimed at containing China.
A section of lawmakers have also grown apprehensive of growing engagements of the US military with Nepal Army. Ruling NCP lawmaker Dev Prasad Gurung had recently expressed worries in the parliament that the growing number of military exercises and engagements would compromise Nepal’s sovereignty and integrity in the long run.