KATHMANDU, Nov 18: As the endorsement of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact Agreement through parliament has fallen uncertain in Nepal, the number and frequency of senior US officials visiting Nepal has increased.
US Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu arrived in Nepal on Wednesday, while Kelly Kidderling, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, will arrive in Nepal on Thursday.
During his stay in Kathmandu, Secretary Lu is scheduled to hold meetings with the top leaders including Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka to discuss the implementation of the MCC, according to a source at Foreign Ministry. During his stay in Nepal, Lu is also scheduled to observe the cultural heritage here. A number of cultural heritage sites that were destroyed by the earthquake have been reconstructed with the help of the US assistance.
During her visit to Nepal, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kidderling is also scheduled to meet with senior government officials and emerging civil society leaders, according to the US Embassy in Kathmandu. The United States claims that a high-ranking official visited Nepal before marking 75 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and that both officials will discuss the challenges placed in high priority by President Joe Biden, such as COVID-19, climate change and the strengthening of democracy.
But Nepali officials believe that the visit is likely to focus on delays in the implementation of the MCC. "The main purpose of his visit now will be to focus on delays in the approval of the MCC project," a senior ministry official said. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kelly Kidderling will hold discussions with civil society leaders to dispel rumors about the MCC in Nepal.
The United States has been expressing dissatisfaction over the inordinate delay seen in the endorsement of the MCC pact through parliament. Earlier, on September 9, MCC Vice President Fatima Sumar had visited Nepal and urged the leaders for the implementation of MCC.
During Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to Glasgow, Scotland to attend a climate conference, MCC Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexia Latortue held a meeting with Prime Minister Deuba to discuss MCC implementation.
Prime Minister Deuba is also in favor of moving the project forward as per the agreement reached in 2017 when he was the Prime Minister last time. However, the ruling coalition party including the CPN (Maoist Center), are in favor of not moving the MCC forward without amendment. This difference among parties has left the issue of endorsing the MCC agreement through parliament on the backburner.