KATHMANDU, June 1: The United States said on Saturday that it is now seeking to expand defense relationship with Nepal under the framework of the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
In a report on its Indo-Pacific Strategy on Saturday, US Defence Department said that the country is seeking to expand defense relationship with Nepal focusing on high availability/disaster recovery, peacekeeping operations, defense professionalization, ground force capacity, and counter-terrorism.
The Indo-Pacific strategy has triggered massive discussions and also courted controversy after the USA sought Nepal’s central role in the Indo-Pacific strategy during the meeting of Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in December last year.
The Indo-Pacific strategy has been widely seen as a strategic move of the USA to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
"Our growing defense partnership can be seen in the establishment of the U.S. Army Pacific-led Land Forces Talks in June 2018, our senior-most military dialogue with Nepal. This year has already seen several senior-level visits to Nepal by the USINDOPACOM Commander and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia to further advance our defense relationship," read the report.
Within South Asia, the United States is working to operationalize its Major Defense Partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal, according to the report.
The report said that the U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific is rooted in long-standing security alliances – the bedrock on which the strategy rests.
"Mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are crucial to our strategy, providing a durable, asymmetric strategic advantage that no competitor or rival can match," the report said adding that the United States has strengthened its alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
"These alliances are indispensable to peace and security in the region and our investments in them will continue to pay dividends for the United States and the world, far into the future," read the report.
The Defense Department said that the United States has taken steps to expand its partnerships with Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia.
"We are also continuing to strengthen security relationships with partners in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and sustaining engagements with Brunei, Laos, and Cambodia," the report said.
Highlighting the importance of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the report said that the Indo-Pacific contributes two-thirds of global growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for 60 percent of global GDP.
"This region includes the world’s largest economies – the United States, China, and Japan – and six of the world’s fastest-growing economies – India, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Nepal, and the Philippines,"
Asserting that the strategic partnership between India and the USA has strengthened significantly during the past two decades, the Pentagon told the Congress on Friday that both countries recognize the importance of the Indo-Pacific to global trade and commerce and share a common outlook on the region.
The report called China a "revisionist power" that under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party undermines the international system from within by exploiting its benefits while eroding the values and principles of the rules-based order, according to media reports.
The report also characterized Russia as a "revitalized malign actor" that uses economic, diplomatic, and military means to achieve influence in the Indo-Pacific region and North Korea as a "rogue state" that will continue to be a security challenge for the US and its allies, partners and competitors until "final, fully verifiable denuclearisation" is achieved.