KATHMANDU, June 2: The United States said on Saturday that it is now seeking to expand a defense relationship with Nepal under the framework of its Indo-Pacific Strategy.
In a report on the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the US Defence Department said that the country is seeking to expand a 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 a huge debate in Nepal after the US sought Nepal’s central role in it during the meeting of Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in December last year. The Indo-Pacific strategy is widely seen as a strategic move of the US to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“Our growing defense partnership can be seen in the establishment of the US 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,” reads the report.
The US 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 US 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 US 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,” the report further said.
“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,” it said.
Highlighting the importance of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the report said the Indo-Pacific contributes two-thirds of global growth in 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,” it said.
Asserting that the strategic partnership between India and the US has strengthened significantly during the past two decades, the Pentagon told 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.