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Feb 8, 2023

‘US finance in Nepal has no geopolitical link’

FA News Desk
Samantha Power, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) paying a courtesy call on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' at latter's office in Singh Durbar Wednesday. Photo: Pradeep Raj Onta /Prime Minister's Private Secretariat
Samantha Power, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) paying a courtesy call on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ at latter’s office in Singh Durbar Wednesday. Photo: Pradeep Raj Onta /Prime Minister’s Private Secretariat

US always stand with Nepal; Samantha Power ends two day visit to Nepal

US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Ms. Samantha Power has said that the US always wants to expand its good friendship with Nepal and is willing to work with Nepal.

She said before leaving to her home country- USA after concluding her two-day mission to Nepal.

United States has been supporting various areas of Nepal for a long-time giving priority to Nepal in order to strengthen the relationship between Nepal and the United States, she said and asserted that there is no geopolitical connection in the assistance provided by the US in Nepal and the assistance it will provide in the future.

She also urged not to understand the US investment in Nepal as a geopolitical relationship.

“The United States will always be with Nepal,” stressed the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power.

Power, who arrived on a two-day visit to Nepal on Tuesday, has also at a special function held in Lalitpur announced 68.5 million US dollars (about 7.5 billion Nepali rupees) to Nepal which would be used to strengthen Nepal’s democratic institutions and rule of law, civil society, media sector and to fight against human trafficking.

Of the declared 68.5 million US dollars, 1.83 million is new. The remaining amount is among the US $659 million contracted in 2022.

The new assistant is based on USAID’s 60-year long partnership with the government and people of Nepal, the private sector and others to support Nepal’s goals and aspirations.

The 19th USAID chief Samantha since May 3, 2021, who had also served as the 28th US Permanent Representative to the United Nations during the Obama administration, is the highest official from the US to visit Nepal since 2002. In 2002, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Kathmandu.

The head of the USAID Ms. Power had also paid a courtesy call on President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ at their respective offices before leaving for home on Wednesday.

She also has a discussion with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Paudel. Likewise, she also had fruitful talks with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal on Tuesday.

Within a short span of time, various level dignitaries from the US Government, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Ms. Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for South Asia at the U.S. State Department Donald Lu had visited Nepal.

Meanwhile, according to the sources, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Ms. Afreen Akhtar is arriving Nepal on February 14, 2023.

Akhtar’s visit was confirmed on the day the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power touched down Nepal’s soil.

After Samantha’s visit, another high-ranking American official is scheduled to visit Nepal in mid-February. According to sources, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) Afrin Akhtar, and the Security and International Affairs officials are visiting.

Washington has indicated that it is trying to build a “strong relationship” with the Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”-led government.

Nepali diplomats opined that it will be better for Nepal not to walk on a track of sidelining with either Indian Lobby or Chinese Lobby.

It is natural for big powers to have their own geo-strategic ambitions. The US has brought its ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ to control China militarily, while China has emphasized the ‘Global Security Initiative’ to balance it.

A senior Nepalese official insists that Nepal should not get confused by US-China geo-political competition and should adopt its own independent foreign policy. Diplomatic relations between

Even though Nepal and the United States of America were located totally opposite, the world had established diplomatic relationships in 1948 thinking America as a distant neighbor. So, it is now almost a 75-year-long partnership of the United States of America with the government and people of Nepal.

The United States has long viewed closer partnership with Nepal as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy intended to counterbalance China. As New Delhi is a U.S. strategic partner, and Washington is working with Kathmandu in a silent-mood engaging with high-level U.S. official’s visits.

According to USAID reports, Samantha had also discussed wide issues with civil society leaders, community groups, students, businessmen and government officials about making Nepal a more democratic, prosperous, inclusive and resilient country.

After the heated political debate about the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) last year, America and China were seen as rivals. There was also opposition saying that the MCC is an integral part of the American Indo-Pacific strategy. Earlier, Nepal initially resisted the grant in part out of fear that it would antagonize China. But Lu threatened to review future relations with Nepal.

Thus, despite the opposition, the Parliament of Nepal ratified a US $500 million MCC infrastructure grant after a five-year delay. After passing the ‘MCC Nepal Compact’, the United States approved 659 million US dollars in aid to Nepal. It is being implemented by USAID.

For Washington, the package serves as pushback to Beijing’s infrastructure investments. From this, it is clear that Washington wants to close the distance with Kathmandu.

Because of China’s growing influence in Nepal, Beijing has increased investment and provided COVID-19 vaccines in the country. China also sought to unite Nepal’s rival communist parties, which are ideologically aligned with China

But U.S.-China competition loomed over her visit in other ways. She publicly lauded Nepal’s democratic successes since ending a decade-long civil war in 2006, contrasting this political evolution with unnamed autocracies.

Nuland also opined that “the US always supports Nepal’s good relations with all of its neighbors.”

“We see autocrats trying to change the global rules of the road by force. That is not the Nepali way, and that is not the American way,” Nuland said fingering the Nepal’s neighbors.

All of this would benefit Nepal’s immediate economic needs but perhaps not its long-term strategic interests. Like other non-aligned states in South Asia, Nepal seeks strategic space to pursue relations with China, India, and the United States on its own terms.