Wednesday, June 7, 2023

China wades into Nepal’s political divisions over US-funded MCC grant; says it is opposed to coercive diplomacy


Beijing, February 18: Wary of the USD 500 million Millennium Corporation Challenge (MCC) programme of the US to Nepal which has resulted in sharp political polarisation in the Himalayan nation, China on Friday said it is against “coercive diplomacy” and aid at the expense of sovereignty.
Wading into the political debate in Kathmandu over the MCC grant amid strident divisions among Nepal’s political parties whether to accept the American infrastructure aid programme, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing is glad to see international assistance to Nepal but it should come without any political strings attached.
Such cooperation and assistance should be based on full respect and will of the Nepalese people without any political strings attached he said, without directly naming the US.
We oppose coercive diplomacy and an agenda based on selfish interests at the expense of the sovereignty of other countries, he said.
Last week, the US warned Nepal to ratify the proposed grant assistance from America under MCC by February 28, saying if Kathmandu did not accept the programme, Washington would review its ties with the Himalayan nation and consider China’s interests behind its failure.
China, whose political influence, as well as its investments in Nepal, grew significantly in recent years, especially under the previous pro-Beijing Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli tenure, was mostly silent after the present Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, an advocate of diplomatic balance in Nepal’s foreign policy with closer ties with India took over power last year.
Nepal is witnessing sharp political polarisation on whether the US infrastructure grant should be accepted, which is under consideration in the House of Representatives.
The USD-500 million infrastructure grants programme under the US-funded MCC has become contentious with Marxist parties opposing it while Deuba pressed for its ratification by Parliament.
It was expected to be submitted to Parliament on Friday but according to latest reports, the Business Advisory Committee of the House has decided not to present the MCC at the meeting of the House of Representatives.
A meeting of the committee led by Speaker Agni Sapkota took the decision not to include the MCC in the agenda for the day following an understanding among the alliance partners to sit again on Sunday to seek consensus on tabling of the American grant, the Kathmandu Post newspaper reported.
On Thursday, Nepal’s ruling coalition had failed to reach consensus on whether to present the MCC in Parliament.
Nepal and the United States signed the MCC agreement in 2017 – meant for building Nepal’s infrastructure such as electric transmission lines and improvement of national highways.
Nepal’s Leftist political parties have been opposing the pact, saying it was not in national interest and that it was meant for countering China.
Further, there are reports that China is behind spreading misleading rumours against the MCC pact.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a bilateral United States foreign aid agency established by the US Congress in 2004.(PTI)