Visiting Donald Lu thanks Nepali leaders for expediting MCC compactSaud urges Washington to simplify visa regime for Nepalis.
US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu wrapped up his day-long visit to Nepal on Friday night. During meetings throughout the day, the US delegation and Nepali officials discussed smooth implementation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact and continuation of US support for Nepal after the scheduled graduation to a developing nation from a least developed one in 2026, among other things.
Lu paid courtesy calls on Foreign Minister NP Saud, former prime ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Sharma Oli, and met Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is mourning the death of his wife Sita Dahal, to offer his condolences. Sita died on Wednesday after a long illness.
During his meeting with Saud, Lu expressed happiness that the compact is on the course of implementation. “We are happy that the MCC Compact is going to be implemented and it will be implemented without any glitches,” Saud quoted Lu as saying at their meeting.
This was his third visit to Kathmandu after being promoted to look after South and Central Asian Affairs in 2021 as assistant secretary of state. Lu is currently on a regional tour of several South Asian countries.
“We said Nepal had taken a positive note of the MCC implementation and continuous support provided to Nepal through the USAID. The US has increased its support to Nepal and will increase it further in the future. The US delegation also informed us that they will increase the quota of scholarship to Nepali students in various streams,” said Saud after his meeting with Lu.
Saud also requested Lu to simplify the visa regime for Nepali nationals who have to wait for a long time at the US embassy in Kathmandu to secure visa appointments, mainly for non-immigrant visas.
Lu has assured us that he will look into the problem, said Saud
“I also requested him for continued US support to Nepal even after Nepal graduates from the LDC category in 2026. After graduating from the LDC club, Nepal will not enjoy similar kinds of financial, trade and other kinds of leverages that it is currently getting.”
One of the top US priorities in Nepal is the smooth execution of the compact, which will enter into force from August-end. Under the compact, the US government has provided $500 million and the Nepal government will put in $160 million for the implementation of a 315-km double circuit 400 kV transmission line and roads upgrade.
On Friday, the US embassy spokesperson in a statement said Lu visited Nepal as part of his regular diplomatic engagement in the region.
“In Kathmandu, Lu met with Prime Minister Dahal to express condolences on the recent passing of his wife, Sita Dahal. With Foreign Minister Saud and former Prime Ministers Oli and Deuba, he discussed Nepal’s achievements on its Summit for Democracy commitments, the recent bolstering of human rights protections in Nepal, and the progress of the MCC Compact to date,” read the statement.
After Nepal, Lu will also visit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, according to the embassy.
“High-level diplomatic engagements are a routine part of strengthening both US-Nepal and regional partnerships in furtherance of a more secure, sovereign, prosperous, and democratic world,” the embassy statement said.
According to the head of the CPN-UML’s foreign relations department Rajan Bhattarai, Lu congratulated Chairman Oli saying that the MCC is coming into force next month and that a top MCC official will visit Nepal to mark its entry into force.
Amid strong opposition and protest from different sides, the compact, which was signed in 2017 between Nepal and the US, was ratified by Parliament in February, 2022.
Besides internal bungles, controversy and confusion, it had ruffled Beijing’s feathers. Beijing even accused the US of exercising “coercive” diplomacy in Nepal.
However, such cooperation should be based on full respect for the will of the Nepalese people and come with no political strings attached, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a press conference on February 18, 2022, we oppose coercive diplomacy and actions that pursue selfish agenda at the expense of Nepal’s sovereignty and interests,
Lu, during his meetings with leaders, also hailed the contribution made by the Nepali diaspora in the US economy, society and politics.
“Honored to have had a productive meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu,” Deuba tweeted after his meeting with Lu
“We had constructive discussions on further strengthening Nepal-US ties. Grateful for the US Government and Secretary Lu’s unwavering support to promote peace, democracy and development in Nepal,” Deuba wrote.
At the meeting, Lu thanked Deuba for helping expedite the compact and said the US will continue supporting Nepal including on climate change.
Later in the evening, Lu met several political party leaders at a dinner hosted at the residence of the US ambassador in Kathmandu Dean Thompson.
“Can’t wait to show him one of our American Chamber members and their work on giving Nepalis unique skills to compete in a global market. Our American Chamber of Commerce was established almost 2 years ago to support American companies and business connections within the US-Nepal nexus,” Thompson had tweeted just before Lu landed in Kathmandu.
During his regional tour, Assistant Secretary Lu has also visited Bangladesh and India.