US lawmakers, MCC vice-president coming to Nepal next weekCongressional delegation’s visit unrelated to MCC compact’s entry into force, officials say.
Amid an increase in the number of visits by US officials to Nepal in recent months, US ambassador Dean Thompson has also stepped up his engagements in Kathmandu.
Several sources in the government confirmed to the Post that a five-member US Congressional delegation is arriving in Kathmandu on August 30, coinciding with the day that marks the entry into force of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Nepal Compact, under which Nepal received a grant worth $500 million.
But the US delegation’s visit is unrelated to the MCC event, officials said, adding that the delegates will pay a courtesy call on President Ramchandra Paudel on August 31.
The delegation will be led by Mark Pocan, co-chair of the US Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Other members of the delegation are Ted Lieu, vice chair of the House of Democratic Caucus who is serving his fifth term in Congress and sits on the House Judiciary Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, and Science, Space, and Technology Committee; and Dan Timothy Kildee, member of the US House of Representatives from Michigan.
Also in the delegation are US Congressman Veronica Escobar, who earlier served in various US Congressional committees and caucuses; and Congressman Susan Wild, co-chair the New Democratic Coalition Climate Change Task Force and vice chair of both the Congressional Labor and Working Families’ Caucus as well as the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
Suresh Chalise, foreign relations adviser to President Paudel, confirmed to the Post that the five-member delegation will pay a courtesy call on the President on August 31.
“So far we know that the Pocan-led Congressional delegation is meeting only the President,” an official familiar with the visit said, adding, “They may also attend a function to be organized by Care Nepal.”
Care Nepal is the Nepal wing of the US humanitarian group Care International.
Just a week ago, on August 17, a three-member US Congressional delegation had entered Nepal via India and left the next day, according to a government source. The delegation was led by Michael George Glen Waltz, who is considered one of Congress’s most hawkish members on China. The two other members included Congressmen Kathryn Mary Burns and Brett Alexander Sisto.
Growing US interest in Kathmandu does not stop here. Officials said MCC Vice President Cameron Alford is arriving in Kathmandu next week to mark the entry into the force of the MCC Nepal Compact.
The government has just received confirmation of Alford’s visit, a foreign ministry official said.
Alford is scheduled to meet Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat among others, officials said.
The five-year countdown of the projects funded through the MCC grant will begin on August 31. Besides the US grant of $500 million, Nepal has committed $197 million for implementing the projects including transmission line construction and roads’ improvement.
The US grant had met with stiff opposition from some parties in Nepal, but the Parliament eventually endorsed it in February 2022. Still, some political parties oppose the US grant programme. A Maoist splinter group known as Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Netra Bikram Chand has announced a series of protests starting Wednesday and to run till August 28, opposing the entry into force of the US compact.
Issuing a statement on Tuesday, Chand vowed to prevent the implementation of the MCC projects claiming that the compact is an American strategy to check China and India.
“If it is implemented, we will be colonized by the Americans, and Nepal will become the next Ukraine,” the party said in a statement.
A meeting of the Board of Directors of MCA-Nepal on August 16 had fixed August 30 as the date for the compact’s entry into force. A 400kV transmission line is being constructed and a part of the East-West Highway is being improved using the grant.
Meanwhile, US ambassador Thompson met several Nepali leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Tuesday, he called on CPN-UML chair KP Oli and sought his commitment for the compact’s successful implementation.
“The US ambassador thanked our party chairman saying that the MCC is finally entering the implementation phase,” said Rajan Bhattarai, head of the UML foreign relations department. “This is a matter of happiness for all. Ambassador Thompson also said that with the support of Nepali political parties, we can successfully complete and implement the project within five years.”
And on Wednesday, the US envoy held a meeting with Rabi Lamichhane, the chief of the Rastriya Swatantra Party.
“The issue of compact implementation and how the RSP views the MCC did not figure during the meeting,” according to Sishir Khanal, head of the RSP’s international department. (The party had not come into being when Parliament gave the compact its stamp of approval.)
In an email response to the Post, the US Embassy in Kathmandu said, “As a diplomat, Ambassador Thompson’s meeting with political leaders is a part of his regular engagement with the government, civil society, and political parties.”
The Post had asked whether the US is seeking assurances from across the political spectrum on the MCC compact’s implementation and sought to know about the US position, especially since some of the Nepali political parties are strongly opposed to the compact and have vowed to block its implementation.
“The US government is excited by the progress of the Nepal-led MCC Compact—made possible by continuous support from broader stakeholders, successive governments, and political parties over the duration of MCC’s work in Nepal,” the US embassy said. “We are committed to partnering with MCA-Nepal to ensure the successful implementation of the compact.”
Everyone involved is diligently working together to achieve the compact’s goals on time, said the embassy.