After Power, another senior US official is visiting NepalAfreen Akhter, deputy assistant secretary of state, is set to arrive on a two-day visit, most likely on February 14.
The Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power starts her two-day Nepal visit on Tuesday. And a week after her return, another senior official of the Biden administration is visiting Kathmandu, foreign ministry officials said.
According to the officials, Afreen Akhter, deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) for Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives, as well as the Office of Security and Transnational Affairs, is coming on a two-day visit, most likely on February 14. This will be the third high-level visit from the United States within three weeks and since the formation of Pushpa Kamal Dahal government on December 25.
Power travels to Kathmandu, Nepal February 7-8, the USAID said in a statement. She will meet with civil society leaders, community groups, students, businesses, and government officials to discuss Nepal’s efforts and achievements in becoming a more democratic, prosperous, inclusive, and resilient country.
She will meet senior officials including Prime Minister Dahal, Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Paudyal among others and will address a town-hall event on “deepening the US-Nepal partnership” which will also be attended by Foreign Minister Paudyal. The visit comes almost a year after USAID announced an aid of $659 million (Rs 83 billion) to be provided over five years to support Nepal’s goal of graduating to a middle-income country.
Partnering with the government of Nepal , civil society, and the private sector, the US assistance will advance Nepal’s sustainable development through strengthened democratic governance, enterprise-driven economic growth and increased resilience for communities most at-risk to natural disasters and climate change, said the statement issued after signing the agreement in May last year.
Ahead of Power’s visit, Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland had visited Kathmandu and urged party leaders to be cautious while dealing with neighbors, particularly on economic partnership.
Power is a cabinet-rank official as well as member of the US National Security Council.
“There are indications that after Power returns, another senior US official Afreen Akhter could visit Kathmandu,” a senior foreign ministry official said, even as a formal announcement is yet to be made.
Like Nuland, deputy assistant secretary Akhter also will meet senior officials in Kathmandu, officials added.
“Nuland talked about overall political and diplomatic engagements between Nepal and the US…Power will discuss economic cooperation and partnership in various priority areas. And now, Akhter is coming, to discuss regional issues and US engagement on several cross-cutting issues,” said a senior government bureaucrat.
Administrator Power will underscore America’s enduring, over 75-year partnership with the government and people of Nepal, the statement said, and highlight USAID’s commitment to increasing engagement with Nepal and its new government.
“Administrator Power will announce new efforts to build momentum to strengthen democratic gains in federalism, social inclusion, civil society, and media freedom,” the statement added.
According to the influential Foreign Policy magazine, New Delhi is an American strategic partner while Washington is also working with Sri Lanka to help its ailing economy.
But Kathmandu has also quietly become a target of high-level US engagement, thanks to US-China competition, wrote the magazine that usually carries Wasington’s strategic views.
Nuland is the most senior foreign official to travel to Nepal since Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal took office in December.
“The United States has long viewed closer partnership with Nepal as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy intended to counterbalance China. Last year, Nepal’s parliament ratified a $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) infrastructure grant after a five-year delay,” the magazine wrote in its February 2 article.
“For Washington, the package serves as pushback to Beijing’s infrastructure investments. Nonaligned Nepal initially resisted the grant in part out of fear that it would antagonize China. However, soon after Lu [assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Lu] threatened to review future relations with Nepal, it was approved,” the magazine said.
Ahead of the MCC compact ratification, Lu had telephoned Nepali leaders and threatened them that the US would be forced to review its ties with Nepal if its parliament failed to ratify the deal within the set deadline.