N.P. Upadhyaya, Kathmandu: If Nepal can join the Chinese ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ what is the harm in joining ‘Indo-Pacific’. Let’s discus.
What could be more embarrassing for those who take the United States of America as the leader of the democratic world, when they come to know that former terrorist leader Nepal Maoist Chairman Prachanda – a person responsible for the death of thousands of innocent civilians is assured a “US junket”?
The story becomes a matter of utter dismay and displeasure as ‘free men’ recall that the US was one of the first countries in the world to have declared Maoists of Nepal – then residing in New Delhi as “terrorists”.
Reports have it that the US Ambassador Randy Berry met the Maoists’ leader recently and assured that he will be granted entry to his country.
A highly annoyed Ambassador Berry must have done so to appease Prachanda on Venezuelan affairs.
Prachanda’s war time colleague Devendra Poudel aka ‘Sunil’ emphatically claims that the “bitterness” that had developed in between Prachanda and the US over Venezuelan imbroglio has now come to a conclusion and that the matter has been buried once and for all.
This raises many questions to which both Prachanda and the US embassy in Kathmandu remain answerable.
While Prachanda must clarify if he still sticks to his January 25 statement made on Venezuela and then the US must answer whether it prefers proliferation of the radical communist ideology in Greater South Asia from Nepal?
Prachanda had very recently warned “Maoists are still kicking and alive and even could strike back with tremendous force”.
This was an open threat to all, more so to those who ignore Maoists existence and believe in the ideals of democracy. The Maoists are experts in doing SAFAYA which is ‘instant killing’ in English language perhaps. The result will be, if things do not favor the radical communists, once again devastation and killings of the sort will recur to which the nation has already witnessed in the past.
After meeting Ambassador Berry, Prachanda, sources say went straight to meet Prime Minister Oli.
Analysts presume in the meeting the two accidental communists must have smiled as they collectively took the US to a ride, from manufacturing the Venezuelan issue to compelling the US to come to terms with Prachanda’s demand. As of now only a free trip to the US has been guaranteed. Perhaps there are more in the pipeline.
The fact of the matter is Venezuela is neither an issue for Nepal nor for the US now. Bewildered democrats across the world ask how to take the US given the events that have just happened in Nepal?
The US is not India. It was the Indian government that nurtured the Maoists leaders and entirely funded the Maoists led People’s War.
Observers recall that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while meeting his Nepali Counterpart, Pradip Gyawali, in Washington D. C on December 18, 2018, had not only proposed Nepal to play a key role in the Indo-Pacific Affairs but also hinted Nepal to be of substantial support in seducing the North Korean regime for ‘Denuclearization’.
The newly appointed North Korean Ambassador to Nepal has revealed that his country has invited Prachanda and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa to land in Pyongyang.
This was disclosed after the North Korean ambassador met with the Communist speaker of the federal parliament KB Mahara.
However, Prachanda is yet to honor this invitation.
In the meantime, President Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un- the rocket man, are meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, this February 27-28.
It is also talked that the US could use Maoists of Nepal to convince the rocket man’s regime to accept its demand for total denuclearization of North Korea.
Has the US become so weak that it now needs Prachanda- who has killed some 17,000 innocent lives in Nepal to convince North Korea? If so then does the US now prefer “blanket amnesty” to the Maoists’ leaders for their war crimes? And, the US now wants the communist regime of Nepal to play a key role in the affairs of Indo-Pacific region?
Not so many people know that Indo-Pacific nomenclature was coined by the US and people are confused on the US’s India-Pacific Strategy.
Dr. Bhaskar Koirala, an old China hand in Nepal who is the Director of the Nepal Institute of International and Strategic Studies (NIIS) too subscribes to the view that the people in general are “confused” in ascertaining as to what is in essence the Indo-Pacific Strategy or the Indo-Pacific Command?
Dr. Koirala rather prefers to take it as a “concept” and this idea remains yet to be fully understood by Nepal’s Foreign Ministry more so the minister to whom the US Secretary of State Pompeo last December proposed to play the central role.
Discussing on the request made by the US to Nepal to play a key role in Indo-Pacific strategy, Dr. Koirala says “let’s not take the US proposal in a different narrative”.
The US may want Nepal help to institutionalize peace in the nations that come under the ambit of the vast expanse taken commonly as the Indo-Pacific region. This could have been the underlying thought behind proposing Nepal joining the club of which India is a prominent member.
Talking to Kantipur TV February 13, 2019, Koirala bluntly says “Nepal’s foreign minister must disclose what transpired between him and Mike Pompeo in their meeting and what his response to Pompeo’s proposal was?”
“Nepal can act like a peace maker in the Indo-Pacific command”, is what perhaps Dr. Koirala wanted to hint through the televised interview and which he clearly stated in an interview with The Annapurna Express online portal.
“In my visit to Vietnam to attend the Third edition of Indian Ocean Conference held on August 27-28 last year, I met with the US’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice G Wells”, claims Koirala and adds, “She told me that the US is providing $500 million as a part of Nepal’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific strategy”.
In Hanoi, Alice Wells said in her speech, recalls Koriala, that one example of their Indo-Pacific Strategy is the MCC Grant (Millennium Challenge Account/Corporation) to Nepal worth 500 million US Dollar”.
“The MCC will be used for road maintenance and expansion of the transmission lines”, the US Minister told Dr. Koirala which he reiterated in the Television interview.
Months after Alice Wells disclosed in Hanoi of the US’s $500 Million support to Nepal, the US ambassador tweeted recently while congratulating Khadga Bahadur Bisht- the newly appointed Executive Director of the Millennium Challenge Account for Nepal, “It was a major breakthrough as we prepare to begin $500 million projects with the government of Nepal.”
As if this were not enough, US Embassy tweet dated 11 February 2019, in part says, “The US’s Pacific Command and the Nepalese Army Mahabir Ranger Regiment conducted a joint military partnership.”
“Trainings like these not only hone skills like marksmanship, demolition, glacier training and avalanche safety, they also build camaraderie and strengthen the US-Nepal Military relationship”, claims the US Embassy in Nepal.
Now this means that Nepal is already in the Indo-Pacific camp.
But since it is a bilateral military exercise and thus nothing to suspect the very motive of the joint exercise as Nepal has been doing such joint military drills with several countries including China, Pakistan and India, however, what is a matter of serious concern to Nepali observers is that the US-Nepal military drills are being conducted in and around Nepal’s Mustang which adjoins the Chinese border.
Mustang is a very sensitive area.
“When nations stand on the side of principles, not behind one power, they earn respect of the world and a voice in international affairs”, it is strongly believed by scholars like Dr. Bhaskar Koirala and Dr. Anil Sigdel.
“And you do not have to see it as the US trying to contain China from here Nepal”, so believes Dr. Bhaskar Koirala.
Nepal matters for America and vice versa.
And almost this is what Dr. Anil Sigdel, Director of the Washington based think tank “Nepal matters for America” said while taking to this scribe a month back.
Dr. Sigdel and Dr. Koirala appear to be on the same page on Nepal’s joining the Indo-Pacific Club as proposed by America.
Observers from Nepal opine that Nepal’s joining the Indo-Pacific club as proposed by the US is not at all a bad idea, however, Nepal must exhibit its political and diplomatic acumen in such a way that such a diplomatic exercise neither annoys the US nor it blunts Nepal’s highly acclaimed credentials of the adherence to the policy of non-alignment both in letter and spirit.
Scholar Chandra Dev Bhatta opines that Nepal must play a diplomatic role that is smart and tactful in the changed context.
Dr. Sigdel on the other hand claims that Nepal need not change its structured foreign policy to join the Indo-Pacific club.
“We have to devise some apposite diplomatic ways and that too in a creative manner which allows Nepal to take part in the leadership, as proposed by the US, on the Indo-Pacific strategy for our economic benefits,” Sigdel claims.
“We should definitely stay away from military matters (alliances),” quite cleverly Dr. Sigdel hastens to add.
However, Dr. Sigdel considers that the “US Pacific command perhaps wishes that the Nepali Army does not go to the Chinese fold completely”.
When asked to comment on Nepal’s NAM status, Dr. Sigdel promptly responds, “NAM stands outdated. Look now Indian Foreign Secretary Mr. Vijaya Gokhle is on record to have said that his country is now a multi-aligned country”.
“Nepal should also adopt a “multiple-aligned policy”, without elaborating said Sigdel.
Proposing Nepal to play a role in its brain child Indo-Pacific Strategy, the US not necessarily is pushing us to a “conflicting situation”, he continues and winds up Dr. Sigdel by claiming that, “Indo-Pacific exercise with dozens of countries have already have taken place in Kathmandu over the years more so last year”.
“We can join this club in the same manner as we agreed to be a part of the China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative)”, both Koirala and Sigdel agree. That’s all!