By PR Pradhan
Intellectuals, academicians and political leaders are fully concentrated in a debate regarding the adoption of the 500 million American grant project under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Among the political parties, the Nepali Congress is of the view for adoption of the project as early as possible. However, the ruling Nepal Communist Party is divided on accepting the American grant. Bhim Rawal, Mani Thapa, Lilamani Pokhrel, Dev Gurung, among others from the NCP are the strong critics of the MCC grant. They have remarked that MCC is an organ of the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) an American military alliance against China. Therefore, Nepal, a non-aligned nation, should not join any military pact.
Nevertheless, the American diplomats and senior officials during their Kathmandu visit, had confirmed that MCC is an organ under the IPS, however, they have claimed that IPS is not a military alliance aimed at any country.
The recently held standing committee meeting of the NCP spent enough time debating on the MCC grant project. Finally, the meeting gave the responsibility to the Party Secretariat to decide on the MCC grant. Of late, in preparation of grounds for endorsing the MCC project, the NCP leaders have started to say that it is not an organ under the PPS.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is of the view of endorsing MCC from the ongoing session of the Parliament. Therefore, in spite of serious debate in the ruling party, sooner or later, MCC is going to be endorsed.
Personally, this scribe is of the view of accepting such grant projects for infrastructural development of the country. Nevertheless, the intention of the donor country should be clear. Nepal should adopt such grant projects under the guidelines of the constitution and other existing laws. The MCC project, after endorsement from the Federal Parliament, will itself be a part of the law and will remain above the existing laws of the country. Therefore, in as-it-is condition, Nepal should not adopt this grant project, this scribe believes.
Some conditions in the grant offer are very much objectionable. According to the grant proposal, audit of the projects under MCC should be conducted by the American companies only. Accordingly, firstly, Nepal should invest on the project under MCC. Later, MCC-Nepal will reimburse the fund. At the time of reimbursement of the fund, the Americans may put forward some conditions, especially in areas such as, economic liberalization, good governance and security. A country like Nepal may face such a pressure during reimbursement of the fund. Also, such a pressure may come directly or indirectly while accepting China initiated Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
It is learnt that there are 20 conditions to be eligible to enjoy the MCC grant. Anti-corruption move, economic liberalization, transparency, human rights are the criteria developed for the MCC grant. In anti-corruption move, Nepal has scored good marks, whereas, in three criteria including economic liberalization, Nepal is yet to progress more. Even though, Nepal has been included in the MCC grant project.
MCC, after all, is the project aimed at countering Chinese influence and continuing American dominance. Firstly, MCC was introduced in South Africa when Chinese investment was intensified there. Besides, Americans, to keep under its influence other smaller but strategic countries, has initiated the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The American plan is to disturb Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific countries.
Interestingly, at a time when a debate was on in the NCP standing committee meeting, overnight, the mainstream media were flooded with special reports, editorials, expert opinions in support of MCC grant project. It is clear that they were sponsored. It makes clear that the local media are unable to defend the nation’s interests, rather, they are working only for serving foreign interests.
Sure, Nepal should not align with any of the countries. Balanced and equidistance policy are the base of our standard foreign policy. Nepal has no other options except from following our standard foreign policy. This is our geographical compulsion. The Indians say that Nepal and India enjoy special relations. Specially since 1990, Nepali political leaders started to give special importance to India and started to visit Delhi immediately after assuming power in the country as if they were visiting that country to present letter of credence.
Nevertheless, after KP Sharma Oli became the prime minister, his foreign ministry developed the foreign relations guidelines stating that Nepal would initiate equidistance relations with the two neighbouring countries and develop relations with all the friendly countries on the basis of Panchaseel. Such decisions of the government are highly appreciable, however, of late, the government seems to have forgotten its standard foreign policy and is trying to hurt its immediate neighbours by developing strategic alliance with other countries.