A sharp division has surfaced in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) over the remark on the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy made by Co-chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal while his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Dahal had reportedly told Wang that Nepal “disapproves of the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy”.
While the leaders relating to the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center) and those nearby to Dahal have actively defended his remark, leaders from the erstwhile CPN-UML have abstained from considering the controversy in detail saying that Nepal has not changed its position on the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Ram Karki the Deputy chief of the party’s Foreign Relations Department who is regarded close to Dahal, said there is no point in nurturing controversy about the remark made by Dahal about the Indo-Pacific Strategy. He said that they are trying to get his [Dahal’s] official statement. But it is their long-held policy with which they do not ally with any vital grouping. This is also the spirit of Nepal’s foreign policy.
Karki argued that their neighbors come to the lead in their foreign policy precedence. He said “We want cordial relations with our neighbors. We are against any alliance that is aimed against any of our neighbors,” “I have yet to learn what exactly he had said during the meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. But this is the official line of our party,” he further said.
However, Prime Minister KP Oli’s foreign relations advisor Rajan Bhattarai and Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Banskota told that the status of Nepal on the Indo-Pacific strategy has not changed.
Minister Banskota in a press conference told that “No matter whether it is Indo-Pacific Strategy or Belt and Road Initiative or any other issue, we as a sovereign nation cautiously deal with our neighbors and other friends. This is what we have been doing. There has not been any deviation or change in our pre-established position [on this],” He, however, refrained from making any further comment.
Although the government has been openly saying that Nepal has not made any delegation to the Indo-Pacific strategy, US officials have been maintaining that Nepal is very much part of the artifice. All the fiscal and technological support the US has been giving to Nepal in recent years, as per the US officials, are bound to the Indo-Pacific strategy.
A day after the Dahal’s statement condemning the Indo-Pacific strategy became public through a statement issued by Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, the US embassy in Kathmandu asked an explanation from the Nepal government if Dahal’s remark reflected the government’s position. US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry even met Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi to know about the government’s position on Thursday.
While in a meeting with Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali in Washington DC in December last year, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had considered Nepal’s “central role” in accomplishing the declared objectives of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Although Gyawali later declined suggestions that Nepal had made any agreement to be a part of the US-led strategy, a section of people in Nepal presume that Minister Gyawali and Nepal’s ambassador to the US Arjun Karki could have made some commitment since the US government has been seeking clarification about the government’s position when ruling party leaders make statement against the Indo-Pacific Strategy.