The US Embassy in Kathmandu has inquired clarification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following a statement issued by Beijing reviewing a meeting with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a co-chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party said Nepal “disapproves” of the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy.
On Wednesday a US Embassy spokesperson told the Post that they are asking clarification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He said they await the Nepali government’s formal explanation and they have asked their Embassy in Beijing to verify the statement declared there. If true, it is bewildering that they now learn about Nepal’s positions from statements issued from Beijing.
The contents of the reports released by the Chinese foreign ministry were inscribed by The Post on Wednesday. As per one of the reports, in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Dahal said that Nepal strongly adheres to the non-alignment policy, disapproves of the so-called ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’, and resists any attempt to stop the development of China.
Wang was in Kathmandu for a three-day visit to lay the groundwork for a potential halt by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Wang held talks with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, and two former prime ministers—Dahal and Sher Bahadur Deuba.
A member of Dahal’s private secretariat confirmed to the Post on Wednesday that Dahal told Wang that Nepal denies any policy or tact targeted at any nation in general and a neighboring country in particular.
Dahal told Wang if Indo-Pacific Strategy is to target China, then they cannot accept it, according to Dahal’s press coordinator Bishnu Sapkota, who also appeared in the meeting. As per him if the Indo-Pacific Strategy is aimed at any country, it is not agreeable to them. Nepal has long been pursuing a policy that any plan or tact should not target their neighbor’s. They want to get it clear that this is their party and their government’s policy too.
Randy Berry, US Ambassador to Nepal, will be meeting with Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi on Thursday to check if such a statement was made, and if so, what will that imply for Nepal’s position in the Indo-Pacific Strategy, according to the Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy in Kathmandu.
Nepal’s inclusion in the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy came to light when Foreign Minister Gyawali went to Washington, DC in December and held conversations with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The two leaders discussed the US’ Asia policy, which also known as the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and Nepal’s pivotal role in a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Gyawali, though, later denied the US State Department statement that said Nepal is part of the larger US-led initiative. Gyawali carrying a press conference days after he returned from Washington, told media persons that though Nepal’s role in the Indo-Pacific region was discussed during his meeting with Pompeo, they did not talk particularly about the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
During the press meet last December, he said that since Nepal is the SAARC chair and a member state of BIMSTEC, the US reckons that Nepal can play a crucial role in the Indo-Pacific region. But reports about the US including Nepal in its Indo-Pacific Strategy are false, emphasizing the fact that that ‘region’ and ‘strategy’ are two different things.
Later, two US officials who visited Kathmandu categorically reemphasized that Nepal is very much part of the US-led initiative. As per a report from the US Department of Defence also stated that the US attempts to extend its defense association with Nepal under the ‘State Partnership Program in the Indo-Pacific.’