On the international front, February kicked off with several high-profile visits following the formation of the Prachanda-led government. On February 8, Nepal received a visit from the head of the USAID, Samantha Power. She announced a USD 58.5 million grant by USAID to Nepal. EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen also briefly visited Nepal. Four days later, Deputy Foreign Secretary of the US, Afreen Akhter arrived in Kathmandu for a two-day visit. On the same day, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra arrived in Kathmandu for a two-day visit as well. China released a concept paper on GSI late in February, calling on countries to adopt the policy – Nepal hasn’t provided an official position on the matter yet.
Timeline of Major Events
||Visit from USAID’s Samantha Power
||Visit from EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen
||Visit from US’s deputy foreign secretary Afreen Akhter
||Visit from Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra
||China’s GSI concept paper released—Nepal won’t join ‘global security strategy’
On February 8, head of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power visited Nepal. She met Nepali political leaders Prime Minister Pusha Kamal Dahal, Foreign Minister Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal, Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Paudel among others. She also briefly met European Union Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen.She held talks where subject matters ranged from U.S.-Nepal partnership, foreign investment, climate change, social inclusion, transitional justice etc. She also talked to civil society leaders, agro business owners, and US embassy staff regarding the need for public-private partnerships, US commitment to strengthening ties to Nepal. She also announced USAID’s plan to provide US $ 58.5 million to Nepal with the intention to strengthen democratic institutions in the country. The assistance is said
to include grants for assisting
inclusive democracy, supporting civil society and media, and bolstering local elections, rule of law and countering human trafficking
Similarly, Afreen Akhter, the United States 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, arrived in Kathmandu on February 13. Her visit was low-key compared to other officials’ visits. She met
with members from ICIMOD and Urja Nepal, as well as Nepali army and government officials.
The recent trend of high-profile visits of American dignitaries to Nepal can be seen as bid to strengthen bilateral ties based on democracy and inclusive governance after the ratification of MCC Compact in the Nepali parliament. These visits show US’s growing interest in Nepal; also reflect
attempts made by the US in engaging with the new government in Nepal, according to senior government officials and diplomats.
Indian Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra arrived in Kathmandu on February 13. He talked to his Nepali counterpart, Bharat Raj Paudyal on issues of bilateral trade, connectivity, cooperation, multilateral and regional cooperation etc. He also met
with political leaders such as then President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal ‘Prachanda’, former prime ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba, K.P. Sharma Oli among others.
Former diplomats state that his is a routine high-profile visit to ensure engaging high-level visits between India and Nepal and bureaucratic officials have reiterated it. However, political analysts have stated that this visit has come during a sensitive political time for Nepal, considering presidential elections are just around the corner. Before the visit took place, several political commentators had emphasized
on the need to have talks on several pressing bilateral issues such as EPG reports, border disputes, etc. which were not addressed during the visit. This shows reluctance in addressing sensitive topics pertaining to Nepal-India relationship.
There was joint secretary level joint working group meeting as well as secretary-level joint steering committee meeting between the two countries on February 17-18 regarding energy. In the Joint Steering Committee meeting, there were important developments on cross-border electricity trade and transmission lines where India agreed
on taking additional 200MW energy from Dhalkebar-Muzzafarpur transmission line. After the discussion, the Indian representatives also seemed
positive regarding taking electricity from other projects in Nepal.
European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen arrived on February 8. Her visit was set to strengthen partnership and engagement in matters of common geopolitical interest, food security etc. She was also set to present Global Gateway Strategy which is the EU’s offer to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors, and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world. She reemphasized
commitment to help from the EU, talking about the recent launch of the Multiannual Indicative Programme for Nepal for 2021-27 which contributes to GRID (green resilient inclusive development) effort of Nepal as well.
This visit is an ‘important moment as Nepal is preparing
to graduate from LDC status in 2026, and reemphasizes EU’s engagement in Nepal’. This was a ‘meaningful visit’ because areas such as green energy, health, education, and youth were addressed. Foreign ministry official commented that this was an opportune moment to discuss
issues regarding EU involvement in Nepal.
a concept paper on GSI on February 21, calling on countries to join this ‘security alliance’ with a win-win mindset. GSI concept paper talks about principles of commitment to vision of common and collective security, need to address traditional and non-traditional security threats, peaceful resolution of disputes, among other issues. This paper states that the major aim of GSI is to reduce
international conflict, improve global security governance, promote durable peace, etc.
Nepal has been operating
two projects under GDI but as per Nepal’s ambassador to China, Bishnu Pukar Shrestha, Nepal
is not a part of GSI. GSI is China’s call for partnership in its ‘global strategy for alliance’; while Nepal enforces NAM, it therefore won’t be a part of any such alliance.
Sanjay Upadhyay, a US based foreign policy expert has questioned
the ambiguity regarding certain aspects of the initiative while commenting some aspects as being attractive. The push for tackling global traditional and non-traditional security under one umbrella is an ambitious plan. The paper pushes for a nuclear arms free world, focusing on solving problems by dialogues, which is a necessary pursuit in today’s world. However, joining GSI is similar to joining a security pact with, which Nepal’s foreign policy has shied away from. If Nepal is to become a part of GSI, its non-alignment status comes into question.
Foreign Minister Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal returned from Sri Lanka visit which was conducted on the occasion of 75th Independence Day of Sri Lanka. It was done on invitation of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry. During the visit, she attended various programs and met
with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe as well.
However, owing to an abrupt change in coalition government, her visit to 52nd Human Rights Council in Geneva was canceled
. The decision to scrap a high-level visit of Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Paudyal at the last moment projected
a negative image of Nepal’s internal politics to the larger diplomatic community. Foreign visits are an important aspect of maintaining bilateral and multilateral ties, and should not be subject to internal political turmoil.
Former Law Minister Govinda Prasad Sharma Koirala led the Nepali delegation to Geneva instead. In an annual high-panel discussion on human rights, Mr. Uday Raj Sapkota highlighted
the effects of pandemic and other crises on enjoyment of rights by youths, especially in LDCs.
Similarly, what was to be the first official foreign visit of P.M. Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ to Doha, Qatar for the 5th Conference of LDCs on March 3 was canceled
citing ‘political engagements at home’ which could refer to the upcoming presidential elections.