May Analysis: Diplomacy during the Pandemic

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Table of Major International Aids Received

DateInternational Aids
May 11, 2021China provided 400 units of oxygen and 20 ventilators. Bangladesh provided 5,000 vials of remdesivir, needles and PPE
May 13, 2021The European Union provided NPR 282 million worth assistance
May 15, 2021Oman provided 600 oxygen cylinders
May 19, 2021Spain provided assistance worth 1 million Euros which includes ventilators, oxygen concentrators, antigen kits, PPEs and other essential equipment.
May 20, 2021US Aid announced to provide emergency aid to Nepal. Tibet provided 800 oxygen cylinders with 30,000 litres of liquid oxygen, 10 oxygen concentrators, 5 ventilators, 200 ICU bed and 15,000 antigen kits.
May 22, 2021Switzerland provided 40 ventilators, oxygen concentrators, 1.1 million antigen test kits, 110,000 KN95 masks, 5000 gloves and 15000 protective suits worth 8 million USD. New Zealand announced to provide NPR 84 million to Nepal.
May 24, 2021Canada issued a statement wherein it announced to provide NPR 96.5 million Singapore provided NRS 250 million which includes 123,000 Fortitude 3.0 PCR test, 250000 Citotest swab kits, 2 Magec32 RNA extraction machines, 2500 extraction kits, 86 ventilators and 4000 pulse oximeters.
May 30, 2021Thai Ambassador provided medical supplies including surgical mask, PPE sets, face shields, rapid antigen test kits, and oximeter among others.

International assistance influx elevates

As Nepal was plunging into COVID-19 chaos with spikes in daily cases and rising death tolls, the situation had gotten uncontrollable. The hospitals especially in the capital ran out of oxygen supplies, ICU beds and other medical supplies. Many critical patients lost their lives due to no access to timely treatments and hospital services. The country is still running short of vaccines. The health system was on the verge of collapsing. The plight of the country was critical. Despite the terror, in an interview with CNN on May 8, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, claimed that the ‘situation is under control’. The interview could have been utilised as an opportunity to seek international assistance in this trying times. Further, foreign relation analysts have claimed that diplomatic efforts in combating the deepening crisis is lacking. The Nepali diplomats to India, China and the US have been indolent in seeking cooperation from the respective nations. At the moment, seeking emergency support for Nepal should be the utmost priority of all envoys across the globe.

Nevertheless, the persistent lobbying of Nepali diaspora in the US regarding the vulnerable situation of Nepal drew attention of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 12. Acknowledging the worsening situation of Nepal USAID announced a 51 million USD aid to battle the COVID -19 catastrophes. Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel also reached out to the American Ambassador seeking vaccine support from the US. The Ambassador assured that he is making efforts to make vaccines available in Nepal and keep Nepal government updated with regard to the same. Further, Minister of Foreign Affairs in a telephonic conversation requested the Deputy Secretary of USA to provide Nepal with COVID-19 vaccines with due priority. The response of the US government was affirmative and further stated that the key projects in the pipeline supported by the US would hopefully provide Nepal with new opportunities for prosperity.

Similarly, PM also summoned British envoy to PM office on May 20. In the meeting PM sought for support and cooperation to tackle the pandemic and also discussed several issues with regard to bilateral relations. Further, COVID Alliance for Nepal UK has requested the UK government to provide assistance to Nepal to fight the pandemic. They sent an open letter requesting the UK Foreign Secretary to provide Nepal with essential medical supplies urgently. Nepali residents in various countries seem to be more proactive in seeking help for the country while the diplomatic missions in these countries have put little effort to obtain emergency assistance for the country at the time of crisis.

 Many countries have extended help to Nepal by providing medical assistance and other essential supplies. However, Nepal has not been successful to obtain vaccines which are presently of dire need in the country. As per the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal is trying to procure 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the US and China. Amongst other countries, China has been cooperative to Nepal with regard to the fight against COVID-19. China has been providing Vero Cell vaccine to Nepal in separate batches along with other necessary medical equipment since the beginning of the third wave in Nepal.

A medical worker in protective suit collects a swab sample from a baby for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing in the subdistrict of Baihedong in Liwan District of Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong Province. Photo: Xinhua

Strengthening Sino-Nepal ties

Amidst the pandemic, Nepal- China relation has become warmer with the generous amount of assistance and support Nepal has received from China. Nepal has recently established its new Consulate General Office in Chengdu of China. With the fifth diplomatic mission established in China, Nepal thus has the densest presence in China. Nepali Ambassador to China stated that the opening of consulate office in Chengdu would enhance the bilateral ties between the two countries. The Chinese Counterpart also opined that this would enable advancement in trade, investment, tourism alongside aid in building people to people relationship.

In addition to this, the President of Nepal in a telephonic conversation with the Chinese President requested for vaccine assistance, subsequent to sending a request letter to Indian Counterpart on May 26. This step of the president received much criticism as many believed that she was overstepping her constitutional position. However, there is a cluster that believes in achieving the end results irrespective of the means. Nepal received a prompt response from the China as it announced to provide 1 million doses of vaccine under grant assistance. The Chinese President also stated China has prioritised Nepal and will receive full cooperation.

Nevertheless, foreign relation analysts have opined that Nepal government should utilize the foreign policy machinery and have correspondence through diplomatic channels to receive support from friendly nations, instead of using president with mere constitutional provision as a pawn to implore for support. This could perhaps affect the diplomatic relation with friendly nations as these nations follow a strict mechanism for foreign policy.

Further, the Chinese Ambassador has also stated that the Chinese development projects will also be gradually resumed and is looking forward to joint efforts, bilateral relations and cooperation in various sectors for advancing socio-economic development of Nepal. However, the Government of Nepal is also striving for alternate means to ratify MCC as stated by Nepali envoys to the US. He also claims that MCC grant has been unnecessarily politicized. Further, MCC has also been incorporated in the budget of fiscal year 2021-22. The impact of this may be visible in the Nepal’s relation with China.

India’s Concerns

The Foreign Affair Ministry of India released a press statement regarding the recent political developments of Nepal on May 26. The statement has maintained its previous stance with regard to the first house dissolution wherein India had stated that it is an internal affair of Nepal and should be addressed through domestic means. It also stated that India will continue to support Nepal in the possible ways it can. India has refrained from making any other comments with regard to house dissolution making it appear as if it does not want to mingle in the internal matters of Nepal. However, the ruling party of India has expressed serious concerns over the letter sent by Nepal’s President to the Indian President. The party’s head of the foreign department in meeting with Nepali envoy to India had conveyed the concerns on May 27. He questioned meaning of sending the letter through a President with constitutional position and not through the executive head. He also asked that whether this step was taken after China agreed to send vaccines. The step taken by President has not fared well with the ruling party of India. The party assumes the move to be politically driven. He also conveyed that this was a diplomatic flaw on the part of Nepal.

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