US China face off in Nepal over 500 mn US grant

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Kathmandu, Feb 18

A small Himalayan nation, Nepal, has been caught in diplomatic wrangling between two superpowers, the United State of America and China, over $500 million US grant to Nepal.

Earlier this week, after Nepal delayed in ratifying the US aid in the Parliament, a senior US State Department official had warned that the US will force a review of its ties with Nepal if Kathmandu fails to ratify the grant under the Millenium Challenge Corporation. And now Kathmandu is witnessing violent protests everyday, particularly by Communist parties, against the American aid.

On Friday, China accused the US of employing "coercive diplomacy" against Nepal to pass the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact.

Some media and civil society members in Kathmandu are accusing China of fuelling anti-American protests in Kathmandu.

At a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin protested against what it called "coercive diplomacy" by the US in Nepal, and said "China will support the Nepali side in making the right choice that conforms to national interests and reflects the will of the people", referring to MCC.

Spokesperson Wang said so in response to a query by a journalist.

A journalist had sought China's views on MCC in Nepal while reminding the recent US State Department statement that Nepal needs to decide on MCC before February 28 or else US-Nepal diplomatic relations would not remain the same.

The journalist had also pointed out the polarisation of Nepali politics over MCC and that demonstrations were being held on a daily basis against the Compact.

Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is in favour of ratifying the MCC in the House, but Chairman of the CPN (Maoist Center), Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and other ruling party leaders are dead against any such move.

Wang, welcoming international cooperation for Nepal's economic growth and improvement of people's livelihood, said, "But this should fully respect the will of the Nepalese people and should not attach any political condition."

"As a friendly neighbour and development partner of Nepal, China will, as always, support the Nepalese people in choosing their own development path, support the Nepali side in making the right choice that conforms to national interests and reflect the will of the people, and continue to provide support to the best of its ability for Nepal's economic and social development," the Chinese foreign spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, following violent protests against the MCC in the country of late, US Ambassador to Nepal, Randy Berry, said that any activity that incites violence is not acceptable to the US.

"We are a strong supporter of free speech and public discourse based on facts, including on MCC. The right to express one's views is intrinsic to democracy, and people must be allowed to peacefully share their views. Violence and incitement to violence are never acceptable," the US Embassy said in a Facebook post on Friday.

The US statement comes amid differing views over MCC ratification among the political parties and demonstrations being held every day, leading to a bomb blast in one of such protest.


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