‘No’ letter after two years of ‘keeping’ – Online Khabar

July 7, Kathmandu. Two years after the United States included it in its State Partnership Program (SPP), Nepal has decided not to abide by it and has decided to send a letter through diplomatic channels.

The decision was taken by the government through the Council of Ministers after widespread opposition to the signing of the SPP agreement during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Chief of Army Staff Prabhuram Sharma to the United States.

It is clear that the state structure has shown immaturity on serious issues related to the country’s geopolitics and diplomatic sensitivities, and it has raised serious questions about the conduct of foreign relations. Contrary to non-aligned foreign policy, the country has avoided deviating from its belief that it cannot participate in any military alliance, but very slowly.

According to foreign experts, the diplomatic credibility of Nepal is still in question as the concerned bodies seem to be unaware of the US military alliance’s inclusion in the SPP under the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS).

Former ambassador and foreign affairs expert Dinesh Bhattarai thinks that the United States should be informed about this in 2019 itself. According to him, it is welcome to correspond even now. But it also raises serious questions about the country’s foreign relations.

“We cannot join the military alliance, so we had to withdraw it. However, even when the US put Nepal in the SPP, we did not seem to be serious’, says Bhattarai. By delaying, Nepal’s credibility is declining. ‘

Bhattarai argues that at that time, Nepal did not understand the clarity, seriousness, geopolitical complexity and sensitivity of the issue, which was not in line with the essence of our foreign policy.

Twice in 2015 and 2017, before the US made SPP a part of its military strategy, it was made public that Nepal had written to participate in the program.

The United States approved Nepal’s application only in 2019, and in the same year placed the SPP under its military strategy, the IPS. A report published by the US Department of Defense in June 2019 stated that Nepal had joined IPS through SPP.

However, Nepal is trying to persuade the United States that it will not be able to stay in the SPP only after three years.

Khadga KC, head professor of the international department at Tribhuvan University, said that the US should clarify the situation of the country which cannot participate in the SPP keeping in view the national interest.

“The decision not to stay in the SPP is to be welcomed,” he said. Instead, we must make our case to the United States through diplomatic channels. “

National security expert and former Nepal Army chief Vinoj Basnyat says Nepal should show commitment to maintaining diplomatic relations between Nepal and the US military and government even if Nepal leaves the SPP.

Unaccountable leadership

The controversy erupted only after General Charles Anthony Flynn of the US Army’s Indo-Pacific Command, during his visit to Nepal, pressured the political and military leadership to sign the SPP.

Manuel P. Mickler, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Nepal, made the remarks at a press conference after protests erupted over pressure from the United States and the signing of a new agreement between the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff.

Mickler said the Nepal Army had twice applied for participation and had been approved by the United States. However, none of the country’s political, diplomatic and military leadership considered it necessary to clarify this issue to the general public.

After the US embassy revealed that the Nepal Army had submitted the application on behalf of Nepal, the military headquarters issued a statement in response. However, the next day, a letter written by the then Chief of Army Staff Rajendra Chhetri with the consent of the government became public.

However, since the SPP was not in the IPS at the time of the protest, an application for disaster relief was made and then the military alliance could not be maintained.

This was accepted by Chief of Army Staff Sharma only on the third day of the parliamentary committee discussion. There, he not only admitted that he had written a letter, but also revealed that the Nepal Army was receiving assistance through the SPP and that something was still coming.

Earlier, it was reported that the United States had offered to sign the SPP agreement. Government ministers responded to questions from lawmakers in the House, from the ruling party to the opposition.

After their reply was not satisfactory and Prime Minister Deuba did not reply in the House, the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives summoned Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka, Chief of Army Staff Prabhuram Sharma, Foreign and Defense Secretary for a discussion. Prime Minister Deuba was also called by the committee but he did not go.

“The prime minister was probably in favor of signing it. However, the government may have backed down as the public opinion and the situation was not in its favor, ‘says Khadga KC, Professor of Tribhuvan University.

Allegations continued between the parties in the parliamentary committee and in the meetings of the parliament. In the House, the departmental ministers gave light answers and gave misleading explanations about what SPP and IPS are.

Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka said the SPP and IPS were purely disaster management assistance. While the report of the US Department of Defense had made public not only about IPS and SPP but also about Nepal’s involvement in it. He was certainly not unaware of this.

A similar statement was made by the previous government’s foreign minister Pradip Kumar Gyawali. A State Department spokesman issued a statement following a meeting with US Secretary of State Pompeo during Gyawali’s visit to the United States in 2019.

The statement said that discussions were held on the possible role of Nepal in the Indo-Pacific region. After the statement of the Ministry of External Affairs, a wide question arose saying that Nepal may have agreed to be a part of IPS. After that, Gyawali also gave an explanation in the style of the current Foreign Minister Khadka. “Indo-Pacific is a region, not a strategy,” he said.

Professor KC comments that there is a lack of sincerity in the political leadership. “The political leadership has not been honest in getting the SPP to this point,” says Professor KC. He further added that the decision of the political parties to write a letter to the United States was a product of compelling circumstances.

“Political compulsion alone seems to have led to the writing of this letter,” he said. After their demise, the party leading the government, the Congress, will have to leave. Because of this, they are forced to reverse the decision. KC has remarked that the political leadership is still not aware of the issue of national security.

Whether it was when the army wrote the letter or when the US made SPP a part of IPS, Nepal seems to have been informed again and again. The then Foreign Minister Gyawali has said that a task force was formed under the leadership of the Foreign Secretary to study the issue.

In an interview with Online Khar, Gyawali said that he had formed the task force and put it on hold after learning that it was part of a military alliance. However, the government at the time did not appear to have given any information that it could not be part of the military alliance.

Even more interesting is the answer of the current Foreign Minister Khadka. “If it had been known, it would have been dismissed at that time,” Khadka said while replying to the parliamentary committee. Until the previous day, he had said that it was not a military alliance but only economic and environmental assistance.

KC says that the political leadership is most responsible for not being able to take a decision for such a long time. ‘No one is above water. All were connected in the same way in MCC and now it is also seen in SPP ‘, he says,’ Due to the geopolitical situation of Nepal, we cannot join any military ‘alliance’. The Prime Minister was probably in favor of signing it. However, the government may have backed down as the public opinion and the situation were not in its favor.

National security expert Vinoj Basnyat said that it was a mistake for the then Chief of Army Staff Rajendra Kshetriya to write a letter on the subject of SPP.

“It is customary to meet between the armies of different countries. Being in such a position does not mean that you will not believe. However, the manner in which Rajendra Chhetri wrote a letter to the US on the subject of SPP was not correct, ‘says Vinoj Basnyat, a former superior.’

Weak diplomacy, so bypass it

It has been confirmed that the US did not suddenly include Nepal in the SPP without informing or discussing it. On the contrary, the US seems to have accepted Nepal’s earlier attempt to participate only after the SPP was made a part of the IPS in 2019.

Why didn’t Nepal respond even after approving the SPP and making it a part of IPS? The country’s weak diplomacy is the only reason for this.

“We have a tendency to underestimate institutions. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been made active in the conduct of diplomacy, such a difficult situation would not have arisen ‘, said former Foreign Minister Pradip Gyawali.

Former Ambassador Bhattarai says that the country’s diplomacy is so weak that it cannot even assess what will happen in two years. “We have not been able to assess the situation after two years and six months. We don’t have a ‘strategic culture’, ‘he said. We can’t support the SPP at that time, it should be a big burden for us. ‘

A series of visits from the United States just before the IPS report was made public in 2019 confirms that the issue was discussed at the time. Even before the US made public its statement that Nepal would play a central role in the Indo-Pacific, high-ranking US military officials had paid a visit.

The same command of the US Army and the Nepal Army had been partnering and joint exercises and programs were being held on various topics every year. In the same year, the Commander of the Command, Admiral Davidson, visited Nepal, but only a short time before that, other officials had visited. A year before that, Commanding General of the Indo-Pacific Command, Robert B. Brown, also visited Nepal.

After that, a team of USR Pak of US Army came to Nepal and had a discussion with Nepal Army for the first time under the title ‘Land Force Talk’. It was attended by 17 military officers, led by US Army Major General Roger J. Noble.

Lieutenant General Brian Fenton, Deputy Commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, also visited Nepal in the same year and presented the ‘Legion of Merit – Degree of Commander’ medal to the then Chief of Army Staff Chhetri on behalf of the US State Armed Forces.

Even then, the issue was not raised in Parliament. However, no one answered the question, nor did the United States give a clear answer from the government. Former Ambassador Bhattarai is worried that the country’s diplomatic credibility will be weakened if it is said only two years later.

“It simply came to our notice then that we were not part of it. The government should have analyzed its situation and made a decision, “he said.” In 2019, US military officials visited. In December of that year, the Assistant Secretary of State for Defense came, ‘Bhattarai asks. Who coordinated it? ‘ He said that there may have been a problem in understanding even when information was not exchanged through the relevant channels.

The cabinet decided to send a letter to the United States through diplomatic channels on Monday, declaring that it would not participate in the SPP. Such decisions have been made by the government many times.

A more systematic ‘foreign code of conduct’ was drafted in 2011 than the decision made by the cabinet on Monday. It has also been placed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Similarly, during the previous government, Foreign Minister Gyawali had also tried to enrich the foreign policy. But there is a problem in implementation, says Gyawali.

“We have organized a national dialogue while formulating foreign policy. The representatives of all the political parties had given important suggestions in it ‘, says Foreign Minister Gyawali. He says there have been serious deviations in the country’s foreign policy, foreign relations and diplomatic ‘deals’.

He says that the main problem in this is the tendency of bypassing the concerned institutions in conducting the foreign policy of the country. “We have a tendency to underestimate institutions. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been made active in the conduct of diplomacy, such a situation would not have arisen, ‘he says. We are seeing the results now. ‘

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