US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland on Monday laid out the key issues that America wants to work on with the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government.
The top State Department official arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday evening as part of her trip to Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Qatar. On Monday, she held separate meetings with Prime Minister Dahal, Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Poudyal, CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba. The meetings revolved around the topics of US-Nepal bilateral partnership, Nepal’s transitional justice process, and transparency, among others.
Speaking to the media later in the day, Nuland said the US wants to enhance long-standing partnership to support Nepal’s economic development.
“The US wants to see Nepal as a strong economic power, I am excited to go home and discuss in Washington what happened here in Nepal,” she added.
In her meeting with Prime Minister Dahal, the first agenda under discussion was a smooth implementation of projects under the US’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact: construction of transmission line and road upgradation.
“We, of course, discussed the next step in finalizing the MCC projects,” said Nuland.
Nepal’s parliament endorsed the MCC Nepal Compact in February last year amid protests from some fringe parties on the left. The projects are due to enter their execution phase in August, and the US wants assurance from the Dahal government that they are implemented without obstructions.
Despite parliamentary ratification of the compact, some elements are still trying to obstruct its progress. There have been reports about protests in areas where the transmission line under the MCC is to be constructed.
Another issue that figured in the meeting between the US official and top Nepali leaders was the long-drawn-out transitional justice process.
According to Nuland, they discussed the transitional justice bill, which is under deliberation.
The US and other Western powers are of the view that the transitional justice process should be victim-centric. They are against the idea of granting blanket amnesty on cases of serious human rights violations.
“The US is ready to provide support to implement the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) laws,” said Nuland.
The US official also took up the issue of investment climate in Nepal.
She told senior government and political party leaders that US investors are eager to invest in Nepal, provided there is a conducive environment.
Corruption in Nepal remains a key concern for the US when it comes to building a trustworthy investment climate. The Joe Biden administration has come up with the first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption aimed at elevating the fight against corruption, not only at home but also abroad.
Foreign visits of top Biden officials are also aimed at enhancing US partnership on global issues, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the state of democracy, and the threat of cyber attacks.
Nuland said she and Nepali leaders discussed ways to enhance partnership to foster democracy in Nepal. She said the US was ready to provide technical support to Nepal in the field of cybersecurity.
Asked about the growing US-China geopolitical rivalry, Nuland advised Nepal to maintain good relations with all neighbors.
“We welcome Nepal having a good relationship with all its neighbors,” she said.
But while forging economic partnership with neighbors, she said, making a veiled reference to China, that Nepal should pay attention “to protect its sovereignty, ensure that it is good for Nepal, there is no corruption and everything is transparent”.
Nuland refrained from making any comments on China’s protest against the MCC. She said the Biden administration was engaging more with China.