The debate over the MCC compact has dragged on for far too long for anyone’s good. For a controversy that has been years in the making, there are understandably strong opinions on either side. Those opposed to it remain adamant that it is a part of US military strategy and inimical to Nepal’s interest. Those in favor find not much wrong with a compact that has over the years had the support of all of Nepal’s major political forces. Moreover, as they see it, the time-bound, transmission line-and-road grant project is very much in Nepal’s interest.
We believe time has come to settle the debate once and for all. The country has been endlessly debating the MCC compact over the past five years, as if it had no more pressing issue. The longer the compact has dragged on, the more domestic political actors have been inclined to use it for partisan gains. True, the Americans did not help their own cause through their contradictory statements on the compact. But then it is up to Nepal to settle it, based on its own calculations.
The government should table it in parliament and let the sovereign body decide its fate. We are in favor of endorsing a compact that successive Nepali governments have committed to implementing. But if the parliament rejects it, so be it. At least that will be the end of the story. The compact has been so politicized and hyped up that instead of vital national issues like implementation of federalism and better preparing the country for future pandemics, the electoral debate has come to be perversely centered on a comparably innocuous bilateral agreement.
Any foreign help comes with strings attached. What Nepal has to decide is if it needs continued US support and presence. This newspaper has long argued that it is dangerous for Nepal to completely rely on its two neighbors. (Remember Lipulekh?) We will also do well to internalize that all future American help and engagement with Nepal will, in one or the other way, be linked to its strategic objective of containing China. So let us first be clear about what we want.