Little knowledge is dangerous. Perhaps this adage is no truer than in the case of the MCC compact. Everyone is talking about it. Asks a taxi-driver in Kathmandu: “Is it true that America will launch missiles against China from Nepal after its passage of the MCC?” A coffee-shop owner in Teenkune questions as curiously: “Will Nepal lose its independence if it signs the MCC?” A Nepali TV channel conducts an MCC debate with rockets and missiles shown flying in the background. How did we come to this?The unsettled debate over whether the MCC compact is a part of the ‘military’ Indo-Pacific Strategy—an imperial American construct targeted against China, in the eyes of many ruling party leaders—is one contributing factor. Thanks to the paranoia this debate has fanned, speculations about American boots marching on Nepali soil naturally follow. But whether or not the compact is related to the IPS, the way the issue has been handled by the ruling party is immature. Yet perhaps it was also inevitable that such an ‘imperial agenda’ would be used to fight proxy wars inside a communist party.
The much ado about the compact could have been avoided had our government been honest. With the American officials themselves admitting the MCC is part of the IPS, why does the NCP government have to lie to its own people? Why not rather have the guts to argue that it really does not matter whether the MCC is a part of the IPS because it is in our national interest? After all, even if we are to go by the government’s own diversification policy, greater American engagement in Nepal will help balance India and China—always dangerous for a small landlocked country to exclusively rely on its giant neighbors.
The Americans have themselves contributed to the suspicions by so strongly lobbying in the compact’s favor and giving muddled answers over its IPS link. Having made their case, why not let the sovereign government apparatus of Nepal settle it? And what is the harm in unequivocally saying that, yes, the compact is a part of the IPS, which, in fact, is the overarching American foreign policy formulation for the Indo-Pacific region?
Even some NCP leaders who were initially skeptical of the compact have come around to seeing its benefits, and it is likely to be eventually passed. But the unfolding MCC fiasco also offers an important lesson. It is dangerous to politicize a foreign policy issue—and one related to the world’s sole superpower at that—for partisan gains, and mislead the public.
After listening to those in the know, it seems the MCC agreement was signed in keeping with Nepali laws. There maybe grander ‘American designs’ behind it. But then the same speculation could be made of China’s BRI or India’s ‘Neighborhood First’. Again, I am not asking for blind acceptance of the compact, as I am also only a learner on the subject. If you too are interested in it, don’t be satisfied by superficial answers—dig a little deep.