Lu engages in talks on MCC, bilateral relations during daylong visit

Himal Press 14 Jul 2023
Lu engages in talks on MCC, bilateral relations during daylong visit

KATHMANDU: US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu, arrived in Nepal on Friday for his third official visit. He concluded his daylong political engagements and is departing on Friday itself.

Lu had previously visited Nepal in November 2021 and July 2022. The US Embassy in Kathmandu has described the visit as a routine occurrence given Lu’s responsibilities for South and Central Asia.

Prior to his arrival in Nepal, Lu had visited India and Bangladesh.

During his visit, Lu held discussions on the progress of energy and infrastructure projects under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). He met with leaders from the ruling party as well as opposition parties, focusing on Nepal’s political stability and the timely completion of the MCC project. Due to his Chinese-American background, he also displayed an interest in China. The US had expressed concerns when Nepal refrained from commenting on China’s unnecessary remarks about the MCC.

Presently, Beijing continues to assert that its assistance falls under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), causing confusion among US officials as to why Nepal has not responded to these claims. Officials from Nepal’s foreign ministry are currently undecided on how to respond to Chinese assertions. They are unsure how to address China if it categorizes its annual bilateral assistance as part of the BRI.

Lu paid a visit to the official residence of Prime Minister Baluwatar to offer his condolences on the passing of his wife Sita. He also engaged in a brief conversation with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Additionally, Lu held a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs NP Saud, during which Saud raised concerns about the lengthy wait for appointments and the expensive visa process. Saud informed Lu that visa applicants often have to wait for up to a year for their interviews. In response, Lu said he would take needful initiatives to address the issue.

Saud also requested continued US assistance to Nepal even after its graduation to a developing economy in 2026.

Lu offering tributes to Sita Dahal.

Since the CPN (Maoist Center), which was a vocal critic of the MCC, is currently ruling the country, the US is concerned that it may cause delays in the implementation of the MCC projects in Nepal. This fear prompted Lu to make a daylong visit to Nepal even though Kathmandu was not a part of his original itinerary.

Following the formation of the government led by Dahal, the frequency of political visits has increased not only from the US but also from other countries. US Deputy Secretary of Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited Nepal on January 29, and Samantha Power, the head of the USAID, arrived on February 5. Furthermore, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Afreen Akhter, arrived in Kathmandu on February 13.

In addition to US officials, Andrew Morrison, the UK Minister of Defence People, Veterans, and Service Families, visited Nepal in the second week of February. There have also been regular visits by Chinese and Indian officials.

Published On: 14 Jul 2023


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