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Controversy in Nepal over joining US-led State Partnership Program

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Kathmandu, June 17 (IANS) Nepal has refused to become a part of the US-led State Partnership Program (SPP), a platform created to share experience on disaster management, military-to-military and other defence related cooperation.

Nepal wrote a letter first in 2015 and then again 2017 to join the SPP which was later included as part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy by the US Department of Defense in 2019.

Since then, several debates and deliberations have taken place as to whether Nepal should join the SPP as Kathmandu has been saying that it will not join any military bloc or alliance.

Ahead of the scheduled visit of Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to Washington in mid-July, a recent visit of Charles Flynn, Commanding General of United States Army Pacific, to Kathmandu last week and the leak of a purported document which said the US will give $500 million to Nepal Army for five years after the signing of SPP have again triggered debate in the country as to whether Nepal should join the SPP.

After deliberations by the ruling and opposition parties, which are mostly dominated by Communist forces, the Deuba-led government has decided to skip joining the SPP.

After a series of uproar, Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Narayan Khadka, has ruled out the possibility of Nepal’s involvement in the SPP.

In his address to a meeting of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives on Friday, Khadka said the Prime Minister has already declared that the SPP is not in the interest and welfare of Nepal and it is not acceptable for Nepal in the changing context.

In response to lawmakers’ queries, he said, “The matter is already a closed chapter with the Nepali Army clarifying it. Thus, it is not necessary to bring the topic into a discourse again.”

According to the minister, it is not possible for Nepal to be part of any military alliance as it is aware of its geographical position and the sensitiveness of its neighbouring country.

Army Chief of Nepal, General Prabhu Ram Sharma, has also ruled out joining the SPP, clarifying that the Nepali Army has not received any funds, weapons or ammunition from the US under the SPP.

Neither money nor weapons or ammunition have been received under SPP, he said, adding that the US would never provide support in such terms.

Former PM Madhav Kumar Nepal said the government has already clarified its position with regard to SPP and that the Prime Minister has also assured the ruling partners that no agreement will be signed regarding SPP.

Some leaders are demanding that the government should further clarify its position with regard to SPP and write to the US stating that Nepal would not be a part of it.

House Committee President Pabitra Niraula (Kharel) said the meeting decided to seek official opinion of the government about the issues made public with regard to SPP, direct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to apprise the US government that it would not be part of the ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’, and direct the government not to entertain any document or activities capable of sparking controversies during the Prime Minister’s US visit.

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