House committee questions foreign secretary, army chief on PPS

The government told a House committee on Friday that the SPP’s Nepal chapter had been closed.

Speaking at a meeting of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka said there was no need to pursue the matter further because the prime minister and the military Nepalese have already declared that they are against.

Nepal’s participation in the United States government’s state partnership program caused an outcry, with political parties engaging in a blame game, despite everyone knowing about it.

A letter from the Nepal Army to the United States dated October 27, 2015, which was leaked on Thursday, shows that Nepal has requested its participation in the SPP. The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu said Washington had accepted Nepal into the SPP after its two applications in 2015 and 2017.

After the Army letter fell into the public domain, the parties who blamed each other are now trying to wash their hands of responsibility.

“The matter is settled for now. It is against our national interest, therefore, we will not accept it,” Khadka told lawmakers when answering their questions. “We don’t need the increase one way or another. His chapter has been closed now because we said we weren’t going to go.

At the meeting, lawmakers from all parties had sought to know the position of the government and the army on the SPP.

Also speaking at the meeting, Chief of Army Staff Prabhu Ram Sharma reiterated his institution’s position on Wednesday that Nepal has not been part of any military alliance and does not will ever be in the future.

Sharma said the military in 2015 and 2017 wrote to the US government for support in disaster response through its National Guard. However, it was not for a military alliance, he said.

“The letter which is in the public domain is authentic but it does not say anywhere that it is about a military alliance,” he said. “I have already made it known to US officials that we cannot be part of any alliance. Let’s have no doubt about that.

In the letter, sent by the then Army Chief, Rajendra Chhetri, the Nepal Army requested the US government to establish the National Guard State Partnership Program for Nepal.

“As authorized by the Government of Nepal, we have the honor to formally request the establishment of the National Guard State Partnership Program for Nepal,” reads the letter addressed to then-Ambassador Alaina B Teplitz. from the United States to Nepal. “We firmly believe that this program can promote long-term, enduring and mutually beneficial security relationships to exchange military skills and experiences, share defense knowledge, build partnership capacity and enhance mutual cooperation in matters of safety.”

Sharma also assured committee members that there will be no such deal when he visits the United States. He is traveling to the United States from June 27 to July 1.

After a controversy over the SPP erupted, the House committee summoned Foreign Minister Khadka, army chief Sharma and the secretaries of the foreign and defense ministries, among others.

The parliamentary committee also inquired about the planned visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to the United States.

Interior Minister Bal Krishna Khand told the House of Representatives on Thursday that the prime minister’s visit was yet to be scheduled.

According to sources, Deuba will fly to Washington most likely in mid-July.

“We strongly warned against signing the SPP or other such agreements during the visit of the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Army to the United States,” said committee member Chand Tara Kumari. “The government and the military have expressed their commitment not to do so.”

The committee asked Deuba to appear before the committee to inform about his visit to the United States and the agenda of the meetings.

Suraj Kumar Dura, secretary of the committee, said that three directives were issued after the discussions, including the submission of all correspondence relating to the SPP and the production of a study report on the SPP by a panel led by the former Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi who is currently the Chief Secretary.

“A verbal directive has been issued to the government and the military to write to the United States to say that Nepal has withdrawn from the SPP,” Dura said.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Kathmandu provided further clarification on the PSP on Thursday, saying there has been ongoing open dialogue with Nepali leaders to collaborate.

“Since the United States accepted Nepal’s request to participate in the State Partnership Program, we have continued to have an open dialogue with Nepalese leaders to collaborate on what cooperative exchanges might look like under the State Partnership Program. SPP, to include possible humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness activities,” the embassy said. “No SPP-led event happened because Nepal did not want it to happen. produce. Any event under the SPP would only occur with the approval of Nepal.

The embassy statement insinuates that the Nepalese leadership was well aware of Nepal’s participation in the SPP.

“The partnership is a regular military-to-military exchange program between the National Guard and the Nepalese Army,” the embassy said. “When Nepal applied to join the program in 2015 and again in 2017, the application involved civilian, government and military leaders in Nepal, openly seeking to benefit from a program focused on cooperation and exchanges in security, as well as on humanitarian aid and disasters”. preparation. »

The embassy also clarified that Nepal can end its participation in the SPP if it wishes.

“A country can simply notify the United States that it no longer wishes to participate in the program,” the embassy said.

The timeline of events surrounding the PSP suggests that almost all politicians were in power and currently blame themselves.

When the military sent the letter to the United States regarding the SPP, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli was Prime Minister while handling the Ministry of Defence.

In 2017, when a second letter of request was sent, Maoist Pushpa Center Chairman Kamal Dahal served as Prime Minister until June and then Nepali Congress President Deuba succeeded him.

In 2019, when the United States accepted Nepal into the SPP, Oli was prime minister and Ishwar Pokhrel was defense minister.

During Friday’s meeting, Foreign Minister Khadka asked Pradeep Gyawali, an UML leader and former foreign minister, why the Oli government had not dropped Nepal’s participation in the SPP.

Khadka was referring to Gyawali’s statement in parliament that the Oli government had “held the plan on hold”.