Experts term Minister Gyawali’s visit to USA as significant

By Modnath Dhakal

Kathmandu, Dec. 19: Senior diplomats have said that the official visit of Nepal’s Foreign Minister to the United States of America after a gap of 17 years has brought the country in the limelight of international attention.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali is now in Washington DC on a five-day visit from December 17 to 21.
He held a bilateral meeting with the US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeoon Tuesday. Experts termed the visit as ‘extremely significant’ as the visit was initiated by the USA itself.
“This is an interesting development in terms of Nepal’s foreign policy. It has increased the strategic importance of Nepal in South Asia and the world,” said Prof. Dr. Shambhu Ram Simkhada, former Permanent Representative to the UN and former Ambassador.
According to him, the US, India and China are the strategic players in the region and their roles can be cooperative or competitive at times so the FM can use the visit to request the US not to view the bilateral relations with Nepal from Indian perspective.
However, America has been saying that the US Mission and development support to Nepal show that it respects Nepal as an independent power and follows its own perspective.
Former Ambassador to China Hiranya Lal Shrestha said that the visit could boost international aid and investment in Nepal.
“Within 10 years, Indian and Chinese railways are crossing each other in Nepal. It will create a reliable connectivity to the two largest markets in the world which may be a matter of prime attraction to the US and other multinational corporations,” he said.
Shrestha said that there was a possibility that the USA would be more focused on supporting Nepal in its development rather than showing its concerns towards Tibet-related activities and issues.
However, former Ambassador to India Suresh Raj Chalise said that the visit could be Nepal’s effort to improve relations with the USA as the latter was ‘not so happy’ with Nepal’s vote against the US at the United Nations regarding recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“This adventurous move from Nepal has disappointed the USA which is its one of the major development partners. Nepal should have been absent in the voting process instead of disappointing two old development partners,” he said.
According to him, a Least Developed Country like Nepal should have maintained neutrality in such situation.
This visit might be an attempt to develop trust between the two countries, he said.
It has come at a time when the USA has announced support of 500 million dollars through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Experts said that the FM’s visit would ensure the support to Nepal.
During his visit, Gyawali will also have meetings with high-level officials from the White House, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), among others.
The high level exchange is happening 17 years after the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Nepal in 2002. Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa had met US Foreign Minister John Kerry at his office in Washington DC in April 2016.
Nepal has trade surplus with the USA. Similarly, the US is the third major sources of tourists for Nepal. In the first nine months of this year, 82,870 US citizens visited Nepal while 73,650 Americans came to Nepal in 2017.

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