Tear gas, water cannons, bamboo batons, stones . . .
Roads leading to the parliament building in Kathmandu, Nepal, were blocked for hours on Wednesday because of clashes between protesters and riot police. The protesters numbered around 3,000, and a few hundred of them managed to push through cordons of riot police, who used bamboo batons and water cannons and fired tear gas to quell the protest. Protesters responded by pelting police with stones. According to a district official, 123 activists were detained, and nine police personnel were injured. The protest is against a roughly C$634-million grant that would fund an electricity transmission line and road improvement projects in the Himalayan nation. Major political parties in Nepal, including those forming the ruling coalition, are divided over accepting the grant.
(Dis)agreement between two governments . . .
Signed by the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC), an aid agency, and the Government of Nepal in 2017, the grant proposal was scheduled to be presented in the Nepalese parliament. But the debate was postponed due to disagreements among political parties, including growing opposition led mainly by Nepal’s Communist parties. The funds do not have to be repaid and U.S. officials have said that there are “no strings attached, no interest rates, and no hidden clauses.” However, those against the grant argue that its conditions will override Nepalese laws and infringe upon the country’s sovereignty, and that Nepal would not have sufficient oversight of the projects.
Future of Nepal’s foreign engagements . . .
Washington believes that China is behind a disinformation campaign against the MCC grant. But people in Nepal also protested against China in January for what they say is growing Chinese interference in the country’s internal affairs. A Nepalese government report, leaked to the BBC, accuses China of encroachment along the two countries’ shared border. Regarding this infrastructure grant, Washington has conveyed to Kathmandu that it would have to review its ties with Nepal if the MCC is not ratified by the given deadline. Nepal may need to figure out how to better manage its relations with foreign countries to leverage such relationships to contribute to its development and economic growth.