Irrelevant dispute over ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’


December 30, 2019


Irrelevant dispute over ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’

In the course of time, the issue of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) seems to be decentered towards its link with Indo-Pacific strategy. Although, the issues relating to national security deserve a serious thought and consideration, prolonged and indecisive pondering might lead to dire consequences both socially and economically.

An intensified discussion on the issues of grants and loans promotes transparency and nurtures democracy. Such discussion is hailed natural and welcomed everywhere. However, after swallowing the lumps kept on mouth debating on the taste is useless. In case of MCC grant the US government has promised to offer Nepal as per the latter’s interest, it is all up to the political willpower of the leadership to think and decide whether to ratify and accept the grant or refuse it letting it slip off the hand; yet a provoked or ‘guided’ decision targeting a particular country goes counterproductive.

Nepali leadership should think about the best interest of Nepal and should go for acceptance of any grant that doesn’t adversely impact Nepal’s sovereignty, national interest the social and religious harmony.

The MCC originally  part of US strategy of helping the country eradicate poverty and curb terrorism, is guided by the intent of assisting the poverty-gripped countries overcome the issue by making an impacting investment in infrastructure sector. Nepal, aware of the significance of such grant to lead it ahead, had launched its interest in MCC since 2011.

Nepal’s delight at being selected for MCC, which could have been the sore trial due to 20 tough indicators had 4 major constraints not been considered differently, seems to be clouded by the short-sighted and provoked allegations against the donor.  Citing two conditions: ratification from the parliament and the provision seeking Indian consent some people, under some interest, seem committed to prove it ‘pro-
US’ and ‘intrusive’ attempt.

However, Prof. Dr. BishwambharPyakuryal, a senior economist, diplomat and analyst thinks, such mega grantsfocused on infrastructure building should be welcomed.

“The practices and MCC documents show that MCC is mainly targeting the poor but well-governed states with good prospects for poverty reduction through economic growth.” Pyakuryal cites the conditions set for receiving the grants, and says, “At a time when there is a vast gap in the amount required for investment in infrastructure building and the country’s capacity, such projects should be welcomed as they are like to impact the country affirmatively for quite long.”

Be it the MCC grant Nepal has been promised as per Nepal’s request or the aid USA is offering for the security and development of the countries in the Indo-Pacific region, some elements seem to be inclined in proving it as  ‘military strategy’ against a particular nation. Failure to prioritize the national interest and the act of being swayed away by the undue feelings can turn regrettable later.

Stressing the need to green signal the grant, Madhu Raman Acharya, a career-diplomat and former ambassador opines further delaying it would simply breed unwarranted abstruseness with the United States, which is Nepal’s friendly nation. “What needs to be understood is since this is only a grant, Nepal should not linger it.” Acaharya says reiterating the need to go ahead with it.

What is Indo-Pacific Strategy?

Unlike NATO or former WARSHAW pact of the past, Indo Pacific strategy is not an agency or military alliance designed to counter any specific political propaganda or a nation. As it came from the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while laying out the initiative in 2018, it is “an ironclad and enduring commitment” to a region from the Pacific to the Indian  subcontinent. Then he had mentioned the strategy as an attempt of ‘the American people and the whole world to work jointly for Indo-pacific’s peace and prosperity”. It is a concept put forward for the security and development of Indo-Pacific region.

As the aspirations and the needs are under discussion, at present, it is merely US government’s concept committed to attain prosperity through eradicating poverty and making common developing strategy.

This initiation has regarded the rule of law, security, openness and freedom as the means of ensuring the stability and good governance. The countries are open to accept or refuse it on their own, as US government has made it clear, it’s not an organization, alliance or rival agency or strategy against any nation.

It is an expression of US intent of ensuring free, open and secure environment required for international trade that can contribute significantly for democracy, sustainable development and good governance in the Indo-Pacific region.

The strategy aims at enhancing the capacity and efficiency of each nation so as to promote the prosperity and peace in the region. Every nation willing to cooperate in development and prosperity and committed to free, balanced and sustainable development of the region can participate in it.

It should not be undermined that the strategy, actually being a concept aimed at the regional security, stability and prosperity, is open to the nation willing to be its part. There is no compulsion for any nation to join nor is there any restriction in joining it to.

What Indo-Pacific Strategy is not?

A covert military alliance:

As speculated by some skeptics in Nepal, it is not a strategy against any nation of the region. Any country can join the campaign. As it aims to promote collective and communal effort, it is not a strategy or alliance to threaten or impact any country’s sovereignty or security adversely. It is not a US initiation with hidden interest in the countries it want to work with. In Nepal’s context, it is not an attempt to impose US propaganda or agenda in Nepal. Covertly or overtly, it has nothing to impact Nepal’s sovereignty adversely, nor has it anything to impact Nepal’s international relation.

Conception of Indo-Pacific Strategy

The concept of Indo- Pacific Strategy, as it is, was first forwarded by US President Donald Trump in Nov. 2017. Although formally put forward as a regional priority by President Trump while addressing the head of the government of South East Asian nations gathered in Vietnam, much had been done prior to it. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had appealed for such concept in 2016.

Is Indo-Pacific Strategy a first strategy in the region?

No. It is merely a different name to the strategy, US has been in Asia-Pacific region with its priorities since long. The US Presidents before Trump had also kept this region in their priority though in different name. Former US President Barack Obama had forwarded his Asia priority under ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy. George W. Bush, then President of USA had keenly initiated cooperation with the nations of the region after the terrorist attack in USA.  Former President Ronald Regan and Franklin D. Roosevelt has also put Asia-Pacific region in their priority. In other words, since Second World War, the USA has made its place to promote peace, and stability in the region.

Why is Indo-Pacific region so important?

The center of opportunity of 21st century has shifted to the Indo-Pacific region. This vast area of 260 million spreading from the western coast of America to the western coast of India populates nearly one third of the people of the world. USA, China, Japan and India, 4 out of 6 major economies of the world lie in this region. Not only this, it is the region with fastest economic growth rate along with the fast growing consumers.

Indo-Pacific region holds a significant role in world economy, military strategy and diplomacy. Each nation can boom their economy provided they collaborate for collective effort for peace and prosperity rather than plotting to one’s individual benefits.

The region is very important from business perspective. 60% of the sea-trade is executed in the region and 9 out of 10 most significant sea-ports lie in this region. Provided the participation of all nations in the area, irrespective of their size, is ensured the collective benefits can be multiplied. Thus, the peace, stability, open and free movement are pivotal for collective and sustainable prosperity.

On the contrary, the failure to ensure regional security can be fatal to the world as 6 out of 10 military giants belong to this region. Hence, collective effort to ensure peace and stability is a must.

Can Indo-Pacific be rewarding to Nepal?

This concept advocates for transparency, so neither there is the intent of creating a debt-trap nor can it try to use any country as the dumping site for the low quality products. Indo-Pacific Strategy is not a concept enticing someone to go for or against some others. This promotes the collective effort for collaboration; hence, does not work for US interest alone.

Is Nepal included in this strategy?

Indo-Pacific Strategy does not require any involvement. Nepal has been entertaining various facilities under this policy since long as receiving various grants or aid under this policy does not require any treaty or agreement. Nepal has been enjoying various grants and aids in various sectors including military aid and collaboration.

How was the name Indo-Pacific conceived for this policy?

The term Indo-Pacific had been had been in use, though in different sense, since long. Karl Haushofer, German General, geographer and politician, had used the term in 1920s. In 1960, a team of Australian academician had conducted a research on this region in 1960s. India also made a research on this issue in 2000s. With Shinzo Abe’s arrival it got special consideration and came to forefront from Japan, whereas the term was used for  a part of his international policy by Donald Trump, the incumbent President of USA. Now, USA has been reiterating on regional stability and peace expanding its security concern.

What can Nepal gain from this strategy?

Since this concept incorporates the policy of balancing everything this is a strategic opportunity. As the political values adopted by Nepal are in harmony with the fundamentals of Indo-Pacific strategy, Nepal can entertain the best of the strategy  to ensure prosperity, stability, development and security, collaborating with this US strategy. Such collaboration nurtures democracy, enhances economic development and makes room for peace and prosperity. As there are no special requirements to join it, Nepal can benefit by using the involvement for diversifying its foreign policy, enhancing the bilateral and multilateral ties with other countries of the Indo-Pacific region.

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