United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu (L) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Kelly Keiderling.
KATHMANDU: United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu is arriving today on a two-day visit to Nepal.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during his two-day visit to Nepal, Lu is to meet Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka, other ministers and leaders of various political parties and hold discussion on a wide range of issues, including COVID19 assistance.
Assistant Secretary Lu’s visit can be viewed as carrying significance as time is running out for parliamentary ratification of the US grants assistance Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, which was signed between Nepal and the US in 2017.
Likewise, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Kelly Keiderling will also arrive on Thursday and meet with Nepali officials and emerging civil society leaders.
Their visit comes just ahead of the 75th year of diplomatic relations between the United States and Nepal. As part of U.S. President Biden’s top priorities, they will address challenges like COVID-19, climate change, and strengthening democracies.
Earlier, Fatima Sumar, MCC vice president, visited Nepal and stressed that financial aid should not be made a political issue. She had said she was hopeful that Nepal would take a decision soon.
However, as the government has not taken any step to ratify the MCC from parliament, Secretary Lu will also try to understand Nepal’s position during his top-level meetings with political leadership here.
The US side is also of the view that it could not wait forever for Nepal’s parliamentary approval and the $500 million grant could be utilized by another country if Nepal could not decide on time.
There are deep differences within Nepal over the grant agreement to be spent on power transmission lines and road infrastructure.
There is disagreement within the ruling coalition over the implementation of the MCC grant agreement in its current framework and situation.
Prime Minister Deuba needs the support of the ruling coalition parties or the main opposition CPN-UML to get the agreement endorsed by parliament.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu is a career diplomat who began his government career as a member of the Peace Corps before joining the foreign service in 1990. Since then, he has served as Ambassador to Albania (2015-2018) and as Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2018-2021).
President Joe Biden later nominated him as Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, on April 23, 2021.
As the head of the Bureau, Lu will oversee U.S. foreign policy and relations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Envoy Lu is fluent in numerous languages, including Chinese, Hindi, Russian, and more.