Clumsy communication with MCC

Insiders say the letter written by Nepal’s Finance Ministry to MCC office is in such an undiplomatic tone and so direct that it could raise questions about the government's ability to communicate diplomatically.

Deuba MCC

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: The Ministry of Finance of the Government of Nepal wrote a letter on Friday to the Millennium Challenge Corporation office in Washington DC seeking clarifications on issues related to MCC’s Nepal Compact which have become a matter of debate in Nepal’s political and public sphere.

The letter sent to the American embassy in Kathmandu, through which it is to be sent to MCC office in Washington, contains questions that include whether the MCC is part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy or not, whether under the MCC Nepal falls under America’s security alliance or not, whether the MCC Compact is above Nepal’s constitution, whether the Compact impinges on Nepal’s sovereignty and national interests and so on.

These questions have not only brought a deluge of public opprobrium to the government, many have questioned the capacity of the government actors and ministers to understand the sensitivity of the matter in such correspondence.

Since the questions asked by Nepali side became public through various media outlets, learned men in social media have come heavily against the government for including questions that expose our own lack of common sense.

“So, if the MCC is above Nepal’s constitution or not? So whether it will affect Nepal’s sovereignty or not? Can there be such questions? These are not the questions we ask them,” commented Rameshore Khanal, former Finance Secretary, commenting on the news related to the government’s correspondence with the MCC.

“So, we ask others whether the Compact impinges on Nepal’s national interest and sovereignty? What kind of diplomacy is this?” Madhu Raman Acharya, former Foreign Secretary and diplomat, expressed his frustration.

“We ask others whether something is above our constitution? Should not we turn to the pages of the constitution and look for it ourselves? Who may have drafted such a letter?” Ramesh Adhikari commented. “So they were not in senses when they signed the Compact? What were the ministers, Prime Minister and Foreign Ministry officials doing during the negotiation?” journalist Prashan Aryal asked.

Questions have been raised not only about the type of questions asked but also the words used to raise those questions.

“If you see the words, you might be shocked,” said a source familiar with the development. “There is no diplomatic decorum which is required in such communication. Questions are so direct and even rude,” the source said. “It feels as if the government of Nepal has no official that can actually draft a diplomatic correspondence.  If the outsiders see the content of this letter, they will laugh at us. It’s so embarrassing,” the source further said.

The source expressed surprise that such a letter has passed from the Nepali Congress-led government. “They have a lot of learned men and former diplomats with them. Only if they had given it to them for final reading, such flaws would surely be corrected.”

Political parties are divided over whether to push the MCC Compact for parliamentary ratification in its current format or after amending the contentious clauses.

The Compact signed in 2017 has not made any headway due to the differences of the political parties over certain clauses and its alleged link with the Indo Pacific Strategy.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and main opposition leader K P Sharma Oli have defended the Compact and advocated for its parliamentary ratification, while some leaders of Maoist Center have expressed reservations.

The MCC issue is being watched in Nepal with interest as Fatema Z Sumar, the vice-president of the Department of Compact Operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is scheduled to visit Nepal next week. She is expected to meet and hold consultations with PM Deuba, main opposition leaders and senior officials apparently to help create a positive environment for its parliamentary ratification.