Kathmandu: The US Embassy in Kathmandu has refuted the media reports on the Nepal-United States military deal.
“The document published in some online outlets that purports to be a military deal between the United States and Nepal is fake,” the embassy tweeted. According to the Embassy, by policy, the United States does not ask countries to join the State Partnership Program and only responds to requests for consideration.
“The State Partnership Program (SPP) is an exchange program between an American state’s National Guard and a partner foreign country. The US National Guard domestically supports US first responders in dealing with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and wildfires,” the embassy has mentioned.
The embassy has clarified that the SPP has existed for over 25 years and includes over 80 partnerships with over 90 countries, the majority of which are not in this region. “In the event of natural and other disasters, ranging from hurricanes to earthquakes, floods, and fires, the United States seeks to share the best practices and capabilities of our National Guards — our first-line responders. SPP can be an effective means of facilitating this type of cooperation.”
There have been widespread debates and criticisms against both the US and Nepal governments after a document of agreement said to be proposed by the US Department of Defense on the State Partnership Program between the National Guard and the Nepal Army became public on Monday. Various Nepali media outlets have published the document—both in Nepali and English.
The ‘leaked’ document says that the agreement is for strengthening “partnership in the areas of defense and security” between the US and Nepal.
One of the clauses in the leaked report mentions that the ‘US National Guard and US contractors, related vehicles and light aircrafts operated by or for the United States may use such agreed facilities and areas for training, transit, support and related activities, refueling, temporary maintenance of vehicles and aircrafts, accommodation of personnel, their dependents, communications, staging, deploying of forces and material.”
The proposed agreed areas of cooperation includes joint training exercises “in the high altitude terrains in Nepal” joint disaster management and rescue exercises and operations and the joint fellowship programs in the US for the officers of Nepal Army, among others, according to the document.
People on social media quickly reacted, lashing the government of Nepal and questioning the intention of the US. Social media space was flooded with the messages of warning that the proposed agreement could turn Nepal into a battlefield of geopolitical rivalry.
While many cautioned the government against signing such an agreement, others expressed the fear that Prime Minister Deuba might capitulate to, what some communist leaders say, ‘the pressure from the US’ or would be too willing to sign the deal himself.
The controversy comes in the wake of Commanding General of the US Army Pacific Charles Flynn’s visit to Kathmandu early this week, during which he is supposed to have urged Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and General Prabhu Ram Sharma, Chief of Staff of Nepal Army to join the State Partnership Program.
According to the State Partnership Program Fact Sheet of the National Guard, the SPP “supports the security cooperation objectives of the United States and the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) by developing enduring relationships with partner countries and carrying out activities to build partner capacity, improve interoperability, and enhance US access and influence while increasing the readiness of US and partner forces to meet emerging challenges.”
“The SPP helps the United States react effectively to anticipated or unanticipated global scenarios as they emerge,” says the fact sheet.
The National Guard State Partnership Program Map lists Nepal under United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), which is committed, “with allies and partners… to enhancing stability in the Asia-Pacific region by promoting security cooperation, encouraging peaceful development, responding to contingencies, deterring aggression, and, when necessary, fighting to win.”
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is scheduled to visit the US in mid-July. Chief of the Army Staff General Prabhu Ram Sharma will be visiting the Pentagon before PM’s trip. Lawmakers from main opposition CPN-UML as well as other parties have asked the government to make public the details of the visit.