Deuba’s US visit, initially proposed for mid-July, appears uncertain
Foreign Ministry Officials Say The Prime Minister’s Visit Is ‘still On The Plan’ But They Are Yet To Hear From Washington.
The planned visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to the United States has become uncertain. Deuba was earlier planning to visit the US in mid-July and both sides were about to confirm the date.
During a discussion at the International Relations Committee of the House of Representative on June 19, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka had told lawmakers that once the date and agenda of the prime minister’s US visit were finalised, Deuba himself would appraise the House committee. But the date has not been fixed yet and there is no concrete homework and groundwork for the visit, particularly after the government decided not to be a part of the United State’s State Partnership Program, according to political and diplomatic sources.
Chairman of the CPN (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday fuelled more speculation on Deuba’s official, bilateral visit to the United States.
Dahal, who is a key leader of the ruling alliance, met with Deuba on Wednesday and asked the prime minister about his planned visit to Washington.
Dahal, while addressing the party’s central committee on Thursday, said that the prime minister is unlikely to visit the United States.
“I met the prime minister on Wednesday and asked him what was going on his planned visit to the United States. He replied there was no such preparation. I even asked him whether another SPP-type agreement is going to be signed between the two sides as speculated by a section of the Nepali media. But the prime minister told me that nothing like that was happening,” Dahal told the meeting, according to party leaders.
Just last week, the Foreign Ministry said Deuba’s visit “is expected”.
“Discussions are going on about the prime minister’s visit to the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal said during a regular press briefing. “We need to do the homework at different layers, so it will take some time to finalise the dates. We will make the details public at an appropriate time.”
Officials privy to the prime minister’s visit, however, told the Post that they are still awaiting a response from the US side about the date of the meeting between Deuba and US President Joe Biden.
Since the US President is busy, the planned prime ministerial visit was deferred from mid-July to the third week of July, a Nepali diplomat said.
“We are still hopeful that the visit will take place and once we get the schedule of the meeting between Prime Minister Deuba and US President Biden, the preparations will take the momentum,” added the diplomat.
To commemorate the 75th year of diplomatic ties between Nepal and the US, Prime Minister Deuba was planning to embark on an official bilateral tour to Washington, first in 20 years by the sitting head of the government of Nepal. But the plan faltered after the visit of the Commanding General of the US Army Pacific Charles Flynn on June 10 to Kathmandu.
As soon as Flynn wrapped up his visit, a leaked draft of the SPP purportedly forwarded by the US side triggered a flurry of debates and controversies. The government assured Parliament that Nepal will not be part of any military alliance.
With the correspondence made by then Nepal Army chief Gen Rajendra Chettri to former US Ambassador to Nepal Alina B Tiplez leaked, the SPP saga took a new turn, forcing the government on June 21 to decide not to move ahead with the SPP.
It was expected that the US side would raise Nepal’s decision not to be part of the SPP during the visit of Army chief Gen Prabhu Ram Sharma to the US, but they did not say a word, a Nepali official, who was part of Sharma’s delegation, told the Post.
Sharma visited the US at Pentagon’s invitation and held talks with senior US military and defence officials from June 27 to July 1.
So SPP is not the cause of the delay in the prime minister’s visit to the US, the official said. “We found the US officials least bothered about Nepal’s decision but in private conversation, they did express their dismay,” said the official.
Deuba was not committed that he would fly to the US, Dahal told Maoist party members. Though uncertain now, the prime minister’s visit to the US could happen sometime in September during the session of the United Nations General Assembly, according to Dahal.
Foreign Ministry officials said that the visit of the prime minister “is still on” the plan but no date has been fixed yet.
The Nepali Embassy in Washington is working on logistics and other issues because the prime minister is still keen to visit the US, a senior Foreign Ministry official said, wishing not to be named.
“But we have not received any instruction from higher political authorities to expedite the visit preparations,” another official said.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lamsal said that there is not much development from what she said during the press conference on Sunday. “We are expecting the visit of the prime minister to the US soon,” she said.