Kathmandu: A delegation representing US foreign aid agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) arrived in Nepal on Thursday and met main opposition leader and former prime minister K P Sharma Oli to seek his party’s support for the endorsement of the MCC agreement, which is under consideration in the House of Representatives.

The four-day visit of the team has come as Nepal’s political parties continue to be divided over the programme worth USD 500 million.

Under the MCC programme, the US government will provide grant assistance which will be mainly utilised on strengthening Nepal’s transmission line that would facilitate the export of hydroelectricity to India in the near future and also improve the country’s road networks.

Nepal and the United States signed the MCC agreement in 2017. The MCC, however, has become a hotly debated political issue in this country, with some parties objecting to it on grounds that the US programme is part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy and its parliamentary ratification would be against Nepal’s national interest.

In its response, the Washington-based agency made it clear that the MCC Pact did not fall under the US Government’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

MCC Vice President Fatima Z. Sumar and deputy Vice President Jonathan Brooks met CPN-UML chairman Oli in Kathmandu, a party official said.

During the meeting, Sumar underscored the need to expedite the implementation of the MCC deal as per an agreement inked between Nepal and the US government.

During her visit, Sumar is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and hold discussions with top leaders of major political parties, including Finance Minister Janardan Sharma and other senior officials of Nepal.

Prior to the visit, the MCC had furnished a written response to the government of Nepal clarifying some controversial provisions of the MCC Compact. The 13-page written response was furnished by Sumar to Finance Minister Sharma.

The Ministry of Finance had sent an 11-point letter to the MCC last week seeking clarification on the controversial matters.

In its response, the MCC has clarified that its main objective was to eradicate poverty by fostering economic growth.

The grant is being provided to Nepal solely to complete construction projects of transmission lines and roadways that are considered important for economic growth, read the letter.

The former Oli government failed to get the MCC endorsed through the House after a section of the CPN-UML leaders and the Maoist Centre objected to it, The Kathmandu Post reported.

Now the current Deuba government is under pressure to ratify it from the House. However, Deuba’s coalition partner is the Maoist Centre, which has not been positive about the American programme from the very beginning.

The US officials have said that America cannot wait indefinitely for Nepal to endorse the agreement through parliament and expedite implementation of the projects both countries agreed upon in the past.

Nepal was the first country in South Asia to qualify for the compact after it met 16 out of the 20 policy indicators. Deuba was prime minister when Nepal signed up to the agreement.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a bilateral United States foreign aid agency established by the U.S. Congress in 2004. It is an independent agency separate from the State Department and USAID.

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