Nepal’s foreign minister, Narayan Prakash Saud, concludes a week-long trip to the US today. Saud met with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, as well as other high-ranking US officials.
Washington has ramped up development aid to Nepal in recent years to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region. In 2022, Nepal approved a $500 million infrastructure-focused grant aid program—the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). However, it also rejected another aid program—the State Partnership Program (SPP)—out of suspicions of its military intentions.
US aid is a controversial topic in Nepal. The above-mentioned SPP was rejected out of fears it would antagonize China and entangle Nepal in Sino-American geopolitical rivalry in the region. Even the MCC approval was against the backdrop of widespread protests in Nepal. In this context, Blinken making time to meet Saud despite being busy with the Israel-Gaza crisis reflects the high importance Washington places on Nepalese relations.
It also reflects the White House’s optimism that the MCC—which officially came into force in September—will improve the US image in the developing country. Expect several MCC-funded infrastructure projects—like a 317KV transmission line and a major highway–to begin in the near future. However, suspicions from China-aligned Nepalese will also continue.
John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.