Nepalese police fire tear gas and water cannons to break up protest against US ‘gift’

Protesters cremate a dummy corpse depicting a US infrastructure grant before cremating it during a protest against the $500 million US infrastructure grant under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) near Parliament in Kathmandu, Nepal, February 18, 2022. REUTERS / Navesh Chitrakar

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KATHMANDU, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Police in Kathmandu fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters opposing a U.S.-funded infrastructure package that was presented to parliament for ratification on Sunday, officials said. witnesses and officials in the Nepalese capital.

Some protesters were injured in the clashes, they said.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government aid agency, agreed in 2017 to provide $500 million in grants to fund a 300 kilometer (187 mile) power transmission line and improvement project roads in Nepal.

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Government officials said the grant would not have to be repaid and came with no strings attached, but opponents say the deal would undermine Nepal’s laws and sovereignty because lawmakers would not have insufficient control over the infrastructure project board.

Despite strong protests, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, presented the deal to parliament and said the projects would benefit 24 million of Nepal’s 30 million people.

“The grant will be an important tool for the socio-economic development of the country,” Karki told parliament.

Major political parties, including members of the ruling coalition, are divided on whether to accept or reject US grant money.

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal described MCC’s $500 million grant as “a gift from the American people and a partnership between our nations that will bring jobs and infrastructure to Nepal and improve the lives of Nepalese.”

“This project has been requested by the Government of Nepal and the people of Nepal and designed to transparently reduce poverty and develop the economy of Nepal,” the embassy said in a statement released on Saturday evening.

“Whether the Nepalese leadership ratifies the MCC is a decision of Nepal, as a sovereign democratic nation, and Nepal’s sole decision,” he added.

Nepal is heavily dependent on foreign aid, and donors coordinate development assistance policy through the Nepal Development Forum, whose members include donor countries and international financial organizations.

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Reporting by Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu, editing by Rupam Jain, Simon Cameron-Moore and Barbara Lewis

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