Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Ramifications of MCC’s “interpretive declaration”

MCC Compact (agreement) signed in 2017 to build 400 kV transmission line from Lapsiphedi and Ratmate in Kathmandu valley to Hetauda and to Damauli-Butwal through to Indian border as well as to repair and maintain some roads with a grant of US $500 million in 5 years had become controversial as it was heavily criticized from a number of perspectives. Grounds of criticism The road repair and maintenance part of the compact was not criticized. But the transmission infrastructure component was highly criticized as Nepal herself is languishing for lack of transmission infrastructure to increase electricity consumption within Nepal. The transmission infrastructure from Kathmandu to Butwal and eventually to Gorakhpur in India is obviously for export. Prima facie same to Hetauda seems to be for domestic use of electricity. Actually, it too is for export as the 400 kV transmission infrastructure from Hetauda to Dhalkebar is under construction while the 400 kV transmission infrastructure from Dhalkebar to Mujaffarpur in India was operationalized in 2016. Prudent course would have been to export electricity only after meeting Nepal’s electricity need to saturation level. This facet was completely ignored by the Compact. Not only Karnali and Sudur Paschim provinces are lagging behind economically for lack of access to industrial quality electricity, even 4 industrial corridors in Tarai belt, which are accessible by road, lack requisite transmission infrastructure and electricity requirements of industries there have yet to be fully met. Nepal’s per capita electricity consumption last year was 300 kWh only while the same was 1,200 and 2,800 kWh respectively in India and Bhutan. Nepal’s goal should be to make industrial quality electricity available in each of 753 municipalities of the country and increase per capita electricity consumption by industrializing the country massively and electrifying transportation to displace imported fossil fuel. This was one main reason that attracted criticism. MCC was also criticized as it planned to build 400 kV transmission line at the cost of Rs 150 million per kilometer while NEA had already built same from Dhalkebar to Bhittamod in Jalwshwar, which is connected to Mujaffarpur in India, at the cost of less than Rs 40 million per kilometer. Since the transmission line planned by MCC entailed building it over hilly terrain, at most it should have cost Rs 60 million per kilometer. Additionally, instead of having NEA, capable and experienced in building 400 kV transmission line cost effectively, build the transmission line, MCC had set up a new institution for the purpose, which was not wise from any angle. In this respect the deafening silence of NEA is surprising. MCC was categorically mentioned as the economic pillar of Indo Pacific Strategy (IPS) in the document published by the US State Department in 2019. In this backdrop GoN accepting MCC grant and affiliating herself with ISP entailed Nepal renouncing her non-aligned foreign policy, which she was adhering to since 1955, and this was stridently criticized. Most ministers, MPs, politicians, bureaucrats, media persons, etc. denied that MCC is related to ISP. But US secretary of state Michael Pompeo had mentioned in 2018 that Nepal already is part of ISP. Similarly, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia at the US Department of State David J Ranz had said that “MCC was one of the most important initiatives being implemented in Nepal under the US Indo-Pacific Strategy” in 2019 during his Nepal visit. Additionally, various Articles of the Compact were also criticized. However, most ministers, MPs, politicians, bureaucrats, media persons, etc. claimed that there were no provisions in the Compact detrimental to Nepal. Parliamentary ratification The then finance minister Sharma tabled MCC and “interpretive declaration” thereto for the ratification by the House of Representatives (HoR) on February 27, 2022. The interpretive declaration attempted to amend some Articles of the Compact that had become controversial. It is surprising that GoN tried to explain away some of the controversial Articles of the Compact through interpretive declaration, while initially it had failed to see any problem with any Article of the Compact. This action on the part of GoN proved the critics right. Finally, MCC and the interpretive declaration were ratified by HoR pursuant to Article 279 of Nepal’s Constitution. It is interesting to note that there are a number of “condition precedents” stipulated in the Article 7.2 and Annexes 4 and 5 of the Compact. But parliamentary ratification finds mention nowhere in the Compact. In this backdrop the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs ministry advising GoN that Compact needs parliamentary ratification also became highly contentious. Question in the mind of everyone was why is it necessary to have an ordinary grant agreement ratified by the parliament, especially when no grant agreement signed so far have ever been ratified by the parliament. In the considered opinion of the critics, having MCC Compact ratified by the parliament impairs dignity of the parliament. The provision of Clause (d) of Article 279 (2) of Nepal’s Constitution had been flouted time again by not ratifying agreements related to division of natural resources and its use except for the Mahakali treaty. But surprisingly MCC Compact was ratified to receive a grant of merely $10 million/year. Last fiscal year Nepal had received $1.756 billion as grant from various countries and none of the grant agreements were ratified by parliament. Topics covered by interpretive declaration The first clause of the interpretive declaration stated that Nepal shall not be a part of any United States' strategy, military or security alliance including ISP. Similarly, it was also stated that the Constitution of Nepal would prevail over the Compact. Moreover, the declaration attempted to amend Articles 2.7, 5.1 (b), 3.2 (f), 3.5, 3.8 (a), 5.1 (a), 5.5, 7.1 and 8.1 of the Compact. Status of interpretive declaration Under contract law of each and every country of the world, any agreement signed between two parties can only be amended by the agreement of both parties. Any such agreement cannot be amended especially by interpreting the provision of the agreement just the opposite of what is written in the agreement. Interpretation can be resorted to in the cases where clarity is called for. But contradictory interpretations cannot be made. Besides, Article 6.2 (a) stipulates that “The Parties may amend this Compact only by a written agreement”. Therefore, no ex parte interpretative declaration can effectively amend any Article of the Compact. Further, Dr Himesh Dhungel, MCC’s former country director for Nepal (and an American citizen), speaking after Nepal’s HoR passed the interpretive declaration said that the interpretive declaration has no value in international law. Moreover, MCC’s office in Washington DC issued a statement welcoming the ratification of the Compact, but did not even acknowledge the interpretive declaration. Basically, MCC ignored the interpretive declaration, thereby impairing dignity Nepal’s HoR. Therefore, the interpretive declaration is one sided and HoR was not able to make any change in the Compact. Similarly, the then law minister opined that treaties can be amended by issuing interpretive declarations by one party under Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. However, there is no provision as such in that Convention. Therefore, MCC Compact stands unchanged as it was signed in 2017 and the interpretive declaration has not made any change or amended it. Since MCC and US government did not acknowledge the declaration, Nepal’s contention that the Constitution of Nepal would prevail over the Compact has also become dubious. Meaning MCC Compact supersedes Nepal’s Constitution. This is very ominous. Indo-Pacific Strategy The interpretive declaration disclaimed that Nepal is affiliated to the Indo-Pacific Strategy (ISP). But, since MCC and the US government did not even acknowledge it, it indirectly proves that Nepal has become affiliated to ISP. In other words, Nepal has renounced her nonaligned foreign policy and that is not prudent. Especially due to the geopolitical situation, Nepal affiliating with ISP could be lethal. Ukraine renouncing nonaligned foreign policy to join NATO has proved to be lethal as Russia has invaded her for that very reason. The war has lasted more than one year and there is no certainty when that war will end. By now over hundred thousand civilians have died and many towns and a lot of infrastructure have been completely destroyed. Western countries are supporting the war by supplying armaments, but army personnel of Ukraine are meeting untimely death. Ukraine is not engaged in the war because her sovereignty is at threat. She is waging war to join NATO and renounce non aligned foreign policy, which cannot be deemed wise from any perspective. Similarly, Afghanistan was adhering to non aligned foreign policy till 1973. But after she renounced that policy, the then Soviet Union invaded her in 1979 only to retreat in 1989, after which the Taliban government was formed in 1996. The US invaded her in 2001 to unseat the Taliban government and Islamic Republic was established with the support of western countries. Western countries also deserted her in 2021 and the country is now in shambles. Therefore, since the declaration was not accepted by the other party to the Compact, it could be costly for Nepal to be affiliated to ISP in view of the geopolitical situation, especially since it would not be acceptable to Russia and our northern neighbor China. Even India is maintaining neutrality in the matter of the Ukraine war and Nepal affiliating with ISP could become unacceptable to India after some time. Conclusion As Nepal is not industrialized to the optimum level, there is rampant unemployment and youth are migrating to gulf nations and eastern Asian countries for employment, where they are exploited to the hilt. Further, since USAID has established that use of one kWh electricity results in value addition by 86 US cents, it is not wise to build infrastructure to export electricity. Better use of that grant would have been to build infrastructure to maximize electricity use to industrialize the country, electrify transportation to displace imported petroleum products. Besides, NEA should have been entrusted to build transmission infrastructure instead of establishing new institution to build the same at unnecessarily huge cost. Moreover, MCC and the US government's failure to acknowledge the interpretive declaration, passed by HoR, amounts to contempt of parliament. Furthermore, although the declaration sought to amend controversial provisions of the Compact, the same failure to acknowledge has left those provisions intact. Additionally, it is not wise to renounce the nonaligned foreign policy that Nepal had adopted for almost 70 years. Published in People’s Review of March 23, 2023 Ratna Sansar Shrestha, FCA

Monday, March 20, 2023

एमसीसीः व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा र त्यसको उपेक्षाको प्रभाव

काठमाडौंको लप्सिफेदी र रातमाटे देखि हेटौंडा तथा रातमाटेबाट दमौली हुँदै बुटवल र भारतीय सीमानासम्म ३१५ किलोमिटर लम्बाइको ४०० केभी प्रशारण लाइन लगायतको पूर्वाधार निर्माण गर्ने र केही सडकहरु मर्मत सम्भार गर्नको लागि एमसीसी नामक अमेरिकी सरकारको एक निगमले नेपाललाई ५ वर्षमा ५० करोड अमेरिकी डलर अनुदान दिने सम्बन्धमा सन् २०१७ मा सम्झौता भएकोमा बिभिन्न तप्काबाट बिभिन्न दृष्टिकोणबाट आलोचना गरिएकोले त्यो सम्झौता विवादास्पद बनेको थियो । विरोधका कारणहरु केही सडकहरु मर्मत सम्भार गर्ने सम्बन्धमा त्यति विरोधको भएन । तर प्रशारण लाइन भने देशभित्र बिजुली अधिकतम खपत गराउने उद्देश्यले नभएर निकासी गर्नको लागि निर्माण गर्न लागेकोले धेरै विरोध भयो, देश भित्र बिजुली खपत गर्नको लागि आवश्यक पूर्वाधार अभाव भएको अवस्थामा । बुटवल हुँदै भारतीय सीमानासम्म निर्माण गरिने प्रशारण लाइन बिजुली निकासीको लागि नै भएको स्पष्ट छ । तर काठमाडौंको रातमाटेबाट हेटौंडा पु¥याइने प्रशारण लाइन पनि बिजुली निकासी गर्नैको लागि हो, किनभने हेटौंडाबाट ढल्केबरसमम ४०० केभीको प्रशारण लाइन निर्माणाधीन छ र ढल्केबरबाट भारतको मुजफ्फरपुरसम्म ४०० केभीको प्रशारण लाइन हाल संचालनमा नै छ । देशभित्र बिजुलीको माग अधिकतम पूरा गरेर प्रति व्यक्ति बिजुली खपत केही हजार युनिट पु¥याइ सके पछि बाँकी बचेउब्रेको बिजुलीमात्र निकासी गर्ने सोच बुद्धिमानीपूर्ण हुन्थ्यो । प्रशारणको पूर्वाधारको अभावमा कर्णाली र सुदूर पश्चिम प्रदेशहरु मात्र होइन आवागमन सहज भएको र ४ वटा औद्योगिक करिडरहरु भएका तराइका जिल्लाहरुमा समेत प्रशारणको पूर्वाधारको अभाव छ र उद्योगहरुलाई चाहिने जति बिजुली आपूर्ति हुन सकेको छैन । गत आर्थिक वर्ष नेपालमा प्रति व्यक्ति बिजुली खपत ३०० युनिट थियो भने भारतमा १,२०० र भुटानमा २,८०० युनिट । लक्ष्य हुनु पथ्र्याे देशका सबै पालिकाहरुमा औद्योगिक स्तरको बिजुली आपूर्ति गर्न आवश्यक पूर्वाधारको निर्माण गरेर औद्योगिकरण गरेर प्रति व्यक्ति बिजुली खपतमा वृद्धि गर्नु । तर यस विपरित बिजुली निकासीलाई मुख्य लक्ष्य बनाएर थप पूवाधार निर्माण गर्ने अवधारणाले गर्दा चर्को विरोध भएको हो । साथै नेपाल विद्युत प्राधिकरणले निर्माण गरेको ढल्केबर देखि भिट्ठामोडसम्म ४०० केभीको प्रशारण लाइन (जुन भारतको मुजफ्फरपुरमा जोडिएको छ) को लागत प्रति किलोमिटर ४ करोड रुपियाँ भन्दा कम लागेकोमा यो सम्झौता अनुसार निर्माण गरिने प्रशारण लाइनको लागत प्रति किलोमिटर १५ करोड रुपियाँ भन्दा बढी पर्ने भएकोमा पनि विरोध भएको थियो । पहाडी भूभागसमेतबाट प्रशारण लाइन लैजानु पर्ने हुनाले बढीमा प्रति किलोमिटर ६ करोड रुपियाँसम्म लाग्नु पर्नेमा अनुभवी तथा क्षमतावान संस्था प्राधिकरणलाई प्रशारण लाइन निर्माणको जिम्मा नदिाएर नयाँ संस्था खडा गरेर बढी लागतमा निर्माण गर्नु कसै गरेर पनि बुद्धिमानी मान्न नसकिने हुनाले बढी विरोध भएको हो । तर यस सम्बन्धमा प्राधिकरणको मौनता आश्चर्यजनक रह्यो । अमेरिकी स्टेट डिपार्टमेन्टले सन् २०१९ मा प्रकाशित गरेको हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति सम्बन्धी दस्तावेजका अनुसार एमसीसी हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिकोे आर्थिक खम्बा हो भनेर किटानीसाथ लेखिएको छ । यस्तोमा एमसीसीको अनुदान स्वीकार गरेर नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा परोक्षरुपमा सामेल हुन लागेकोमा धेरै चर्को विरोध भयो । हुन त नेपालका धेरै मन्त्री, सांसद, कर्मचारी, बुद्धिजीवि, पत्रकारले एमसीसीको हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिसंग कुनै सम्बन्ध छैन भनेर ठोकुवा गरेका हुन् । तर सन् २०१८ मा तत्कालिन अमेरिकी सेक्रेटरी अफ स्टेट (मन्त्री) माइकल पम्पिओले नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिको अंग हो भनेका थिए भने सन् २०१९ मा हिन्द–प्रशान्त हेर्ने तत्कालिन कायममुकायम सहायक उप सचिव (राज्यमन्त्री) डेभिड राय्न्जले एमसीसी हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिको महत्वपूर्ण पहल हो भनेका थिए । त्यसैले नेपालले सन् १९५५ देखि अवलम्बन गर्दै आएको असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेर हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति जस्तो पाश्चात्य सैन्य गठबन्धनमा सामेल हुनु आत्मघाती हुन्छ भनेर कडा विरोध भएको हो । यस अतिरिक्त उक्त सम्झौताका बिभिन्न दफाहरु सम्बन्धमा पनि व्यापक विरोध भएको थियो । तथापि नेपाल सरकारका मन्त्रीहरु लगायतका बिभिन्न पदाधिकारीहरु, बिभिन्न सांसदहरु, केही पत्रकार तथा बुद्धिजीविहरुको अतिरिक्त एमसीसी र अमेरिकी सरकारका पदाधिकारीहरुले उक्त सम्झौतामा कुनै पनि कमि कमजोरी छैन भनेर कडा पैरवी गरेका थिए । संसदीय अनुमोदन प्रतिनिधि सभाबाट उक्त सम्झौता अनुमोदनको सन्दर्भमा २०७८ साल फागुन १५ (२०२२ फेब्रुअरी २७) मा बसेको प्रतिनिधि सभाको दशौं अधिवेशनको बैठक संख्या ७ र ८ मा प्रतिनिधि सभाबाट जारी गरिने उक्त सम्झौता माथिको प्रस्तावित व्याख्यात्मक घोषणासमेत छलफलको लागि तत्कालिन अर्थमन्त्री जनार्दन शर्माले प्रतिनिधि सभामा प्रस्तुत गरे । विशेषतः उक्त सम्झौतामा भएका अस्वीकार्य भनेर व्यापक विरोध गरिएका दफाहरुको सम्बन्धमा समेत उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणामा प्रस्ताव गरिएको थियो । पहिले ती व्यवस्थाहरुमा कुनै गल्ति नदेख्ने सरकारले उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा प्रस्ताव गर्नु नै अचम्भित हुने कुरा थियो । किनभने सरकारको यो कदमले आलोचकहरुका भनाइ पुष्टि गरेको छ । उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा सम्बन्धमा सांसदहरु सुरेन्द्रकुमार कार्की देखि गगनकुमार थापासम्मले संसदमा आ–आफ्नो धारणा व्यक्त गरेका थिए । अन्ततः नेपालको संविधानको धारा २७९ तथा प्रतिनिधि सभा नियमावली, २०७५ को नियम २३० बमोजिम त्यस दिनको बैठकले सो सम्झौता र व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा बहुमतले पारित ग¥यो । स्मरणीय छ, सम्झौताको दफा ७.२ र अनुसूची ४ र ५ मा धेरै वटा पूर्वशर्तहरु उल्लेख गरिएको भएता पनि नेपालको संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरिनै पर्छ भन्ने पूर्व शर्त त्यो सम्झौतामा कहिँ कतै उल्लेख थिएन । तथापि कानुन, न्याय तथा संसदीय मामिला मन्त्रालयले सो सम्झौताको संसदीय अनुमोदन गरिनु पर्ने राय दिएकोले झन धेरै विवादास्पद बन्यो । सामान्य अनुदान सम्झौता समेत संसदबाट अनुमोदन गर्न लागेकोमा पनि प्रचण्ड विरोध भएको थियो, जब कि यस अगाडी सम्पन्न कुनै पनि अनुदान सम्झौता संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरेको इतिहास छैन । सामान्य अनुदान सम्झौता संसदले अनुमोदन गर्दा संसदको गरिमामा नै आँच आउने धारणाहरु व्यक्त गरिएको थियो । अर्कोतिर संविधानको धारा २७९ को उपधारा (२) को खण्ड (घ) मा उल्लिखित प्राकृतिक श्रोत तथा त्यसको उपयोगको बाँडफाँड सम्बन्धमा भएको कुनै पनि सम्झौता संसदबाट अद्यापि अनुमोदन गरिएको छैन, महाकाली सन्धि बाहेक । यस्तोमा वार्षिक १० करोड डलर अनुदान पाउन संसदले सम्झौता अनुमोदन गर्नु आश्चर्यजनक छ, जब कि गत आर्थिक वर्षमात्र बिभिन्न देशहरुबाट जम्मा १ अर्ब ७५ करोड ६० लाख अमेरिकी डलर वैदेशिक सहायता प्राप्त गर्न सम्झौताहरु भएका थिए, तर ती कुनै पनि अनुदान सम्झौता संसदबाट अनुमोदन गर्नु परेको थिएन । व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाले समेटेको कुराहरु सो व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको पहिलो दफामा नै नेपाल संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाको हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध रहेको मानिने छैन भनेर घोषणा गरिएको छ । यस अतिरिक्त उक्त सम्झौतामा समाविष्ट संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाको कानुन पालना गर्नु पर्ने दफा २.७ र ५.१ (ख), बौद्धिक सम्पत्ति सम्बन्धी दफा ३.२ (च), नेपाल सरकारले बाध्यात्मक रुपमा पालना गर्नु पर्ने एमसीसीको परामर्श सम्बन्धी दफा ३.५, अमेरिका स्थित लेखापरीक्षकबाट लेखापरीक्षण गराउन पर्ने व्यवस्था भएको दफा ३.८ (क), एमसीसीले बिना कारण एक पक्षियरुपमा यो सम्झौता अन्त्य गर्न सक्ने दफा ५.१ (क), उक्त सम्झौताको समाप्ति पछि पनि नेपाल सरकारको जिम्मेवारी कायम रहने दफा ५.५, नेपालको राष्ट्रिय कानुन र उक्त सम्झौता बाझिएमा सम्झौताले नेपाल कानुनलाई निष्प्रभावी पार्ने दफा ७.१ र सम्बद्ध सबै जग्गा र वनक्षेत्र एमसीसी मातहत रहने दफा ८.१ सम्बन्धमा व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाले संशोधन गर्ने प्रयास ग¥यो । व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको हैसियत नेपाल लगायत संसारका कुनै पनि देशको करार सम्बन्धी कानुन अनुसार दुइ पक्षबिच सम्पन्न सम्झौता एक पक्षले मात्र संशोधन गर्न सक्दैन, त्यो पनि सम्झौतामा भएको प्रावधानको ठीक विपरित व्याख्या गरेर । व्याख्या भनेको अस्पष्ट प्रावधानको सम्म गर्न सकिन्छ, तर विपरित अर्थ निस्कने व्याख्या गर्न कसै गरेर पनि मिल्दैन । उक्त सम्झौताको दफा ६.२ को खण्ड (क) मा किटानीसाथ सो सम्झौताका पक्षहरुले लिखित सम्झौताद्वारा मात्र संशोधन गर्न सक्नेछ भनिएको छ । यस्तोमा नेपाल एक पक्षले मात्र व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा गरेको आधारमा उक्त सम्झौतामा कुनै पनि संशोधन गर्न सकिन्न र गरे पनि त्यस्तो संशोधन प्रभावकारी हुन्न । एमसीसीको नेपाल कार्यालयका पूर्व निर्देशक डा हिमेश ढुङ्गेलले संसदबाट व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा सहित यो सम्झौताको अनुमोदन गरिए पछि सार्वजनिक रुपमा नै उक्त “व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कानुनी हैसियत छैन” भने । त्यस्तै यो सम्झौता संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरिए लगत्तै एमसीसीको अमेरिकाको राजधानी वाशिंगटन स्थित कार्यालयबाट नेपालको संसदले गरेको अनुमोदन स्वीकार गरेर वक्तव्य प्रेषित गरियो । तर उक्त वक्तव्यमा संसदबाट अनुमोदन गरिएको व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा सम्बन्धमा एक शब्द पनि उल्लेख गरिएन । अर्थात एमसीसी नामक निगमले नेपालको प्रतिनिधि सभाले पारित गरेको व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको पूर्णतः उपेक्षा ग¥यो, स्वीकार गरेन । तसर्थ पनि व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा एक पक्षिय भयो र यसले एमसीसीसंग भएको सम्झौतामा कुनै हेरफेर संशोधन परिवर्तन गरेको छैन । त्यस्तै तत्कालिन कानुमन्त्री गोबिन्दप्रसाद शर्माकोइरालाले लः अन ट्रिटिज नामक भियना अभिसन्धि (एक अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कानुन) अनुसार व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाबाट पनि एक पक्षियरुपमा सन्धि संशोधन गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने धारणा अभिव्यक्त गरे तापनि उक्त अभिसन्धिको कुनै पनि धारा, उपधारामा एक पक्षियरुपमा व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको आधारमा सन्धि संशोधन गर्न सकिन्छ र त्यस्तो संशोधन मान्य हुन्छ भन्ने व्यवस्था छैन । तसर्थ एमसीसीसंग जे जुन व्यवस्था÷प्रावधानहरु सहित सन् २०१७ मा सम्झौता भएको हो ती सबै यथावत कायम छन्, व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाबाट कुनै पनि संशोधन, परिवर्तन, परिमार्जन भए गरिएको छैन । हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणाको पहिलो बुँदामा नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध छैन भनेर अस्वीकरण गरियो । तथापि यो सम्झौताको अर्को पक्ष एमसीसी र संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाले सो व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा स्वीकार नगरेकोले नेपाल हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध रहेको पुष्टि गर्दछ । अर्थात नेपालले विद्यमान असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेको छ, जुन बुद्धिमानीपूर्ण होइन । विशेषतः भूराजनीतिक परिस्थितिको सम्बन्धमा यो काम नेपालको लागि घातक सिद्ध हुन सक्छ । युरोपेली देश युक्रेनले असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेर उत्तर एट्लान्टिक सन्धि संगठनमा आबद्ध हुन खोज्दा अहिले रुससंग १ वर्ष देखि युद्धरत र उक्त युद्ध कहिले टुङ्गिन्छ ठेगान छैन । गत महिनासम्ममा १ लाख भन्दा बढी गैर सैनिकहरुको मृत्यु भई सक्यो र पूर्वाधार लगायतका धेरै धनसम्पत्ति ध्वस्त भइ सक्यो । युद्धको लागि पश्चिमा देशहरुले हातहतियार त आपूर्ति गरि रहेका छन्, तर धेरै युक्रेनी सैनिकले ज्यान गुमाइ सके । युक्रेनको सार्वभौमिकता खतरामा परेकोले युद्ध गर्न परेको होइन, उत्तर एट्लान्टिक सन्धि संगठनमा आबद्ध हुनको लागि यत्रो जनधनको क्षति गराएर अंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गर्नुमा न कुनै सार्थकता देखिन्छ, न बुद्धिमत्ता नै । त्यस्तै सन् १९७३ सम्म असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति अवलम्बन गरेको अफ्गानिस्तानले सो नीति परित्याग गर्दा तत्कालिन सोभियत संघले सन् १९७९ मा आक्रमण गरेकोमा मुजाहिद्दिनसंग गृह युद्ध समेतका कारण सोभियत संघ सन् १९८९ मा अफ्गानिस्ताबाट पछि हटेको थियो । त्यस पछि त्यहाँ सन् १९९६ मा तालिबानी सरकार बनेकोमा अमेरिकी आक्रमणमा परेर सन् २००१ मा उक्त सरकार पनि अपदस्थ गरिएर पश्चिमा देशहरुको सहयोगमा त्यहाँ इस्लामी गणतान्त्रिक सरकार स्थापना भएको थियो । तर सन् २०२१ मा पश्चिमा देशहरु पनि अफ्नागनिस्तानबाट पछि हटे । अहिले त्यो देशको, त्यहाँको जनताको र अर्थतंत्रको अवस्था अत्यन्त दयनीय र भयावह छ, विशेष गरेर महिलाहरुको मानव अधिकारको चरम उल्लंघन भइ रहेको छ । तसर्थ व्याख्यात्मक घोषणालाई उक्त सम्झौताको अर्को पक्षले स्वीकार नगरेको परिप्रेक्षमा भूराजनीतिक हिसाबले नेपालले हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीतिमा आबद्ध हुनु महँगो पर्न सक्छ । विशेषतः हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति नेपालको मित्र राष्ट्र रुस र उत्तरी सँधियार मित्रराष्ट्र चीनलाई पाच्य नहुन सक्ने परिवेशमा र ती देशहरु नेपालसंग चिढिएमा परिणति अनपेक्षित हुन सक्छ । भारत समेत युक्रेन युद्धमा निष्पक्ष रहेको अवस्थामा नेपाल पश्चिमा देशहरुसंगको बढी निकटता कुनै बिन्दु पछि भारतलाई पनि पाच्य नहुन सक्छ । व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा उपेक्षाको प्रभाव माथि उल्लेख गरिए अनुसार एमसीसी सम्झौताको अर्को पक्षले नेपालको संसदले पारित गरेको व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा स्वीकार नगरेकोले उक्त घोषणा उपेक्षित छ, निस्प्रभावी छ । यस सन्दर्भमा उक्त घोषणाको दोस्रो बुँदामा नेपालको संविधान उक्त सम्झौता भन्दा माथि रहेको भनि घोषणा गरिए तापनि यथार्थमा नेपालको संविधान भन्दा माथि उक्त सम्झौता रहेको छ भन्ने सिद्ध हुन्छ । त्यस्तै सम्झौताको दफा ७.१ अनुसार नेपाल कानुन र यो सम्झौताको व्यवस्था बाझिएमा नेपाल कानुन निष्प्रभावी हुने अवस्था छ र उक्त घोषणा निष्प्रभावी हुनाले नेपाल कानुन भन्दा माथि उक्त सम्झौता रहन पुगेको छ । त्यस्तै बौद्धिक सम्पत्तिको स्वामित्वमा पनि एमसीसीमा निहित हुने भयो, सम्झौताका दफा ३.२ को खण्ड (च) मा भएको व्यवस्था अनुरुप । अनि सम्झौताको दफा ८.१ अनुसार सम्बद्ध सबै जग्गाको स्वामित्व एमसीसीमा निहित हुने भयो । आदि इत्यादि । सार्वभौम संसदको अवहेलना संविधानको धारा २ अनुसार नेपालको सार्वभौमसत्ता र राजकीयसत्ता निहित रहेका नेपाली जनताले निर्वाचित गरेको संसदले उक्त व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा पारित गरेकोमा सो घोषणा अमेरिकी सरकार र एमसीसीले स्वीकार नगर्दा नेपालको प्रतिनिधि सभाको अवहेलना भएको छ । तर यस तर्फ अमेरिकीहरुको छोडौं नेपालको संसद, सांसदहरु र राज्य संचालकहरुको समेत चासो छैन । उपसंहार नेपालमा समुचित औद्योगिकरण नभएकोले गर्दा रोजगारीको चरम अभावमा नेपाली युवा पूर्वी एशियाली देशहरु तथा खाडी देशहरुमा रोजगारीको नाममा चरम यातना भोगि रहेका छन् । साथै १ युनिट बिजुली नेपालमा खपत भए अर्थतंत्रमा ८६ अमेरिकी सेन्टले मूल्यअभिवृद्धि हुन्छ भन्ने निक्र्यौल अमेरिकी सहयोग नियोगको रहेको अवस्थामा नेपालको जलस्रोत उपयोग गरेर उत्पादन गरिने बिजुली निकासी गर्नको लागि पूर्वाधार निर्माणमा यत्रो लगानी गर्नु नै गलत हो । उक्त अनुदान नेपालमा अधिकतम बिजुली खपत गर्न सक्षम बनाउनको लागि आवश्यक पूर्वाधार निर्माण गर्नको लागि लिइनु पथ्र्यो । त्यस्तै नेपालको व्यापार घाटा १० खरब रुपियाँ भन्दा बढी छ र त्यसको एउटा ठूलो कारक हो ३ खरब रुपियाँ हाराहारीको पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको आयात । आयातीत पेट्रोलियम पदार्थलाई यातायात क्षेत्रबाट बिजुलीले प्रतिस्थापन गर्न सके मात्र पनि अर्थतंत्रलाई ठूलो राहत हुन्छ, त्यता ध्यान पुगेको छैन । त्यसमाथि अनुभवी तथा क्षमतावान प्राधिकरणबाट निर्माण नगराएर महँगोमा पूर्वाधार निर्माण गर्नु झन गलत हो । यसले गर्दा प्राधिकरण पङ्गु हुने जोखिम हुन्छ । गत वर्षमात्र झण्डै पौने २ अर्ब अमेरिकी डलर अनुदान पाएको नेपालले वार्षिक १० करोड डलर अनुदान पाउन हिन्द–प्रशान्त रणनीति जस्तो पाश्चात्य सैन्य गठबन्धनमा प्रत्यक्ष वा परोक्षरुपमा सामेल हुनु आत्मघाती हुन सक्दछ । साथै नेपालको सार्वभौम संसदको गरिमामा आँच आउने गरेर केही रकम अनुदान लिन संसदबाट अनुमोदन गर्नु पनि गलत काम भएको छ । संसदले व्याख्यात्मक घोषणा पारित गरे पनि अमेरिकी सरकार र त्यसको एक निगमले उपेक्षा गर्नाले संसदको अवहेलना भएको छ भने उक्त उपेक्षाले गर्दा सो सम्झौतामा रहेका अस्वीकार्य प्रावधानहरु सबै यथावत रह्यो र सो सम्झौता नेपालको संविधान तथा कानुन भन्दा माथि रह्यो, जुन कसै गरेर पनि स्वीकार्य होइन । यस्तो पृष्ठभूमिमा केही करोड डलर अनुदान लिन नेपालले झण्डै ७० वर्ष देखि अवलम्बन गर्दै आएको असंलग्न परराष्ट्र नीति परित्याग गरेर रुस जस्ता मित्र राष्ट र चीन र भारत जस्ता संधियार छिमेकी मित्रराष्ट्रहरुलाई चिढ्याउने काम नगर्नु पर्ने हो । २०७९ चैत्रमा बामपन्थमा प्रकाशित Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Counterproductive Exploitation of Nepal’s Water Resources

Currently there are two controversial projects on Karnali River: Upper Karnali Hydropower Project and Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose (Reservoir) Project. First one is the peaking run of river project which includes a small reservoir to store daily flow of Karnali River water and make spatial transfer thereof into a powerhouse to generate peak electricity. Second one entails building a high dam for temporal transfer (store rainy season water to meet dry season water demand) for uses ranging from drinking water, irrigation, animal husbandry/fishery to electricity generation. Upper Karnali Hydropower Project Located in Achham district of Sudur Paschim province and Surkhet and Dailekh districts of Karnali province, its installed capacity of Upper Karnali is 900 MW, generating annual average electricity of 3,466 GWh. Survey license for it as an export oriented project was issued to Indian promoter, GMR Energy Ltd. (GEL) in 2008 with 300 MW as installed capacity initially, which was increased to 900 MW in 2009. An MoU was also signed with GEL in 2008 according to which 12% free electricity (415.9 GWh) is to be given to Nepal. Further NEA is to be provided 27% equity without having to invest in the JV company to be set up to implement this project. Project Development Agreement (PDA) was signed between GoN and GEL in 2014 under which GEL was given 2 years among others to achieve financial closure and sign agreement to export electricity with a provision to extend the deadline by one more year. GEL failed to meet the deadline and it was extended till 2017 pursuant to section 3.1.3 of PDA. Again, GEL failed to achieve financial closure and sign agreement to export electricity and the deadline was extended for one more year through till 2018 in contravention of section 3.1.3 of PDA itself. Due to failure to meet the deadline in 2018, PDA altogether ceased to exist. However, out of the blue a further extension by 2 years was granted in 2022, against which the Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction a few months later. When GoN requested to have the preliminary injunction vacated, the Court decided to send the matter to the Constitutional Bench in early 2023 as the constitutional issue of parliamentary ratification needed to be sorted out. Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose (Reservoir) Project Situated in Kailali district of Sudur Paschim province and Bardiya district of Lumbini province, the installed capacity of Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose (Reservoir) Project is 10,800 MW and it can generate annual average energy of 20,842 GWh. A high dam of 270 meter needs to be built a little north of Chisapani gorge to create a reservoir, in which 16,200 million cubic meters of water would be stored, from which lean season augmented flow 191,000 hectare land would be irrigated in Nepal and 3.2 million hectares in India. Nepal had initiated discussion with India in 1965 to implement this project but did not meet with success. In 1996 Enron Corporation from the USA sent a letter of intent to GoN wishing to implement this project, but did not materialize as Enron itself went bankrupt in 2001. In 2017 a task force comprising two experts from Nepal and one from India was formed by Islamabad, Pakistan based SAARC Energy Center to review existing study of this project as a regional hydropower project. The recommendations of this task force are yet to be implemented. Its reservoir would inundate 340 square kilometers of Nepal’s territory and involuntarily displace 60,000 local inhabitants – negative externalities. Relation between electricity use and economy According to a USAID report, using one kWh of electricity can add 86 US cents to Nepal's economy. Meaning Nepal would become prosperous due to the multiplier effect by using electricity. Whereas NEA had exported electricity to India last year at rates ranging from Rs 6.58 to Rs 12.26 per kWh; equivalent to 5 to 9 US cents. It means that by exporting electricity, instead of using it domestically, Nepal lost 77 to 81 US cents per kWh. (NB: Last year NEA had imported electricity at Rs 38/kWh, equivalent to 29 US cents. But this is the subject for a separate article.) Export of 3,050 GWh electricity from Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, after deducting 12% electricity that Nepal is entitled to receive free of cost, will result in Nepal’s economy being deprived of value addition by US $ 2.62 billion a year. Since GEL is licensed to export electricity from it for 25 years, in that period Nepal’s economy would be deprived of US $ 65.57 billion. It should not be forgotten that export revenue, at whatever rate, is GEL’s revenue, Nepal would not receive a cent of that. Nepal would receive only export tax, free electricity and royalties under section 9.3.1,11.15.1 and11.25 of PDA respectively. Assuming GEL exports at 5 US cents per kWh, the total of export tax, free electricity and royalties that Nepal would receive from this project in 25 years amounts to US $ 1.02 billion. In other words, Nepal would be deprived of value addition in her economy by more than US $ 64 billion in 25 years (net of the amount that Nepal would be deprived of value addition in her economy minus export tax, free electricity and royalties under PDA in 25 years). Therefore, it makes no sense to export electricity from this project for a meager amount of revenue from export tax, free electricity and royalties of US $ 1.02 billion and be deprived of over US $ 65 billion value addition in Nepal’s economy. Some may point out that NEA could earn divided from 27% free equity in the JV company. In the first place, a dividend would be distributed only if the company earns profit, which is not definite. However, it is definite that using electricity would add value to the economy. In any case, since total project cost of this project is US $ 1.05 billion and 25% equity (if the debt to equity ratio is 3:1) would amount to $ 262.5 million, of which 27% would be $ 71 million. If 10% dividend is distributed NEA would receive only $ 177.5 million only in 25 years. Export proceeds from all electricity generated by Karnali Chisapani Multipurpose Project would amount to $ 1.04 billion per annum (at 5 US cent/kWh) and in 25 years total would be $ 26 billion. While Nepal would be deprived of value addition in her economy by US $ 17.92 billion a year and US $ 448.1 billion in 25 years. Meaning in 25 years Nepal would suffer a net loss of US $ 447.6 billion (total of lost value addition minus export proceeds) by implementing it as an export oriented project. Further inundation of 340 square kilometers of Nepal’s territory is tantamount to opportunity cost to Nepal in terms of Nepal being deprived from agricultural and forest produce from that land for several generations. Because the reservoir would continue to exist for several decades. Moreover, as the recommendation of the task force in 2017 was to implement it as a hydropower project only, it ignores multidimensional benefits of stored water. As mentioned above India would be irrigating 3.2 million hectare land by using lean season augmented flow from this project. But the task force made no mention of paying Nepal for it. Under an agreement signed in 1986 South Africa had paid Lesotho US $ 69 million for 780 million cubic meter water (24.74 cumecs) in 2020; which works out to US $ 2.789 million per cumecs. Based on that precedent India should pay Nepal US $ 3.25 billion/year for 1,750 cumecs lean season augmented flow that India receives from this project. In order to avoid having to pay for such lean season augmented flow, India is determined to have this project implemented only as a hydropower project and deny that she would benefit from lean season augmented flow that she stands to receive. Furthermore, if this project is built, a huge tract of land in India would benefit from flood control. Canada and the USA had signed an agreement in 1961, under which the latter paid the former US $ 64 million in 1964 for flood control benefit as advance for 60 years. Therefore, India should be made to pay Nepal for flood control benefits that would accrue to her if this project is built. Otherwise, it is pointless to inundate Nepal’s territory and displace thousands of local inhabitants to build this project. Since the time this project was conceived Nepal’s state machinery is fixated on export of electricity to India only and have failed to envisage sharing positive externalities (lean season augmented flow and flood control benefit) with India. Basically, India wishes to import electricity from this project at a few cents per kWh and receive invaluable lean season augmented flow and flood control benefits free of cost. India does not even plan to recompense for negative externalities of inundation and involuntary displacement that Nepal would suffer. Conclusion To draw an analogy, breastfeeding is gifted to women by nature; only when mothers give birth to babies. Nature has denied this gift to men. Therefore, a mother’s milk is not generally commercialized. Similarly, nature has gifted Nepal with water resources for the country, her people and the economy. Although all rivers from Nepal flow to India, it is not possible to generate electricity from these rivers there (except in small scale), neither can temporal transfer be made by building dams to generate lean season augmented flow and benefit from flood control. First and foremost, nature’s gift to Nepal is not for commercialization, it is for the country, her people and the economy. Further, if Nepal is to commercialize nature’s gift to her, it should be done at substantial profit in order to benefit the country, her people and the economy. From the assessment made above, it is clear that Nepal does not benefit by building export oriented hydropower projects. It makes no sense to exploit Karnali river just to export electricity, instead of using it domestically to derive value addition in Nepal’s economy. Hence, this river must only be harnessed to use electricity in Nepal to benefit from the multiplier effect. This cardinal principle applies to water resources of Nepal in general. Nepal’s rivers must not be exploited to recklessly build export oriented hydropower projects that would deprive Nepal from value addition in her economy for meager revenue from export tax, free energy, royalties, etc. Also because of the fact that building any physical structure on a river ravages the river and also Nepal becomes deprived from benefits by putting it to alternative uses like rafting, an important component of the tourism industry. These are manifestations of exploitation of rivers being counterproductive for the nation. It should not be forgotten that there are many sources to generate electricity. Fossil fuels like petroleum products, coal can be used to generate electricity. Similarly, electricity can be generated from sun, wind, geothermal, tides, biomass as well as uranium and even human excreta. But there is no alternative to clean/fresh water, for drinking, animal husbandry/fishery, irrigation etc. In this backdrop a river must not be exploited if it does not benefit the country, her people and the economy. Published in Peoples Review on February 9, 2023 Ratna Sansar Shrestha