US ‘Gift’ Sparks Protests In Nepal, Tear Gas And Water Cannons Fired

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Nepali police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters objecting to a U.S.-funded infrastructure program presented to parliament on Sunday for ratification, witnesses and officials in the capital told CNN.

The protesters said the grant would undermine Nepal’s laws and sovereignty, and they said it wouldn’t provide enough oversight power to lawmakers with regard to the board directing the project, CNN reported. A number of protesters were injured in the clash.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government aid agency, agreed in 2017 to fund a 187-mile electricity transmission line and a road improvement project in Nepal, CNN reported. The grants funding the project totaled $500 million, but government officials say they will not have to be repaid and come without conditions attached.

“The grant will be an important tool for the socioeconomic development of the country,” said Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, who introduced the agreement to parliament, CNN reported.

Political parties in Nepal, including the ruling coalition, are divided over the deal, but Karki said that it would help 24 million people, most of Nepal’s population, CNN reported.

The U.S. described the 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 Nepalis” in a statement on Sunday.

“This project was requested by the Nepali government and the Nepali people and designed to transparently reduce poverty and grow the economy of Nepal,” the U.S. Embassy in Nepal said. “Whether Nepali leaders ratify MCC is a decision for Nepal to make, as a sovereign democratic nation, and Nepal’s decision alone.”

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