Growing US concern

By Narayan Prasad Wagle

Nepal is the neighbor of the United States at the other side of the globe", Ronald Regan, the then President of USA, had remarked while receiving the late King Birendra at the White House.

This statement clearly speaks of the geographical distance between the two counties and the psychological proximity thereto -- a profound sense of friendship and goodwill -- that has bridged the distance.

In the diplomatic history of Nepal, the United States has become the second important country after they established diplomatic relations in 1947. Prior to this, Nepal had diplomatic relations only with the United Kingdom. Despite a striking asymmetry in power, geographical size and economy, they have been able to develop a model relationship in the last six decades.

However, the relations between Nepal and the United States have been politically overcharged since late 1990s, when the Maoist insurgency flared up shaking the whole nation. The Nepal-US relations, which moved on an even keel during the first five decades, have drawn flak not only from the Maoists but from other intellectuals who see the growing US concerns as interference in our domestic political affairs.

The motive behind the growing concerns, they claim, is strategic and ulterior. As Nepal is located between the two Asian economic giants -- India and China, the US intends to manipulate the Asian power politics by establishing a puppet government under its control in Nepal.

At a time when the image of American foreign policy is tarnished in the whole world, particularly because of the Iraq war, the common perceptions of American foreign policy in Nepal too are not positive. Some argue that the US arms support during the heyday of the Maoist insurgency merely intensified violence and killings of innocent people.

The support made the government totally rely on arms security tactics unwilling to seek peaceful settlements of disputes. The 12-point pact between the seven party alliance and the Maoists, which led to the popular uprising burning to ashes the king's desire of dictatorship, drew sharp criticisms from the Bush administration.

On the eve of April uprising, the American ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty called on the SPA to break the pact with the Maoists and reconcile with the monarch contrary to the spirit of the people. Moriarty's visits of army camps and frequent speeches about domestic political affairs do not conform to diplomatic norms and etiquette, and principles of Vienna Conventions on diplomatic relations. The arm deal between the government and the Maoists was unreasonably

delayed, partly due to the threat of suspension of aids by America if the conditions put forward by it are ignored.

Of late, the recurrent meetings of the ambassador with the prime minister are believed to have stalled the peace process, not allowing in one pretext or the other the formation of the interim government, including the Maoists -- pre-condition for holding constituent assembly elections. The visit of US Under Secretary of State for Management Henrietta H Fore seems to have further strengthened the official position of its mission in Nepal. All these developments have naturally generated suspicions in various quarters about its growing concerns in Nepal.

Nonetheless, the accusation that the US has strategic interests in Nepal and that it wants to form a puppet government under its control is some sort of exaggeration.

The US struggled during the entire period of Cold War for the cause of human rights, democracy and liberal economy -- the ideals that came triumphant at the end. So, the US is in no mood to compromise with something less than these ideals.

In case of Nepal, the US policy is guided by the same ideals and sense of goodwill and friendship. It has always extended the support for democracy and democratic movements in Nepal. The US economic support that began with the point four program in 1951 has given shapes and directions to the sustainable economic and social development Therefore, the US interest in Nepal is primarily ideological rather than strategic.  The apparent clash between the US ideals and the Maoists ideology is the root cause of the growing US involvement in Nepali politics, which was also deliberately invited by the previous governments of Nepal to suppress the Maoists when they dubbed them terrorists. It seems that the US interferences will persist until the Maoists remain a major political force and do not give up their ultimate goal of establishing the totalitarian communist regime, and until they renounce violence once and for all.

The propaganda politics of the Maoists is not going to work. The Maoist propaganda that the palace is plotting to kill top US officials may boomerang upon the Maoists themselves once they fail to provide reliable information. Moreover, the US interference also depends on the roles of political parties, including the Nepali Congress, which seems to remain the most trustworthy democrats in the eye of Americans once the monarchy is done away with. And most importantly, the US and other foreign intrusions in domestic affairs will surely increase if the major political forces fail to put their house in order.

Foreign interventions have not been good to foster nationalism, national unity and nation-building in any part of the world. Both radicals, who ignore international relations and puppet governments who ignore sentiments of people, are found to have collapsed or weakened giving torments to their people.

The weak Somali puppet government backed by Ethiopian troops and the failure of radical Hamas government are good examples of how lack of international support or neglect of spirit of people while preferring excessive dependency on foreign powers destabilizes the whole nation.

In the past, the politicization of foreign affairs has cost dear for Nepal even bringing splits within parties as seen in the case of Mahakali Treaty. So, the SPA government and the Maoists should come together to form a realistic foreign policy approach immediately stopping making propaganda of foreign affairs against each other. Then there will be much to gain from the lofty ideals of American policy. (TKP, March 15, 2007)

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