Rocca stresses dialogue between King, parties

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 17:

United States’ Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca has said that her country remains concerned about Nepal as the Maoist insurgency continues to undermine political stability and prospects for development. “On February 1, King Gyanendra’s dismissal of the government, the curbing of civil liberties and arrests of hundreds of political activists seriously set back Nepal’s democracy and eroded even further the unity of legitimate political forces in opposition to the Maoists,” Rocca said this before the House International Relations Subcommittee for Asia and the Pacific in Washington, D C recently. “It is essential the King’s government fully restore civil liberties and the legitimate political parties join it in addressing the insurgency and Nepal’s serious developmental problems,” she added and suggested an important step forward would be the beginning of a dialogue between the King and political parties to restore multi-party democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

She also told the Subcommittee the US firmly supports Nepal’s efforts to counter the Maoist insurgency. Stating that a Maoist takeover would have profoundly negative effects in Nepal and the region, she said, “The Maoists must renounce violence and engage in a political process to resolve grievances.” She told the Subcommittee members that the US continued its non-lethal security assistance to Nepal after February 1 while lethal security assistance remains under review. On the Bhutanese refugees’ issue, Rocca said the US continues to work with governments of Bhutan and Nepal to ameliorate the plight of over 100,000 refugees in camps in Nepal.

“We want both sides to resume discussions as soon as possible to find a way forward. We also want Bhutan to begin repatriation of eligible refuge-es,” said Rocca, adding, “We are working closely with UNHCR and NGOs to assure the welfare of the many resident and transiting Tibetans in Nepal.” Speaking on US policy towards South Asia, she expressed her confidence that much of South Asia already was fulfilling some of its great potential to be a source of stability, moderation and prosperity, although a lot remains to be done for it to fully realize its promise. On the economic progress of South Asia, she said the US was supportive of the efforts by SAARC countries to establish the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

“We are providing assistance to these efforts through a USAID funded high-level team of researchers who are working with counterparts in the region to produce a SAFTA study to support the process,” she said.