As for your image

The general impression former US president Jimmy Carter has left behind with the conclusion of his four-day visit to Kathmandu is “positive” for the peace process, particularly against the backdrop of the strong feelings generated by recent visits to Nepal by American officials. Even the Maoists, after their top leaders Prachanda and Dr Baburam Bhattarai met Carter on Friday, seem to be looking forward to some good coming out of the Carter visit. However, it is hard to say that it will mark a definite shift in American policy towards the Maoists whom the US still brands as “terrorists” despite the fact that the former are now into the peace process and form a vital part of the interim legislature and government. Carter, during his pre-departure press conference on Saturday, expressed the view that the US should

establish communication with the Maoists at some political level. He had told the Maoist duo that he would submit his report to US president George W Bush, making a recommendation to that effect.

But Carter’s visit cannot be dubbed as official. The views of a former US president, even if personal, are nevertheless significant in that they can carry some weight with the US establishment provided that he pursues them seriously. In a sense, Carter’s meeting with the “terrorist” Maoist leadership might be

interpreted as going against the official US policy. Bush, in his televised address immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on Twin Towers and Pentagon had declared, “We do not make a distinction between terrorists and those who harbour them.” In extension of this policy, it seems awkward that the US has had to live with a situation in which the Maoists are part of the government in Nepal. It would be good for the smooth transition in Nepal to the constituent assembly (CA) and to a fully democratic order beyond, as well as for the American image in Nepal, to do away with this untenable state of affairs.

But the main concern of Carter, the head of Carter Center, which works for human rights and free and fair elections, has been with the CA polls, which the center is supposed to observe. Indeed, very recent events including the second amendment to the

Constitution, the passage of a crucial bill related to the polls, the reported homework on the polls for November-end, and now the Carter visit have helped lift public confidence in polls indeed being held according to the revised schedule. Carter assured Nepali leaders that he would help hold free and fair CA polls by mobilising international election observers. He also discussed with top Nepali leaders the importance of conducting credible CA elections, and in this context, he stressed the need for considerable improvement in the country’s security environment. Friendly countries and international organisations can truly and substantially contribute to promoting noble values like democracy in Nepal by lending their support to the process and substance rather than by being seen to favour one or more domestic forces at the expense of others. Such an impartial approach would go a long way towards ending the present blurring of legitimate friendly interest and unwelcome intrusion.