Confusing at best

James F Moriarty, the US ambassador to Nepal, has indulged in grim speculation about Nepal at a programme organised by the East-West Centre in Honolulu. A Maoist victory, he has predicted, would send millions of Nepali refugees across the border into India, creating a humanitarian catastrophe for Nepal and a destabilising factor for India. And then comes what may be the main purport of his speech. He says the US has to make a choice between two things — whether it should “give $2 million of military aid this year to Nepal or $500 million to refugee camps scattered througout India in the not-too-distant future.” One gets the impression that the US may be considering resuming military aid to Nepal but, given strong world opinion against this step, it may be seeking international, including Indian, support by painting a harrowing hypothetical scenario.

According to Moriarty, within the next 12 to 14 months, Nepal will take one of the two courses—the reconciliation between the palace and the political parties, or the lack of it, resulting in larger demonstrations in Kathmandu and the Maoists escalating violence. He says the US favours a political settlement, bringing the Maoists into the political mainstream. But he lays down three conditions for this—an agreement between the palace and the parties on how to deal with the Maoists, enough international pressure on the Maoists to join the mainstream through dialogue, and making them realise the impossibility of achieving a military victory.

But what has the US, being the only superpower in the world, done to help bring about a negotiated settlement? As for Moriarty’s first condition, the two political forces had been, till three years ago, united against the Maoists; but what happened then? The rebels may construe the second condition as implying a virtual surrender for them, without addressing their demands for talks with international mediation and for a new constitution. Many may interpret the third condition as amounting to a plea for more military aid to fight the Maoists. So one wonders how the frequent US statements ruling out the possibility of a military solution and the American tendency to supply more arms are consistent. The US approach is confusing at best.