Malinowski factor

US ambassador Michael Malinowski held a roundtable with journalists on Tuesday prior to leaving Nepal. His recall is unlikely to mark a shift in US policy towards Nepal. Perhaps, he has projected a public image of himself or done something else that may have been reckoned in Washington to affect US foreign policy objectives. After all, an ambassador does not have his own views; his public remarks on sensitive issues reflect, directly or indirectly, the stated or unstated policy of his government. Though he has dubbed his departure as a routine affair, not many will believe his version, whatever the actual reasons. Malinowski’s view that elections are not possible without the participation of all constitutional forces weakens the credibility of the government’s poll promises. Many others, including foreign diplomats and Nepali political parties, have already ruled out the possibility of elections. Many have gone a step further than Malinowski, more credibly so, in stating that without at least some sort of an understanding with the Maoists, even the involvement of the political parties is not enough to make the elections happen. Sher Bahadur Deuba had recommended the postponement of the polls for security reasons. The then RPP chairman Surya Bahadur Thapa, now prime minister, was one of those who had held a strong view that holding the elections were not feasible. The security situation has not improved between these two periods. Malinowski claims that the US supply of arms to Nepal has helped keep the peace and save “a lot of lives.” Only those who favour crushing the Maoists militarily may agree with this view. After all, whose lives US military support has saved is another important question. Killings have gone on unabated; those killed are still Nepalis, whether rebels, security personnel or civilians. Americans have not been killed. That is why many Nepalis have tended to think that the US policy may indeed have aggravated the crisis. A number of foreign diplomats, including Malinowski, have gone on record saying that to seek a military solution to the Maoist problem is not worthwhile. But, unfortunately, he has also occasionally spoken in terms of crushing the Maoists. If the rebels heeded his call, it would amount to their virtual surrender. His cool reaction to the idea of UN mediation sits well with the government’s position. Many think he made provocative remarks at critical times, especially towards or during the peace process. It is hard to agree that this is a sincere or the right approach. The question that is increasingly being asked is, why the US, the world’s “greatest” democracy, does not use its tremendous influence to help find a political settlement of Nepal’s crisis within a fully democratic framework.