Somewhat stretched

T he United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has decided to let the government have greater say in the running of projects financed by it and make the state’s presence felt in the countryside. During the Maoist insurgency, the UN agency had put professionals and field workers working in the UNDP-funded projects under its shield by allowing the use of UN logos on their visiting cards, on their vehicles and on their identity cards “to fool the insurgents”. The change has been mooted because of the UN assessment that relative peace has returned to Nepal. On the contrary, the Diplomatic Corps, with US ambassador James F Moriarty as its dean, last Friday issued a joint statement terming “unacceptable” acts of “targeting or threatening diplomats in Nepal on their countries’ official business”. The statement had been prompted by a case of stone-throwing on the vehicle carrying

US ambassador Moriarty and UNHCR representative for Nepal Abraham Abraham in Jhapa allegedly by some YCL activists.

Certainly, even this minor case of stone-pelting was wrong and deplorable. And the administration has arrested four persons and is prosecuting them under the Public Offences Act. So, the government has done its duty. If there are loopholes in the government’s security arrangements for the foreign diplomats, then further measures may have to be considered. On Sunday, the government said it was committed to the security of the diplomats. But the corps’ claim that there has been an upsurge, in recent weeks, of incidents that have threatened foreign diplomats or impeded their work in the country was a shade too exaggerated. Even during the 10-year insurgency, foreigners in Nepal were the least vulnerable of the groups to attacks from either the rebels or the state’s security forces.

As for the foreign diplomats, none of them were physically attacked or killed during the decade-old conflict. Nor will the gun-toting groups in the Tarai dare touch them. Obviously, the corps’ statement was the result of a couple of stones thrown at a vehicle carrying a powerful diplomat. The statement seems to have included peaceful protests, including the showing of black flags in recent days as constituting assaults on the physical security of diplomats or the impeding of their official work.

But this inclusion is wrong, as, in a democracy, people have the right to stage peaceful protests against anybody. The statement happens to confuse this democratic right of dissent with downright assaults on the diplomats’ security. Many of the Nepal-based ambassadors have been to other countries on diplomatic assignments, and at least two of the high-profile ones have worked in Nepal’s neighbours in the past.