Walk the line

Most friendly countries important to Nepal in terms of aid or clout have made an assessment of the state of the nation which differs sharply from the one made by the government. Even the US, generally sympathetic to the royal government, has termed the past one year of direct rule ‘unsuccessful’. Wednesday’s visit to Nepal by the head of the United States Pacific Command (PACOM), Admiral William J Fallon, was aimed at conveying, acording to the US embassy, “serious US concern about the situation in Nepal, including both the threat posed by the Maoist insurgency and the King’s decision just one year ago to sideline Nepal’s political parties and establish rule from the palace.”

Nepali officials have sought renewed American military aid in fighting the Maoist insurgency while the US naval commander is reported to have expressed US concerns to home minister Kamal Thapa and the army chief. According to foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey, the US commander appreciated the road map outlined by the King in his Wednesday’s address. The Bush administration has halted the supply of ‘lethal military assistance” to the Royal Nepalese Army since the royal takeover of February 1 (last year), though it has resumed military training to RNA soldiers. It is another matter that even blocked US military aid can be resumed if it is thought to be in American interests to do so, irrespective of the higher questions of human rights and democracy. But the US has made it clear that it has been very unhappy with the King’s political moves over the past one year.

Given its historical anti-communism, the US cannot be expected to countenance a Maoist takeover, as it has already made it clear more than once. Therefore, it has sought a reconciliation between the palace and the political parties, but the King’s current course has made this a remote possibility. Perhaps because of this, in addition to the commitments made by the Maoists in their 12-point agreement with the political parties, the US has not voiced its customary criticism of this document. However, unsurprisingly, it still harbours considerable distrust of the Maoists. As most countries, including the US and India, have made clear that the Maoist problem cannot be resolved through military means alone, they would do well to make their stances clearer. A mere coming together of the palace and the parties will not resolve the crisis triggered by the Maoist insurgency, as the past has taught us, though it may release blocked military and economic aid to Nepal. General statements of goodwill are not good enough.