In his own words, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Camp called his second Nepal visit in one year “constructive”.
The King had granted him an audience. He summed up his visit, thus, even as government critics claimed there was no breakthrough in the high-level dialogue between the United States and Nepal.
Washington has been maintaining top-level dialogue with Nepali officials even though some countries attempted to isolate the kingdom after February 1, 2005. Earlier, the top US admiral of the Asia Pacific region, who reports directly to the president and the defence secretary, had visited Nepal.
Camp repeatedly told reporters at a news conference ahead of his departure, following a 24-hour visit, that ambassador James F. Moriarty’s frank remarks denouncing the 12-point New Delhi agreement between the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance (SPAM) was an official US policy statement.
Camp even called Moriarty the “local expert” on Nepal. Camp was defending the US envoy in Nepal who came under fire for his frank assessment of the current political situation and Washington’s perceptions from some quarters, including some members of the SPAM, and others who were claiming the ambassador’s remarks were only personal.
Moriarty understandably came under fire from the Maoists while the NC (D) president, Sher Bahadur Deuba, defended him. Before the Moriarty statement, Deuba called for a review of the 12-point agreement or understanding without calling for its abrogation.
The top US diplomat briefed the King of the outcome of President George W. Bush’s three-nation tour of South Asia, including India, where Nepal figured in his discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He implicitly rebuked the seven opposition allies who begin the next phase of their staggered protest movement in April.
Camp delivered to the King the one sentence public statement of Bush who said in New Delhi after a meeting with Singh: “In Nepal, Maoists should abandon the path of violence. We agreed that the King should reach out to the political parties for the restoration of democracy.”
Camp explained: “President Bush speaking publicly on the subject is an indication of the importance it attaches.”
Camp asked the political parties to play a more constructive role as they put conditions for a dialogue which the King called in a message on National Democracy Day in February.
“The parties need to play a more constructive role,” he said. In an earlier visit last year, Camp had charged the political parties of pursing personal interests even while supporting their protests.
Meeting Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey
The senior US diplomat discussed Nepal in routine meetings with Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey and leaders of the political parties. But more importantly, he held discussions on matters of mutual interest with Chief of the Army Staff General Pyar Jung Thapa as Washington has expressed interest in conditionally resuming supplies of lethal weapons amid concerns of mounting Maoist violence.
Pandey later said there were “similarities” in the calls of Bush and the King on National Democracy Day for a dialogue.
“The ball is now in the parties’ court,” Pandey said.
Apparent differences in perceptions on the Maoists between Washington and New Delhi as they coordinate their approaches on Nepal have been ignored in public.
New Delhi has been lending uncritical support to the Maoists as they seek to come to power in an interim government as their condition to end the conflict.
Revealing the hard-line US approach, Camp said Washington will continue to put the terrorist tag on the Maoists until they firmly abandon violence.