Excerpts of an e-mail interview with US Ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty. Conducted by Suresh Nath Neupane for eKantipur. The interview was made available to UWB by Neupane.
Q. Why has the US Government not lifted the terrorist tag labeled on the Maoists despite their agreement to join the mainstream multi-party democracy?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: The US has not lifted the terrorist tag from the Maoists because they are still acting like terrorists. Until the Maoists stop using violence and intimidation, they will remain on the list. Once their behavior changes and that change is sustained, we will be happy to review that status. We encourage the Maoists to meet their peace process commitments and begin acting like a mainstream political party. We urge them, for the good of Nepal’s democracy and people, to give up violence once and for all.
Q. Your Excellency, every statement you make seems to trigger a spate of debates, apprehensions and calculations from different quarters. How do you personally assess such situations?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: I welcome public debate and discussion. This is central for any democratic process– whether it occurs in California or Kathmandu. Sometimes, people either intentionally distort what I say, or make up things I have never said, and there are personal attacks or criticism of me in the media. That can be uncomfortable, I must admit. But if people in Nepal honestly and fairly consider my statements and those of the US Embassy – which reflect US policy towards Nepal– then I believe we are contributing to the critical thinking and debate that is vital for Nepal as it seeks to become a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic nation.
Q. One of your recent statements had it that the Maoists bought plenty of worn-out and old weapons from India to lock them up. What proof is there that prompts you to make such claims?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: While I will not discuss sources or methods, I stand by my prior statement. The Maoists have an opportunity to prove their trustworthiness by turning in all of their combatants’ weapons and munitions to UN arms monitors. That process is currently ongoing. I hope they will seize that opportunity.
Q. There are allegations that the US is trying to save the king. Is it true? What future do you see for the monarchy in this country?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: These allegations are absolutely, positively, and comprehensively wrong. The US position– which I have repeated numerous times and do so again here– is straightforward: The future of the monarchy is for the Nepali people to decide. Period.
If the Nepali people want a ceremonial monarchy, they can make that decision; similarly, if they want to abolish the monarchy, they can make that decision. But, again, the decision is up to the people of Nepal.
Q. What will the US Mission in Nepal do once the Maoists– designated terrorists by the American government — enter an Interim Government and control ministries? In the case when the US still recognizes the Maoists as a terrorist group, what assurance do you give that your assistance will flow in the proper channel reaching the genuine target groups?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: The United States is committed to helping the Nepali people and the ongoing peace process. If the Maoists join the Interim Cabinet without abandoning violence, the US Mission to Nepal will work to ensure that it does not provide assistance that Maoist ministers can claim credit for.
Regarding ensuring that US assistance reaches its intended recipients, let me answer this way. First, US assistance is carefully monitored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State to ensure proper targeting and full realization of programme goals. Regular performance and financial audits of grantees and contractors are conducted. Second, a clause in all USAID-funded contracts and grants reminds USAID’s implementing partners that they are required to ensure compliance with US laws that prohibit transactions with, and providing support or resources to, individuals and organizations associated with terrorism. Finally, as a condition of receiving assistance, USAID’s grantees must certify in writing that they will take all reasonable steps to ensure that they do not provide material support or resources to individuals or entities that are involved in terrorist acts.
Q. What’s the size of the annual US development assistance to Nepal? What key areas does it focus on?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: The US provided nearly $50 million in development assistance to Nepal in fiscal year 2006, and this fiscal year that assistance is currently projected to approach $37 million.
The US provides assistance to the people of Nepal in the areas of conflict mitigation and peace building, democracy and governance, health, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural road construction, agricultural services, and humanitarian aid.
Q. The US Treasury recently issued an OFAC License to enable the US to keep providing assistance to the Government of Nepal. What is this license and how does it work?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: An OFAC license is an authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury to engage in a transaction that otherwise would be prohibited by US law.
The US Mission in Nepal has been authorized to continue providing economic and development assistance to the Government of Nepal and to the peace process, even after the Maoists take up positions in the government. The authorization comes in the form of a license granted to the US Department of State, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and US contractors and grantees of both agencies. The license was issued on February 5, 2007 and is valid until February 28, 2008.
To quote from the license itself, USAID, the Department of State and their US contractors and grantees “are authorized to engage in transactions with the Government of Nepal (GON), including any political subdivision, agency or instrumentality of the GON, notwithstanding the involvement of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) in the GON, provided the transactions are necessary for the entry into and execution of State and USAID grants or contracts for the provision of assistance or economic support in Nepal, or to support implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement entered into on November 21, 2006 by the GON and the CPN(M), as authorized by the grant or contract. This authorization includes working with or through public international organizations, as authorized by the grant or contract.”
Q. Is it unusual for the US State Department and USAID to seek such a license to work with a coalition government?
AMBASSADOR MORIARTY: Yes, it is unusual. The situation we faced in Nepal is similar in some ways to the West Bank/Gaza case, where our Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assests Control (OFAC) also issued a license to the State Department and USAID for activities with the Palestinian Authority, despite the involvement of the Hamas organization in the government.
As in the West Bank/Gaza, our efforts in Nepal illustrate our ability to develop creative solutions to complex challenges to meet legitimate humanitarian and development needs while, at the same time, ensuring the continued isolation of those that would employ violence and terror to advance their goals.