U.S. in Nepal: Moriarty Would Welcome Maoists to Democratic Mainstream

If the Maoists adhere to their commitments and finally renounce violence, Ambassador James F. Moriarty would enjoy welcoming their leader to the democratic mainstream, the U.S. envoy said in Kathmandu today. The comment came in response to a question after the Ambassador delivered a speech at a conference of five Rotary Clubs, where he said the Maoists must renounce violence, meet their commitments, and return to cantonments they abandoned this week. The Ambassador said: “Actually I would welcome Mr. Prachanda coming into the political mainstream. He hasn’t done it yet. He has made some moves that are encouraging; his movement as a whole has done lots of moves that made me worry. “But the single capping achievement of my tour here would be for me to be able to leave this country shaking Mr. Prachanda’s hand and say, ‘Welcome to the democratic mainstream.’ That would be the best possible future for Nepal that I could see.” The audience of approximately 200 applauded the envoy’s response.

Here is the text of Moriarty’s address, delivered at the “Rotary Conference on Peace and Development– Post Conflict: Challenges and Opportunities.”

It is a pleasure to be here, especially because you mark today as both World Understanding and Peace Day and as the 102nd birthday of the Rotary organization. My father-in-law, an active Rotarian in Hawaii, will be pleased to hear that I helped celebrate this special day.

The conference organizers have assigned me a broad theme – Peace and Development – as the focus for my remarks. In tackling this challenging task, I will start by outlining some of the ways that the American people, through their USAID assistance agency, are seeking to help the Nepali people help themselves.

The United States wrestled with the link between peace and development in the immediate post-World War II period in Europe. After the defeat of Nazi Germany and its Axis allies, it seemed the West was destined to lose the peace. In those gloomy days, war-ravaged economies stalled, millions faced hunger, and a totalitarian ideology seemed to some the only path out of Europe’s crisis. In response, the United States, working with partner European states, developed the European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan. From 1947-51, some $12 billion in economic and technical assistance supported the recovery of participating European countries. The Marshall Plan, named after then-Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who first proposed it, has long been viewed as vital to reviving Europe’s economies and promoting peaceful European integration.

Since that era, my country has sought the most effective ways to help nations in need. In 1961, for instance, we created the U.S. Agency for International Development, better known as USAID. This was the first U.S. foreign assistance organization whose primary emphasis was on long-range economic and social development assistance. More recently, the U.S. launched the Millennium Challenge Account and the President’s Emergency Relief Plan for AIDS, both large assistance initiatives. In fact, as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has noted: “Under President Bush’s leadership, the United States has embarked on the most ambitious development agenda since the Marshall Plan.”

The Secretary herself has focused on the peace and development nexus. “To better align our foreign assistance programs with our foreign policy goals,” as she put it, Secretary Rice last year created the job of Director of Foreign Assistance, a new leadership position in the State Department. The Administrator of USAID occupies this post, ensuring closer assistance and policy coordination between State and USAID.

Nepal, where USAID/Nepal and its forerunners have been active for some 56 years, has already benefited from this improved coordination. Just recently, as you may have seen in the news, the State Department and USAID successfully petitioned the U.S. Treasury Department for permission to continue our development assistance to the Government of Nepal, even after Maoists – designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. – join an interim government. I was most pleased when we received the required license, which enables us to continue both long-term development assistance and more immediate initiatives to support the ongoing peace process and democracy in Nepal.

In a visit last week to Chitwan, I was reminded of the effectiveness of our long-term assistance by several Nepalis. They recalled how U.S. efforts to check malaria in their district and elsewhere helped open the Terai. In the 1950s, malaria was the country’s most serious health problem, affecting almost one quarter of the population. With U.S. support, the Insect-Borne Disease Control Bureau began working to control the disease, and by 1968 annual malaria cases had plunged from more than two million to under 2,500. This was one of our most successful health programs in Nepal. The now-populous Terai, of course, produces more than 65 percent of Nepal’s foodgrains. Similar long-term assistance continues, particularly in Nepal’s health sector, where USAID/Nepal is the largest donor.

After the King relinquished power last Spring and reinstated Parliament, the United States moved quickly to support the unfolding peace process and strengthen the transition to democracy. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) set up shop here last July and expects to spend $4 million this year in this effort. Some funded projects include:

· Purchasing critically-needed equipment for Nepal’s Election Commission to register voters;

· Translating, publishing, and widely distributing in local languages key documents, such as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Arms Management Agreement, and the Interim Constitution;

· Mounting a live, national, toll-free, call-in radio show, linking Nepali listeners to their elected representatives and other influential leaders who are helping determine Nepal’s future.

By the way, if any of you drove past Ratna Park last Saturday, you could not have missed hearing a loud and vibrant rock concert. It featured a Grammy-award winning U.S. group, Ozomatli, which entertained some 12,000-15,000 enthusiastic young Nepalis. Ozomatli is a multi-ethnic, Latin hip-hop group with a socially-conscious focus. The group performed under the slogan, “Different instruments but one rhythm, together we can make a prosperous Nepal.” USAID/OTI and our American Center teamed to make this performance possible. Whether you enjoy rock music or not, the band’s message seemed especially relevant for Nepal.

As we consider Nepal’s development potential after the insurgency, the hydropower sector looms large. It is really not a question of whether Nepal develops this resource, but rather, when? With a potential estimated at more than 83,000 Megawatts, Nepal could become the Kuwait of hydropower, fueling economic advances throughout the country and the region. To do this, Nepal will need to focus on the export market, which in turn should attract substantial investment for hydropower development. In short, with the right investment, technical assistance, and leadership, Nepal could tap this clean, renewable resource to the benefit of its 28 million people and millions more throughout South and Central Asia.

A big question in this potential development, at least for an outsider like me, is: How effectively will Nepal manage the vast sums when it chooses to develop its hydropower? If this undertaking is managed transparently so that Nepalis understand their government’s plans and decisions, then the money will benefit all Nepalis. On the other hand, care must be taken to avoid corruption or the launching of vast “prestige projects” that might look good in a brochure but fall far short of maximizing the hydropower potential. As many of you are businessmen, I know you appreciate this potential. If developed wisely, the promise of hydropower for Nepal is high as the Himalayas.

Such a hopeful prospect of large foreign investment, of course, will also depend on the peace process here, and the successful establishment of a solid – and peaceful – democracy. Nepal has the opportunity to lay the foundation for a peaceful and democratic future that will spare your children the miseries that you and your families suffered during the past 11 years. But large challenges remain. Recent disturbances in the Terai, for instance, suggest the need for greater transparency and inclusiveness to address ethnic groups with long-time grievances who feel excluded from Nepal’s democratic transition.

On another central issue, arms management, we are informed this process is about to conclude. I am hopeful this exercise will succeed, and the Maoists’ usable weapons will be locked up and registered by the UN. If this proves to be the case, it will go far to assure the people of Nepal that a peaceful future really does beckon. Such an effective process also would pave the way for the Maoists – unarmed at last – to enter an Interim Government of Nepal. Permitting them in otherwise, in my government’s view, would be the height of folly.

If Nepal is to carry out free and fair elections to the Constituent Assembly later this year, it is central – I repeat, absolutely central – that Nepalis go to the polls without fear of intimidation or reprisal from armed Maoists or, indeed, from any other group. Competing political parties also must be free to campaign for votes anywhere, in all districts and villages, without interference.

Nepalis have lived with fear for more than a decade. It is time to wipe away this fear, and the Maoists have the ability to play a big role in this. As I have said on many occasions, this means they must finally match actions with words. The Maoists say they support democracy, and that they are for the people. Fine. Now it is time they prove it. The formula is simple: Stop intimidation. Stop extortion. Stop violence. Once and for all.

I cannot help but notice that Maoist leaders have stepped up their criticism of me and of my government. They charge that the United States is doing everything from supporting the King to fomenting unrest in the Terai, all in an attempt to derail Nepal’s peace process. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I have noted above, the United States is doing everything possible to ensure the success of the peace process. And let me note here, as I have said on numerous occasions, the future of the monarchy is for the people of Nepal to decide. But let us be clear: for the peace process to succeed, the Maoists must abandon their weapons and genuinely come into the political mainstream. We will not be dissuaded or distracted from this goal by baseless allegations from the Maoists.

Instead, we will call upon the Maoists to undo their continuing, cynical violations of their peace commitments. Just three days ago, Nepali newspapers reported that thousands of Maoist combatants left their compound in Chitwan, and yesterday Maoist combatants left their camps and reportedly returned in Kailali. No matter what the excuse for these actions, they constitute a flagrant and intentional violation of the most solemn agreement made by the Maoists: to keep their combatants in cantonments in the run-up to the constitutional assembly election. The United Nations has rightly noted that this is a clear breach of Maoist commitments and has called upon the Maoist combatants to return to the cantonment immediately. If the Maoists do not respond by doing just as the UN has asked, they will be putting Nepal’s peace process at risk.

U.S. policy toward Nepal is straightforward. We support a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Nepal. We are working hard to help the people of Nepal reach these goals. In the end, of course, as this group knows well, Nepalis themselves must make the hard choices and decisions about their future. In these historic times, with the right leadership and commitment, and with the active involvement of all Nepalis, your country has the opportunity to secure a bright, democratic future for all of the Nepali people.

Happy Marriage Devyani!

Devyani the Behuli (here is a big pic)

The name Devyani Rana still generates tremendous amount of curiosity in Nepal. “Devyani sanga bihe garna napayera Dipendra le testo gareko re!” People still whisper (these days they say it loudly because of the freedom that has come with the restoration of democracy in April.) People said all kinds of things about the almost mythical-like relationship of Dipendra and Devyani. She must be damn beautiful, people used to say, otherwise why would a MAN like Dependra go after her to that extent. Who is this Devyani, people used to ask. Pahsupati ki chhori re, some used to answer. While all these questions and answers were exchanged, Devyani never appeared in front of the Nepali public to present her side of the story. She vanished. Many thought poor girl, she became the victim of the “love web” of big folks in Kathmandu. Dependra Shah is a history now though he left many questions unanswered. Even the old Devyani is a history now. She will be Mrs. Divyani from today in a lavish marriage ceremony in the Indian capital. Here are images from her Swayamvar ceremony yesterday. Continue reading Happy Marriage Devyani!