Monday, September 18, 2006

Friendly Advice Or Blatant Interference?

Five months after the restoration of democracy, American Ambassador James F. Moriarty is confronting calls for his expulsion from a section of the Seven Party Alliance whose empowerment he had so assiduously advocated for more than two years.
“Would a Nepali ambassador be allowed to tour military barracks in the United States and make political statements?” thundered Lila Mani Pokharel, vice president of People’s Front Nepal, in the parliament Moriarty helped reinstate.
Narayan Man Bijukchhe, president of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, another SPA constituent, was no less strident in criticizing American interference. When ministers of King Gyanendra’s government accused foreign ambassadors of meddling in Nepal’s politics, SPA constituents vied with one another to defend what they called “friendly expressions” of democratic solidarity.
Can it be inferred from Pokharel’s outburst that America has now abandoned its support for Nepal’s democratic forces? Regardless, his rhetorical question merits consideration. What if Nepal had been arming the U.S. government in its fight against, say, the Aryan Nation only to discover that the extreme-left component of the Democratic Party decided to expand Senate membership to accommodate the Michigan, Montana and other variegated militias? A fine display of national reconciliation, perhaps? Or a total repudiation of long-standing Nepalese foreign and defense policy vis-à-vis the United States?
Admittedly, it would take more than the rants of fringe commies to expel Moriarty. Yet His Excellency must be under a lot of pressure here. The recent visits of Senator Arlen Specter and a House delegation led by Jim Kolbe underscored the urgency with which Washington views Nepal’s evolving peace process. (House Speaker Dennis Hastert, one may recall, canceled his delegation’s travel plans once the anti-palace protests grew ugly.)
In Washington’s view – at least in that of the dominant policy-making section – recent events appear to have vindicated the posture of Moriarty’s predecessor, Michael E. Malinowski. In Reagan-speak, you can trust the Maoists, but there’s no way of verifying. It’s this deepening Reaganesque hue in official American attitudes that seems to be crystallizing in Nepal.
Is there a growing convergence of opinion between the neo- and paleo-conservatives on the wider implications of a Maoist-dominated – if not entirely controlled – Nepal? As much is indicated in a September 13 article in The Washington Times. Paul Moorcraft may not be a household name in Conservative America. But in “Danger in Nepal,” he certainly fuses the thought processes of the erstwhile Cold Warriors and of those waging the War on Terrorism.
Moriarty must have recognized the local fallout from the outset. Unified Marxist Leninist general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal used to take down portraits of Marx, Engels and Lenin whenever the US ambassador came calling at Balkhu. The UML chief probably still does. But Madhav Nepal also has become more strident in advising Moriarty to stick to the norms of his profession.
The UML, which until not too long ago, was searching for the appropriate pretext to change the party name and flag is now competing with the Maoists to raise the hammer and sickle the highest.
Regardless of what Pokharel and Bijukkche think, Moriarty probably considers offering “friendly advice” a firm element of his job description. Especially when former “royalist” premier Surya Bahadur Thapa – who one understands completed an elaborate tour of the White House and the Pentagon – comes out in full support of his sentiments.