I sometimes wonder if the US really has any interest in what goes on in Nepal. Every time something happens, however useless, US officials never seem to miss a chance of stating their position and offer advice on how Nepal, Nepali people, political parties, their leaders, and the king should act to the resolve the “crisis”. What crisis they are talking about probably they don’t themselves know. Otherwise they wouldn’t be made to look stupid only after a couple of days when there is a new development (or “crisis” situation in their words!) in Nepal. And what is the point of having a full-time ambassador and a whole bunch of diplomatic officials in Nepal if they can’t even analyse the situation properly and decide what to say when? Ohh… may be they are already back home because of their government's decision to withdraw "non-essential staffs" due to the ongoing “crisis”.
Anyway, lets come back to what I was going to write about in the first place. On my browser, I have three news pieces open – all regarding what the US officials had to say about ongoing political situation (or “crisis” again in their term) in Nepal. When the king first tried to
resolve the political stalemate fool the public and split the SPA alliance by offering the post of PM to the SPA on 21 April, US Department of State didn’t miss the chance to “state their position”. Here is what they said then:
The United States salutes the people of Nepal's courage and resilience in their struggle for democracy. We are pleased that King Gyanendra's message today made clear that sovereignty resides with the people. We expect the King to live up to his words, and allow the parties to form a government. We urge the parties to respond quickly by choosing a prime minister and a cabinet. The people of Nepal deserve a democratic government that can return stability and peace to their country. We urge all sides to refrain from violence to allow the restoration of democracy to take place swiftly and peacefully.
Just look at what they had to say then. Didn’t they have people on the ground in Nepal, including their ambassador, to tell them how Gyanendra’s message was received by the people on the streets and by the political parties? After only a couple of days, things changed of course and they got another chance to “issue” another statement. And here is what they had to say on 24 April:
The United States salutes the people of Nepal's courage and resilience in their struggle for democracy. The King’s speech in Kathmandu late today calls for reinstatement of parliament. We believe that he should now hand power over to the parties and assume a ceremonial role in his country’s governance. Nepal’s political parties must step up to their responsibilities and cooperate to turn the people’s demands for democracy and good governance into reality. The Maoists must end their violent attacks and join a peaceful political process. Through these steps stability, peace and democracy can be restored in Nepal. The United States and the international community stand ready to help.
We regret the loss of life and injuries that occurred in the recent demonstrations and call upon Nepal’s security forces to show the utmost restraint in responding, should any further demonstrations occur.
Isn’t it rather prescriptive of them to tell what role the king should “assume”? Again, haven’t they heard from their officials on the ground as to what the people on the streets have been demanding for so long? At a time when Nepali people are so intent on getting rid of the monarchy, US comes out to tell them what role their king should assume. Anyway, all that in the past, Assistant Secretary of State (for South and Central Asian Affairs) Richard Boucher has just concluded his two-day visit to Nepal, which actually had a bit of a surprise in that he didn’t meet Gyanendra. And it was possibly a sign of what he was going to say at the end of his visit. Charles Haviland, reporting for the BBC, writes:
"Ultimately the people decided. Ultimately the people said, 'the king has got no role any more'," Mr Boucher said.
"They want to make sure that the king is not able to interfere any more in the politics the way he had - that he is not able to disband the government and try to take over power."
So there you go, his views today clearly contradicts what his department’s (and possibly his) position was just a few days ago. Was he able to understand the ground reality of the current political situation in Nepal in his two-day visit to see no role for the king? I don’t think so. He must have done his homework well in advance to say what Nepali people want to hear at this time in Nepal and to snub a planned meeting with Gyanendra. Now, we have to realise that this is the “official position” of the US regarding “continuing political crisis in Nepal”, as they call it, at a moment in time – i.e., today (3 May 2006). And we also have to realise that this “official position” can change whenever the situation changes in Nepal, including their position on the fundamental issues such as the role of monarchy. We just have to look at the above three statements to see what mixed messages the US gives, and no doubt it’ll continue…forever…