US hints at political reconciliation with Maoists in Nepal

May 1st, 2008 - 10:54 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 1 (IANS) The US, which still regards the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist(CPN-Maoist) as a terrorist organisation, has indicated it would seek “legitimate reconciliation and reintegration politically” in Nepal after the Maoists’ election victory. “In any terrorist organisation or any terrorist situation, if there is a way for reconciliation legally and lawfully through the political system, obviously, we prefer that,” a senior US official said Wednesday.

“And there are places where that’s taking place already,” Dell L. Dailey, Coordinator of the Office for Counter-terrorism said briefing reporters on the State Department’s annual terrorism report. “It is taking place in Nepal, although it’s had some ups and downs.”

“But we prefer a legitimate reconciliation and reintegration politically long before we go after and try and do a coordinated, integrated, with host nation military action,” he said when asked how the US planned to deal with the new situation in Nepal.

Dailey’s remarks were the first indication of a US rethink of its Nepal policy following the Maoists’ election victory. Other official too have hinted at the possibility of a review, but have declined to spell it out in so many words.

Washington still regards the CPN-Maoist as a terrorist group although the group formally laid down weapons in 2006 and joined Nepal’s interim coalition government last year. Officials have pointed to “legal hurdles” in taking the Maoists off the list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations.

After the Maoist victory, the State Department chose to merely congratulate “the people of Nepal on their historic Constituent Assembly election” with no reference to the outcome.

The bland first reaction made no reference at all to the Maoist party, leave alone giving any indication of a rethink of the country’s Nepal policy, which has for long considered preventing a Maoist takeover a key to achieving US regional goals.

The new terrorism report acknowledged Nepal experienced no significant acts of international terrorism in 2007, but said “several incidents of domestic terrorism and politically-motivated violence occurred in urban areas and in the Terai.”

The report alleged “Despite ending their ten-year insurgency by signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2006, and entering into the interim government in April 2007, the Maoists, the only US-designated terrorist organization in Nepal, continued to engage in violence, extortion, and abductions.”

The Maoists withdrew their ministers from the interim government between September and December, but left their members in place in the interim Parliament. “The government failed to hold the Maoists accountable for violating the peace process, and law enforcement efforts against terrorist activity were minimal,” it said.

The Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ostensibly settled into UN-monitored cantonments but at times attempted to circumvent the disarmament and combatant verification process, the State Department said.

The Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League, which included former PLA members, grew increasingly prominent during the year, carrying on the Maoist militia’s tactics of abuse, abduction, assassination, intimidation, and extortion in cities and villages.

Ethnic tensions increased in the southern Terai plains. From mid-January to early March, as Madhesis (Terai inhabitants culturally and linguistically close to India) protested against the failure of the interim constitution and the interim government to address their concerns, an occasionally-violent popular uprising, the Madhesi Andolan, left many dead.

Over a dozen extremist groups in pursuit of independence or autonomy and some criminal elements followed the Maoist lead of “negotiation” via armed struggle, the report said.

Competing factions of Madhesis clashed with each other, with the Maoists, with hill-origin Nepalis, and with police, instigating numerous strikes, demonstrations, and Indo-Nepal border road closures.

The Maoists exacerbated bloodshed in the Terai in a scramble to regain influence it had lost in the region, the report alleged, but “The Government of Nepal largely ignored the conflict in the Terai.”

Anti-money laundering legislation remained stalled in Parliament, although the government responded favourably to US requests to be prepared to freeze the assets of individuals and entities involved in the financing of terrorism when or if such assets were discovered, it said.

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