US still mum on doing business with Maoists in Nepal

April 15th, 2008 - 10:50 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 15 (IANS) With Maoists poised to lead the new government in Nepal, the US - which once worked to prevent a “Maoist takeover” - welcomed “the historic election”, without indicating if it was ready to do business with the former guerrillas still on its terrorist watch list. In a cautious first reaction to the election, Washington, which has for long considered preventing a Maoist takeover a key to achieving US regional goals, congratulated “the people of Nepal on their historic Constituent Assembly election” with no reference to the outcome.

“Although there was considerable violence and intimidation during the pre-election period, and some instances of voting irregularities on election day, Nepali voters were able to cast their ballots peacefully in most districts,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday.

“Over the next days and weeks, as complete results of these polls become known, the United States urges patience and non-violent observance of the democratic process.

“We look forward to the formation of an assembly that reflects the will of the Nepali people, ready to begin the important work of framing a constitution that addresses their needs,” he said.

The bland statement made no reference at all to the Maoist party, leave alone giving any indication of a re-think of the country’s Nepal policy, which has continued to keep the Maoists on the watch list of terrorist organisations even after the rebels joined a coalition government last year, ending a decade-old insurgency.

A recent US Congressional report said: “Strengthening Nepal to prevent a Maoist takeover is key to achieving US regional and bilateral goals, including preventing the spread of terror, enhancing regional stability, promoting democracy, and protecting US citizens in Nepal.”

“American foreign policy interests in Nepal seek to prevent the collapse of Nepal which should it become a failed state, could provide operational or support territory for terrorists,” it said, suggesting such a scenario could be destabilizing to the security dynamics of the region.

There is also no reaction as yet to a call by former US president Jimmy Carter to remove Maoists from the list of terrorist organizations. But it seems unlikely Washington would refuse to deal with Nepal’s first democratically elected government in nine years as the US did work with an interim administration that included the Maoists.

Carter said last week it was “a mistake” for the US to boycott communication with the Maoists, and that the Bush administration should recognise that Nepal’s April 10 election was peaceful.

“If the Maoists do well in the election,” Carter added, “the United States should recognize and start doing business with them because they will represent a significant chunk of Nepal’s people.”

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