The United States on Friday sought an explanation from Nepal after former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal last week criticised US interference in Venezuela and expressed support for its president Nicolas Maduro. Nepal’s Ambassador in Washington DC Arjun Karki was reportedly told that Dahal’s statement was neither acceptable nor expected by the US.
The US Ambassador in Kathmandu, Randy Berry, on Friday did not attend a meeting that Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had hosted for the head of the mission, and instead sent his deputy. Dahal’s statement comes as a setback to America’s hope to rope in Nepal in the Indo-Pacific Initiative, which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed when he invited Nepal’s Foreign Minister to a bilateral visit to Washington for the first time in history last month.
Dahal is one of the two chairpersons of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, which formed after the merger of the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists, of which he was a leader, and the Communist party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).
Given Dahal’s political background, his earlier statements calling the US an “imperialist force”, and his lionising of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and now Maduro, and the fact that most NGOs in the erstwhile CPN-UML had been the biggest financial beneficiaries of the US and its funding agencies in Nepal, the US believes that the two erstwhile parties in the government had different ideas about Nepal-US ties. The ruling party comprises the CPN-UML and the Maoist Party in 70:30 ratio in Parliament, and, the US believes, can have a more cordial relationship with it.
Dahal’s Maoist Party was in the ‘US terrorist watchlist’ during the decade-long insurgency between 1996 and 2006, and for the first four years after it joined the peace and democratic process.
After Dahal’s remarks, the Nepal government had issued a statement on January 29, saying, “In line with its principled position, Nepal believes that the internal political problems of a country need to be resolved within its constitutional parameters in a democratic manner, free from external interference. The people of Venezuela have the ultimate authority to take a decision on the country’s political and constitutional course. We stand for peace, stability and unity of Venezuela and call for resolution of differences through peaceful means.”
But a party source said when Foreign Minister Gyawali asked Dahal to dilute his statement, Dahal’s secretariat sent a message that what Dahal had said reflected his belief.