By Maila Baje
Our Venezuela caper is getting curiouser by the day.
We’re still asking why Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal chose to attack the United States so acerbically. The tone of the questioners ranges from scorn to solemnity. The answers are no less assorted.
As the responses continue coming in, it may be worthwhile turn around that question. Why has the United States taken Dahal’s outburst so seriously? International opposition to American interference in Venezuela is nothing unanticipated.
Washington couldn’t get a smidgeon of support from the United Nations Security Council even after sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to chair an extraordinary weekend briefing. While Equatorial Guinea openly joined Russia and China in blocking the US push for some kind of statement, the other delegations weren’t too electrified by Washington, either. Like Nepal, Equatorial Guinea was hardly in a position to make a difference in the larger scheme of things. But at least it was the incoming president of the Security Council for the month of February.
President Donald Trump’s personal peccadilloes may be at play here. The man has demonstrated an innate aptitude to take even the simplest slight very personally. Yet it would be a stretch to suggest that he is somehow micromanaging relations with Nepal. For one thing, we haven’t appeared in his tweets – at least not yet.
Moreover, in this epic battle between Trump and the ‘Deep State’, the State Department establishment has few incentives to allow Nepal to enter Trump’s list of embarrassments. If anyone should be embarrassed, however, it is the US foreign policy establishment, which went along with India in 2006 to constrain China in Nepal, only to witness Beijing’s incredible ascendance here.
Perhaps that’s the crux of the problem. The US was dragged by the Indians kicking and screaming behind the 12-Point Agreement. US Ambassador James Moriarty criticized the mainstream parties for hobnobbing with the Maoists in New Delhi before joining some of the same leaders on a subsequent flight to New Delhi. Salvaging the US-India nuclear accord from the Sitaram Yechuri-led blitzkrieg was priority No. 1 for the George W. Bush administration. Even if that meant acceding to the mainstreaming of the Maoists while our rebels were still on the US terrorism list. So Washington’s narrative suddenly changed from ‘aiding and abetting terrorism’ to a ‘messy abdication’.
In the subsequent years, the Americans have been second to none in legitimizing the Maoists, particularly the Dahal wing. That must not have been easy, to say the least. American arms and ammunition supplied directly to the Royal Nepali Army largely sidelining the elected government couldn’t defeat the Maoists. Later, Washington had to indulge in uncomfortable linguistic legerdemain to point out that the Maoists were not in the same league as Al Qaeda. And Prime Minister Dahal even got a brief group meeting with President Bush on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
What ingratitude! Forget the fact that Dahal singlehandedly sabotaged recent US overtures. The Americans can’t be sure the Chinese pressured Dahal to issue the statement as a demonstration of good faith. Nor can they be confident the Indians had no hand in subverting direct American interaction with Nepal. Did the Venezuelans actually lobby Dahal? Worse, some of us are even suggesting that Dahal cleared his statement with the Americans before going public.
Amid such obfuscation, muddying the waters further has it charm. Artificial or authentic, American outrage at least keeps everyone guessing.