I am very happy that my visit coincided with the arrival of Ambassador Peter Bodde, who is returning to serve in the Embassy in Kathmandu for the third time in his career. Peter is one of our most experienced career diplomats. I know he will do a splendid job advancing our interests and our relations with Nepal at this crucial time in Nepal’s history.
I have had a busy and productive visit. I appreciated the opportunity to meet with PM Bhattarai, Nepali Congress Vice President Ram Chandra Poudel, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal, Maoist Chairman Prachanda, Army Chief Gaurav Rana, business leaders, and members of the Tibetan community as well as civil society.
U.S. policy goals in Nepal are clear. We wish to see a stable, democratic, and prosperous Nepal in which the rights of all citizens are protected and the rule of law respected.
Nepal has made significant progress since the end of the conflict in 2006. Now is the time for all political leaders to commit to finishing the job for the future of the country. I urged political party leaders to demonstrate real statesmanship and flexibility. If Nepal’s political leaders can put aside their differences and work together, we are confident that outstanding constitutional issues can be settled.
A key part of concluding a successful peace process will be for all parties to develop transitional justice mechanisms that are independent, credible, and transparent, and that address the concerns of all Nepalis, particularly the victims and their families. It is crucial that any Truth and Reconciliation Commission be credible and aligned with internationally recognized human rights standards. We know most Nepalis agree that more must be done to hold wrongdoers accountable and uphold the rule of law.
On September 6 the Department of State revoked the designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from two designated terrorist lists. This delisting reflects the United States’ resolve to keep our terrorism sanctions current and demonstrates that a group need not stay on a terrorist list forever, should it demonstrate a credible commitment to pursuing peace and reconciliation. This action frees the party’s property within the U.S. and allows U.S. entities to engage in transactions with CPN(M) without having to obtain a license.
While political discussions continue, creating an attractive investment climate is critical for Nepal’s economic growth and development. Business leaders briefed me on the negative effects internal political problems, corruption, and lack of dependable electricity have had on investment. I encourage renewed effort to work with the government to develop sound economic policies and a stable political situation that will attract foreign investors.
The U.S. has been proud to support Nepal’s development for 61 years and that strong support continues. Nepal is a strong partner in three of President Obama’s signature development initiatives: 1) improving health, especially for Nepali mothers and children, 2) increasing food security, and 3) addressing the impact of climate change. We are also working together on natural disaster risk reduction, combating human trafficking and safeguarding human rights for minority groups, women and the LGBT community. The arrival of 20 new Peace Corps volunteers after an eight-year absence is one of the many positive developments in our bilateral relationship, as is a commitment to establish a new Millennium Challenge Cooperation program, for which discussions will begin shortly.
Last but not least, Nepal has been a generous host to Tibetan refugees for more than 50 years. Nepal’s commitment to the protection of Tibetan refugees, both those in the long-staying community and new arrivals transiting to India, has earned Nepal international respect. We believe strongly that Tibetan refugees, like all people, deserve to lead lives of dignity and purpose.
Bob Blake is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of South and Central Asian Affairs. Excerpts of Blake’s statement delivered at Press Conference in Kathmandu.