March 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Congress: All American Patriots: Representative James A. Leach says: Nepal has long enjoyed good relations with the United States at the governmental level; while people-to-people ties have also been robust, nurtured in part by the many dedicated Peace Corps volunteers who have so ably served in the world’s only Hindu kingdom

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: March 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Congress: All American Patriots: Representative James A. Leach says: Nepal has long enjoyed good relations with the United States at the governmental level; while people-to-people ties have also been robust, nurtured in part by the many dedicated Peace Corps volunteers who have so ably served in the world’s only Hindu kingdom

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Representative James A. Leach says: Nepal has long enjoyed good relations with the United States at the governmental level; while people-to-people ties have also been robust, nurtured in part by the many dedicated Peace Corps volunteers who have so ably served in the world’s only Hindu kingdom

Representative James A. Leach says: Nepal has long enjoyed good relations with the United States at the governmental level; while people-to-people ties have also been robust, nurtured in part by the many dedicated Peace Corps volunteers who have so ably served in the world’s only Hindu kingdom

Representative James A. Leach says: Nepal has long enjoyed good relations with the United States at the governmental level; while people-to-people ties have also been robust, nurtured in part by the many dedicated Peace Corps volunteers who have so ably served in the world’s only Hindu kingdom

Statement by Representative James A. Leach
Chairman, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Hearing on: “The Crisis in Nepal”
March 2, 2005

On behalf of the Subcommittee, I would like to welcome our distinguished witness to our hearing this afternoon. I would note that we were originally scheduled to have Assistant Secretary Rocca appear before us today. However, she is under the weather and so our able substitute will be Donald Camp, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the South Asia Bureau of the Department of State. Don, we appreciate your many years of public service and look forward to your testimony.

As my colleagues know, sandwiched between China and India and home to the soaring Himalayan Mountains, Nepal has long been known as one of the world’s most beautiful countries on the planet. A constitutional monarchy since 1990, Nepal has long enjoyed good relations with the United States at the governmental level; while people-to-people ties have also been robust, nurtured in part by the many dedicated Peace Corps volunteers who have so ably served in the world’s only Hindu kingdom.

Tragically, however, each year since the onset of a Maoist rebellion in 1996 has seen this country of 24 million ever more starkly challenged, not only by ruthless insurgents, but by a panoply of developmental, governance, and human rights problems that have converged to potentially jeopardize the viability of the state itself.

In the most recent and serious manifestation of Nepal’s distress, King Gyanendra sacked the government on February 1, declaring a state of emergency that sharply curtailed civil liberties and took over the reins of government. His dismissal of the government was the third since parliament was dissolved in 2002, when the King first appointed pro-royalist figures to run the government under his direction. Meanwhile, the King attempted to justify the current crackdown on the tenuous assertion that the former government had failed to move forward toward national elections and dialogue with the rebels, as well as, even more doubtfully, the need to “defend multiparty democracy.”

As the country has lurched from crisis to crisis, the concern of outside parties has grown commensurately, particularly in Delhi, London and Washington. As we have learned all too painfully over the last half-century of international relations, the United States cannot afford to remain indifferent when geographically remote areas, whether in Afghanistan or Cambodia, come to be dominated by extremist elements with a brutal and hostile agenda.

In this context, from a Congressional perspective the U.S. and other concerned members of the international community have no credible alternative other than to register our deep concern at the latest turn of events and urge in no uncertain terms that the King move quickly to restore constitutional rule and multiparty democracy.

It is self-evident that the countries and organizations with the most extensive ties to Nepal – India, the U.S., the UK, EU and UN – must work together to forge a commonsense agenda designed to bring the King back from an authoritarian precipice which could too easily accelerate a violent Maoist takeover of the government. The question, however, is whether it is too late and, if not, how best to avert worst-case outcomes.

In this regard, the Subcommittee has a number of questions for our Administration witness, including:

-- What is the status of detained political leaders and human right activists? How many are under arrest and has the U.S. sought and received access to these people?

-- What levers can and should the international community bring to bear in order to influence the decision-making of the royal government? For example, should donors contemplate targeted economic and diplomatic measures designed to exert pressure on the King, the Council of Ministers, and the Royal Nepal Army?

-- India and the United Kingdom have frozen military assistance; yet the United States has not. Why is Washington not moving in coordination with its friends and allies on the issue of military aid?

-- Have the King’s actions made Nepal more or less able to combat the Maoist threat with a credible counterinsurgency strategy? If Nepal is less secure because of the Royal takeover, what are the prospects for a collapse of central authority and a takeover by the Maoists?

-- According to groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, human rights conditions in Nepal appear to be deteriorating. How can concerned outside parties help convince the authorities in Kathmandu to restore fundamental freedoms and meaningfully address enforced disappearances and other manifestations of Nepal’s human rights crisis?

-- Over years Congress has uniquely identified with the Tibetan people and the preservation of their unique cultural heritage. In this regard, I understand that on January 21 several Tibetan welfare offices that tend to the needs of a substantial refugee community in Nepal were closed by the authorities in Kathmandu. Can you shed any light on this situation? Are these offices now able to function normally or is their fate still in limbo?

-- Finally, have we aired the issues of Nepal with our Chinese interlocutors? It has been contended that the Chinese authorities may be as offended by the Maoist insurgents as Indian authorities are. Is this the case?

We look forward to your testimony and a dialogue on these and other issues of concern.





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Story Source: All American Patriots

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal; Congress

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