India, Britain Halt Military Aid to Nepal


2005.02.21
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
NepalDemDayWeb200.gif
An arrested protester (center) argues with police during a protest marking the 54th National Democracy Day in Kathmandu on February 18, 2005. Photo: AFP/DEVENDRA M SINGH

India and Britain have halted military aid to Nepal following King Gyanendra's seizure of power and declaration of a state of emergency earlier this month, the two countries said Tuesday.

"In view of the current disturbed conditions in Nepal, no military supplies have been delivered since Feb. 1," Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters in New Delhi.

In London, meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said a planned package of military aid had been frozen "in the light of the disturbing situation there."

"We are now considering with key international partners what our longer-term policy for providing assistance to Nepal should be," he said in a statement.

In Washington last week, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty said King Gyanendra had pledged to produce a plan within 100 days for restoring democracy to the landlocked Himalayan kingdom.

Democracy plan promised in 100 days

"I have been reassured that the government realizes that it must work to reestablish the constitutional freedoms that Nepal has enjoyed," he said.

King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency Feb. 1, sacking the government, suspending civil liberties, and forming a new Cabinet under his own chairmanship. His move caused an international outcry. He said the moves were necessary because the previous government failed to control an intensifying insurgency.

I will tell you, though, that the King has made it clear that his goal here is the restoration of multiparty democracy and dealing with the insurgency...And those are the two goals we both have, so we’re going to be looking for him to meet his commitments.

Moriarty said he had been told the government would come up with a plan within 100 days to restore democracy and fight the Maoist insurgents.

Coordination among the United States, Britain, India, and the European Union in response to Nepal’s emergency has been "excellent," Moriarty said. U.S. security assistance to Nepal—about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2005—may be at risk, he said.

Pledges questioned

"I will tell you, though, that the King has made it clear that his goal here is the restoration of multiparty democracy and dealing with the insurgency," Moriarty said. "And those are the two goals we both have, so we’re going to be looking for him to meet his commitments."

Asia Advocacy Director for the Washington office of Amnesty International T. Kumar said he doubts the king will make good on his pledge. "I doubt that he will revert back to democracy in 100 days," Kumar said. "I’ll be surprised if he can do it."

A high-level Amnesty International delegation recently visited Nepal, he said, and the rights group is calling for a halt to all military aid to Nepal.

I don’t think there’s any reason one dollar of U.S. taxpayer money should be going into an absolute monarchy that has disrupted a functioning democratic process.

Amnesty is also pressing for an upcoming U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva to formally rebuke Nepal and calling on the United Nations to name a special rapporteur to scrutinize Nepal’s human rights record.

John Norris—a South Asia expert and special adviser to the president of the nonpartisan International Crisis Group—said in a separate interview that military aid to Nepal should be halted.

"I don’t think there’s any reason one dollar of U.S. taxpayer money should be going into an absolute monarchy that has disrupted a functioning democratic process," Norris said.

Congressional protest

Fighting Nepal’s insurgency will be more difficult now as a result of the king’s detention of activists and reporters, he said.

Maoist guerrillas hoping to woo political backers have now dropped all their previous demands except for a demand for the king to step down, Kumar said.

"You know, some parties say, 'We are not going to join hands with the Maoists.' The parties may not join hands, but what about the rank-and-file?’ The general opinion—that the king is unfair to the people—is going to strengthen the Maoists... They're the only force that is standing up to the king now," Kumar said.

Moriarty said the Maoists had made their appeal, but the king and the political parties need each other to counter the Maoists.

"The parties are just as afraid of the Maoists as the palace is, because ultimately what the Maoists want is a one-party proletarian republic," Moriarty said. "And what that really translates into for all these guys—the palace, the parties, and their leadership—they’re in big trouble. They’re either sitting in India or executed."

Some 40 members of the U.S. Congress have meanwhile signed a letter to King Gyanendra, protesting Nepal’s closure last month of offices aiding Tibetan refugees.

Jennifer Barrett, senior legislative adviser to Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado, said closing the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office and the Dalai Lama’s office in Nepal appear to be "part of a bigger picture."

"China probably had something to say about it," Barrett said. "They’ve wanted these centers closed for some time."

The letter was co-written by Udall, a Democrat, and Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia.

"A resolution sends a very strong signal," Barrett said. "So they [Nepal] will be hearing either from Congress or the U.S. administration or both that this is not acceptable."

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.