Bridging the divide
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By taking Maoists off the terrorist blacklist, the US may be stepping towards a new alliance
A development that brings the biggest cheer to the Maoists is the US government's decision to take them off the terrorist blacklist. Thursday's unconditional decision came as a surprise and triumph for the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M). There was a visible attitudinal change, especially from the US embassy in Kathmandu. But there was no inkling that such a major decision was in the pipeline. The man who actually worked for this was former US Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi, recalled and sent to Uganda a few months ago.
DeLisi did not miss public opportunities to be seen in friendly exchanges with the Maoists, something his predecessors avoided. From Michael Malinowski (2001-2007) to DeLisi, the US approach to Maoists has undergone a sea change, although the UCPN-M continued to be on the terrorist list. The US said it needed to be convinced of Maoists' adherence to peace and democracy. Thursday's decision is an admission that the US is now convinced the Maoists have either changed totally, or they are going to be a more useful ally in Nepal.
As ambassador, Malinowski once refused to shake hands with noted human rights activist Padma Ratna Tuladhar at a public event, accusing him of being pro-Maoist. Malinowski's successor, James Moriarty, clearly took a hardline against the Maoists. Moriarty, as a WikiLeaks cable suggests, was opposed to the 12-point agreement — the basis of the Maoist and pro-democracy parties working together — under Indian initiative. Even after the Maoists joined the peace process, Moriarty's was the lone diplomatic voice against human rights violations, breach of the code of conduct under the peace agreement, and Maoist violence.
But his successor, Nancy Powell, hopped from shunning the Maoists initially to meeting them quietly, and finally to not saying anything against them in public. The US, despite Moriarty's opposition to the 12-point programme, came to support India's lead role in Nepal eventually, which meant accepting the Maoists' leading role in politics. But Moriarty went home with reservations about the Maoist leadership's trustworthiness.
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