Six years after Nepal’s Maoists entered open politics and signed a peace treaty, the United States has finally lifted its “terrorist” tag for the country’s ruling party.
In a statement on Thursday, the Department of State announced it had “revoked the designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and its aliases as a Specially Designated Terrorist Entity under Executive Order 13224”. It also revoked its status as a “terrorist organisation from the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) under the Immigration and Nationality Act”.
The State Department said it had concluded that Maoists were no longer engaged in “terrorist activity that threatens the security of U.S. nationals or U.S. foreign policy”. Explaining the rationale of the decision, the statement noted the election of the Maoists as the head of the government; the party’s steps to “dismantle its apparatus for the conduct of terrorist operations”; and its “credible commitment to pursuing peace and reconciliation process in Nepal”. It also looked ahead to the party’s “continued engagement in a peaceful, democratic political dialogue in Nepal”.
The U.S. decision comes on the same day the final phase of the integration and rehabilitation process of former Maoist combatants commenced. Over the past 10 months, a majority of the former fighters have retired voluntarily and Maoist weapons and cantonments have come under the control of the Nepal government. A recent agreement has paved the way for the integration of the remaining 3,000 combatants into the Nepal Army, provided they meet the relaxed eligibility criteria. Resolving the issue of the combatants was a key stated parameter for the U.S. for delisting the Maoists.
While the formal delisting of the Maoists has happened only now, the U.S. government has been closely engaging with both the Maoist party and governments which have a Maoist presence or are led by the Maoists for several years now. Informal meetings between U.S. diplomats and Maoist leaders began in 2007. After the party emerged victorious in the elections of 2008, the U.S. Ambassador formally met party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. The U.S. has supported the peace and constitution process; Maoist leaders, except those facing serious human rights charges, have travelled to the U.S.