‘We need to to keep the Indians in lock step with us'

“New Delhi seems oblivious to how close the Maoists are getting to victory here. That makes sense: New Delhi godfathered the working relationship between the Maoists and the Parties and doesn't want to acknowledge that it might have created a Frankenstein's monster. Moreover, India's Marxist party (a key supporter of the governing coalition) has proclaimed that everything here is going just fine. In that context, I hope that a discussion on Nepal will feature prominently in future conversations with senior Indian leaders.”

That was James F. Moriarty, U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, writing home to the State Department, in his cable headlined “Crunch time in Nepal?,” dated September 22, 2006 (79370: secret/ noforn).

“We need to do more to keep the Indians in lock step with us,” the cable goes on. “I coordinate closely with my Indian counterpart here and in private he pushes the exact same message I do: that the police need to enforce law and order and that the GoN [Government of Nepal] should not let armed Maoists into an interim government.”

“I was more than a little annoyed to find out, however, that the Indian Embassy had complained to the PM's office about our training activities with the Nepal Army….” This last one was “the incident” which “underscored the fact that, while worried about current trends, New Delhi seems “oblivious to how close the Maoists are getting to victory here.”

“The next few months will go a long way to determining whether the Maoists have any intention of coming in out of the cold, or whether their only goal is absolute power. Up until now, all signs point to the latter. I continue to fear that a Maoist assumption of power through force would lead to a humanitarian disaster in Nepal. Just as important, a Maoist victory would energize leftist insurgencies and threaten stability in the region. It thus behoves us to continue to do everything possible to block such an outcome.”

Cables from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu from 2003 onwards showed a nuanced, sometimes changing, assessment of the role of India and its diplomats in Nepal. The shifts were linked to unfolding events in Nepal, to the personal readings of the cables' different authors, and to India's own changing role.

In that 2006 cable Mr. Moriarty also called on Washington to prepare “for the worst.” He says: “We need to be prepared for the possibility of a Maoist return to violence in November. The key will be to condemn as quickly as possible Maoist violence, while shipping as quickly as possible some 4,500 more weapons that we have in storage for the Nepali Army. Those weapons would have an immediate tactical impact but more importantly would shore up a government that will be under tremendous pressure to capitulate.”

His predecessor, Michael E. Malinowski, in a cable dated September 25, 2003 (10972: secret/noforn), noted that India and Nepal would soon be pursuing extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties. It reported that the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Shyam Saran, had explained to Mr. Malinowski that, in the past, the “GoI [Government of India] had regularly turned over suspected Maoists to the GoN without a formal treaty — earning criticism from human rights groups and INGOs such as ICRC in the process. An extradition treaty with Nepal would give the GoI a firm legal basis for such transfers in the future.”

The cables conveyed the U.S. Embassy's readings of Indian officials. In one of them, dated December 14, 2003 (12516: secret/noforn), Mr. Malinowski reported Ambassador Shyam Saran as admitting to him that sometimes people in different branches of the GOI “go off on their own,” and promising to look into reports of such deviations. Mr. Malinowski saw this as Mr. Saran's “first admission to us that some elements within his Embassy may be working at cross-purposes to official GOI policy” on Nepal.

Earlier, Mr. Malinowski had found: “Our frequent discussions with our Indian diplomatic colleagues here in Kathmandu are inconsistent in tone. Ambassador Shyam Saran is an unusually able professional who is comfortable sharing his well-informed political and security analyses of Nepal with our Ambassador and official visitors. We find that we agree in large measure with his views, including his profound skepticism about the motives of the Maoists and his emphasis on the importance of the legal political parties supporting the government. Saran has raised questions about US arms supplies to Nepal, but without complaints or threats. DCM (Ashok) Kumar, an often abrasive diplomat whose pursuit of Indian interests borders on chauvinism, has become more collegial and less plaintive as we have engaged him more frequently in discussions of US security policy in Nepal. Only Defense Attache George Mathai, a long-time Gurkha officer, continues to press our DATT to minimize lethal sales to Nepal, obviously delivering prepared talking points without the benefit of supporting information.” (5730: noforn, dated February 14, 2003)

Cables sent around mid-2007 had Ambassador Moriarty's reports -- on the basis of discussions with Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee -- that Indian officials were taking a “tougher stands on Maoists.” One of them, sent on June 18, 2007 (112456: secret/noforn) reported that Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee “had expressed concern that the law and order situation in Nepal continued to deteriorate and Maoist abuses had gone unpunished. Moreover, Foreign Minister Mukherjee had been categorical in his discussion with [CPN-UML leader] M.K. Nepal that the Maoists should not be integrated into the Nepal Army.”