“The local World Bank rep is so fed up with the corruption in the system that he has become a frequent lunch pal of the Maoist supremo.” That was James F. Moriarty, Ambassador to Nepal, writing home in frustration on September 22, 2006.

The cable, running to several pages, was headlined “Crunch time in Nepal?” (79370: secret/noforn). While showing annoyance at the diplomacy and assessments of other western nations, and India and China, he gives Washington his own take on the situation. On the Maoists' drive to power in Kathmandu, he wrote: “The good news is that the Maoists are doing much of this through bluff. They have relatively little popular support, and they have nowhere near the military capability to take on the government's security services in an open fight.”

He did add that “the bad news is that the bluff may work,” but stressed that the Maoists had “relatively little popular support.” Less than 20 months later, the Maoists found quite some popular support in the April 2008 polls for a new Constituent Assembly. They won half the seats chosen in the ‘first-past-the-post' system and 30 per cent of the votes for seats under the proportional representation system. In all, they took 220 of the 575 elected seats, becoming the No. 1 political party. The nearest rival, the Nepali Congress, got 110, or half the number the Maoists did. Four months later, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known also as Prachanda, was the Prime Minister of Nepal.

In September 2006, however, Mr. Moriarty was convinced it could be otherwise. It was the other nations, he complained, that were pushing in the wrong directions. “The diplomacy here is getting complicated. The Europeans are all over the map with respect to recent developments. The Danes and Norwegians (who have some clout here because of their aid programs) are convinced that lasting peace is just about ready to break out and push the GoN [Government of Nepal] to be as accommodating as possible. The Brits, in contrast, seem convinced that the Maoists will soon be coming into power and are trying to convince themselves that that might not be so bad. The Chinese seem primarily interested in pushing Tibet issues with the weak, frequently ineffectual GoN. The local World Bank rep is so fed up with the corruption in the system that he has become a frequent lunch pal of the Maoist supremo. I'm trying to push back here on some of this, but it would help if the Department could have a serious, high-level discussion with the Brits on Nepal. We might also want to look at a demarche to the Europeans and others (reminding them that the Maoists are not just agrarian reformers and seem to want power rather than peace).” As it turned out, “The Brits” had made the better call.

Among the things Mr. Moriarty believed needed to be done was “brow-beating.” As he put it: “Brow-beating: Ultimately, decisions made by Nepalis will determine whether this country goes down the path toward becoming a People's Republic over the next couple of months. That said, we need to increase the possibility that the leaders here will make the right decisions. I've been meeting regularly with the Prime Minister, urging him (so far unsuccessfully) to use the police to enforce law and order and bucking him up to stick to his bottom line of not letting gun-toting Maoists into the government (with greater success so far).”