US sits over visa for Maoist MP
Apr 20, 2007 - 1:22:31 PM

Kathmandu, April 20 - The Nepal government's diplomatic relations with the US took a piquant turn with the Americans sitting on the visa of a Maoist MP, apparently on the grounds that the communist guerrillas are still regarded as terrorists by Washington.

Suresh Ale Magar, who became a parliamentarian this year after his party signed a peace pact with the ruling coalition and formally ended its armed movement, is yet to receive a visa from the American Embassy in Kathmandu to attend interactions on Nepal in New York, including one with the United Nations.

An American organisation, the Academy for Educational Development, invited about 10 political leaders and bureaucrats from Nepal to attend a seminar on Nepal's peace process.

The delegation includes members from the other major parties in Nepal's ruling alliance, including Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress.

The team also has an invitation to meet UN officials at the world body's headquarters in New York.

However, while the others have been issued visas and are to catch a flight Friday afternoon, Ale Magar, the lone Maoist MP, has yet not been issued travel documents by the American Embassy.

'In any case, it would have been a restrictive visa,' Ale Magar told IANS.

Last year, Ale Magar and other Maoist leaders had visited Britain and other European countries without any visa misadventure since the European Union does not regard the Maoists as a terrorist organisation, unlike the US.

Nepal's diplomatic relations with the US and India have taken a piquant turn since the Maoists joined the government with five ministers this year.

The US had to rethink its assistance policy and make an exception for Nepal. US policies generally do not provide assistance to any government that includes organisations considered terrorists by Washington.

In the past, India also regarded Nepal Maoists as terrorists and Ale Magar was arrested in New Delhi and handed over to Nepal. There are still over 100 Maoists in various Indian prisons.

While Indian Maoists are still regarded as terrorists, New Delhi has made an exception for Nepal Maoists.

Ale Magar's US visa difficulty will be another blow to Maoist-US ties.

While the US says the Maoists have not given up their lawless ways even after joining the government, the rebels have been accusing Washington of fomenting unrest in the southern Terai plains and trying to sabotage a crucial election.

Recently, the US embassy came in for scathing criticism in Nepal for refusing visas to aspiring Nepali immigrants.

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