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Analysis: Engaging Nepal's Maoists

Council on Foreign Relations

July 9, 2008
Author: Jayshree Bajoria

Nepal's historic April 10 vote has resulted in Maoists joining the growing list of organizations that have traveled the long path of armed rebellion to political legitimacy. The country's peaceful transition of power, while still fraught with hurdles, would seem to bolster the pro-democracy cause espoused by the Bush administration. But it also poses a challenge to another long-held principle of the administration—opposition to engaging states or entities deemed as rogues. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which won more seats than any other party in the constituent assembly elections, continues to be on the U.S. Terrorist Exclusion List and the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (PDF). This means its members are barred from traveling or owning any property in the United States.

In one signal of a potential U.S. shift, two top U.S. diplomats have met with Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, who is poised to take over as prime minister. But one of the diplomats, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Evan Feigenbaum, told reporters that the Maoists will remain on the two lists for now while the administration looks for signs the group has abandoned violence.

Negotiating with hostile states and non-state actors has long been debated among U.S. policymakers; most recently, it has emerged as a hot topic in the 2008 presidential campaign. The Bush administration has faced criticism from some policy experts about its refusal to engage with non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in an April op-ed in the New York Times, argued that this policy has been "counterproductive." Yet the administration has recently shown signs of shifting its position on the issue: Last month it decided to remove North Korea from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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