217. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Nepal1

132964. Subject: Opium—Nepal. Ref: (A) Kathmandu 2219;2 (B) State 122979.3

1. On June 8, Deputy Assistant Secretary Dubs called in Ambassador Khatri to deliver demarche on opium as contemplated reftels. Khatri commented that he knew there was a marihuana problem in Nepal and that poppies can grow there, but this is first he has heard of commercial production of opium. He asked where exactly the poppies were sighted and was told in the far western hills.

2. Following are talking points used with Ambassador Khatri, and given to him in blind courtesy copy: Quote:

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—We have begun to receive for the first time firm reports4 that opium poppies are being cultivated in western Nepal, and would appreciate an indication from the Government of Nepal whether this is so, and whether there are plans to move against this illegal production under the new Narcotics Control Act.

—The United States strongly believes that the proper approach to opium is to discourage the spread of poppy cultivation, and we hope the Government of Nepal will take all possible measures to that end.

—In light of our long-standing concern with controlling the narcotics traffic, the emergence of Nepal as a source of illicit opium would raise a serious problem in our otherwise smooth bilateral relations.

—In this context, we are also greatly concerned about indications that the Government of Nepal may be considering some form of legalized production of opium. We believe this would be a serious mistake, for several reasons:

A) The world market for legal opium is approaching a situation of over-supply, and current international efforts are directed toward controlling this over-supply rather than adding new production;

B) Article 24 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, prohibits signatories from importing opium from states not permitted to export under its provisions. Exporting states are those which, during the ten years immediately prior to 1 January 1961 exported opium, or those states receiving special permission from the International Narcotics Control Board to export no more than 5 tons per year, after having proven adequate control mechanisms exist;

C) We do not believe leak-proof legal production of opium could be set up in Nepal, and therefore would view any encouragement of legal production as inevitably resulting in increased illicit production for international traffic.

—In view of attitudes towards narcotics in the U.S., if Nepal came to be perceived as indifferent to the international effort to control opium production, U.S. aid to Nepal would be called into question, in Congress and elsewhere.

—President Carter is very concerned over the international narcotics control problem and this matter ranks as a priority issue in U.S. foreign relations. Unquote.

3. In addition, Dubs emphasized the domestic problems that narcotics traffic and traffickers can cause for source countries if allowed to become entrenched.

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4. Charge should follow up with same points to Prime Minister Giri,5 as suggested ref A.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770205–0378. Secret; Priority. Sent for information to New Delhi and the Mission in Geneva. Drafted by David R. Telleen (NEA/INS); cleared in S/NM; approved by Dubs.
  2. In telegram 2219 from Kathmandu, June 1, the Embassy agreed with the Department’s proposal for parallel démarches in Washington and Kathmandu regarding suggestions that the Nepalese Government might be considering legal opium production, as proposed in telegram 122979 to Kathmandu. See footnote 3 below. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770194–1036)
  3. Dated May 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770191–0406)
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Telegram 2374 from Kathmandu, June 13, reported that Eaves called on Giri in order to raise the matter of opium production. According to Eaves: “Giri said he did not know much about these matters but said that Government of Nepal had been giving some consideration to ‛buying up’ opium for export. He added that Nepal had received inquiries from ‛two or three countries’ expressing interest in purchasing opium. Both Prime Minister and Foreign Ministry officer who was also present were unfamiliar with Single Convention, and appeared surprised at limitations it imposed, and wondered aloud why approaches to Nepal for export of opium had been made in view of such limitations. Neither was aware also of Dubs approach to Khatri.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770209–1082)