219. Telegram From the Embassy in Nepal to the Department of State1

3788. New Delhi for Embassy and DEA. Subj: Audience With King Birendra—Narcotics. Ref: Kathmandu 3642.2

1. During my call on King August 19, I reviewed with him various aspects of our bilateral relations against the background of several of the President’s priority concerns, including developmental assistance, human rights3 and narcotics. This message deals with our discussion on narcotics question.

2. I recalled that subject of narcotics was one which had been under discussion with HMG for some time. As cannabis grew wild in Nepal and its cultivation was difficult to control we were naturally concerned over its leakage into international market. We had accordingly welcomed GON initiative last year to adopt legislation establishing controls and penalties and we had expressed hope that adequate enforcement machinery would follow.

3. King interjected to say that this was his objective also. However, it was his impression that so far, adoption of this legislation had unfortunately contributed more to an increase in corruption among officials than to controlling narcotics traffic. Much more would have to be done in the way of developing better trained officials and raising the general standard of administration before this law could be effectively enforced and this would take time.

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4. I went on to say that while we had expressed our concern about illicit trafficking in hashish as a matter of principle, this problem as far as I knew did not impinge directly on US interests because very little of this narcotic reached the US from Nepal as far as the Embassy was aware. However, there was a far more serious problem possibly looming ahead because we had received reports earlier this year of poppy cultivation in western Nepal together with other reports that the GON was considering going into opium production, ostensibly to meet legitimate medical needs and for export. This subject had come up in my initial call on the Prime Minister who acknowledged that “one or two countries” had expressed interest in purchasing opium from Nepal and had confirmed that the GON was considering the matter (Kathmandu 3278).4 The King nodded and said this was case, mentioning that the Soviet Union was one of the countries to which Prime Minister had referred.

5. I reminded King that we had recently made a demarche both in Washington and here expressing our concern over these developments and drawing on State 132964,5 I repeated the points in this message which the then-Charge had expressed to the Prime Minister (Kathmandu 2374).6 I added that Nepal was blessed by not having an opium and heroin problem and that if the King were concerned about corruption, the introduction of poppies and opium into Nepal could have far more serious effects, threatening to corrupt the youth of the country to say nothing of the temptations this would offer all levels of government. I concluded by reminding the King of the President’s concern about the international narcotics control problem. While I did not want to use a phrase which sounded threatening, especially in our first meeting, in all candor I had to tell him that if the GON decided to go down this road this could have a very serious effect on our bilateral relations.

6. The King took this in stride remarking that he really hadn’t focused on the difference between hash and opium and the dangers inherent in the cultivation of poppies. He said he would look into the matter further. The discussion turned to other subjects after I said I would send him some literature on opium cultivation.

7. Comment: The feedback we are getting from the palace is that the palace guard and the royal family accepted with good grace the various points I raised with King including the human rights question but were annoyed at the thrust of my remarks on the narcotics issue. [Page 548] This comes close to home, since in this business the palace is said to be considering how to react to my presentation. We may be in for some unpleasant business and some deflation in the general euphoria that currently prevails over the excellent state of our bilateral relations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770320–0988. Confidential. Sent for information to Colombo, Dacca, Islamabad, and New Delhi.
  2. Telegram 3642 from Kathmandu, August 26, reported Heck and Birendra’s general discussion of U.S.-Nepalese relations during their August 19 meeting. Both agreed that relations were good and that no serious issues loomed. Heck told Birendra: “Our objectives in Nepal were clear-cut and totally above board. We had no political, military or strategic ambitions in Nepal and we were here basically to give concrete meaning to our recognition of Nepal as sovereign and independent state and to help country develop and improve lot of its people.” Heck also addressed the Carter administration’s interest in increasing developmental aid to Nepal. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770309–0415)
  3. Telegram 3789 from Kathmandu, September 3, reported Heck and Birendra’s discussion of human rights during their August 19 meeting. Heck explained that he “had not yet had opportunity to study the situation in Nepal carefully but it seemed to me that according to US criteria and concepts violations of human rights might be occurring in Nepal.” Heck said that he “thought it best to engage in quiet diplomacy rather than making a public issue and risk a confrontation from which it would be difficult to extricate ourselves.” Birenda expressed agreement with this course of action “and without committing himself one way or other on question whether there was human rights issue in Nepal he said this was a topic we could revert to in future discussions.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770319–1153)
  4. See Document 218.
  5. See Document 217.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 217.