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

21949. Subject: B.P. Koirala’s Meeting With Department Officials. Ref: A) Kathmandu 6539 (78),2 (B) State 147350 (78).3

1. B.P. Koirala met with working-level officers from NEA/INS and HA (Grahame, Maxim,4 Percival) afternoon of January 25. Nepalese Embassy had been informed of decision to receive Koirala. Nepalese EmbOff telephoned Desk Officer to convey Ambassador Khatri’s “strongest displeasure.”

2. Though some in the Nepali Congress Party would disagree, Koirala believes that the King would prefer to liberalize the political system and recognizes that the monarchy and the NCP have “mutual interests” in reaching an understanding. The King, however, might not prevail against the entrenched conservatives in his family, the government, and particularly the army. Though he suggested that the King would probably temporize, Koirala said he does not know how the King will respond to B.P.’s proposals for a gradual program of a) amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles, b) greater freedom of expression, and c) elections on national, partyless basis to the National Assembly which would then decide if ban on political parties should continue.

[Page 555]

3. The GON was portrayed as a weak and fragile government, crippled by the increasingly sharp conflict between progressives and reactionaries. Koirala argued that the government’s inept handling of the opposition forces and the Carpetgate scandal proved this point.5 Koirala suggested that the U.S. continue its quiet diplomacy, but intervene forcefully with the King to strengthen his hand against the conservatives in the palace and the army.

4. Memcon will follow by next pouch.6

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790040–0845. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information Priority to New Delhi. Drafted by Percival; cleared in HA; approved by Jay Grahame (NEA/INS).
  2. Telegram 6539 from Kathmandu, December 14, 1978, reported on a recent meeting between Koirala and Birendra. According to the Embassy: “B.P.’s proposals to the King, characterized by both moderation and precision, consisted of three time-separated phases: (a) amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles and the return of confiscated property; (b) greater freedom of expression, including the press, circulation of written views (e.g. pamphlets), and the right of assembly; and (c) elections on a national, partyless basis to the National Assembly which would then decide if the ban on political parties should be lifted. The King understood B.P.’s points but did not respond either during the meeting or since.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780527–1136)
  3. Telegram 147350 to Kathmandu, June 9, 1978, reported Koirala’s June 8 meeting with Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, Assistant Secretary Derian, and working level officers from HA and NEA/INS, during which Koirala argued that Nepalese “monarchy and democracy are compatible,” as well as shared his belief that the King of Nepal “is inclined to liberalize the Nepalese political system, but is shackled by ‛vested interests’ in the palace.” After discussing his own legal situation, which remained unclear, Koirala maintained that “the U.S. was the ‛most influential’ country in Nepal. While disavowing any concern for his person, he pleaded for U.S. intervention with the King to support the ‛democratic forces’ in Nepal.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780242–0445)
  4. Robert M. Maxim (HA).
  5. Telegram 6342 from Kathmandu, December 5, 1978, described the ongoing criminal investigation, which some in Nepal dubbed “Carpetgate,” of the alleged “misuse of export/foreign exchange system” that implicated upper and mid-level government officials. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780511–0989)
  6. Not found.