February 5, 2010
On February 3, 2010, President Obama’s nominee for the new US Ambassador to Nepal Scott Delisi was introduced and questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Mr. Delisi has been with the Senior Foreign Service for 28 years. He has served as Ambassador to the State of Eritrea and as Deputy Chief of Mission of the American Embassy in Gaborone, Botswana. Most recently, Mr. DeLisi has been the Director of Career Development and Assignments in the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources, where he has played a key role in the staffing of embassies. This has included missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Previously, as the Director for Entry Level Programs, Mr. DeLisi was responsible for the training, placement and career development of 600 new entrants and over 2500 existing Foreign Service Officers. Mr. DeLisi has also served as Director for Southern African Affairs, Vice Counsel for the Embassy in India, the Chief of Political Section in Sri Lanka, in addition to other postings in Madagascar and Pakistan. A native of Minnesota, Mr. DeLisi holds both a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota.
The following are excerpts from the hearing, chaired by Senator Jim Webb, Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
In Senator Webb’s opening statement, he acknowleged that Asia was of vital importance to the United States:
Equally important is while countries in this region differ politically, economically and culturally, they also pose varied security and engagement challenges to the United States. …Nepal's political transition has been nascent. Peace only came to this South Asian nation in 2006, following a long insurgency led by Nepal's Maoist communist party. Following the establishment of the Republic in 2008, the Maoists won more votes than any other party cast in the constituent assembly elections. However, they soon pulled out over political disagreements, and a coalition government has been formed. As this suggests, Nepal faces considerable task in consolidating its newly formed parliamentary system. A benchmark in this process will be the completion of its constitution -- expected later this year. Given these hurdles, as well as its valuable location as a bridge between East and South Asia, the United States has a compelling interest to engage Nepal as a geostrategic partner and to unwaveringly support its transition to a stable, free democracy. …our diplomacy and policy toward these countries must be consistent, predictable and firm… …our message should be put forward in an unmitigated position toward advancing democratic freedoms and supporting internationally recognized individual rights.
In his opening statement, Mr. Delisi concurred with Senator Webb assessment:
Nepal and the United States have a long-standing relationship, and our friendship is more important today than ever as Nepal confronts multiple challenges. There are urgent needs in the areas of economic growth, health, climate change and food security, in particular. I also hope to build stronger trade and investment ties between our nations. Progress in these areas, however, will require a stable partner in the government of Nepal, and that stability will come only with the successful completion of Nepal's peace process. The U.S. is funding critical aspects of the process, and we will continue to work closely with Nepal's political leaders as they seek to establish a system of governance that represents all of Nepal's citizens and respects their fundamental rights. Helping to successfully conclude the peace process and draft a new constitution are the most critical areas in which we can offer our support to the government of Nepal in the short term. If confirmed, I will encourage Nepal's political parties to exercise strong leadership and judicious flexibility to reach consensus on key elements of the peace process, and I will match their efforts with my own in offering the support of the United States as Nepal seeks to make the hope of a durable peace a reality. I will also work vigorously with Nepal's political leaders to end the prevailing culture of impunity regarding human rights abuses. As documented extensively by Nepali and international human rights organizations, the Maoists, the Nepal army and the Nepal police committed serious human rights abuses during the decade-long insurgency. If confirmed, I will press all of them to cooperate in a thorough and transparent investigation of human rights cases and will urge them to hold accountable those who committed abuses so that the nation can move forward on the path of reconciliation.
Finally, I hope we will continue our robust development assistance program, which contributes significantly to building a peaceful and stable Nepal. We were the first country to sign a technical cooperative agreement with Nepal in 1951, and that cooperation continues today. The United States plays a critical role in supporting the government of Nepal's efforts to increase access to vital health care for its citizens, and we have contributed to the government's marked successes in reducing maternal and child mortality and in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
After Mr Delisi’s opening statement, Senator Webb voiced his concern about the Maoists continued inclusion in the United States terrorist exclusion list and asked Mr. Delisi to comment on this ongoing political hurdle.
Mr. DeLisi’s response:
The decision to place the Maoists on the list of specially designated -- specifically designated terrorist organizations stemmed from their activities during the insurgency, much of which -- many of their actions were quite horrific. And in particular our concerns were magnified when we saw them bomb the American Center in Kathmandu, and also there were the deaths of two of our employees, two of our local guards, who were killed by the Maoists. And I think that the decision to place them on the list at that time made absolutely good sense. The political landscape has changed since then in Nepal, and the Maoists' conduct has changed as well. Whether their beliefs and attitudes have changed or not remains to be seen. What we have seen that is good is that they have signed the comprehensive peace agreement. They've participated in the electoral process. As the peace process is moving forward, right now they are actively involved in the constitutional drafting process, which is well on its way. They're participating in the high-level political mechanism to resolve the outstanding issues, which we welcome. They've assisted -- they've begun the process of discharging some of the disqualified fighters from the cantonments, and that process should complete by the end of February. And that's also good. We also welcome that recently they agreed to allow parliament to resume functioning. Much of that had been forestalled by strikes. They've postponed or they canceled the general strike they have called for. All of these things are good, and we welcome it. And we're talking to them. But nonetheless, some of these fundamental things that we have asked of them to remove them from the list have yet to be addressed. One of them is for them to fundamentally renounce the use of violence and terror as a political instrument. It seems a simple step, but they have yet to do that. We're also concerned because the Young Communist League, their youth wing, continues to engage in acts of violence and criminal activities in support of their agenda. And that is something else that has to stop, and they have to renounce that. Again, we've asked them to engage in the peace process. They're doing so; we hope that will continue. But they, like the other actors in Nepal, also need to be involved in the human rights process. So we've got a mixed bag with the Maoists. Yes, we have to engage them; we have to talk to them both as a key political actor and as part of the peace process. We hope that they will take some of the steps that will allow us to look at removing them from the terrorist exclusion list.
Finally, Senator Webb asked the future ambassador to voice his views on Nepal’s effect on the relationship between its neighbors China and India and what the United States position should be
Mr. DeLisi’s response:
It's an interesting question. It is an interesting location, Senator. The Nepalese, generally they talk of themselves as a yam between two bounders. And it's a delicate balancing act for them. There's no question about it.
I think that traditionally in many ways they have looked south where the border is more open and their engagement, their trade relationship and other relationships with India have always been fairly robust, but certainly the Chinese have played a role there as well. I think for us in our engagement in Nepal we certainly want to work closely with the government, but in doing that I think we have to recognize that we also have to talk to the other regional actors and that Nepal has the ability to play a role within the region. They're the headquarters for the SAARC Secretariat as well. And I think we want to continue to see a stable Nepal that rests comfortably between its two large neighbors, and we can use that as a platform to engage, as I say, both China and India on some of the issues of regional concern. With India there are many cross-border issues that we'd like to be able to talk to them and look at some of these issues regionally. Certainly when we look at China there's the issue of the Tibetan refugees, and there are those refugees who are in Nepal and there's an engagement there as well.
So they'll keep us busy on both sides of the border, I think.