Stung by mounting international criticism, the royal government has lashed back at critics, accusing them of double standards.
In one of his first statements after being sworn in, the king's point man in the government, Tulsi Giri, told media not to call the rebels \'Maoists\' and said American and Indian criticism was "unfortunate". He added: "Every country has its own problems, it's not fair to make comments on how Nepal is dealing with it."
As Nepal-based ambassadors were recalled en masse this week, there seemed to be a sense of uncharacteristic defiance in Singha Darbar. The government derives 80 percent of its development budget from donors and even uses aid to cover some regular expenditure. "This is new," admitted one government official, "there is a backlash against foreign critics that I have never seen before."
To be sure, the government is playing good cop-bad cop. Some, like Finance Minister Madhukar Rana, have taken a softer line assuring that curbs on media and other freedoms will be relaxed. This came as International Federation of Journalists and Amnesty International reps were in Kathmandu. Both issued strong statements Thursday denouncing curbs on freedom.
The government is also exploiting disagreement within the donor community about a possible aid moratorium. Among donors taking the more radical approach have been the Danes, Swiss and Norwegians. For instnace, they have been openly critical of the Asian Development Bank for signing a $20 million loan the day after the royal takeover. Even the Americans say they are under pressure to reexamine assistance.
On Monday, DANIDA became the first aid agency to announce a suspension of development aid to the government, but said it would continue help civil society. "Donors want to work without being monitored or audited, we can't let that happen," one finance ministry official told us. Some donors at a meeting on Thursday were peeved the Danes announced the aid cut unilaterally. Others are taking a wait-and-see approach (see Interview) but all donors share concerns about working conditions in the field. "We will continue as far as possible," said Mark Mallalieu of DfID. "But the two key criteria will be safety of our staff and whether our programs can continue to be effective."
Finance Minister Madhukar Rana told us he is in touch with donors: "They asked us if the government accepts their operating guidelines, and we said we support it."