Leo E Rose's first academic tribute to Nepalophiles was the book he co-wrote with Bhuban Lal Joshi, Democratic Innovations in Nepal written 39 years ago. They had dedicated the book to two personalities who had their own ideas about Nepal's future: King Mahendra and the first elected prime minister, BP Koirala. The two stood at opposite ends of Nepal's political spectrum, yet they also represented a meeting point. That analysis was proven right when 10 years later BP Koirala returned to Nepal from eight years exile in India with the slogan of 'national reconciliation' with the king.
Today, the republican slogan is in the air and the king is hankering for a more active role.
Born in Oakland, Rose's interest and worry was always about Nepal. Rose first came to Nepal in 1957 and did his PhD on Nepali history in 1959 from the University of California. Even though his book published in 1966 was banned by the Panchayat government, everyone including King Mahendra who could read English had read it.
Besides Nepal, Rose was also interested in the rest of the South Asia including Sikkim. Even when terrorism spread and there were restrictions on foreigners, Rose had access to those countries. Although he was a government employee only for a short period 1984-5 he was, for 60 years, an unofficial South Asian resource person for the US government. Rose was also an important person in academia. After suffering Alzheimers, Rose died two weeks ago in Oakland. He was always single and till the end he was in contact with experts in Nepal.
Rose helped make the South Asia Centre at Berkeley an important thinktank. Today it has 5,600 books and documents on the Nepali language, history and politics. Rose said the Maoists would never capture state power in Nepal but would remain an "irritant". Being a believer in reconciliation and democracy, he may have not given political violence too much credence. There is a rumour that Rose had a copy of the draft 1990 constitution even before the rulers in Nepal had theirs. His source seems to have been the drafters and not the US government channels. Although he told friends his relations with King Mahendra soured after 1960, Rose was an admirer of King Birendra. His other books on Nepal include Strategy for Survival, the Politics of Nepal Change in an Asian Monarchy and the journal, Asian Survey. The US and Nepal have lost a prolific academic who introduced Nepal to the world.