US Ambassador-designate to Nepal Nancy Powell has said that India has a "very important role to play" in Nepal, exercising "tremendous influence with the various political groups, including Maoists, over the years" in the Himalayan kingdom.
Testifying during her confirmation hearing before a senate committee, Powell said, "There are a large number of Nepali citizens who live and work in India. The border is relatively open. This has provided a free flow of ideas and goods. 'They (Indians)' continue to have influence." She said China too was in a position to help Nepal.
"'They have, again, a long border with Nepal. The Chinese have rejected the idea that these are people (the Maoists) that are somehow tied to their former leader and have spoken out in favour of the current peace process. And I would hope that they would be engaged in promoting that."
Powell agreed that her number one task in Nepal would be to focus on what the US could do to be supportive, without being viewed as interfering or managing it.
"'I think our assistance and our support has been focused on both the short term with a very, very heavy focus on the peace process and the elections, but also on our assistance for ensuring that the government can deliver services," the US ambassador-designate said.
"We have concentrated over the years, particularly on education and health, with the current focus on health, and that very much needs to continue," she added.
Earlier, in her prepared statement, Powell said, "Although the Maoists joined the government on April 1, they continue to violate commitments they had made in the course of the peace process."
In reply to another question, she said, "I think there are two things that we will need to watch. One of them is making sure that the elections are as free and fair as they can be so that there is no reason for groups, whether it's the Maoists or others, to reject the results."
"The international community is trying to work in a coordinated manner with the government of Nepal to provide expertise, to provide assistance in the logistics and in the legal framework for those elections," she said.