KATHMANDU, 19th March – Nearly a month after the controversy over his statement on the US position on Venezuela, Pushpa Kamal Dahal is scheduled to visit the United States of America on March 18 for the treatment of his ailing wife, Sita Dahal. Late in January, a diplomatic spat erupted between Kathmandu and Washington after Dahal issued a statement criticising the United States and its allies for interfering in the South American country, leading to several weeks of unease between Singha Durbar and the US Embassy in Nepal.
The Venezuelan fiasco abruptly forced Dahal to postpone his planned US visit until a further date. After several attempts to explain the statement and bring the relationship back to normal, party insiders say Dahal has told top leaders in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) that he will be travelling to the United States with his wife for medical treatment. Dahal’s private secretariat confirmed that Sita will be receiving treatment in the US but said the hospital and timeline for her treatment have not been finalised yet.
After the death of their only son Prakash, Sita’s health had started to deteriorate and the couple travelled to Singapore twice for treatment last year. According to close aides to Dahal, doctors in Singapore recommended that Dahal take Sita to a “sophisticated hospital” in the United States and that she regularly undergo water therapy. Foreign Ministry officials told the Post that the Nepali Embassy in Washington DC is closely coordinating with Dahal’s private secretariat to find an appointment at a US hospital for Sita’s treatment.
“We have been told by the chairman that he is visiting the US for his wife’s treatment,” a senior leader close to Dahal said in a phone interview on Monday. The leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dahal was considering John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore as their first priority for Sita’s treatment. However, some members within the ruling party, particularly those from the erstwhile Maoist party, told the Post they had cautioned Dahal about travelling to the US as the former rebel leader could be under the international human rights community’s watch with the country’s transitional justice process still incomplete.
Dahal’s last visit to the United States was in 2008, after he was elected prime minister. Three years ago, Dahal had cancelled a trip to Australia, following reports that he could be detained there over complaints of insurgency-era crimes. Following a meeting with the US ambassador in Kathmandu, ruling party leaders, however, said Dahal was offered full cooperation during his US visit, allaying some of the party leaders’ concerns over potential chances of his arrest after landing in the country.