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Cablegate: Nepal: King Appoints Bhekh Thapa As Foreign

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 000408

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SA/INS AND INR/B

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR NP GON
SUBJECT: NEPAL: KING APPOINTS BHEKH THAPA AS FOREIGN
MINISTER AND RESHUFFLES PORTFOLIOS

REF: 03 KATHMANDU 1664

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. ON MARCH 3, NEPAL'S KING, ON THE
RECOMMENDATION OF PRIME MINISTER SURYA BAHADUR THAPA,
APPOINTED DR. BHEKH BAHADUR THAPA AS FOREIGN MINISTER AND
HEALTH MINISTER. RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE HOME MINISTRY WAS
TRANSFERRED FROM THE PRIME MINISTER TO MINISTER FOR
COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, KAMAL THAPA. BHEKH
THAPA'S APPOINTMENT AS FOREIGN MINISTER IS A VOTE OF
CONFIDENCE IN HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE.
THE SHIFT IN RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE HOME MINISTRY MIGHT BE
DUE TO THE SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF ATTENTION THIS POWERFUL
MINISTRY REQUIRES. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) IN AN ANTICIPATED MOVE ON MARCH 3, KING GYANENDRA
APPROVED THE PRIME MINISTER'S RECOMMENDATION OF DR. BHEKH
BAHADUR THAPA AS FOREIGN MINISTER. THE KING ALSO
TRANSFERRED THE HEALTH AND HOME MINISTRY PORTFOLIOS FROM
THE PRIME MINISTER'S PURVIEW TO THAT OF MINISTER OF
COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION KAMAL THAPA AND DR. BHEKH
BAHADUR THAPA, RESPECTIVELY. BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
FOLLOWS.

--------------------------------------
DR. BHEKH BAHADUR THAPA:
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND HEALTH
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Since August 25, 2003, Dr. Bhekh Bahadur Thapa
has served as Nepal's Ambassador-at-large with cabinet
rank. During this period, the Prime Minister held the
Foreign Minister portfolio. As Ambassador-at-large, Thapa
has participated as de-facto Foreign Minister in such fora
as the SAARC Summit in January and the BIMST-EC conference
in February. He also took an active role in negotiating
with the Bhutanese government on the Bhutanese refugee
issue, as well.

Thapa was previously the Ambassador to India, considered
Nepal's most important diplomatic posting, from 1997 to
2003. Dr. Thapa has served twice as Nepal's Ambassador to
the United States, arguably the second most important
diplomatic post, first from 1980-1985 and more recently in
1996. He also served as the United Nations Resident
Coordinator in Sri Lanka from 1986 to 1990, and then was
appointed for a two-year term as Senior Advisor for
Administration at the UN Development Program in Geneva.

In 1994, Dr. Thapa ran for office in the mid-term polls as
an independent candidate from Tanahu district, but was
defeated by the local Nepali Congress Party candidate.

Dr. Thapa served as the Minister of State for Finance in
1975, was promoted to Minister of Finance in 1976, and
remained in the post until 1978. Previously he held the
senior civil service position in the Ministry of Finance
as Secretary from 1969 to 1971. Thapa also served as the
Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, Nepal's central bank, in
1967, and as the Member Secretary of the National Planning
Commission from 1961 to 1967.

Dr. Thapa was born on March 4, 1937 in Tanahu district.
He earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Claremont University,
California in 1965. With his convivial and sophisticated
manner, Thapa is well liked within Kathmandu's diplomatic
circles. He is married to Reeta, a physician and public
health policy specialist. They have one son and two
daughters. Thapa enjoys golf and speaks excellent
English.

----------------------------------------
KAMAL THAPA: MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS,
COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) KAMAL THAPA (B. 4 AUG 1955) IS A CAREER
POLITICIAN WHO IS REPORTEDLY CLOSE TO THE PALACE AND HAS
BEEN INVOLVED IN MOST OF THE MAJOR POLITICAL INITIATIVES
BACKED BY THE PALACE IN RECENT YEARS. HE SERVED AS ONE OF
THE GOVERNMENT'S NEGOTIATORS DURING THE LAST ROUND OF
PEACE TALKS WITH THE MAOISTS IN 2003. THOUGH ONE OF THE
MORE POWERFUL MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
(RPP) AS GENERAL SECRETARY, THAPA EARNED A REPUTATION AS
AN OPPORTUNIST IN 1996 WHEN HE REPEATEDLY CHANGED SIDES
DURING PARLIAMENTARY MANEUVERING TO BRING DOWN THE SHER
BAHADUR DEUBA GOVERNMENT. HIS ELEVATION TO THE RANK OF
FOREIGN MINISTER IN JUNE 1997 PROBABLY REFLECTED MORE THEN-
PRIME MINISTER CHAND'S INTEREST IN LOCKING THAPA INTO THE
GOVERNMENT THAN ANY HIGH ESTEEM FOR HIS ABILITIES. THAPA
REMAINED IN THE POST UNTIL APRIL 1998, WHEN THE CHAND
GOVERNMENT FELL.

THAPA WAS APPOINTED AS THE GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE RPP IN
MAY 2003. THAPA WAS ALSO ACTIVE DURING THE PANCHAYAT
YEARS, RISING TO MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, MINISTER OF
LOCAL DEVELOPMENT AND MINISTER OF HOUSING AND PHYSICAL
PLANNING. THAPA WAS A MEMBER OF NEPAL'S NATIONAL SOCCER
TEAM AND, IN 1984, VISITED THE UNITED STATES TO ATTEND THE
LOS ANGELES OLYMPICS. OF THE CHETTRI CASTE, THAPA IS
MARRIED WITH ONE SON AND THREE DAUGHTERS. IN MARCH 2004,
HIS SON WAS ISSUED A DIVERSITY VISA FOR IMMIGRATION TO THE
UNITED STATES. THAPA RECEIVED A MASTERS DEGREE IN
POLITICAL SCIENCE FROM NEPAL'S TRIBHUVAN UNIVERSITY IN
1977 AND SPEAKS EXCELLENT ENGLISH AND HINDI.

--------
COMMENT
--------

5. (SBU) DR. BHEKH BAHADUR THAPA IS A CONSUMMATE DIPLOMAT
WHO HAS PERFORMED WELL DURING IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL
EVENTS, SUCH AS THE SAARC SUMMIT IN JANUARY AND THE BIMST-
EC CONFERENCE IN FEBRUARY. HIS APPOINTMENT AS FOREIGN AND
HEALTH MINISTER IS LIKELY A RESULT OF THESE SUCCESSES.
REMOVAL OF THE HOME MINISTRY FROM THE PRIME MINISTER'S
PORTFOLIO MAY SIGNIFY NOTHING OTHER THAN THE HIGH SECURITY
AND OTHER DEMANDS THIS IMPORTANT MINISTRY REQUIRES AND
THAT THE AGING PM IS UNABLE TO DELIVER. END COMMENT.

MALINOWSKI

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