History of the U.S. and Nepal

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Early History of U.S. / Nepal Relations

The first U.S. official visit to Nepal took place November 16-22, 1945. George R. Merrell, then Charge d’Affaires at New Delhi, presented the Legion of Merit to Prime Minister the Maharaja Padma Shumshere Jung Bahadur Rana in recognition of the role played by Gurkha soldiers from Nepal in the British Army during World War II.

Earlier U.S. contacts included a visit in the fall of 1944 by Andrew Corry of the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA) in New Delhi. In the fall of 1945, Harry Witt of FEA and Lt. Alfred Brown, U.S. Army, visited Nepal to discuss the establishment of commercial relations. Cornelius van H. Engert, outgoing U.S. Minister to Afghanistan, visited Nepal in 1945, and Helen Nichols, Vice Consul at Calcutta, did so in 1946. Engert and Nichols were guests of the British Minister.

The first Nepalese official visit to the United States took place late in 1939, during the homeward journey of Gen. Krishna Rana, Nepal’s Minister in London. His successor, Gen. Shinga Rana, also visited the United States late in 1945. In the summer of 1946, a Nepalese mission, headed by Commanding General Baber Rana, spent several weeks in the United States as guests of the State and War Departments. They were in Washington from July 25 to August 1.

March 22, 1947. The Department of State announced the despatch of a special diplomatic mission to Nepal. The mission included Joseph C. Satterthwaite, Samuel H. Day (Counselor for Economic Affairs, New Delhi), Raymond A. Hare, William C. Johnstone, Jr. (Chief Public Affairs Officer, New Delhi), Lt. Col. Nathaniel R. Hoskot (Assistant Military Attache, New Delhi), J. Jefferson Jones III (Vice Consul, Bombay), and Charles W. Booth (Vice Consul, Karachi).

Satterthwaite served as Personal Representative of the President with the personal rank of Minister during his mission to Nepal. He arrived in Kathmandu on April 13. On April 21, he presented a personal letter from President Harry S Truman to King Tribhuvan, by which the United States recognized the independence of Nepal.

April 25, 1947. An Agreement of Commerce and Friendship was signed in Kathmandu between the United States and Nepal. The agreement provided for the establishment of diplomatic and consular relations, established a standard for treatment of American nationals, and established a rule of nondiscrimination in future commercial relations. (TIAS 2198)

According to another exchange of notes that day, the U.S. Ambassador to India would be accredited also as Minister to Nepal, with personnel stationed in New Delhi and Calcutta being similarly accredited. Nepal would in turn establish a Legation under a Charge d’Affaires ad interim in Washington, and a Consulate in New York.

(Satterthwaite described his mission in “Mission to Nepal,’ American Foreign Service Journal, August 1947, pp. 8-10, 32-40. He observed that, at the time, foreigners could only enter the country as the guest of, or with the consent of, the Prime Minister. Great Britain was the only European country to have an official mission in Nepal. There was no direct access to Nepal; the mission traveled by rail, road, and finally by pack train and sedan chair to Kathmandu.)

February 3, 1948. The Department of State announced that the United States and Nepal would exchange Ministers. Commanding General Kaiser Shum Shere Jung Bahadur Rana, Nepal’s Ambassador to Great Britain, would also represent his country concurrently in Washington. He presented his credentials in Washington on February 19, 1948.
May 3, 1948. Henry F. Grady, U.S. Ambassador to India, presented his credentials as the first U.S. Minister to Nepal. Until 1959, U.S. diplomatic personnel accredited to Nepal were also accredited to, and resident in, India.

December 3, 1948. Loy W. Henderson, U.S. Ambassador to India and Minister to Nepal, presented his credentials in Kathmandu. He had been appointed July 14.

(excerpt from a chronology prepared by Evan M. Duncan, U.S. State Department Office of the Historian, in March 1987)

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