Nepal Policy A Monumental Blunder?
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Issue Vol 22.2 Apr-Jun2007 | Date : 24 Nov , 2010

Any dispassionate analysis of the current situation in Nepal will deal with some uncomfortable questions. It seems that the Indian government has not dealt with these questions properly. By “facilitating” the virtual Maoist-take-over of the Himalayan country, New Delhi has committed what could be, in course of time, a monumental strategic blunder.

The new political era in Nepal is the result of the India-brokered peace deal in last September between the seven party democratic alliance and the Maoists who had been engaged in 10-year insurgency in which nearly 13000 people were killed. And here, all of them were anti-Monarch, since King Gyanendra was their “principal rival”. That means in the heralding of the present political system in the country, the King, his loyalists, and most important, the Nepal Army, have played no role at all. Obviously, these forces are absolutely down, thanks to the great international pressure following the absolutely mindless royal take-over of the country by King Gyanendra in 2004. But to say that they are “out” for all times to come may be a little premature.

All told, Nepal is essentially a “Hindu country” and for majority of God-fearing Nepalese the King is the “Living Vishnu”, the supreme God of the Hindus. They may not approve of the absolutist rule of the King, but that does not mean that they will accept the personal humiliation of the King by taking away even ceremonial role, something the present political arrangement is indulging in with fan and fare. The Institution of the monarchy or “King” has always been an important pillar in Nepalese society and polity. That is precisely the reason why countries such as India, the US, Britain and China had hitherto talked about the monarchy as an “important pillar” of Nepal. In fact, India and the US, while opposing the royal take-over, had always emphasised on the importance of Nepal remaining a “constitutional monarchy”. Therefore, it is really perplexing how India is now reconciled to the Maoists’ insistence on a “Republican system”.

Secondly, with the King, the principal contradiction (to use the Maoists phrase) no longer the rallying point between the Nepali Congress and the Leftists, including the Maoists in the new interim Parliament, it remains to be seen how coherently this interim parliament and the interim government that will now have a Maoist deputy prime minister, is going to function and make preparations for the elections to the proposed constituent assembly. In the 330-member house, besides the 83 Maoist legislators, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) that is also in the Koirala government has 83 MPs. Five other smaller left parties together have 16 more members. Thus against Nepali Congress’s 85 members, the Left, overall, has 182 MPS. In other words, the interim Parliament is predominantly Left-oriented and that will have its impact on the Koirala’s government. Therefore, in Nepal now we have a Prime Minister whose decisions will not necessarily reflect his or his Nepali Congress’ views. How far this sort of alliance will lend to the stability of Nepal will always remain a question mark. One is not sure whether there will be a new “contradiction” between the Leftists on the one hand and the Nepali Congress, which represents liberal views in Nepal, on the other.

As it is, a senior Maoist central leader, Dina Nath Sharma, has been on record that there is a move now among all Left parties represented in the interim parliament to form a common front. He also said the CPN (Maoist) would lead the alliance. It is an open secret that the supreme leader of the Maoists, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, wants to be the President, the elected head, of Nepal. That is why despite the Left’s overwhelming majority in the interim Parliament, he allowed Koirala to continue as the Prime Minister.

But do Prachanda and his Maoists, represent the majority in Nepal? Let it be noted that the Maoists had performed disastrously in the parliamentary elections in early 1990s, winning just a couple of seats. It was after this that they decided to shun the democratic path and opt for the so-called revolutionary or violent path to capture power in 1996. All these years, the Maoists have used threats, extortion and killings to get their way. They have killed poor, innocent people and those who have criticised their top leaders. Their war has encouraged and spread a culture of intimidation and violence. Prachanda and others have defended these tactics, arguing that during war such incidents do occur and that they regret mistakes.

However, the biggest question that remains unanswered is whether or not Prachanda and his Maoist followers have renounced violence forever in favour of multiparty democracy. Of late, Prachanda has said in various interviews that he is prepared to have peaceful competition with other political parties. But what happens if in this peaceful competition Prachanda loses? Is he prepared to sit in opposition benches as is normal in a democracy? There are no clear answers to these questions. All told, one should not forget that the Maoists still have their army and arms, which, at the moment, are in barracks and under UN supervision. And that has been made possible because Koirala as the prime Minister agreed to Parachanda’s precondition that the Nepal Army, that is, the legitimate armed forces of a sovereign country, will also remain in barracks under UN supervision. All this is a temporary arrangement. What will finally happen to the Maoists Army if Prachanda sits in opposition?

In any case, before the present arrangement was agreed upon, Prachanda was of the view that “the [people’s war] would not be discarded until the final construction of Communism” and that Nepal could be used “as a base area of world revolution, internationalist in content and national in form.” It may be pointed out here that the Nepalese publication ” The Kathmandu Post” in its issue of September 20, 2006, carried some details of the resolutions of the Fourth Conference of CCOMPOSA (Coordination Committee of Maoists Parties and Organisations of South Asia) held recently in August 2006 at an undisclosed location. These give the impression that the Maoists in Nepal, contrary to what they claim as having renounced people’s war and go for competitive democracy, would continue to deepen and extend their links with the Maoists of the region and work for the seizure of power by armed force.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Prakash Nanda

is a journalist and editorial consultant for Indian Defence Review. He is also the author of “Rediscovering Asia: Evolution of India’s Look-East Policy.”

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