Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nepal At The Edge

Nepal just might have been rescued from the brink as King Gyanendra announced at 11.30 PM yesterday that he had reinstated the lower house of parliament. He apologized for those killed in three weeks of pro-democracy protests which he went on to describe as a "people's movement". The monarch had transferred executive power to the political parties last Friday. The Seven Party Alliance of Parties dismissed that as insufficient demanding the restoration of the legislature. He has now done so. Pressure from the European Union and the United States in light of the intensifying protests helps explain the King's about turn.

By contrast, the Indian role has not been altogether benign. The Indian Foreign Secretary - Shyam Saran- announced over the weekend that India had abandoned its "Twin Pillar" policy of supporting a multi-party democracy and a constitutional monarchy. He added that it was for the Nepalese to define their political system. New Delhi appears to have had a tacit understanding with the Maoists.

The Maoists might still consolidate their hold in the emerging political vacuum. To quote, United States Ambassador Moriarty "My real concern is that the successor Government may end up being dominated by the Maoists. The Maoists under the current situation swing a lot of weight because they have the weapons and the parties do not".

Others confirm the not so hidden clout of the Maoists. Maoist cadre had directed the street demonstrations in Kathmandu and provided the manpower. The SPA had no real control on the streets. A significant number of the protestors appeared to be from Maoist controlled rural areas.

Hundreds of Maoists had stormed the Nepalese town of Chautara 75 miles east of Kathmandu attacking the local hospital, the post office, the education office and administrative buildings yesterday. The Maoist insurgents destroyed the communications network. Military reinforcements had to be airlifted in. Kathmandu was under curfew for five days. Protestors had already occupied the 17 mile long ring road. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) had announced plans to march to the royal palace today to declare a "Democratic Republic". Let's hope that the politics of reconciliation now sets in.

The Maoists control one third the territory of Nepal. They have set up local government authorities. They have built a 55 mile road through the mountains that might eventually link up with China. The Maoists collect taxes. They run collective farms, riverine fisheries and livestock. They retain links with Indian Maoist rebels in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telangana.

New Delhi blundered with its sponsorship of Tamil militant groups in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. It has no coherent policy in Nepal either. The current deal in Nepal owed more to European and United States proactiveness than to any initiative in New Delhi. It might be intended to contain the Maoist insurrection and ensure political space for Nepal's moderates. Let's hope that the restoration of democracy last night leads to peace and economic growth in the Shangri-La that once was Nepal. We need to watch events today to see whether this would indeed materialize.

14 comments:

Apollo said...

we all agree that the MEA is crap. indian foreign policy is a dud etc.. so as expected they have performed below par in the nepal crisis.so far so good

i have been following all the articles published online by foreign policy advocates on rediff, newsnight, saag, pinr etc.. and even opinion pieces on blogs such as this and others like it and even here chaos and confusion reigns. no one has come out with a clear cut vision and a to do list. there was not even a clear mention on what our interests wrt to the nepal situation are.

at some point of time it seemed people were resigned & cynical about a maoist takeover of nepal and were preparing on how to deal with such a future.

it also seems like most are wary about using force to intervene in nepal.

do we have a choice?

india has to send a strong message that a maoist takeover is unacceptable and will be dealt with force if necessary to thwart it. this in my opinion is our interest.

let the king and political parties bicker and intrigue as much as they want.let them decide on what kind of power sharing arrangement they want between themselves. this is not about democracy. we all know what kind of political parties we have in the sub-continent. there is absolutely zero internal democracy in them. they are just personality driven. if not the king some "political dynasty" will emerge from the nepali congress for example. so lets not get into the pointless debate about the democratic aspirations of the "people" of nepal our one true aim is to stop the commie takeover of nepal

Jaffna said...

Apollo

I think that India's interests with regards to Nepal are quite clear i.e. (i) Nepal's stability; (ii) Nepal's economic prosperity; (iii) no support in Nepal for Maoists in India; and (vi) limit Chinese influence in Nepal.

The failure in New Delhi was not one of vision. It was of resolve. The Ministry of External Affairs chose to be "resigned and cynical" to use your words.

I would add that the Indian role was perhaps even more self-defeating than that. India helped facilitate the MoU between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists. It therefore provided a degree of legitimacy to the Maoists, hitherto lacking in the international community.

I do not think that force can be used to easily. But the Royal Nepalese army could be strengthened through arms.

The problem IS about democracy. Gyanendra failed miserably in that regard. And the Maoist crisis only worsened.

I think that a constitutional monarchy with a vibrant parliamentary democracy is the way out. And the Maoists can have a role to play provide they decommission and enter the legislative mainstream like the IRA. The recent statements of Shyam Saran were threfore ill adviced in that he indicated that India no longer insisted upon a multi-party democracy and that it was for the "Nepalese people" to choose their system of administration. What rubbish!

Best regards

Apollo said...

how "vibrant" was the democracy in nepal before the "villain" called gyanendra intervened?

there was no stable government.i think they had some 10 PMs in as many years perhaps more.
there was only bickering and intriguing among the politicians. the "elected" representatives ignored their duty and responsibilty to provide good governance to the country. this is what helped the maoist rebellion to take root.

now u put back the same motley crowd into power and be assured that they will soon go back to their own old ways.

we need to be more assertive. maoists should be disarmed. the army should be under the control of the king. the rest of the government can be "outsourced" to these monkeys.

and the MEA needs to learn some diplomatese and also should seek professional medical help to cure itself of its "foot in the mouth disease" and while we are at it they might need some testosterone injections too. so that hence forward they will show some spine.dammit now even i don't want these nuts to have a permanent seat in the UNSC.

Stryker said...

You are spot on, Apollo. fully agree with you. There is zero internal democracy in the Nepals motley parties

dipendra said...

Jaffna: A very latest post with lots of updated information. Your response to apollo was very good.

Meanwhile the Maoists are vying for more blood just as expect. How to isolate them?
Reuters
"The proclamation is a sham and a conspiracy against the Nepali people," Maoist leader Prachanda said in a statement in the Nepali language. "Our party firmly rejects this."


apollo: since you have read so much, why don't you take time to write a blog post. I mean seriously, you have some good ideas.

Dharman said...

Dipendra, what you quote from Reuters is alarming. But it might be the solution. If Maoists reject the offer of the king, they then return to their isolated status internationally. The West will support the King by arming the Royal Nepalese Army. The 1,000 million rupee question is what would India's stand be. Not that it matters anyway as events in Nepal indicate. But Nepal becomes internationalized.

dipendra said...

Dharman: The West will help RNA only after extracting its pound of flesh. The Arms supply will come only at the Nepali government agreeing to a UN-mandated ceasefire agreement with a multinational UN force (lots of Western spies as well). This will give them a formidable presence right next to India.

Like you say, India is more and more irrelevant. Perhaps in best case scenario, it can lobby for leadership role in commanding the UN troops to make sure that not too much leeway is given away.

Apollo said...

@dipendra

thanks for the suggestion i will do that by today evening.

and what u quote from reuters is on the expected lines. the maoists will try to extract their pound of flesh.

india has no option but to get its act together and crush the maoists. time to take the velvet gloves off.

dipendra said...

apollo: bravo! I look forward to reading your comments. Please post a link here.

The Comic Project said...

Nothing can be done about the Maoists because any action against them will hurt Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat more.

American foreign policy is "seen" as successful because their domestic needs dictates it. And their domestic needs are pretty clear - at the risk of sounding naive, its oil, and a little more oil, of course you could add a OBL here and a North Korea there. It works for America because their domestic requirements are quite cohesive.

In contrast, we have too much to worry about. If we take a decision that affects a violent commie in Nepal, the communists in India protest. If we condemn an attack by a Palestinian in Israel or say anything against the Iranians, the muslims will be angry. Until this happens, our foreign policy - rather than being dictated by domestic needs, will be moulded by vote banks. I just feel our governments, political parties (more the communists than anyone else) badly need a lesson in patriotism. Someone has to tell them, that India and Indians matters and your commie/muslim friends in other countries can go to hell.

Jaffna said...

Dipendra,

I am relieved that the Seven Party Alliance called off the pro-democracy protests. With parliament reinstated, the SPA can call for elections to vote-in a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution.

This said, the constitution should be confirmed in a public referendum a la Iraq. It might lack validity otherwise given the highly fractured nature of Nepalese society. The more democracy the better.

Maoist supremo Prachanda's statement today is of concern. As you highlighted, he dismissed the King's announcement as "a conspiracy to protect the regime" and warned that the SPA had betrayed the Maoists. He vowed to press ahead with blockages.

Should the Maoists proceed on these lines, they would lose the democratic facade beneath which they hid for the past few months. This is good.

In light of the real threat that they pose, I would support international intervention provided it is timebound. The Maoists can not be ever allowed to capture power, period. And if India fails to ensure this, better the UN.

Best regards

dipendra said...

Jaffna:

Thanks for responding. I agree to what you said on isolating the Maoists but for the UN troops part.

In all the conflicts so far where UN troops are present, lets see one place where it was resolved - Kosovo, Congo, Haiti, Cote d' Ivoire, etc. They are still there. The exception was East Timor which resulted in partition. The UN troops and NGO 'volunteers' get paid top dollars for their work - they have no interest in actually resolving the conflict.

So I would be extremely wary of UN troops - This is India's own backyard and not some African basket case ex-colony. It would be a shame if India cannot take care of it on its own. Well, if India fails to grasp the situation ...

jabbarnepal said...

Rush my King to foreign lands.....
Dear King Gyanendra,

Do not stay back in Nepal, the maoists are all powerful, my sincere advice please take what you can ( your jewels, cash, gold, whatever you can carry with you) and escape with your faithful followers to some place...... please seek asylum in another country.

Afcourse you will never be happy in whatever country you go to, regardless of how much money you have, as exiled kings rarely are happy. The great Shah of Iran was not happy, nor the rulers of Greece, nor the ruler of afghanistan................!

But well, it is better than suffering humialiation at the hands of those maoists, and the fickle people of nepal, who not so long ago cried bitterly at the funeral of the Late King Birendra and the late royal family, and now they have changed........ what a sad day indeed.

My king they will humiliate you if you stay back, do not have any hope in the nepali people nor in the government that is going to form, these useless politicians will make a scapegoat out of you to please the innocent but stupid nepali masses. They will try you in court , who knows maybe execute you, maybe keep you in prison.............

My king you deserve better, please escape while you can, DO NOT HAVE FAITH IN THE PSEUDO DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT WHICH THEY WILL FORM...........

yours truly,

jabbar

Jaffna said...

Jabbar,

Your comments had a sarcastic quality but I sensed some sympathy for the monarchy. I could be wrong though.

But yet, was not the Nepalese royalty a corrupt family. The wholesale murder of the previous king and his household by an irate son demonstrated the crisis in which that family was. I was intrigued that no one in Gyanendra's immediate family was really hurt - not his wife, not his son and not his daughter. And Gyanendra himself was conveniently out of the royal palace then. Suspicous, is it not?

Gyanendra could have easily acceded to the democratic will of the people much earlier. Instead with his neanderthal mindset, he chose to hold on to absolute power until the 11th hour (literally).

So what if he goes to exile. The man deserves it. The Nepalese deserve better for a largely ceremonial, symbolic monarchy that the country needs. Gyanendra was out of synch with ground reality.

Best regards

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