The Nepalese monarchy is in deep crisis. The Maoists have positioned themselves to be the lead political actor in the weeks to come. New Delhi lacks a policy to address this. Nepal is adjacent to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The spectre of a Maoist corridor between Nepal and Telangana is real.
The Maoist insurrection started in 1996. 13,000 have died since then. King Gyanendra dissolved the legislature in 2002. He suspended the All Party Government in 2005. The situation has since worsened. As the Chennai-based "Hindu Newspaper" put it, "A novice in politics and statecraft, Gyanendra is all tactics and no strategy". It is clear that he needs to either hold free and fair elections or abdicate.
The Seven Party Alliance of Political Parties (SPA) had signed a political compact with the Maoists in November, 2005 and March, 2006 to (i) initiate a nationwide agitation against the autocratic monarchy; (ii) restore parliament; (iii) form an interim administration: (iv) conduct elections for a constituent assembly; (v) and initiate the process of constitutional reform. The goal is "Loktantra". The word could either mean "people's rule" or outright "republic". The Seven Party Alliance is led by the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist-Leninist.
India helped negotiate the deal. This is surprising given the extent of anti-Indian sentiment held by the Maoists. India until recently had the "twin pillar strategy" that it believed held the key to stability in Nepal. The "twin pillar" entailed the co-existence of a constitutional monarchy and elected government.
The United States on the other hand had pressured the SPA not to enter into the agreement with the Maoists. Washington expressed concerns that the deal had failed to commit the Maoists to abandon the campaign of violence. Donald Camp, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, stated in the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific at the House of Representative Committee on International Relations that the United States had only two goals in Nepal i.e. the (i) restoration of multi-party democracy; and (ii) prevention of the Maoist take over. This vision is in New Delhi's interest given the anti-India record of the Maoists, not to mention the Maoist campaign of murder, torture, bombings, extortion, kidnapping and the recruitment of child soldiers. It is in India's interest to coordinate with the United States in this instance.
King Gyanendra is increasingly unpopular. The nationwide agitation has had its effect. The King held Municipal elections on February 8, 2006 to test the waters. The call for a boycott by the SPA and the Maoists succeeded with only 20% of the electorate casting their vote. Only 15% of the seats were contested while 54% of the seats had no candidates. The Maoist campaign of terror and high levels of popular disaffection explain this.
The latest civil uprising is now in its tenth day. There is now grass roots support for the anti- government demonstrations. The elderly, women and children defied nationwide curfews to come out to the streets and protest. They clashed with security personnel. Students, teachers, professionals, doctors and civil servants joined them to barricade roads, burn tires and chase away the police. Lawyers took to the street. Journalists did the same. There are increasing calls for the monarch to be exiled.
Nepal is a landlocked country. It is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Kathmandu is heavily dependent on India for trade, transit and riparian rights. It is heterogenous with numerous tribes, ethnic groups and dialects. The Caste Hill Hindu Elite that comprise 31% of the population is dominant. The need for a smooth transition in Kathmandu from an inept autocracy to a representative democracy is in India's interest. The days of the monarchy appear numbered unless the King were to dramatically shift gears. A Maoist takeover is therefore possible in the upcoming political vacuum. This is not in India's national security. The deafening silence in New Delhi is therefore perplexing.
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