Nepali Times
PRASHANT JHA
Plain Speaking
India confused by Nepal's confusion


PRASHANT JHA


NEW DELHI - India wants the Madhav Nepal government to succeed. It also wants the Maoists to come back to the process. But in New Delhi one gets the sense that India is not able to see that there is a contradiction between the two.

Any substantive movement on constitution-writing and the peace process will require a shift in a present power alignment since the Maoists are not in the mood to join as junior partners in this government.

India wants the peace process to conclude, and it is also resistant to the idea of integrating the PLA soldiers into the Nepal Army. How can you conclude the process while still having two armies in place?

The Indian Army says there was no integration in India, so there is no need for it in Nepal. Sections of the intelligence agencies and foreign office agree. There are other relatively saner voices that recognise that token integration is essential. But these voices are lost in the anti-Maoist mood that has engulfed the power corridors here.

India wants to strengthen the 'middle ground', namely NC, UML and pliable Madhesi parties, and weaken the Maoists. But paradoxically, it also recognises the necessity of working with the Maoists. The two goals can be pursued simultaneously up to a point, but then will work against each other.

To weaken the Maoists, India will have to try to engineer splits within the party, create disillusionment among the cadre and block any attempts of Maoists to consolidate power. As soon as they do that, India and Maoists will develop an adversarial relationship. The present crisis is only a manifestation of that.

Add to this maze the presence of multiple actors, each with their own concerns. MEA, RAW, IB, the Indian Army, and the political actors all have a say in framing policy.

On 19 June, the Bihar Police and Special Task Force nabbed a Nepal-bound truck that had left from Kodarma in Jharkhand. Bihar police sources told us it had 18 sacks of explosives, 81 packets each containing 100 detonators, two sacks of safety fuse wire coils, and 10 packets of fuse wire attached to detonators.

Six people were arrested. One of them, Ram Parvesh Mishra, is the brother of Indian Maoist politburo member Pramod Mishra. Two people (Diwakar and Raj Kumar Yadav) are Nepalis from Siraha. Security sources claim interrogations have revealed that 14 such trucks of explosives have already been transported to Nepal. They suspect that Matrika Yadav, with the collusion of the hardliner faction of Maoists, could be amassing weapons.

The security hardliners warn of operational links between Indian Naxalites and a faction of Nepali Maoists, and say the latter must be kept out of the political process in Kathmandu.

Then you have the politicians. The Nepal Democracy Solidarity Committee (formed after 1 February 2005 and defunct since April 2006) has been revived. At a meeting this week, attended by left parties and other smaller groups, Nationalist Congress Party's DP Tripathi, who introduced Prachanda to Sitaram Yechury and played a role during the 12-point agreement days, was chosen chairman of the committee.

Tripathi told us: "During the Katawal crisis, Prachanda was right about civilian supremacy over the army in substance, but Maoists made tactical errors in practice. For consolidation of democracy in Nepal, there has to be a government of national reconciliation. There is neither a right wing nor an ultra left alternative in Nepal." The committee is expected to keep the political pressure on the Indian government to stick to the present process, as well as try to act as a bridge between Nepali political actors.

And then India has to deal with Nepali politicians. For all his anti-India bluster, Upendra Yadav was in Delhi last week to lobby hard with politicians and bureaucrats, trying to convince them that he is actually pro-India. Yadav's line was that only he could resist the Maoist onslaught in the Tarai. The Indian message to him was to go back, patch up with Bijay Gachhedar and cooperate with this government.

All this is happening at a time when India has a foreign minister who is new to the job. The foreign secretary has a lot on his plate: PM's foreign visits, Pakistan talks, Hillary Clinton's India visit next week, and is about to retire. But South Block is keeping a close eye on Nepal.

Ambassador Rakesh Sood was in Delhi this week and updated his ministry colleagues.

Asked about the drift in policy, a senior official responded, "There is confusion in Nepal. The confusion here is only a reflection of the lack of clarity there. As things crystallise, we will review the situation."

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Keep door open - FROM ISSUE #460 (17 JULY 2009 - 23 JULY 2009)



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