The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- Being hoity-toity will not help India with regard to Nepal

Fudging objective reality is a pointless exercise. The view that the Maoists in Nepal have agreed to return to the 'democratic' path is sheer hokum. Prachanda and his comrades are in total command, not just in Nepal's countryside, but in Kathmandu too. They have agreed to call off hostilities for three months, but have not agreed to lay down their arms. These arms are in open display in Kathmandu's streets: roaming bands of female cadre have, for example, been pictured with AK27 rifles slung across their bodies. They, the Maoists are convinced, have nothing to lose by announcing a unilateral ceasefire and allowing the so-called parliamentary parties an opportunity to try their luck with the king. This also helps them win the gratitude of the middle-class householder in Kathmandu worn out by the blockade.

The Maoists have actually succeeded in pushing parties like the Nepali National Congress and the United Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Nepal into a Prisoner's Dilemma situation. These parties fully know that their temporary restoration to power is courtesy the Maoists. If the king could be persuaded to relinquish control over the armed forces and give a nod to elections for a new constituent assembly, the Maoists are likely to sweep the polls and form a new government. For tactical reasons, the NNC and the UCP (ML) of Nepal might be offered some ministerial slots in the government; they would however have to be satisfied with a subordinate position. The Maoists have already shown the world their capability to take over the country. The blockade would be resumed, some more bloodshed would take place, but the uprising, with massive support from the people, would reach its denouement.

Events in Kathmandu suggest that the Maoist agenda is on course. Such a total transformation in Nepal's polity might evoke surprise as well as consternation. Should it really though' Popular democratic revolutions take place in different parts of the world despite the disapproval of the establishment and despite theories and assumptions cherished by external parties.

Perhaps the most important phenomenon in Nepal in recent years is the steady exodus, particularly of younger elements, from the ranks of the parliamentary parties to the Maoist cause. The repression let loose by the king since 2002 took over as an additional recruiting agent for the Maoists, even as the impression rapidly gaining ground was that moderation would be of no avail to bring back the king to reason and more drastic measures were called for. Such a climatic change in public perception facilitated the penetration of Maoists into Kathmandu, the national capital, something in which they had not succeeded in the course of the past two decades. Human history is replete with instances of developments of this nature: when the time arrives for a qualitative change in social relations, authoritarian measures intended to stall the harbingers of change end up in disaster, with revolutionary forces in fact gathering further steam.

To cast doubt on the essentially indigenous nature of the ongoing happenings in Nepal would be futile. The Maoists received no encouragement ' neither ideological support nor material assistance ' from the People's Republic of China. On the contrary, for whatever reason, China's authorities all along frowned upon initiatives which could, in whatever manner, destabilize Nepal's monarchy. As for the United States of America and the European Community too, while they from time to time plied the king with advice both wise and foolish, they never dreamt of deserting his side. To New Delhi, Nepal's Maoists have been a bit more than a mere b'te noire; they have been reckoned a major threat to India's internal security.

The temptation to live yesterday is not easy to discard. External parties however should have by now satisfied themselves on the essential truth: the revolution gripping Nepal is not an imported commodity. In the circumstances, there is little scope for trying to import a counter-revolution either. Hope nonetheless springs eternal in the human breast. The king, it is entirely conceivable, might appeal to this or that foreign government to bail him out even at this late hour. The US on its part could be itchy to put in a performance which could still restore Nepal to 'the free world.' Indian authorities similarly might feel tempted to offer some concrete assurance, if not to the king, at least to the parliamentary parties traditionally friendly with New Delhi.

But there is a risk. Intervention in any form by a foreign power could drive the Nepalese people into further active identification with the Maoists. The rest of the world in any case is unlikely to come to any great harm even with a total Maoist take-over in Nepal. Talk of a Nepal sneeze causing pneumonia in this or that neighbouring land is a somewhat extravagant exercise in imagination. Nepal, after all, is a little country. That apart, Prachanda and his close advisers would have their hands full for some while to concern themselves over other people's affairs. They have a thoroughgoing agrarian programme they are anxious to implement. True, they would like to give a dressing-down to some exploitative types from down south. It would be folly for the Indian authorities to pick a quarrel with the Maoists on this score. Those adversely affected by any Maoist initiative in this matter must have got back the capital they had sunk in Nepal several times over.

To repeat, the Maoists mobilized their support exclusively through their own efforts; no cross-border assistance was available to them. And if, in the immediate future, they opt for a relatively more moderate course than they have pursued till now, that would be their response to what they identify as hard realities; they would not do so because of intercession by Indian or Norwegian do-gooders.

A final point. The hypothesis that were the Maoists in Nepal to embrace parliamentary democracy, those in the hinterland of India who pass as Maoists would follow suit must be wildly wide off the mark. The Maoist problem in India has Indian roots, linked to the overarching issue of massive alienation of the tribal people from their traditional habitats because of machinations by powerful caste groups. It has been compounded as much by regional heterogeneities as by cases of sleazy taking-over of farmland in the name of industrialization while actually putting such land to use for crass speculative purposes. Comparative political analysis is perhaps prey to the same whimsies as feature in the byways of comparative literature.

What is important at the current moment is for the government of India ' how shall one put it ' not to lose its head. It has created enough of a predicament for itself by its clever-by-half stance on the Iran issue. Irrespective of whether the US ambassador's reported claim that he had a role to play in the substitution of the petroleum minister in New Delhi, it remains a messy state of affairs. The tri-country gas pipeline is now clouded by uncertainty, which is perhaps what the American devoutly wished for. But nuclear fuel, which George W. Bush had half-promised, will not flow easily either; Condoleezza Rice has already served notice: India must fulfil further rigorous conditions before the agreement reached with the US administration receives the final seal of approval. Naivet' goes ill with policymaking in the international sphere. If, in dealing with Nepal, hoity-toitiness is added to it, a bad situation would turn into worse.

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