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Tuesday , December 15 , 2009
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Bhattarai blames and assures India on ties

Kathmandu, Dec. 14: In the midst of the intense power struggle in Nepal, top Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai has raised fears over a “soft coup” in the hill nation and warned that any move to install a new power centre with the support of the army would destroy the already fragile peace process.

“This is the calm before the storm, there is a concerted bid to subvert the democratic mandate in Nepal,” Bhattarai told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview at his spartan Shantinagar residence here. “The reason we are agitating on the streets all across Nepal is that we will not allow rightwing vested interests to derail the gains of the peace accord and elections.”

He also warned that the current street mobilisation by Maoists could take an ugly turn if the political impasse lingers. “There is obviously a bid by vested interests to obstruct Maoists, and if that continues, people will resist harder,” Bhattarai said.

There is near-consensus in Nepal that the deadlocked constituent assembly will not be able to write a new constitution by the May 28, 2010 deadline; and many, including reputed legal experts, are beginning to argue that after the expiry of the constituent assembly’s term, the only option will be for President Ram Baran Yadav, a nominal head, to assume power.

The Maoists, acutely aware of the drift towards the deadline, have been pushing for an opportunity to puncture the current logjam and return at the head of a “national government”, a bid that has been consistently thwarted with the assistance, Maoists allege, of Indian players.

Bhattarai pointedly blamed India for backing what he called the “deliberate and status quoist obstruction” of the democratic process. “There was a time India played a constructive role and assisted Nepal in bringing about the peace accord, but lately it has been supporting the totally undemocratic and puppet regime of Madhav Nepal. India is playing blind man’s buff. It has not been able to correctly identify its real ally in Nepal. If India calls itself a democracy, it has to back the Maoists, there is no other option because we have the mandate of the people,” he said.

Having said that, Bhattarai extended fresh assurances to India, as if seeking an intervention on the Maoists behalf. “There is no reason for India to doubt our intentions and I would like to send this message to New Delhi through you,” Bhattarai said. “We are not anti-India, our intentions are entirely peaceful and democratic, we too have no option but to have very good relations with India, let India have absolutely no doubts about this. It is not in our national interest to have poor relations with India.”

India’s apprehensions about the Maoists broadly arise on two strategic counts — one, that they are intrinsically anti-democratic and will seize power to create a Maoist state on the northern frontier, and, two, that they will pull Nepal closer to China and away from India.

Bhattarai seemed keen to offer outspoken guarantees to New Delhi on both. “Why does India not understand we are not interested in the capture of the state. It is India that assisted the peace process and was instrumental in effecting the peace accord. If we had to capture the state, we would be waging war from the jungles, we would not be holding peaceful demonstrations in the streets. We have won an election, we know we already are the most powerful political force in this country. So that’s another reason India will have to get rid of its silly suspicions and deal and engage with us.”

On China, Bhattarai chose to be a little more expansive. “It is true that we want some corrections in our relationship with India, particularly the imbalances left over by the imperial British era,” he said. “But that does not mean we want to change the relationship with a view on China. We want good relations with all neighbours, but our relations with India cannot be allowed to suffer because we want better ties with China, we will not tilt towards China against India, and that is an assurance we want to underline. Please don’t suspect us all the time, and use those suspicions to act against us. That will be bad for both Nepal and India.”

Expanding suo motu on the theme, Bhattarai said: “The truth is India should be more confident of this relationship. If India stops supplying us salt for one week, we will begin to suffer as a nation, that is how dependent we are, and that is the stark truth of this relationship. It is foolish to say or believe we can take Nepal away from India or act against Indian interests. Look at how deeply dependent we are on India as a people and as a nation. It is the rightwing vested interests in Nepal who have always used anti-India feelings in Nepal to secure themselves politically, not us. We have been courageous enough to recognise the reality that we cannot wish India away, we have to work with it, all we want is a few democratic corrections, a more equal relationship, and none of that to favour China.”

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