Octogenarian Bharat Shamsher Rana (veteran radical Congress leader) had come to congratulate me and my Party for achieving something which individuals like him, other Parties and groups could not achieve for decades. He meant removing the king, going into federalism, secularism and democracy. These are some of the things he thought he would never get to see in his life time. Ironically this remark came just after I had read a document brought by International Crisis group headed as “Nepal’s future: in whose hands?”
Just as Nepal’s People’s War was a total war so is Nepal’s peace a wholesome peace, which means peace with sustainable development. Crisis group should be congratulated for the comprehensive coverage encompassing all the stakeholders involved in peace process. It has brought sharply the actions of principle national and international stakeholders as against the secondary without being muddled into eclectic conclusion.
It has correctly assessed strengths and limitations of UCPN (Maoist), the main stakeholders of peace process. While analyzing Maoist the document seem to have missed some points. Yes the problem for the Maoist is the lack of experience and lack of qualified personnel to lead and plead on their behalf while in governance. The catch-22 situation whereby the Maoists were too naive to run the government and at the other end other parties were waiting them to fail has been correctly noted. This has lead to denial of transformation of both Maoist and non-Maoist forces at this period of transition thus making regressive forces within both the forces to go back to conservative postures endangering peace process. To make things worse is the pending issue of integration of NA and PLA.
However it is equally important to note that they are good at taking initiatives. Their resigning from coalition government not once, twice but thrice is the result of their own conscious actions. The first and the second resignations related with Constituent Assembly (CA) which brought them victory but the third resignation which is connected with strategic issue, namely democratization of the NA is yet to bear fruitation. These acts have strongly refuted Maoist as, totalitarian as alleged by Nepali Congress. Similarly it also missed pointing out how both the national and international players underestimated Maoist’s strength during war and peace period. During war period the monarchical parliamentary forces underestimated PW as a temporary grunt which would soon subside. However it turned out to be full-fledged war lasting 10 years. During peace period too Maoist overwhelmingly won in Constituent Assembly election with whooping 40% seats much to the surprise of national and international forces.
The confusion whether the Maoists are serious about the peace process is worth analyzing. Considering that Maoist needs to work out shift in their way of organizing, delivering and planning in peaceful period vis-a vis war, considering that there was two line struggle as to how to move ahead during legal struggle, there is bound to be confusion not only outside but also inside the Party too. Those wanting to take old ways of fighting should recognize that they had left their mission (to achieve new democratic state) half way to consolidate what they had been raising regarding federalism, democracy and republic state. They should be reminded that both the armies, the Royal Nepal Army and People’s Liberation Army could not defeat each other substantially. And that to avoid external intervention in the country the present line had been adopted unanimously in the Party.
Their commitment to peace process can also be judged by their strong stand on question of civilian supremacy which is so pertinent in this period of transition from monarchy to plural state. It is also important to note that the recommendation given by the army in making constitution has categorically written that it is for unitary and non-secular state, which is against the spirit of interim constitution. Similarly the details of what led to Maoists resignation on military supremacy should be known. Fresh recruitment of army, prolonging the period of expired 8 generals, abrupt withdrawal of NA players from national foot-ball play in order to avoid playing with PLA team, hobnobbing with diplomats and political leaders by CAOS, undermining the authority of prime-minister even when called upon to answer wrongdoing, all these amounted to military supremacy which had to be discouraged. One wonders why India (which should be proud of long history of civilian control of the military in whole of Asia) is seen backing military supremacy in Nepal.
There is one confusion which needs to be clarified regarding the ideology of UCPN(M). It is interesting to note that while crisis group says that they do not want to see another UML (meaning Maoist turning into UML), they are also critical of Maoist’s stand on anti-feudal and anti-imperialist forces. It is precisely this line which prevents Maoist from becoming another UML.
The nature of Nepali Army and its conduct related to Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) so far has been well portrayed. The hard core within NA has consistent aversion to democratize NA and integrate PLA with NA. In relation to UNMIN it is interesting to note that at one end those same force within NA pretended to cooperate with it while privately it sowed doubts of its neutrality. Similarly it is worth noting that while India was seen keenly hobnobbing with them, particularly General Katawal, US is seen privately much more critical of the NA’s political involvement. What is equally interesting is to see Nepali Congress going out of its way in pursuing for strong NA, considering that all the four NC prime ministers have fallen victims to previous military interventions. Yes it has rightly pointed out that growing military expenditure combined with induction of new recruits, procurement of military equipments has heightened the possibility of conflict.
One of the best and the boldest section that has been written is on the role of India in backtracking on its own plan, namely the peace agenda. It prefers the short-term pursuit to the long term plan. Its knee-jerk reaction to electoral win of Maoist has lead to its clinging to NA (and hence supporting President’s intervention on behalf of COAS) as the last savior against the influence of the Maoists. India took long time to do away with twin pillar theory that of hobnobbing with both monarchy and parliamentary system, using one against the other. Today they seem to be recreating the same dual authority, that between president and prime-minister, to check and balance each other in its favor. What the document has not revealed is that COAS affair has given India more opportunity to make in-roads to NA than earlier. Their short term interest in NA has gravely endangered peace process making them lone wolf in the international arena. Their China phobic reminds one of Pakistan phobic that made Pakistan larger than the actual size. Today they seem to be making the same mistake with China. While I was Minister I remember making statement in official visit to Bihar, in India in which I had said that we wanted to see Bihar rich. I had a point in making with that statement. Nepal being surrounded by the most backward states of India and China (Bihar and UP in south and Tibet province in North) has in fact led to myopic view of Nepal. Had they been richer and more cultured states may be more tolerant large-hearted approach to Nepal’s problem would have been taken at the central level. The document has correctly pointed out that while India was advocating correct change of course for the Maoist they themselves were changing their own path. However document misses one point that is India is not a monolithic state, with thriving multi-party system it has all the liberal, hard liner and eclectic minded politicians and bureocrats. Hence India should be seen from this perspective as well
At the end of the day the real fight is a fight for New Nepal with restructuring of state and Old Nepal with status-quo intact as much as possible. Similarly, the real issue is the new main stream with real republic without feudalism, real federalism addressing real ethnic, regional issues, real democracy reaching marginalized masses. And not the old main stream with only change in form. Similarly the question is also in understanding the spirit of the CPA, 12 point understanding, interim constitution whose mandate was for change as against the legalistic interpretation of all the agreements which are often left vague.
Its advocacy for unity across all parties to prevent external intervention is worth noting. Similarly its warning to India that insecurity in Nepal is closely related with India should be noted by all the stakeholders who want to see Asia stable. In older cold war days, Nepal was looked upon as yam between India and China, today with rapid globalization, with class, ethnic, regional issues being raised in Nepal, if peace process fails then all-out war embracing all these three issues will engulf India first (with open border at three sides) before engulfing the rest of Asia. And Communist Party of India (Maoist) CPI (Maoist) will be more than happy for creating conducive environment for revolution in this region. India already has its share of class war waged by CPI(Maoist), regional war lead by North-East separatist forces and national war lead by Kashmere insurgents. Do you want another country with all these conflicts at your door-side? -28 august 2009