Thursday, December 15, 2005

Taking Responsibility

The tragedy inflicted by that drunken soldier in Nagarkot has tarnished – irreparably if you ask Maila Baje – the reputation of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA).
The sense of impunity within the RNA is probably not greater than in any group that finds its stars on the ascendant.
However, the military is the last organization that can afford a brazen display of callousness. And certainly not when much of the country is urging foreign governments not to arm the force.
The Nagarkot carnage puts the RNA in worse ground than the Maoists. At least the rebels – however misguided they may be – can claim they are killing and maiming in support of a cause.
There seems a lot we don't know yet on both sides. The international media began the news cycle with soldiers opening fire, before stepping back to the singular.
Reports that the perpetrator committed suicide after massacring 12 innocent revelers, too, don't seem to gel with the facts on the ground.
But this much is clear: This madman, hiding behind civvies, squirted a stain of infamy the entire armed force will have to live with.
One soldier's madness must not be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the entire force, the RNA top brass will no doubt say. Point taken.
But the standards have to be fair. If Maoist chairman Prachanda is asked to own up the dastardly bus attack in Chitwan earlier this year, then the RNA supreme commander in chief must take responsibility for the senseless act of a subordinate – no matter how low down the ladder.
Moreover, King Gyanendra is his own prime minister and defense minister and has been standing on an anti-terrorism platform for almost a year. Terrorism unleashed by his side is equally condemnable and punishable.
Opposition leaders' demands that King Gyanendra assume moral responsibility for the massacre are valid, although how he might go about doing so remains debatable.
Maila Baje feels these demands must be weighed against two other ominous stories that were overshadowed by the Nagarkot massacre.
Indian Maoists have threatened to intensify their "war" against foreign multinationals and other firms in several Indian states, accusing them of plundering resources and forcing them off their lands.
Not our problem, right?
Right, but only until you get to the paragraph that says two rebel leaders made the threat to a group of reporters somewhere along the Indo-Nepal border. One newspaper even made it sound like the rebels were enjoying a safe haven deep inside Nepal.
One rebel leader suggested the Indian Maoists shared only ideological affinity with their Nepali counterparts. However, a female Maoist, admitting her involvement in last month's jailbreak in Bihar, told a news conference the same day that Nepalese Maoists had specially trained her unit for the task.
New Delhi has long feared Maoist violence in Nepal could spill into parts of India. In recent months, Indian security analysts have suggested that growing links between Indian and Nepali Maoists have boosted the Indian Maoists' striking power.
The right to self-defense could easily join the range of options New Delhi is said to be mulling in response to Kathmandu's growing security ties with Beijing and Islamabad.
Maila Baje's attempt to divert attention from the Nagarkot tragedy? Or a plea for some perspective? You decide.