Friday, June 09, 2006

For Prachanda, Peace Has A Perfidious Price

A $200 million aid package, support for a United Nations role in the monitoring of arms during the constituent assembly elections complete with an undertaking to free Nepalese Maoists jailed in India, and a formal affirmation that the two countries had sorted out their differences in the defense sector – Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala couldn’t have found a more generous host.
Add to this munificence Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s eagerness to dispense with protocol and receive Koirala at the airport. The “new dimension and dynamism” New Delhi has been projecting in bilateral relations since Nepal’s recent political change couldn’t have pulsated more.
Before slobbering over this providential end of history and geography, consider the domestic dynamics in play during Koirala’s four-day absence. Specifically, the escalating war of words between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists on the role and relevance of the reinstated House of Representatives (HoR).
SPA leaders, cutting across party lines, are adamant that the HoR would not be dissolved until an alternative body is formed. Maoist leaders see the reinstated legislature as a roadblock to peace. In a television interview, rebel supremo Prachanda derided the redundancy of the SPA’s “revolutionary” record in parliament, even reminding MPs that untouchability had been outlawed by King Mahendra decades ago.
Prachanda went beyond denouncing the SPA’s proclivities for doing “everything through a parliament that is dead and has no constitutional or political validity…” He accused India of putting the cart before the horse, warning Nepalis that this could be part of a conspiracy to break the 12-point SPA-Maoist accord signed in – yes – New Delhi last November.
“India knows the condition in Nepal,” Prachanda said. “It knows there can be no development till there is peace. If it truly wants to assist Nepal, it would help with a conducive atmosphere for an interim government. Then we too would sit in the discussions (on assistance as part of the interim government).”
The “greater propaganda” from New Delhi about “economic package,” he said, smacked of a conspiracy to delude Nepalis that India could resolve Nepal's problems. “Why are they (the political parties and India) trying to bypass us?”
Prachanda’s accusation that New Delhi is complicit in an effort to marginalize the Maoists – at least in their current incarnation – is what should make Nepalis sit up.
Does the rebel supremo feel that New Delhi, mindful of the SPA’s failure to intimidate the palace on its own, forged the accord only to ensure that the mainstream opposition parties could borrow enough street power to force a recalcitrant palace to its knees?
Clearly, Prachanda must have fathomed during Koirala’s visit the fervor with which India wishes to see Nepalis retain the monarchy. Constitutional, ceremonial, titular, figurehead -- the adjective doesn’t really matter. When King Birendra promulgated the current constitution in 1990, who expected the monarchy to go on to seize full executive powers 15 years later – except perhaps those few who saw the incongruity of the king clipping his own wings.
New Delhi’s two conditions for a Maoist role in the polity – recognition of the monarchy and the SPA represented by the current parliament – place the rebels in a pre-February 1996 posture. For the Maoists, acceptance of the two institutions they had raised arms against could still be worded safely enough to signify some kind of victory to the rank and file. India’s third condition – the repudiation of all ties with Indian Maoists, or Naxals – is nothing short of a poison pill.
The Nepalese Maoists were a major influence in the amalgamation of disparate Naxal groups into the Communist Party of India (Maoist). A senior Naxal leader in the Indian state of Chattisgarh was recently heard on the BBC praising the Nepalese Maoists as a profound inspiration.
Hard-line communists across the subcontinent hope to create a compact revolutionary zone in South Asia on the trail blazed by Prachanda. Maoists from the Philippines to the Dominican Republic look up to the Nepalese Maoists to prove the prematurity of reports of communism’s demise.
The last great hope of these revolutionaries was Peru where the Shining Path guerrillas controlled over 90 percent of the country before being beaten back by the government. Prachanda knows that the Peruvian Maoists could at least claim that the government had captured their leader, Comrade Gonzalo, and dealt a devastating psychological blow.