Sunday, June 04, 2006

Physician, Heal Thyself!

It looks like Nepal has split the Indian political spectrum right through its heart. The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the constituents of the Left Front backing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government are locked in an escalating war of words over New Delhi’s policy on its tiny northern neighbor.
Writing in the latest issue of the Hindu nationalist party’s mouthpiece, Organizer, Varun Gandhi goes beyond castigating the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and its chums for coercing the Singh government into abetting a Maoist takeover of the kingdom.
Gandhi ties loose straws to paint a picture of a vast left-wing conspiracy that began a decade ago. “Is it not strange that the Nepalese Maoist started their campaign to oust the monarchy in 1996, at a time when the communist influenced third front government was in power in India?” he asks. “And it is not even stranger that the de-Hinduization of the Nepalese state has taken place in 2006, when a communist-supported government is in power in India?”
The CPM organ, People’s Weekly, responded with a scathing attack on what it called the main opposition party’s “neofascist” agenda. “Their contempt for democracy is so pervasive that in the midst of popular upsurge in Nepal for restoration of democracy, they openly sided with King Gyanendra,” V Srinivasarao writes.
Srinivasarao’s tirade is against the BJP’s crusade against the controversial film “Fanaa” starring Aamir Khan, a Muslim. In an effort to bolster its criticism of the BJP’s sustained stoking of communal and regional passions, Srinivasarao adds: “They wished to keep Nepal intact as a Hindu monarchy state.”
Gandhi, however, raises more somber questions about the Nepalese conflict’s fallout on India. “What will [India] do if the Maoists takeover Nepal and the Red flag flies on either side of the Himalayas? How will India handle the thousands of Nepalese citizens working in India? What will be the effect of the Maoist presence in Nepal on the minds of the Nepali Gurkhas in the Indian Army?”
Underscoring the stakes involved, Gandhi asks: “How will China use a Red Nepal to its advantage? What repercussions will that have on India’s fight against the Indian Maoists and Naxals, especially since after the Maoist takeover the Naxals—boosted by this—may well increase their activities in India?”
Gandhi urges the Indian to take pro-active steps right away. “India must ensure the continuation of the monarchy in Nepal, take steps to protect the monarch, look into the defense for Kathmandu, ensure a step-by-step approach to Nepali democracy beginning not by the weakening of the king but by the strengthening of Nepal’s democratic institutions, and de-arming of the Maoists under the neutral presence of the Indian army.”
That demand prompted a stern response from S. Sudhakar Reddy a central committee member of the Communist Party of India, a member of a four-member parliamentary delegation that recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Nepal.
"Nepal is at the political crossroads and should be allowed to decide its policies independently without any intervention," he said. "Keeping in view past experiences with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it is better that we keep away from the internal affairs of that country.”
Identifying the door through which the interventionist wing of the Indian establishment would enter Nepal, Reddy said, “There were incidents to project that law and order has failed by some vested interests but things will fall in place soon.”
From a Nepalese perspective, these duels are thoroughly entertaining, especially considering how a nation that considers itself the ultimate arbiter of Nepal’s fate remains deeply divided over what it wants.
What makes them scary, however, is the solemnity with which the United States and much of the western world have rallied behind India on Nepal.