Monday, September 10, 2007

Hegemon Hectored By Its Own Haughtiness

From the jumble called the peace process comes another rare flash of candor. Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP) President Narayan Man Bijukchhe insists that the elections to the constituent assembly would be held only at India’s pleasure.
Before mocking his assertion as an obsequious affirmation of India’s omnipotence, we must delve into the man’s record. Bijukchhe was the first politician to criticize the Seven Party Alliance (SPA)’s 12-point agreement with the Maoists during King Gyanendra’s direct rule.
Of course, Bijukchhe sounded a little disingenuous at the beginning, especially since his party is part of the SPA. But the man’s underlying objection was to the notion of selling out national sovereignty in the name of restoring democracy. Almost two years later, that has become the defining trepidation of the nation.
Ponder a little deeper and it becomes clear that Bijukchhe’s statement is no so much an assertion of India’s traditional hegemony in Nepal. It’s the creative ambiguity that New Delhi has perfected as it Nepal policy. Playing all sides of the Nepalese political field is something New Delhi inherited from the British Raj. What has changed recently is the domestic content of India’s imperatives.
While the Indian left, right and center have been conducting bilateral relations with fraternal organizations in Nepal, key institutions, too, seem to be anxious. Army Chief Gen. Rookmangad Katawal’s purported four-hour one-on-one with his Indian counterpart in Australia must count for something when opinion polls show the military as the most trusted institution in Nepal.
In all of this, Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee is in an unenviable position. In the end, he had to sneak into talks with King Gyanendra. But he couldn’t fold his sofa bed in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s bedroom. His Excellency’s narration of his palace confabulations at Baluwatar must have elicited more than loud snores from our premier.
The Indians are at a loss for good reason. China’s silence on Nepalese affairs has been as menacing as its increasingly candid statements. Washington, for its part, must have something up its sleeves, especially since James F. Moriarty has returned as ambassador to a country barely 25 kilometers away from where the Maoists had stoned his vehicle.
Ever creative in extending overtures, the Pakistanis scored points by becoming the first foreign government to commiserate with Nepalis during the recent devastating floods. The frequency with which Nepal figures on copy transmitted by the Islamic Republic News Agency and Prensa Latina makes you wonder how far stakeholders in our stability are spread out.
Coming back to the constituent assembly elections, many Nepalis believe the Indians have already drawn up the text the people’s representatives are supposed to draft. Maila Baje strongly disputes those reports. New Delhi already must have drawn up a couple of different drafts conforming to specific scenarios.