Monday, January 14, 2008

Ex-Rebel Rehabilitation Red Flag

A key element of the debate on the rehabilitation former Maoist fighters has been overshadowed by the row over the creation of a national army. Among the sops Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s government has given ex-rebels is a pledge of special consideration for foreign employment.
Fine and dandy. But there is a problem. Which country in its right mind would want one-time murderous marauders in their midst? Of course, the government could keep out applicants’ antecedents in a genuine spirit of affirmative action. Would foreign governments be as magnanimous?
This issue becomes more important considering the prime markets of Nepalese labor. Malaysia has its own history of communist insurgency. With the row over Indians still hot, Kuala Lumpur would be hard-pressed to accept another headache.
South Korea is next door to the world’s last pristine communist outpost. South Koreans aren’t too keen about reunification in large part because of the economic costs of subsidizing their ill-fed and ill-read cousins. Ex-Maoists from Nepal ostensibly would be out of the question. Moreover, didn’t the South Koreans deport a Nepali for engaging in something far less unpalatable as trade unionism?
The Persian Gulf states can hardly be expected to be sanguine, either. The Saudis have their own Al Qaeda problem. They don’t need former Nepali insurgents who might volunteer their IED-building expertise but certainly not venture into Iraq to blow themselves up.
The sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates can’t be expected to raise an entire battalion of minders to monitor Nepali ex-rebels. Non-Maoist Nepalis already feature too frequently on the crime pages of Qatari and Kuwaiti newspapers. Bahrain and Oman are hardly oblivious.
The United States would have to withdraw the terrorist tag before the ex-Maoists can even be considered as visa applicants. (The Pentagon could mull using them against its Iraqi adversaries, but then who knows how deep anti-Americanism runs in our young men and women?)
The European Union may be more sympathetic in its outlook on Maoists as politicians, but didn’t France sit on Pampha Bhusal’s nomination as ambassador for so long that Prachanda & Co. had to send her to the cabinet?
The Japanese may be opening up the labor market to Nepalis, but they certainly haven’t forgotten their own mobs of mutineers drenched in the color red.
That leaves traditional employer India. The surge in the crime rate involving Nepali domestic workers in Indian cities would be inhibiting factor even in the best of times. With the Naxalites building that red corridor on a war footing, it would be hard to beat the SSB patrols on the border.