Sunday, March 29, 2009

Of Executioners And Eunuchs

When Unified Marxist-Leninist Chairman Jhal Nath Khanal called the United Maoists a crowd of executioners for killing Youth Force district member Prachanda Man Thaiba in Butwal, one couldn’t wait for the former rebels to respond. Almost dutifully, Finance Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai dismissed his party’s senior coalition partner as a band of eunuchs.
Traditionally, the UML has been quite creative in defining its adversaries. What made the latest outburst interesting was that it came from the man the Maoists considered their greatest friend in the UML. (The former rebels consider Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam a fellow Maoist in all but name.)
The Nepali Congress is not buying into this sudden splurge of bad blood between our Reds. But, then, it needs to stake out some position as the real opposition. And, more importantly, deflect attention from its own contribution to bringing about this situation.
The Maoists considered Khanal’s election as UML chairman as something of their own triumph. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal still seems unfazed. Even at the height of the flare-up, he felt confident enough to embark on a European trip. Khanal, for his part, subsequently revised his threat to pull out of the government. Like the Nepali Congress, the UML will vigorously oppose the Maoists’ “atrocities”.
Tragic as Thaiba’s murder was, Khanal’s reaction stood in sharp contrast to the UML’s stand on 13,000 the Maoists killed during the insurgency. (Yes all of them, since the insurgents brought out the army by attacking the barracks in Dang.) Like most of the political establishment, the UML cheered the Maoists for taking up arms in the name of the people.
A single death, Stalin famously said, is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. But Khanal cannot be dismissed as your regular Stalinist. He believes ancient Nepal was an amalgamation of republics that were true democracies long before the Greeks sat in contemplation. The UML chief wants to make sure Nepal gets its rightful place in the world’s universities and academies as the real designer of democracy. For him, the Maoists are impeding that grand mission.
It is tempting to view Dr. Bhattarai’s characterization of the UML within his understanding of the evolution of Maoism amid Nepal’s geopolitical realities. In ancient China, castration was a traditional punishment before it became a means of gaining employment in the Imperial service. At the height of the Ming Dynasty, there were some 3,000 eunuchs in the service of the emperor. Some eunuchs amassed power surpassing that of top officials. The notion that eunuchs were less likely to capture power and establish their own dynasty precisely because they were incapable of having children gained ground in the imperial court.
Since that’s not a connotation that would suit Dr. Bhattarai, our search for meaning must change directions. Imperial households in India employed eunuchs as servants for female royalty. They could live and work among women sparking fewer worries. While most eunuchs served as support personnel like messengers, watchmen and guards, some wielded enough influence to become part of the court’s council of advisers.
Since this legacy, too, has an affirmative resonance, one must consider the word Dr. Bhattarai used, hijara, in contemporary connotation down south. Clad in saris and wearing heavy make-up, hijaras typically live in the margins of society. But they work in the mainstream. They gatecrash weddings, births, shop openings and other major family celebrations, complete with harmoniums and drums, singing and dancing until they are paid to go away.
This analogy becomes more fitting, as, in the Maoists’ view, the UML has not been able to make up its mind whether it is a ruling or opposition party. (A malady, one might add, the party has suffered from in every coalition government it has joined.)
But one must not ignore the full picture. One reason hijaras get their way at public ceremonies is because the organizers believe their presence brings good luck. The corollary? Many fear the curse of an unpropitiated eunuch, not to speak of an enraged one.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ruse Behind The Rants?

Given the assortment of angles from which Finance Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai continues to appraise the motives and methods of our Delhi sojourners, it’s clear the architect in him is very much alive.
The enigma surrounding Girija Prasad Koirala’s presence in the Indian capital has no doubt energized Dr. Bhattarai into plotting hugely revealing sectional views every other day. The Nepali Congress chief, who supposedly was part of a design to crown a kid, returned without holding his scheduled meetings with Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (Some now believe the grand old man really went on that trip in preparation for the enthronement of daughter Sujata as chief of the Koirala clan – and, by definition, the Nepali Congress.)
Dr. Bhattarai was in no position to elaborate on the activities of Gyanendra Shah, since the former king has largely stuck to his pre-departure itinerary. The “political” meetings were not unanticipated. You can’t expect him to lose longtime acquaintances just because he lost his crown. As if to make up for the normally garrulous Indian media’s lack of specificity, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood has asked us not to read too much into Mr. Shah’s visit. (As if Sood would tell us if any serious moves on a Grand Restoration were really afoot.)
Koirala may now use the Delhi visit to ease his party’s way into the cabinet in the interest of ensuring that the new constitution comes out on time. If Sujata were to join as deputy premier, the Maoists would make the obligatory noises. Most, however, would recognize it an insurance policy. No wonder Dr. Bhattarai has zeroed in on the Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML). The party has changed its tune since the Delhi visit, the finance minister said the other day.
Obviously, he wasn’t talking about Bam Dev Gautam, who must have raised some hackles down south by urging China to step into the Kalapani dispute. (If, indeed, Gautam wasn’t actually testing the waters for South Block.) Granted, Dr. Bhattarai’s own relations with Gautam remain disagreeable since the protocol row and the cultural funding brouhaha of last year. But the Maoist leader is too experienced a wordsmith not to recognize the futility of assailing Gautam on this one.
Dr. Bhattarai has trained his guns on Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, the man who lost the election for UML chief but purportedly controls much of the party apparatus. Amid the impressive showing by the UML’s student wing during the university elections, the finance minister can be expected to raise the level of intra-Red vitriol.
In this entire affair, though, it’s Dr. Bhattarai’s own antecedents that have made matters interesting. It took then king Gyanendra’s takeover in February 2005 for Maoist supremo Prachanda to de-purge Dr. Bhattarai and depute him to negotiate with the seven parties on an anti-palace alliance. Dr. Bhattarai insists the 12-point agreement was the Maoists’ brainchild. Maybe so. Or perhaps the Manmohan Singh government considered it prudent enough to pay lip service to his allies on the left and really expect to tame the Naxals by tarnishing our Maoists in the mainstream? A leading Maoist sympathizer, Gen. Ashok K. Mehta, suggested just the other day that India didn’t have the wildest dream of a Maoist-led government assuming office. (Chinese cooption of the one-time “anti-government bandits” must have been the farthest thing from the general’s rapid eye movements.)
Dr. Bhattarai has probably calculated that New Delhi couldn’t afford to upset the Maoist apple cart at this juncture. The former rebels may have lost much of their appeal during their years in the public eye. What our finance minister knows is that Delhi doesn’t know how the Chinese might react. If the Maoists happen to go down without a fight, the episode would be more of a commentary on China’s staying power than that of the former rebels.
But why this sudden urge on the part of Dr. Bhattarai to distance himself from India? To be fair, he started off his ministerial duties by blaming the open border with India as a key reason for Nepal’s eternal backwardness. Narayan Kaji Shrestha’s arrival may have expanded the Maoist tent but it seems to have crowded out Dr. Bhattarai from the southern lobby’s turf. Any way, if that other illustrious doctor-politico, K.I. Singh, could return from self-exile in China reinventing himself as pro-Indian, why should Dr. Bhattarai’s conversion seem unnatural? (As senior vice-chairman of the royal regime, Dr. Tulsi Giri’s prior self-exile in Bangalore didn’t seem to have reshaped his views on India, one might add.)
But there’s still that other nagging question. Could Dr. Bhattarai’s rants really be a ruse to deflect attention from that cabinet letter Deputy Premier Gautam supposedly carried to Delhi? Who are the two men, one wonders, enjoying the most plausible deniability here?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From the archive: NC’s Monarchy Machinations

If anything, the Nepali Congress has reaffirmed its status as – well – a true status-quo party. The district chiefs of the country’s pre-eminent – some would say only – democratic party had assembled in Kathmandu to hear their president enunciate a clear line on the monarchy ahead of the constituent assembly elections. What they got from Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala instead was a theorization of the fuzziness that has passed for party policy for the past year.
“A republic should be established in the country gradually by removing the king’s power,” the Nepali Congress president told his befuddled supporters. “A republic cannot be achieved in just a decision – whether that of mine or any other political parties.” A big fat no to the Maoists’ demand that the interim legislature announce the abolition of the monarchy. (Not to be outdone, UML chief Madhav Kumar Nepal chose precisely this time to rubbish rumors of a broader republican front with the Maoists.)
The idea of inflicting a slow and painful death on the monarchy is not new. Stratfor, the Texas-based intelligence agency, had expounded on that option during the height of the April Uprising. In its Geopolitical Diary titled “Countdown to a Coup in Nepal?” on April 18, 2006, the private-sector equivalent of the CIA had said: “Recognizing that Nepal’s fate depends primarily on the mindset of its generals, India’s attention likely is fixated now on the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). Senior army officials feel that New Delhi, formerly one of its chief suppliers, ditched the army when it cut off military aid to Nepal following the royal takeover.”
India might begin to draw the SPA away from the Maoists with the promise of RNA backing to topple the monarchy, the Stratfor Nepal desk had postulated. Evidently, that promise does not seem to have been forthcoming, as evidenced by the royal salute the military gave at Dakshinkali. So the Nepali Congress has been left with making peace with the palace via the generals.
Despite the brouhaha over Gen. Rukmangad Katuwal’s purported meeting with King Gyanendra the other day, that prospect doesn’t seem as implausible as it sounds. More so in light of the Nepali Congress’ own history.
After the 1951 Delhi Compromise, the dominant section in the party began hating King Tribhuvan when he appointed as premier Matrika Prasad Koirala – the “dictator” of the anti-Rana revolution – instead of B.P. When Tribhuvan reappointed Matrika Babu after a spell of direct rule, the Nepali Congress had reason to be livid. The eldest Koirala had formed his own Rastriya Praja Party. 
So B.P. & Co. focused their attention on Crown Prince Mahendra, who had emerged as the de facto ruler amid his father’s failing health. The Nepali Congress mouthpiece hailed a letter from Mahendra, still regent, supporting the party’s demands for the early election of a constituent assembly and an independent judiciary as the Magna Carta of Nepal.
Why did B.P. Koirala agree to abandon the demand for constituent assembly elections in exchange for legislative polls under a constitution gifted by the king? Was it because the Nepali Congress saw this as the only way of advancing the process of democratization? Or was B.P. really influenced by the lukewarm public support for his civil disobedience campaign as well as his party’s dismal showing in municipal elections held in Kathmandu?
Regardless, that shift helped the Nepali Congress, which won a two-thirds majority in Nepal’s first elections in 1959. Impressive as that mandate undoubtedly was, we do need to recognize that the vote was staggered over 45 days. More relevant to our inquiry, the results from constituencies that had voted earlier had been available long before other Nepalis had cast their ballots.
Once the verdict came in, King Mahendra didn’t want B.P. Koirala as premier. If he had some personality issues with B.P, he certainly wasn’t alone. Dilli Raman Regmi had already christened B.P. as the new oligarch when he was home minister in the Rana-led government. It is also important to recall that a sizeable section in the Nepali Congress agreed that B.P. did not have an automatic claim to the premiership.
In fairness, it should be pointed out that King Mahendra had been expressing his distrust in political parties and politicians long before he sacked the Koirala government. Moreover, people like Tanka Prasad Acharya and K.I. Singh had been calling for the ouster of the Koirala government on account of policy issues (or at least they framed it as such).
It’s easy to see the December 1960 move as a conspiracy hatched by an autocratic monarch. That doesn’t explain why at least 55 of the 74 elected Nepali Congress MPs in the lower house should subsequently have joined the palace-led Panchayat system.
After that blow, the Nepali Congress still couldn’t make up its mind on the monarchy. It tried to assassinate King Mahendra in Janakpur but did not lose hope in an eventual overture from the monarch. The party’s hopes of becoming a catalyst of and beneficiary from the political elevation of Prince Basundhara – King Mahendra’s colorful and supposedly more liberal younger half brother – evaporated with the Sino-Indian war two years later.
King Mahendra eventually freed B.P. Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh after eight years in prison only after they signed a pledge of loyal cooperation with the palace. Exile came months later when it became clear the palace wasn’t about to restore Koirala to power.
King Mahendra’s death, weeks after the “liberation” of Bangladesh allowed the Nepali Congress to moderate its stance on the monarchy. That wait for a phone call from western-educated King Birendra proved too excruciating. So B.P. warned of a Bangladesh-like military action. The implications were so apparent to New Delhi that it had to issue a formal statement dissociating itself from B.P.’s comment. The party mounted another assassination bid, this time on King Birendra in Biratnagar, and hijacked a Royal Nepal Airlines flight, stealing millions of rupees it was carrying. (And widening fissures in the party, we are told, because the Koiralas kept all the loot.)
In 1976, B.P. Koirala’s national reconciliation slogan provided a cover for India, Nepal and the Nepali Congress to address an untenable situation: Koirala’s exile. Almost three years later, student protests forced King Birendra to announce a referendum on the future of the Panchayat system. When the verdict came in favor of partylessness, B.P. Koirala stunned his party and country by accepting it. But, then, long before that Koirala had been assuring relatives that he expected to become prime minister by 1980.
That hope lived on. Koirala wanted to contest the 1981 Rastriya Panchayat elections. There must be a good reason why he couldn’t for once overrule Ganesh Man Singh and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. B.P.’s death left the party in deeper confusion vis-à-vis the palace.
After People’s Movement I, Ganesh Man Singh had actually urged King Birendra to head the interim government. The king felt compelled to point out the incongruity of that request considering all that had happened over the previous weeks. Once the Constitution of 1990 – the best in the world accord to its architects – was promulgated, the Nepali Congress couldn’t stop extolling King Birendra as the model constitutional monarch. Ganesh Man Singh found it convenient to denounce Girija Prasad Koirala’s government as being worse than its Panchayat predecessors.
Singh was the least of Koirala’s woes. During the climax of the Tanakpur imbroglio, visiting Prime Minister Narasimha Rao barely concealed his desire to hold the real and substantive talks with King Birendra over “quiet dinner.” The S.D. Munis, too, had begun to recognize the cost of mentoring Koirala so brazenly in public. And President Shankar Dayal Sharma? In his banquet speech in King Birendra’s honor, the Indian president had space for a sentence on King Mahendra, but none on the supposed triumph of people power.
In a bout of revisionism, we discovered that King Birendra wasn’t really what we were told he was. After King Gyanendra took over power in October 2002, Ram Chandra Poudel recounted overhearing Birendra mocking politicians in a group of non-politicians. Of course, Poudel didn’t bother to explain how he found himself as the only pol within earshot of the royals.
But there were telltale signs beyond the palace’s refusal to deploy the military against the Maoists. For instance, the robust exchange that took place between the monarch and premier over the shabby state of the VVIP restroom during that extended welcoming ceremony for Mongolian President Bagabandi. (The government had forgotten to inform the palace that the dignitary’s flight had been delayed several hours.)
Prime Minister Koirala was too busy up until the afternoon of the Narayanhity Massacre explaining how he eagerly looked forward to becoming a truly free head of government. Deputy Premier Poudel could have made a greater contribution to historical inquiry by shedding light on Crown Prince Dipendra’s studious opposition to the importation of those Heckler & Koch GmbH assault weapons for the military. That contract, one might add, was a greater life-and-death issue to the extended Koirala family than the Lauda Air accord could ever become. And perhaps Poudel could explain how a royal relative happened to be the only candidate denied advancement in the police department he oversaw as home minister.
From Day One, King Gyanendra turned out to be quite shrewd in dealing with Koirala. The premier, palpably perplexed by the unspoken “request” not to take the traditional ride on the royal carriage to the palace after the new monarch’s enthronement, seemed to get the message. He emerged with a tonsure after many ordinary Nepalis were already struggling with their scalps trying to pull on or off their undershirts.
To pre-empt Koirala’s non-cooperation, King Gyanendra, we are told, cited the location and registration numbers of the bullet-proof Mercedes he wanted to use for the daily Nirmal Niwas-Narayahity drives during the yearlong mourning period.
The monarch nominated four members to the upper house in time for the 1pm news on Radio Nepal, long before the scheduled 4pm consultations in which the premier was expected to present loyalists as candidates. The rest, as they [should] say, is a history of power struggles with all permutations and combinations.
The mainstreaming of the Maoists has injected a new dynamic into the Nepali Congress’ survival strategy. The whole argument about the interim legislature not being empowered to declare a republic is hogwash. If the ruling elite didn’t need any sense of constitutionalism to secularize the country or to democratize the military why should it feel constrained to exercise powers the second amendment to the interim constitution already envisages through the interim legislature? Prominent Nepali Congress allies in academia, such as Professor Lok Raj Baral, are among those vociferously raising this question.
Clearly, the Nepali Congress’ stand on the monarchy is conditioned by its proximity and ability to exercise full power. And who better to articulate this truism than that man who has been at the center of every political movement since those workers at Biratnagar Jute Mills rose up against the Ranas?

Originally posted on Monday, May 7, 2007

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Delhi Compromise Redux?

Call it the wolf crier’s woe. Each time the Maoists warn us that reactionaries may be plotting something sinister in New Delhi, the admonition rings emptier. It shouldn’t have been this way. Not when it looks like the itineraries of former king Gyanendra, Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, CPN-UML leader K.P. Sharma Oli and Rastriya Janashakti Party chief Surya Bahadur Thapa will partially overlap in the Indian capital soon. The rumor mill is grinding faster and harder for the Maoists to bear.
Our former rebels are doubly aggrieved. They can’t shame their rivals – regardless of the individual stripes they come in – for courting New Delhi, since their own rise to power began there. (Not to mention the murderous momentum the insurgency gained once the commissars were safely snuggled across the southern border.) For the average Nepali, the Maoists’ rants resemble more of a ploy to divert attention from the government’s ineffectiveness than a prologue to catastrophe.
Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai, arguably the most India-friendly personification of a Maoist, is leading the effort to explain the putative peril. The ex-king wants to install his grandson on the throne, he’s been telling us almost every day. It’s interesting that this illumination should come from the very man who, quite late in the day, had all but supported the retention of a “cultural” monarchy.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has belatedly used the new-palace-massacre-probe card to ward off calamity. The ex-king dared the new power brokers to reopen the case the day he vacated the palace. If Dahal’s real target is New Delhi, then the Indians don’t seem too worried about what the Maoists might be able to add to the geopolitical conspiracy Dr. Bhattarai so famously laid out days after the carnage. What does seem to worry the Indians is Beijing’s version of the tragedy which the Maoists are most likely to mouth. (Professor Wang Hongwei had barely touched the surface the last time he spoke on the matter.)
Having nurtured a broad set of policies on Nepal, New Delhi can spring one up effortlessly in keeping with – to borrow one of Dr. Bhattarai’s favorite terms – the ground realities. The hardline republican camp advising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before and after the April 2006 uprising got its chance and squandered it. A new peace and friendship treaty between Nepal and China was not what the Indians had envisaged in the post-monarchy setup.
The anti-monarchy camp in New Delhi had won over the skeptics by advancing a larger imperative: blunting their own Naxalite insurgency by pushing our Maoists into the mainstream. Exposing the Maoists as a clumsy conglomeration of perpetual malcontents was therefore part of the package. The cunning Maoists embraced the Chinese as an insurance policy. But the crafty mandarins got the better deal. The Maoists have veered too closely to Beijing. Or, in fairness to our ex-rebels, the Chinese have clutched the Maoists too hard – and more.
The Chinese got their candidate elected as UML chief. If Jhalnath Khanal ends up subverting the Maoist government, Beijing can still expect to have a friendly premier/government. But that’s not the whole story. The Chinese stepped on Indian turf by cozying up with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. They had sent a delegation of observers to the party convention whose ranks stunned the MJF leadership. Matrika Yadav, as we all know, reorganized the Maoist party after returning from Beijing with a confidence that a million séances at Mao’s mausoleum could not have instilled.
Meanwhile, the parallel peace process probed previously in this space has continued apace. The army’s suggestion that a referendum be held on crucial national issues stems from Gen. Rukmangad Katuwal’s visit to India last year. Should the constituent assembly fail to produce a new basic law within a reasonable time, reactivation of the Constitution of 1990 becomes a likelier possibility. But the clock is already ticking.
The fact that the ex-monarch set out on his India trip now may have little relevance in view of the occasion. If the political content is to be pursued, then the timing does merit greater attention. Gyanendra Shah chose not to attend Arjun Singh’s grandson’s wedding (with Devyani Rana, one might add), where he was expected to have met Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi et al. So what has changed? Surely, not merely the fact that he has lost his crown?
Does the ex-king feel he can more comfortably explain that the “China card” he supposedly flaunted at the Dhaka SAARC summit was not something that came out of personal animosity toward India? Could the current political context be considered more congenial for Indians to comprehend the compulsions on the royal regime emanating from the north?
As for the “baby king” concept, the palace consistently rebuffed it when it was better placed to institutionalize it. Does the ex-monarch feel he has finally convinced all concerned that he would be the best person to act as regent? (For a monarch who has endured far worse calumny than his ancestor Rana Bahadur Shah did in his time, the parallels keep getting curiouser, don’t they?)
India, for its part, may want to establish how the monarchy ended up becoming the worst victim of Beijing’s cuddle in order to deter the Maoists and future “mischief makers”. The Chinese have certainly given the Indians enough ground here. In a major symbolic act, China’s ambassador Zheng Xianglin became the first envoy to present his credentials outside the palace. The new Chinese ambassador, Qiu Guohong, was compelled to concede that kings Mahendra, Birendra and Gyanendra had contributed much toward consolidating bilateral ties.
It may yet be imprudent to conclude that Beijing’s symbolism has worked against it. Matrika Yadav, after all, was rumored to have met former crown prince Paras for consultations before returning home from China. And then there is the Cambodian analogy. Pragmatism is an all-encompassing tenet of policy making.
So a deposed monarch, a Koirala and the Indian National Congress have been arrayed in formation. Can a new Delhi Compromise be crafted without the chief of the Nepalese government of the day? This may be where a Matrika enters to complete the picture.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

... The Sincerest Form Of Diplomacy?

Imitation may or may not be the sincerest form of flattery in the Nepali context, but it sure does seem to have become an earnest form of diplomacy. At least, as it pertains to recent Chinese dealings with post-monarchy Nepal.
Last year, when the new Chinese ambassador, Qiu Guohong, began political consultations even before he had presented his credentials to President Ram Baran Yadav, it wasn’t quite clear that Indian diplomacy had won over the mandarins up north. But when the Chinese submitted a draft of a peace and friendship treaty to a government under siege from royalists and the Nepali Congress, New Delhi must have been thrown back to 1950.
China’s professions of opening its borders with Nepal didn’t seem to give the Indians any premonitions, considering the confidence with which the external affairs secretary lobbed the 1950-treaty-review ball in our court.
Like Mohan Shamsher Rana, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal probably sees some merit in trying to diversify his options. Now that engagement with the Americans is back on track, and the Gurkha recruitment issue sorted out with the British, Dahal should have found the going a little easy. But the dragon just can’t stop breathing fire down his throat. The latter-day Ranas had a far better deal from the north. Once they burned their fingers trying to claim suzerainty over Nepal, Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists spurned our oligarchs, bequeathing the vassalage viewpoint to Mao Zedong.
From the manner in which Dahal’s Beijing visit keeps being delayed, one wonders whether there is some serious haggling going on – a la King Gyanendra’s India non-trip in 2004. For now, Dahal has flashed his bona fides by clamped down on the Tibetans. The Chinese embassy perimeter and the Xinhua news agency offices have been declared protest-free zone. (Journos with CD plates, still?)
Yeah, yeah, the imperatives of the 50th anniversary of the abortive Lhasa uprising sound momentous. But China braved the worst last year when it had to preserve the Beijing Olympics at all costs and still prove its determination to hold on to Tibet. This March, in all likelihood, will be far less tumultuous. The protests escalate, Beijing cracks down, western governments and human rights groups cry foul. Everybody goes home, right?
Not quite. The Dalai Lama is becoming biologically less tenable with every year he lives in exile. His flock in exile is up in arms over the path of peaceful resistance. Newsweek has anointed the Karmapa Lama as the man to watch. The Shigatse-Lhasa power struggle compounded by the Red and Yellow sect rivalry helped Beijing in the past.
Whether or not the Karmapa Lama, who fled Tibet via Nepal while we were still railing against Zee TV’s coverage of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacking, is really a Chinese agent – as some allege – Beijing feels it is on the right side of geography. Considering the massive influx of Hans settlers over the decades, the Chinese would have loved to invite the United Nations to hold a plebiscite and settle the matter for good. But it just can’t set a precedent for Xinjiang, can it?
Consider the fallout of China’s assertiveness. Former king Gyanendra is in India three years after he angered New Delhi by flaunting the China card. It took King Birendra roughly the same time to patch up with New Delhi after the arms-import brouhaha brought about the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990.
But let’s not forget that Birendra was still a constitutional monarch and India had moved three prime ministers away from the man whose breakfast invitation he had declined because he felt he would be uncomfortable in the restricted company of the Bhutanese and Maldivian heads of state.
Gyanendra Shah has lost his crown and the man he supposedly snubbed during the Dhaka SAARC summit by forcing China’s induction as an observer as the price for Afghanistan’s full membership is still prime minister of India. The Maoists believe the ex-king is trying to regain his crown, throne, scepter and much more. Maybe Dr. Manmohan Singh is just anxious to review the minutes of that meeting with an ordinary Nepali citizen.
As for the Sino-Nepali draft treaty, we have no clue as to what it might really entail. So forget about prying into any secret letters that might be exchanged in Beijing during Dahal’s upcoming trip. Still, does the prospect of Chinese military officers manning our border with India really seem that far-fetched?