Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just Trying To Have A Conversation

Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna left it to his ministry mandarins to release the details of his talks with Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The upshot: the ex-rebels must back off from their patriotic fervor if they want to preserve their friendship down south.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Dahal didn’t take it quite lying down. The Maoist chief would probably let out his version of what transpired in bits and piece over the next phases of his campaign to save the nation. In the meantime, here’s what Maila Baje could conjure up from the picture:

Krishna: It’s been quite a couple of weeks, hasn’t it?

Dahal: Sure it has. But, come on, let’s get straight to the point.

Krishna: What is it that really peeves you folks? You’re all the same. We do everything to help you out and all we get is escalating ingratitude.

Dahal: Help who? If you’re talking about us, let’s get the facts straight. You wanted us to help your lackeys in the Nepali Congress and UML to clobber the king. Could they have done that on their own? But you weren’t about to fool us either. Sure, we needed a safe landing. And, boy, didn’t we get it on our terms.

Krishna: But what about us? Don’t you owe your life and limbs to us? If we could get your two key comrades from a nursing home and the airport, don’t you think we could have used your own people to rat you out?

Dahal: Well you didn’t, did you? And just in case you have any crazy ideas, I’ve raked up the Birendra-Madan Bhandari canard. Here I am today, so live with it.

Krishna: We could if you hadn’t been cozying up too closely with the Chinese. And that Mahara chap? Didn’t we help establish his global cred by connecting him with CNN’s Bindra a couple of years ago? Now he lectures us about how the Maoists’ current campaign is not anti-Indian?

Dahal: Quit complaining about the kid. He would have become communication minister in February 2005, if you guys hadn’t thwarted our deal with the palace. What did you tell Gyanendra that he ended up becoming his own prime minister while I was still waiting for the ride to Narayanhity to be sworn in?

Krishna: So you kowtow to the Chinese to get back at us – just like that?

Dahal: Kowtow, my foot. Do you know how hot and fast that dragon breathes down our necks? We, too, thought Gyanendra – and his brother and father before him – had this congenital streak that always wanted to tweak you. But, no, sir. Here I was trying to revise our reviled peace and friendship treaty with you folks. And the guys up north foist their own draft.

Krishna: So you expect us to believe the Chinese are calling the shots as far as you are concerned?

Dahal: It’s your call. But consider the timeline. Remember when I said at that conference in Delhi how I had refused Pakistani aid during the height of the insurgency? Everyone thought I was trying to appease you by bartering away friendship with a third country. Actually I was talking about a fourth. Do you think this whole Pakistani infiltration that you have been complaining about could have been possible without the Chinese. They ditched Birendra in 1990 only after they saw the ISI as a proxy. After I extended that olive branch in Delhi, you freed Mohan Baidya and C.P. Gajurel but then tried to subvert us every step of the way. What else could we have done?

Krishna: So what are you going to do about your latest crusade against us?

Dahal: You should sort it out with the Chinese. You do have some kind of strategic dialogue on Nepal, don’t you?

Krishna: But surely you could do something on your own, considering your fight for ‘national independence’.

Dahal: In exchange for what?

Krishna: Well, what do you want?

Dahal: Okay, here’s the deal. We are here today largely because we promised so much to so many of those who fought for us. The field commanders had already chosen their favorite rooms in Narayanhity. What else did we have going for them? Now the foot soldiers are growing restive. There will never be enough of anything to go around.

Krishna: Don’t beat around the bush…

Dahal: Pledge us your full and unconditional support in perpetuity and we will announce the final capture of state power. That way, I can cover my flank. And what have you got to lose? The Nepali Congress is on its deathbed, anyway. And the UML? It’s become the army’s party. When the army becomes ours, we’ll have the leaders and the cadres. We’ll let Baburam’s faction live and maybe even take turns in power.

Krishna: And the Chinese?

Dahal: Who else will they have?

Krishna: But support the Maoists in perpetuity? The world’s largest democracy can’t do that.

Dahal: But you did that with the 1950 treaty, didn’t you.

Krishna: That was because Chinese communists seized power in Beijing and said they would invade and occupy Tibet.

Dahal: Well they did that long ago and have come far closer since, haven’t they?

Krishna: I hear you. Let me fly home and talk it over. We’ll keep in touch.

Dahal: You gotta hurry up, though. My next trip to Hong Kong could come up any moment. Maybe even before your army chief lands. And, just to recap, should I fall to a disaffected ex-loyalist or anyone else, the blood is still going to be on your hands.