Sunday, May 06, 2012

Isn’t It A Little Late To Be Outraged?

The presence of Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad and a top Indian intelligence operative at the meeting of Nepali parties that led to the agreement to create the ‘national’ government has prompted a predictable outcry.
Criticism of what is undoubtedly a flagrant breach of political and diplomatic propriety has come from two quarters. The first groups those who supported the post-April 2006 political momentum, only to regret our inexorable slide in foreign machinations. Those in the second group, in fairness, were by conviction opposed to this political experiment from the outset but had chosen to remain quiet.
Maila Baje feels it is difficult to draw a moral equivalence between these two sets of people, but the reality remains that both are late in their professions of outrage.
This is perhaps the last chance for the external drivers of the 12-Point Agreement who saw the alliance of the mainstream parties and the Maoist rebels as the best substitute for the monarchy they had deemed beyond irksome. The agenda crafted in New Delhi was fraught with danger, but considered well worth pursuing. From the Indians’ perspective, they had restored to the monarchy in 1951 the political powers that had been usurped a century earlier. Instead of demonstrating eternal gratitude, successive monarchs were perceived as having been consumed by nothing short of anti-Indianism.
During the winter and spring of 2005-2006, not all Indian constituencies were persuaded by this line of thinking. But they adhered to the 12-Point framework in view of the prevailing wider geo-strategic environment.
Over time, the most enthusiastic Indian drivers of the ongoing experiment have been frustrated by the foolhardiness of their projections. The Maoists did not become a mere adjunct to the main political parties after competitive elections. The mainstream political parties could not recover from their legacy of internal fragmentation amid an endless blame game. In the end, the political process could not stabilize in the way that could advance India’s interests.
In their quest to counter Chinese influence, little did the Indians appreciate the coldness of Beijing’s pragmatism in responding to political developments. Nor could they appreciate generally the Cold War-era lesson that the interests of extra-regional forces that supported democracy and openness in Nepal could still clash so conspicuously with those of India.
Whether the more hardened critics of India’s deepening involvement in Nepali affairs fully grasped the long-term implications of the 12-Point experiment remains unclear. Still, this becomes immaterial because they simply failed to articulate their genuine concerns then. Admittedly, it would have been hard for these men and women to go against the prevailing tide and defend the royal takeover of February 1, 2005. Still, the circumstances leading up to the event were clear to all.
Ordinarily sane minds were silenced by their own lack of courage to point out that Nepal’s second experiment with democracy had imploded not because of some congenital authoritarian streak in a new monarch but because of the collective failure of the principal stakeholders. Their inability to articulate in time that the much-vaunted People’s Movement II was merely aimed against autocratic monarchy and at restoring popular representative government was bound to extract a price sooner or later.
So today, as the 12-Point experiment stands on the brink, it is but natural that the Indians have stepped in dramatically to defend the validity of that course of action. If a constitution of some kind is not promulgated by May 27, many Nepalis will point their fingers at the hopelessness of the 12-Point Agreement itself. If, on the other hand, a constitution is promulgated but cannot go on to win requisite approval at the popular level, the smudginess of Indian fingerprints – rather than the impossibility of anyone really being able to fulfill all these genuine and manufactured grievances – will be blamed.
Hoping against hope, if the experiment works, well, the Indians know they will be the last ones to get any kind of credit. So, at this point, why should they care about diplomatic propriety?