Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, having squandered much of the goodwill he came into office with, insists that he has been carrying his resignation letter in his pocket for quite a while. Responsibility for his failure to hand it in, according to the premier, lay elsewhere, however.
This while Dr. Bhattarai’s aides are letting it be known that the prime minister and Army Chief Gen. Gaurav Shamsher Rana share close views on Nepal’s geo-strategic location and India’s role within that.
Dr. Bhattarai’s nominal boss, United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has veered closer to Mohan Baidya, leader of the rival faction of the former rebels. Dahal, who has now openly flaunted his own prime ministerial ambitions, has begun virtually blaming Dr. Bhattarai for the party split.
Baidya, for his part, has joined CPN-UML leader Bam Dev Gautam and others in accusing Dr. Bhattarai of imperiling not merely the political gains of the last seven years but also Nepal’s sovereignty and independence. And these are just some of our many commies talking.
Superficially, at least, the Indians have shifted a bit. The new foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, openly acknowledges China’s arrival in South Asia as a matter of plain reality. This stance, coming as it does amid reports that Beijing and New Delhi might even be on the verge of devising a joint plan to stabilize Nepal, could be a benign development.
Or, as any adherent of the realist school of international relations would readily assert, this could just be India’s way of soothing China in South Asia as it forays deeper into the South China Sea.
If the Chinese and Indians do indeed have something up their sleeves to keep the Americans and Europeans out of Nepal, Maila Baje feels they must be waiting for the stars to align more propitiously. The logical pretense for both in the interim would be to exhort the domestic principals to work things out. The Chinese can easily rely on their much-vaunted tradition of non-interference, while the Indians can hope to make news by stating what should have been a given.
During President Ram Baran Yadav’s recent visit to Delhi, the Indian leadership almost uniformly contended that Nepalis had the primary responsibility for resolving their issues. Regardless of the nature of their edicts in private, the Indians had good reason for maintaining a palpable public posture of abstention.
The last time President Yadav was in India to seek a way out of the crisis, manifesting in the Madhav Kumar Nepal government’s prolonged caretaker status, Nepali parties surprisingly forged a deal under which Jhal Nath Khanal became prime minister. The perception that Khanal owed his ascendance to Beijing’s active mediation then – and thereby earning India’s displeasure – was strengthened when Khanal left office becoming the only post-2006 premier not to have been invited to visit India.
Professions of active neutrality this time were clearly – if not solely – aimed at being able to maintain the initiative, should such an ‘indigenous’ deal have emerged during President Yadav’s absence this time as well. As for President Yadav, he returned to a nation that is finding it harder by the day not to see him as part of the problem.