Thursday, February 03, 2005

NEPAL: Analysis - The King and the Maoists

+ Are these the actions of a ruler confident of his position in the country or are these the actions of a King, desperate and nervous about his own hold in the country? Are these the actions taken by the King in his own volition or were these dictated by the Army? Was this a coup by the King or by the Army using the King as a facade or by both acting in tandem and complicity? Difficult to say at present. +


by B.Raman

"The King strikes,' headlined the "New Indian Express" of Chennai its story on the coup staged by King Gyanendra of Nepal after sacking his own hand-picked stooge Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on February 1,2005.

2. A more appropriate heading one cannot think of. Strike, he did, and with what vengeance! His coup resembled more those of the past in some countries of West Asia and Latin America than nearer home in Pakistan. Pakistani military dictators, even while seizing power, try to maintain at least a semblance of propriety, but not the King.

3. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet dismissed. State of emergency proclaimed. Fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of the media, suspended. Political leaders placed under house arrest. All electronic and road and air communications with the outside world cut off. Airport occupied by the Army. All internet service providers and online news services blocked etc etc.

4. The obvious purpose: To prevent his own people from getting in touch with the outside world and the outside world from getting in touch with his people. To prevent his political leaders from fleeing to India to take sanctuary and organising a resistance movement from there.

5. Are these the actions of a ruler confident of his position in the country or are these the actions of a King, desperate and nervous about his own hold in the country? Are these the actions taken by the King in his own volition or were these dictated by the Army? Was this a coup by the King or by the Army using the King as a facade or by both acting in tandem and complicity? Difficult to say at present.

6. For some months now, political instability in Nepal has been growing from bad to worse due to the uncontrolled and increasingly uncontrollable activities of the Maoists , who despite all official claims of decimation in their ranks, have been growing from strength to strength. Despite the reported flow of military assistance from India and the US, who have been keeping in close touch with each other in their efforts to strengthen the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency capabilities of the security forces, all the legendary valour and determination of the Gurkhas of the Army showed no signs of being able to prevail over the Maoists.

7. India has more reasons to be concerned over the likelihood of the success of the Maoists of Nepal than any other country. The Government of India and 13 States of the Indian Union have been struggling in vain for some years now to bring under control the spreading prairie fire of Maoism, fanned by Maoist groups operating under different names. Last year, there were no deaths due to the activities of jihadi terrorists in Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir, but there were more than 500 deaths due to the activities of Maoists. Mao and his Thoughts are proving more lethal in India than Osama bin Laden and his fatwas.

8. "China's Chairman is our Chairman", used to shout the Maoists of the 1960s. " Today's Chinese ruling clique is revisionist--- a pack of capitalists under the communist garb," believe the Maoists of today in Nepal and India. Mao's Thoughts may have been given a decent burial in China, but not in Nepal and India. " Mao's Thoughts should be our Thoughts And We will make them once again the Thoughts of China Tomorrow" say the Maoists.

9. No wonder China seems to be as concerned over their activities as India and the US. At least India refrains from characterising them as terrorists, but the Maoists of Nepal allege that in their discussions with the Nepalese authorities the Chinese have been agreeing with their characterisation of the Maoists as terrorists. China has carefully refrained from criticising the King's coup, projecting it as Nepal's internal affairs.

10. But, there is a fear that what has been going on between China and the Maoists is just shadow-boxing and that Beijing would be the happiest were the Maoists to capture power in Nepal. That would give China a strategic thrust into the sub-continent and enable it to pose a three-fisted threat to India---directly from Tibet in the north and indirectly through its proxies in Pakistan and a Maoist Nepal.

11. It is, therefore, not in India's interests to let the Maoists succeed in capturing power through an armed struggle in Nepal. Hence, its reported military assistance to the Royal Nepal Army despite its reservations and concerns over the King's autocratic tendencies and erratic policies. The Maoists of Nepal also believe that India would never let them succeed in capturing power.

12. They project their armed struggle as a three-phased one---initially against the Police, which they claim to have already won; in the second stage, against the Royal Nepal Army, which is currently going on and which, they admit, is nowhere near victory; and, in the third and final phase, against the Indian Army. They believe that India would never accept a Maoist state in Nepal. Therefore, according to them, if they capture power in Kathmandu the Indian Army, with US blessing, would intervene to throw them out.

13. It is in this context that they want to keep the prairie fire of Maoism burning and spreading across India, to keep the Indian Security Forces preoccupied in putting out that fire in order to weaken their ability to intervene against them in Nepal. Hence their close linkages with their ideological counterparts in India.

14. India's counter-terrorism agencies have been more successful in dealing with the jihadi terrorists than with the Maoists. The jihadi terrorists have very little ideological support base in the Muslim community of India outside Jammu & Kashmir. Their pan-Islamic ideas and anti-culture attitude repulse the majority of the Muslims of India, a country where cultural and class consciousness is stronger than religious consciousness and where there are more Muslims acting, singing, dancing, writing dialogue and composing music in the film industry than in any other country of the world. Their music and dance electrify the Muslims of India and not the fatwas of bin Laden.

15. But, the Maoists have strong bases of ideological support in the tribal belt of India right across the land due to the years of economic and social injustice and sheer servitude to which the tribals have been subjected by feudal landlords and the so-called upper caste Hindus. These tribals, the poorest of the poor, are subject to double exploitation. By the feudal landlords and the so-called upper caste Hindus, with the complicity of the State, in order to suck them economically and by the educated leftist and Maoist ideologues, many of them from leading universities, who are trying to exploit the anger of the poor over their poverty and misery in order to use them as cannon-fodder in an armed Maoist struggle to capture power.

16. Political power is the primary motive force of the Maoist leaderships in Nepal and India. How to confront them, how to deny them the kind of support they are getting from the poor by abolishing the vestiges of social and economic injustice to which the poor are subjected and using an intelligent and sophisticated mix of the political, economic, social and law and order approaches are questions which need crying attention. But the political leadership and the policy-makers have not been able to come out with the right strategy so far.

17. The King of Nepal has blamed the political leadership for its failure to deal with the Maoists and pave the way for fresh elections. Yes, the political leadership was clueless, but so was he and his predecessor the late King Birendra. Neither of them had the intellectual depth to understand the Maoist problem, analyse it lucidly and work out a workable strategy. They were maliciously cunning, but not intelligent. Instead of helping the political leadership in its efforts to deal with the problem, they kept undermining them lest any success scored by them should strengthen the political class vis-a-vis the monarchy.

18. By 2000, it had become apparent that the Nepal Police had virtually lost its battle against the Maoists and that the Army had to be brought in to help the police and take over the leadership role in the counter-insurgency operations. The late King Birendra was reluctant to let the Army be used and the present King, while ostensibly allowing the use of the Army, refrained from giving the political leadership the required operational control to do so effectively.

19. The political leadership too cannot escape its share of responsibility for the mess in the country. While Nepal was burning and the King was playing his dirty games with the political leadership in order to divide and rule, different political leaders showed a remarkable lack of statesmanship. Instead of coming together in order to resist the advances of the Maoists on the one side and the steady encroachment of the King on democracy on the other, they kept indulging in what the French call "la politique politicienne", the politics of politicians and not of statesmen.

20. The result: The coup of February 1. The Maoists will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the coup and not the King, the political leadership or the people.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter.