Nepal is again in news. After gaining prominence in 2005 and finally becoming Prime Minister in 2008, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Comrade Prachanda, Chairman, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), finally stepped down on 4 April 2009 after a spat with the country's President Ram Baran Yadav over the issue of the sacking of Army Chief Gen Rukmangad Katawal.
The drama started to unfold at 9:30 am on 3 May when a high-level meeting of five coalition partners was held at the prime minister's residence. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML), the second largest party in the coalition, and Sadbhavana walked out of the meeting. At 10:15 am, Lt General Kul Bahadur Khadka met with the prime minister. Later at 11 am, Gen Katawal met with the Prime Minister. At 12 pm, the cabinet sacked Katawal. Later at 10:30 PM, President Yadav sent an order by facsimile to Gen Katawal, urging him to continue. Finally on 4 May, Prachanda resigned.
Nepal watchers believe Prachanda’s move is a calculated one, aimed at long-term gains for Maoists. It is to prevent themselves from getting discredited in the eyes of the people if the drama over the sacking were to continue. Prachanda wanted to induct former Maoist rebels into the Nepal Army but was opposed by Gen Katawal. He reinstated 8 generals who were earlier offered superannuation by the Maoist administration. He has been seen as a person who fought with Maoists for years and someone who is close to India. Prachanda was under tremendous pressure from his cadre to remove Gen Katawal so that Moaists could slowly take over the army and establish their declared objective of 'New Democracy’ (leftist hegemony). This would have paved the way for Prachanda to openly join hands with China, the country Prachanda was supposed to visit on 2 May (the trip was called off due to the present crisis).
Nepal's Maoists leaning towards China and distancing the country from India is not a new phenomenon. Maoists have always been close to China due to a shared ideology. On 4 February 1996, just a year after the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), following a split in the Communist Party of Nepal-Unity Centre, they submitted a memorandum listing 40 demands to then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba under the heading "Concerning nationality". The following demands were made through the memorandum:
- All discriminatory treaties, including the 1950 Nepal-India Treaty, should be abrogated;
- The so-called Integrated Mahakali Treaty concluded on 29 January 1996 should be repealed immediately, as it is designed to conceal the disastrous Tanakpur Treaty and allows Indian imperialist monopoly over Nepal's water resources;
- The open border between Nepal and India should be regulated, controlled and systematised. All vehicles with Indian licence plates should be banned from Nepal;
- The Gurkha/Gorkha Recruitment Centres should be closed. Nepali citizens should be provided dignified employment in the country;
- Nepali workers should be given priority in different sectors. A 'work permit' system should be strictly implemented if foreign workers are required in the country;
- The domination of foreign capital in Nepali industries, business and finance should be stopped;
- An appropriate customs policy should be devised and implemented so that economic development helps the nation become self-reliant;
- The invasion of imperialist and colonial culture should be banned. Vulgar Hindi films, videos and magazines should be immediately outlawed;
- The invasion of colonial and imperial elements in the name of NGOs and INGOs should be stopped.
Further, the Maoists of Nepal, with the help of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), have been attempting to establish links with Naxalite groups such as the PWG and the MCC by using the Siliguri corridor in West Bengal. Media reports of 29 December 2002 indicated that three members of a Maoist-affiliate, All Nepal National Free Students' Union-Revolutionary, were arrested at a Siliguri bus station while on their way to Bihar to attend a meeting convened by the PWG. These acts show the presence of Maoists at the helm in Nepal. It's now a Red Nepal, fraught with implications for India. It’s time the Government of India took stock of the situation and prepared itself for an unfavourably placed northern neighbour.
The writer is a Mysore-based student of civil engineering
- Deepak Thapa, ed., Understanding the Maoist Movement of Nepal, Kathmandu, Martin Chautari, 2003, pp. 391, First published in Dr Baburam Bhattarai's "Barta Ra Tatkalin Rajnaitik Nikasko Prashna", Kathmandu: Publication Department, Special Central Command, CPN (Maoist), Fagun 2059 BS
- South Asian Terrorism Portal