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Looking for a foreign hand

Recently,Nepal’s finance minister and a senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai asked leaders not to visit India and instead make indigenous...

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | April 10, 2009 12:19:28 am

Recently,Nepal’s finance minister and a senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai asked leaders not to visit India and instead make indigenous efforts to complete the constitution making process. Bhattarai’s appeal came at a time when leaders belonging to various parties as well as former King Gyanendra had undertaken the journey southward. But coming from someone perceived as India’s most trusted man in the Maoist party,the appeal has become a matter of intense speculation. Is it an indicator of growing distrust over India’s policy and attitude towards Nepal less than three years after it encouraged the Maoists and the pro-democracy parties to join hands on the anti-monarchy agenda and work together for peace and democracy?

And strange enough,Bhattarai’s sermon comes at a time when his hero and prime minister Prachanda is all set to make an official trip to China — his second in less than nine months — in the midst of the exchange of high level visits of the Maoists and Chinese groups in an unprecedented number — something that India is not at all comfortable about. The last few months of Maoist rule in Nepal has seen China’s level of presence and interest in Nepal going far beyond the Tibet issue. China is keen to sign a new treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal when the prime minister visits Beijing,most likely in early May. Experts say that as Nepal is passing through a far more unpredictable and unstable phase,China wants its enhanced role defined and legitimised. The projection of India as a factor of instability and the undue ‘beneficiary’ of Nepal’s resources,mainly hydro-power,apparently make Nepal’s tilt with China all the more desirable,

It’s both understandable and desirable that Nepali leaders’ visit to Delhi be ‘transparent’ and the legislature informed of any understanding reached there — a practice that was followed in the first 15 years of parliamentary democracy beginning in 1990,but one that has been given a go-bye since May 2006.

Prachanda has made it almost a routine matter to interact with ambassadors directly —bypassing his own foreign ministry —and not letting the country know about what transpires in such meetings. But Bhattarai has of late been trying to project India as at the heart of a renewed conspiracy to apply its leverage on Nepal . And restoring monarchy with Gyanendra’s 8-year old grandson as king and dislodging the Maoists from power are his oft repeated threat perceptions. In the Maoists world view,Monarchy and other non-Maoist political forces in Nepal are natural allies,and together,they are prone to be used by ‘international conspirators’,mainly India and the United States,in stalling the “unstoppable march of revolutionary forces” towards total capture of power.

But as Maoists dig and spread the new propaganda,the government led by Prachanda suffers from a serious credibility problem at home. The party that heads the ruling coalition has not only been undermining the state,but also deliberately causing its erosion. One example will suffice to drive home the point: The legislature has not been able to continue its session following obstructions posed by the opposition Nepali Congress as well as a couple of partners in the ruling coalition. The reason: a Maoist leader killed Pracdhanda Thaib belonging to the CPN-UML,in western Nepal nearly two weeks ago, and the government has chosen not to arrest the killer. The Maoist-led government that has “end of the culture of impunity” as one of its key pledges is behaving differently when it comes to bringing its own leaders and activists to justice. In fact, turning a blind eye to the Butwal killing comes in the wake of the decision of the Maoist government to withdraw cases of serious human rights violations — including murder and rape — pending against 349 of its leaders. For the party,end of impunity apparently means trying and persecuting its political opponents. Bhattarai and some of his senior comrades gone public with the warning that the judges of the supreme court will be impeached if they give judgments opposite to public aspiration.

And the message is clear: any institution or apparatus of the state going against the Maoists ‘wishes’ are puppets of international conspirators. With total loss of credibility,and the failure to address the worsening economic situation,Maoists are doing what they are good at: Finding enemies,real or perceived or both,and blaming them for not allowing the Maoists to perform. Nepal’s neighbour in the north has clearly reviewed its Nepal policy. Whether India also follows suit in the aftermath of its election is something that is being awaited in Nepal.

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