The Indian Analyst

The Nepal Stalemate


 In a run-up to local elections schedule Feb 8, Nepal is reeling under continued demonstrations by a 7-political party alliance and attacks by Maoist terrorists. The monarchy has adopted harsh methods to contain these events but has only attracted international condemnation for its undemocratic actions. In the most recent development, over 600 candidates have withdrawn from the elections under threat from the Maoists despite assurances and support from the Government. Despite these developments, King Gnanendra claims that elections will continue as scheduled.

Gnanendra became the monarch of this land-locked country by accident. The former monarch, his brother, and family were wiped out in a tragic and mysterious shootout, which catapulted him to power. After he assumed the monarchy, he was relentlessly pressing the democratically elected Government for action against Maoist terrorists who controlled the large rural areas. He appealed for military, economic, and diplomatic aid from India and got a mixed bag. The Federal Government of India handicapped by the number of seats it has in the Parliament and the support of allies that it needs gave it a mixed bag. The communists who support the Government threw a tantrum because the monarchy was attacking terrorists with communist ideology and managed to reduce the promised aid to a pittance. Gnanendra, known to be close to China, sought and received yet unspecified aid.

Not happy with the progress of the fight against the terrorists and the ineffectiveness of the elected Government, Gnanendra sacked his Prime Minister, dissolved the Parliament, and assumed completed power. This called for international condemnation and whatever aid was being delivered stopped. The reduction of supplies, military wares, technology, and training is making the fight against terrorism that much harder. While Gnanendra claims that the terrorists are on the run, there is data to show that his Government is fudging data in some cases. However, the fight against Maoists is gaining although there are military reverses with sudden escalation and imaginative attention-grabbing attacks by terrorists.

In the meanwhile, 7 political parties banded together into an alliance and opposed Gnanendra. Although they are ostensibly opposed to the terrorists, they do not want to make the fight against terrorism easy work for the monarchy. Thus, the parties ignore requests from the Government that parties not to assemble or demonstrated in sensitive areas because terrorists could take advantage of the congregation to infiltrate. They have refused to participate in polls. They refuse to condemn wanton violence perpetuated by the terrorists. Their only goal seems to be the reversal of Parliamentary suspension and the abolition of the monarchy. Seeing the monarchy as their common enemy, they seem to have implicitly allied themselves with the terrorists. 

Nepal is landlocked and relies on India for military and economic support. The rest of the world looks to India for diplomatic policy-making. Historically, culturally, religiously, Nepal has very strong ties with India. It is also a strategically located bordering Tibet (now occupied by China) and Bhutan (another country relying on Indian military support). Maoist terrorists have taken advantage of the porous boundary between India and Nepal to slip in and out to conduct raids, attacks, and inflict damage. Worse, Maoism has now spread to India all the way down to more prosperous Southern states through dysfunctional states in the North. Although the Maoist insists that they do not receive material support from China or have no links to peer groups in India, there are serious questions relating to their source of funding, training, collaboration, and coincidental simultaneous attacks in India. Therefore, India needs to play a much more active role in Nepal than now.

Firstly, while India should stand for democracy in Nepal and world over, supporting Maoists in Nepal because of domestic political compulsions while fighting similar groups at home sends wrong signals. The most important and immediate objective is for India to fight Maoist terrorists at home and across the border in Nepal. At the very least, a joint operation with the Royal Nepal Army is required to outflank and weaken that movement which does not enjoy popular support, most undemocratic in nature, and extremely harmful to India. India needs to convince the 7-party alliance of this urgent need in return for democracy.

Secondly, India should insist on a timeline from King Gnanendra by which democracy will be restored. At the very least he should reverse his suspension of the Parliament so they can formulate a schedule for new elections.

Thirdly, the 7-party alliance does not recognize the current elections and it needs to be called off. Installing puppets in local positions at great cost to the nation is not an intelligent strategy.

Fourthly, India needs to provide material military aid to Nepal to fight the terrorists against guarantees that the Government will return to democracy. 

Fifthly, Nepal desperately needs non-military aid such as medicine, food supplies, and equipment to fight the cold wave. India needs to supply materials to primarily help rural populations.

Home Page