Friday, December 11, 2009

Nepal in the News!


Nepal’s government has decided to notify the international community formally of numerous violations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by the Nepalese Maoists. The last straw was the declaration of two newly minted autonomous regional governments in Maoist strongholds in eastern Nepal.


Maybe then the world will take notice of Nepal’s slide back into civil war thanks to the calculated defiance of the Maoists and India’s uncontrollable compulsion to meddle in Nepalese internal affairs.

I have four pieces on the deteriorating political situation in Nepal, and the exacerbating effect that the regional power rivalry between China and India has had on the brinkmanship of the various political parties.

Three pieces are up at Asia Times Online (Sino-Indian Rivalry Fuels Nepal’s Turmoil, Nepal Rhetoric Warms to Violence, and Monarchy Re-enters Nepal’s Political Mix) and one on the ideological roots of the Maoists is in the Counterpunch print edition (you can subscribe here).

India is working non-stop to transplant sufficient financial, military, and diplomatic backbone into Nepal’s outgunned bourgeois democracy so that it will continue to defy the Maoists and deny China the services of a friendly regime in Kathmandu.

The Nepalese Maoists are not a bunch of grubby jungle insurgents; they are the biggest party in the Constituent Assembly and held the prime ministership for almost a year before they pulled out in response to the machinations of the democratic parties and India.

The Maoists have street muscle on tap for conventional political intimidation in the form of their Young Communist League and a hardened military force, their People’s Liberation Army, currently rusticating under UN supervision but ready to return to action.

If the Maoists resume the insurgency, it will probably be as a strategic move from strength, not desperation, and could be a bloody business.

In the previous iteration of the insurgency, from 1996 until 2006, the Maoists exploited Nepal’s vast, mountainous terrain and the Nepalese army’s lack of men and equipment to fight the government to a standstill in a conflict that claimed 16,000 lives.

I find the West’s lack of interest in this burgeoning crisis curious, particularly when contrasted with the media frenzy that greeted the Dalai Lama’s visit to another Himalayan flashpoint, Arunachal Pradesh (territory claimed by China but held by India), at the beginning of November.

The Western press, in its wisdom, has instead obsessed on three hot stories out of Nepal:

1. A female Nepal government minister vigorously slapped around a local bureaucrat for failing to arrange suitable transportation during her visit; the interesting but ignored backstory was that she felt that she had been intentionally insulted because of her membership in the aggrieved lowlander Madhesi ethnic group, which is perennially treated with condescension and suspicion by Nepal’s hilly elites;
2. The Nepalese government tried to trump the Maldives underwater cabinet meeting by strapping on oxygen tanks for a twenty-minute confab at 17,000 feet adjacent to the Mount Everest base camp to publicize global warming issues;
3. Elephant kills eleven (including one victim trying to worship it as an incarnation of Ganesh!) in rampage of terror in southern Nepal.

Meanwhile, the Nepalese Maoists helpfully provided the Telegraph Nepal with a scorecard of the thirteen autonomous districts they intend to set up, color-coded to show the two already declared and listing the scheduled dates for declaration of autonomy in the other eleven over the coming week.

That’s good. Given the level of Western coverage coming out of Nepal, we’ll need all the help we can get to follow the story.

The elephant, by the way, is still at large!


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Benjamin said...

While the Indian state has a very strong interest in Nepalese politics, and some amongst Indian elites in and out of the formal state structure have been actively trying to influence matters such that the Maoists in particular and the wider radical Left in general (excluding the CPN-UML) are kept out of effective state power, I think you are wrong to see the interest of the Indian state as being to "deny China the services of a friendly regime in Kathmandu".

In government the Maoists moderated their criticism of both India and China, as part of a strategy of diplomacy justified as a desire for a form of independence in which 'friendly' relations were possible with both. And given the degree of India's economic and political involvement in Nepal, historically and currently 'independence' for Nepal obviously involves a much more direct challenge to certain entrenched interests within India.

But the idea that the Maoists would be providing 'services' to China out of some inherent 'friendliness' to the regime is wrong-headed.

The Maoists have long held the position that the Chinese regime is a capitalist dictatorship, with which they feel no ideological affinity, and the Chinese regime in return made it very clear during the civil war that it was in no way on the side of the Communist guerrillas, to the point where they were willing to support a monarchical-military dictatorship in Nepal against the Maoists. China supplied no aid the the guerrillas during the military struggle, even non-military aid. And before they were in government, groups in which the Maoists were involved were welcoming and encouraging revolts of workers and peasants in China against the state.

That the Maoists became more 'pragmatic' when they had (mostly-nominal) governmental power hardly means that they are somehow aligned with or even 'friendly' toward China, or would provide 'services' to China (more than to, say, Britain, who in a similar softening of position the Maoists also allowed to keep recruiting Ghurkas to the British military despite previous commitments to stopping the practice).

Meanwhile, there is open discussions involving some of Nepal's political elites about the desirability of a 'Pinochet solution', which would 'solve' the situation in Nepal by killing as many as possible of the leadership of the Maoists and of the social movements seen as de-stabilising the existing Nepalese state, while using massive repression to bring the population as a whole back to passive acceptance of existing patterns of power and privilege.

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