Round The World
Political Infighting In Nepal
NEW DELHI NEEDS TO BE CAUTIOUS
By Monish Tourangbam
Research Scholar, School of International Studies (JNU)
New Delhi, August 16, 2010
The recently concluded visit of Indiaís special envoy and
former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran to Kathmandu came at a
crucial time in Nepalís beleaguered politics. Particularly, as
the initial jubilation, a result of the Maoist electoral
victory two years ago failed to produce any viable outcome in
terms of real political stability. The country has been in the
throes of a political stalemate for quite some time now.
Wherein the Nepali Parliament even after four rounds of voting
to nominate a Prime Minister failed to produce a leader.
As the political impasse in the Himalayan kingdom continues,
India needs to take steps very cautiously. New Delhiís
relationship with the influential Maoist Party and the
erstwhile guerilla leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda
can hardly be called easy. In Nepalís nascent Republic,
domestic differences continue over the framing of the final
Constitution and governance after the Maoistís return to
mainstream politics making the monarchy redundant.
Neither the Nepali Congress which enjoys better ties with
India nor the Maoist Party that accuses India of meddling in
the internal affairs of the new Republic have been able to
secure enough majority in Parliament to form a new Government
after the resignation of the former Prime Minister Madhav
The rapidly deteriorating situation seriously concerns New
Delhi. Clearly, developments have spill-over consequences for
India and weigh heavily in its foreign policy calculations.
New Delhiís concerns over the Maoist Partyís close ties with
competitor China are palpable and hence it would not want the
Communist party to single-handedly control Nepalís politics.
India favours a democracy where there would be enough
consultation and negotiation before any decision is taken. The
radical political gestures by the Maoist Party accusing New
Delhi of playing a less optimistic role as Kathmandu falters
to find political stability does not augur well for
On the other hand, New Delhi as the more developed and bigger
neighbour should be magnanimous in its policy. It should try
and win the confidence of all the parties in Nepal which is
trying to learn the first steps to becoming a fully functional
democracy. India should deploy its soft diplomacy to the
maximum but simultaneously take due account of the
sensibilities and concerns of the largest party in the
Down south, Sri Lanka has just come out of the throes of a
long civil war and is tracing its steps back to being an
inclusive country. India-Pakistan relations are back on the
diplomatic table after a long hiatus following the 26/11
attacks. The prospects donít look optimistic but talks are
At this juncture, New Delhi cannot afford to open another
fissure in its neighbourhood. Therefore, India cannot lose
track of the evolving situation in Nepal. It has to walk the
diplomatic path keeping its interest in mind but at the same
time without appearing to intervene in the affairs of another
Of late, New Delhi has constantly come under accusations for
negatively influencing the winds of change in Nepali politics.
As such, incremental steps have to be taken where all factions
in Nepal begin to have confidence in the positive contribution
of the Indian economy and foreign policy, specifically towards
its neigbouring countries.
Recall, in 2008 the Maoists won an unprecedented victory in
the elections and came to power, albeit in alliance with other
parties. And desired to form a Government of its own and
establish blanket Communist rule in Kathmandu. The icing on
the cake was Prachandaís victory with an overwhelming majority
of Parliamentary parties and lawmakers favoring his leadership
in the Prime Ministerial poll.
However, today, Prachanda is not able to muster enough votes
to usher in political stability, notwithstanding, his rival,
Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel securing lesser
The smaller Parties reportedly abstained from voting
expressing a lack of confidence in the candidates of both the
The Maoists have also rapidly failed the expectations of the
people. Moreover, they have been accused of being bad losers,
when their proposals for the new Constitution were out-voted
by the ruling coalition. In addition, the issue of integrating
the Peopleís Liberation Army (PLA) into the Nepali army has
marred the stability of the fragile democracy, with the army
vehemently opposed to an en masse induction of the Maoist
cadres. Probably, the Maoists wanted to control the army with
a large scale integration of the PLA.
It is not rocket science to discern that New Delhi will be
apprehensive of any move towards totalitarianism in the
region. Given that it has had to grapple with Pakistanís
military dictatorships. A possible move towards Communist
totalitarianism in Nepal would discomfort New Delhi.
Pertinently, Kathmandu has been under a monarchical regime for
years, which finally fell apart in 2006 following an agreement
thus paving the way for the erstwhile Maoist guerilla forces
to enter the political mainstream through democratic means.
Importantly, the Maoists brought a historic change in Nepal.
But, recent events reiterate the fact that democracy is not
just about elections and voting.
True, the Maoists brought a change of monumental proportions
in Nepal but all forms of transition need time and painful
consensus building process for a ďsoft landingĒ. The Nepali
Congress with which India shares good ties has lost its clout
after the death of its influential leader Girija Prasad
Considering the long Indo-Nepal border, close cultural and
economic ties and the looming shadow of China, it is naive to
expect India to be a benchwarmer. It is no secret that
sections of the political class in Kathmandu tend to blame New
Delhi for its woes and want closer ties with Beijing to
counter the Indian influence in the region.
As such, New Delhi needs to express its concerns and maintain
its support for democracy and effective governance, while
trying to reassure the people and the Nepalese Establishment
that it has no interest in meddling in its internal affairs.
According to Indiaís ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood, New
Delhi is concerned about the delay in drafting the
Constitution and rehabilitating the PLA fighters. India is
also reportedly worried about the influx of terrorists through
the Nepali border.
As Nepal awaits a fifth round of voting in Parliament and
peopleís confidence in major parties wane, the hope is that
the Parties would emphasise the primacy of the Constitution
drafting process. The Constituent Assembly was elected in May
2008 with a two year mandate but it was further extended in
order to complete the Constitution. However, as events
indicate, little progress has made in the process.
If this political stalemate continues, the power vacuum
created would spawn further uncertainly and instability in the
country and discredit the Parties in the eyes of the public.
This would be fatal for the democratic process in Nepal. -----
(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)