"We made mistakes in handling India," confessed one Maoist secretariat member, "but India also can't ignore that we are the most powerful party here."
Ahead of a politburo meeting, starting Monday, the Maoists will have to make crucial decisions about relations with India. It's not going to be easy because New Delhi has drawn a line in the sand that it doesn't want the Maoists to cross.
Senior Indian officials, from both the foreign office and the security establishment, have told Nepali Times meaningful engagement is difficult until the Maoists engage in a "course correction" and they have made the following "suggestions":
The Maoists must make a clear and unconditional commitment to multiparty democracy, which India says was not visible during their nine-month stint in power. The party has to shift from its radical dogmatic line to a moderate left-of-centre orientation. One official told us: "They have to give up dreams of capturing the state."
Delhi doesn't believe Pushpa Kamal Dahal anymore when he says he is under pressure from hardliners. Said the official: "No more excuses. If it is a tactic, we are not falling for it. If it is for real, then it is time for the leader to assert and either bring the hardliners in line or marginalise them." He added the onus lies on the Maoists to revive trust by steps like dismantling the YCL and behaving like a normal opposition.
An official said India is tired of "Maoist duplicity", adding: "They have to learn that they cannot keep chanting anti-India slogans here, and then privately come to us for help to bail them out." This is a clear reference to Maoist rhetoric on "foreign intervention" and the Dang border controversy, which is seen as being engineered by "Maoists and friendly media".
India says it still supports the peace process and wants a new constitution, but the Maoists can't 'bulldoze' their way through. "There has to be reasonable discussion on integration between all stakeholders, including the Nepal Army," he added. Token integration under strict parameters may be feasible, but unit level entry and space to PLA commanders in the NA is a strict 'no' for India.
What didn't go down too well in Delhi was that even as the Maoists were calling for a total overhaul of the "special relationship" with India, they were cosying up to Beijing.
Indian officials, however, are at pains to emphasise that their role must not be overstated and politics emanates from within. But, warned one diplomat: "The present behaviour of ranting against everyone is not winning them friends. It will dig them into a hole."