The alleged threats by an Indian embassy official against a TMDP-turned-Maoist MP have dominated the headlines this week. If true, it goes against the norms of diplomacy and the international system, not to mention civilised human behaviour.
It also provides an excellent opportunity to really think through the complex, multi-layered relationship between Indian officialdom and Nepali politicians. The case itself is a symptom of a much deeper malaise: flawed Indian policy, and a Nepali political culture with a shockingly high dependence on external patronage.
In mid-2009, India decided its security interests were at stake when the Maoists acted against the army chief. The Indians helped rally all the 'democratic forces' in an alternative alliance. Since then, the core objective of Indian policy has been to 'keep the Maoists out'. Everything else is secondary. They have been aided in this task by the Maoists themselves, who have failed to assess the balance of power correctly.
To achieve this, India has had to engage in an almost unprecedented degree of micro-management. This has involved keeping the 'democratic' parties together, punishing those who do not fall in line, managing disputes, providing regular advice to the government on how to deal with the Maoists, and in recent weeks, holding the Madhes alliance together.
In the process, India has alienated many actors, and generated enormous resentment. Pushpa Kamal Dahal is angry with Delhi for keeping him out; Jhalanath Khanal thinks he would have been PM but India stopped Upendra Yadav from backing him; Yadav himself is upset with Delhi for helping split his party; MPs in parties whose leaders are well rewarded by India feel nothing trickles down. And even those who do India's bidding privately complain about limited dividends. Add to this the royalists convinced that India disposed of the monarchy.
A lot of this may be perceptional rather than rooted in reality, but it shows that the present Indian policy has come at a high cost. Diplomats may be smug that they meet the policy bottom line, but if they want to avoid repeated embarrassment, a policy review in Delhi is well in order. They need to reconsider their medium to long-term goals, the tools at their disposal, the political costs being incurred, the tangible benefits, the degree of local politics they want to 'manage' or try to, and whether the leverage would be better used to get the peace process back on track.
But the other side of the story is the extreme hypocrisy of Nepali politicians themselves. Factions have long tried to use India against each other, going back to 1800 when the deposed raja Rana Bahadur lobbied the East India Company in Banaras against the Damodar Pande-influenced darbar. A little before that, in 1794, the regent Bahadur Shah responded to his sacking by Rana Bahadur by writing to Peking. Little has changed since then.
In the last five years, the Maoists and other political parties sought Indian political, moral, and financial support against the king. The Maoists courted the Indian embassy in their negotiations with Girija Prasad Koirala, and Koirala did the same, especially during the negotiations on arms and armies. The embassy helped Madhesi parties and the government reach a deal during the Madhes movement. The Maoists then tried to get India to exert pressure on Koirala to resign and pave the way for a government led by them after the elections.
A section in Kathmandu has idealised last year's 'democratic alliance', but it was the Indian establishment that enabled this alliance. To do that, they used coercion, inducement, and persuasion, just as now. Those who supported the alliance cannot wash their hands of the tactics that led to its formation when such revelations come to the surface.
Individual politicians across the spectrum are deeply enmeshed in this network. They solicit funds regularly, ask for 'advice', try to use Delhi or a wing of the embassy to undercut their own rivals within their parties, and in return promise to play along with the larger Indian game. This allows bureaucrats to take the politicians for granted and treat them crudely when they step out of line.
At best, the present case may make Indian officials a bit more careful. But unless India feels the costs of its present approach are unacceptably high, or Nepali politicians develop a more sophisticated, and autonomous, way to deal with Delhi, the song will remain the same.
Menials will always be treated with disdain. Not just by Indians but everyone. They need not feel any qualms about it.
And we Nepalis ( specially the Nepali intellectuals) had happily promoted and supported such servile people as our " great revolutionary" leaders.!!!!!
So, as you say, the song will remain the same.
13 AUG 2010 | 2:31 PM NST
The flawed policy that the Nepalis kowtowed to was in allowing the Maoists to take part in normal politics without first disbanding its "coercive apparatus" (Prashant Jha's euphemism for the Maoists apparatus for murder, loot and extortion).
An interesting piece. The article accuses the Indians of micromanaging Nepali politics but at the same time hints that the Indians had no role in ousting the Monarchy- "Add to this the royalists convinced that India disposed of the monarchy."
I take it that the author is convinced that the Indians had absolutely no role in ousting the monarchy.
At the same time the NT is openly saying that the Indians nurtured the Maoists during their most destructive years. Did they, or didn't they? If the Indians are capable of hiring murderers (aka Maoists) to kill the leadership of Nepal then it stands to reason that Nepali politicians give a lot of credence to the wishes of India.
It is indeed ironic that the Maoists should bring up the topic of being threatened by the Indian when they themselves have been threatening Nepalis for years.
Looks like India is having a hard time turning the tiger back into a mouse.
And the NT just simply totally confused.
13 AUG 2010 | 3:07 PM NST
Did not see you complaining before.
13 AUG 2010 | 7:26 PM NST
Finally, after watching him for about four weeks, Prashant has called a spade a spade. Phew! One minor correction: "A lot of this may be perceptional rather than rooted in reality, but it shows that the present Indian policy has come at a high cost." Actually, very little is perceptional, and most is reality. Other than this, this piece exposes the current state of affair and the Indian role, and our weaknesses. This is the candid way of doing Nepali analysis. Keep it up.. Many journalists in Nepal take up the proxy role, always taking sides of one party or the other or act as if it is all our fault and India does not exist and has no role to play. BS... Thus, it is refreshing to see such analysis...
13 AUG 2010 | 4:09 AM NST
Although the Nepalese politicians, both present and past, and intelligentsia should acknowledge their culpability in bringing the country to the anarchic state it is in today, the current situation in Nepal also reflects the complete failure of Indian foreign policy.
Given the fractured and unstable nature of Indian coalition politics, foreign policy decisions many times it seems, are made by incompetent bumbling bureaucrats with misguided input from its equally clueless intelligence service and also sometimes from ï¿½partisanï¿½ political leaders. Such misguided decisions are what seems to have caused the foreign policy disaster in Nepal.
The Indians would be well advised to set up independent non-partisan ï¿½brain trustsï¿½ on foreign policy to advise the government, so that foreign policy is taken out of the hands of the bureaucrats, always is guided by long-term national interest, and does not change with each successive change of the government.
(For example, the policy regarding Nepali Maoists, when CPI and Sitaram Yechury were part of the coalition and now, seems to have taken a complete 180 degrees turn.)
A stable, peaceful and independent Nepal is in Indiaï¿½s (and Chinaï¿½s) long-term interest. An unstable Nepal, by contrast, can be a playground for various different interests including terrorist groups as well as ISI, and can be a destabilizing force for both our neighbors; and is definitely not in the interests of both India and China.
Unfortunately, this simple fact seems to have been completely overlooked by the architects of the current Indian foreign policy who seem to sacrificing Nepalï¿½s stability for much narrower short-term interests, and needs to be rectified for the common good of both the countries.
14 AUG 2010 | 7:05 AM NST
Prashanta is very good at this game. When Indian intereference promotes his political agenda he will call it constructive support, supporting democracy or some such. When it doesn't support his agenda his agenda it is patronisinf, intereference etc. etc.
Similarly with the Maoists. When anyone else indulges in murder, loot and extortion it is called murder, loot and extortion; when the Maoists do it, it is called exercising their "coercive instruments", or perhaps "revolutionary actions".
14 AUG 2010 | 1:09 PM NST
This week's column is much better. It highlights the central underlying reality of Indian interference instead of trivial details and pointless personal attacks on Prachanda.
Some minor negative features such as the claim that politicians "across the spectrum" are deeply enmeshed in the Indian network and that their "extreme hypocrisy" includes the Maoists can be ignored as "compulsory" in an article for Nepali Times. The hint that "Those who supported the alliance cannot wash their hands of the tactics that led to its formation..." is quite a pointed reference to the publisher's position, so such "compensation" is understandable.
But the claim that Maoists have "failed to assess the balance of power correctly" goes together with ignoring another central feature of the underlying reality - the refusal to democratize the Nepal Army and integrate the two armies.
Given that refusal and given the balance of power, Maoist tactics have already made the policy pursued by India and their opponents more and more costly and untenable, demanding review and resulting in divisions among their opponents. The "compromise" previously demanded by Prashant Jha of giving up the PLA while the Nepal Army remains unreformed has already faded from his own analysis and must look less and less achievable to those who pulled down Prachanda's government hoping to avoid having to carry out the peace agreement.
14 AUG 2010 | 5:53 PM NST
8. who cares
advice to india:
if you want benefits from nepal, there are two ways-
1) buy all nepalese not just some crooks, fools,,,,, but the problem is india can not afford.
2) respect, solve problems like land dispute, river, transit.. then new start is likely. .......... if land disputes are not resolved, it will harm india more cause some day this will be internationalized and wonder how they will be demanding permanent position in security council of UN.
14 AUG 2010 | 6:43 PM NST
"Add to this the royalists convinced that India disposed of the monarchy."
- If you have reasons to believe otherwise, why not share them with us, Jha babu? Let's hear your arguments for why/how India is NOT involved in removing the Nepalese monarchy and installing its political puppets, so that they can play games with our politics and our lives.
Removal of Nepal's monarchy is India's long-term strategy to get Nepal under its complete control. The so-called royalists have been warning for a long, long time about Nepalese politicians being remote-controlled by India.
Now is the truth coming out or not?
It's time for Nepalese people to acknowledge that we were wrong to distrust the King. Time is proving the King's stance to have been right: (1) The Maoists were not trustworthy, (2) India was supporting the Maoist insrugency to destabilize Nepal, (3) The so-called "democratic" leaders, were just puppets of India, more interested in serving Indian interests than Nepal's. All these things are proving to be correct now.
King G made some mistakes but he was acting in the best interests of the nation. Time to acknowledge this fact, and RESTORE THE MONARCHY now. How can we punish the King for trying to do the right thing?!
14 AUG 2010 | 7:49 PM NST
10. who cares
the days of royal's baje are gone for good..... stop dreaming.
and by the way, gyn bahadur was side lined cause the title "royal" itself is nonsense and unacceptable for me and as for others (and some of the other reasons are): cause of their involvement in crimes, loot- as soon as he became king first thing he did was privatized national property as well as took his other family members- nieces' property to himself and his immediate family members, control in business- unfair competition and so on and on......ï¿½
i am not saying present situation is better, but this is the base for better nepal.
i do not want to become praja of my own country.ï¿½
14 AUG 2010 | 10:46 PM NST
11. who cares
for "I"only "I" is acceptable as the king.
other than "I" is not acceptable to "I" as the king.
if non-I accept "I" as the king then only "I" can accept nepal as a kingdom.ï¿½
so what do you say losers- who are dreaming of becoming praja?
14 AUG 2010 | 10:58 PM NST
12. chandra Gurung
During Rana regime , the Indian(Or British) influence on internal politics was close to zero. That doesn't mean we have to bring back the Rana regime. Ditto with the kings. They wanted to keep India at bay and screw the Nepalese as if the people were their slave. Well, you gotta admit that Rana and kings were extremely unpopular with people and were kicked out by people. India probably helped, but if indirect help alone could change regime, Iran or China too would have had regime change long ago.
14 AUG 2010 | 3:25 AM NST
Arthur remains in his fantasy world - his pro-maoist western romantics never mention that Prachanda & Bhattarai spent years as comfortable guests of the Indian Intelligence services while the Party rank'n'file did their military dirty work and caught the bullets for them. That's how politicians always treat their followers, as stepping stones to power. Meanwhile, naive worshippers from afar obediently repeat their propaganda and their selective history for them to perpetuate the heroic mythology.
14 AUG 2010 | 3:28 AM NST
The Royal house initially from King Mahendra started patronisting the Communists in order to sideline the emerging democratic Congress Party. lead by no less a person but BPK. Palace always remained against the then progressive Congress lead by BP Koirala and Ganesh Man. Birendra rule was a mixture of opposites ,a hotchpotch , later run by the Greedy Queen . After 1936. it was corruption and greed led by the Queen and Gyanendra. This led to the down swing of the country. The palace Bureaucracy was the worst enemy of the palace; it created a rift with the Singh Durbar civil service with a parallel system of administration. Gyanendra was his own worst enemy; his rule can be called Kakistocracy; the previous was Oligarcy. Palace initially supported the Maoist covertly or overtly; But a force more powerful and willing to support with more resources, including money bought over the Maoist. The Maoist still flirting with the Royals, changed the master.; to one more powerful, more articulate, more cunning.To be fair and just with the Maoist, their flirting with the palace was just a marriage of convenience for them too. Each were in their game plan. In the mean time persons like Girija who was just like a Labour Sirdar , a sipahi of BP, but he came at the helm of the Congress Party leadership ; he was a good organizer with his better Pr; but not with a capacity to lead a democratic party of @20th century. He had no vision or art of modern governance. He was surrounded by cronies and corruption reached a climax with the likes of Nona and LaxmanGhimire & Co.So at the beginning of 21st century we are facing a disaster., at the hand of gangster politics of muscle , extortion, kidnappings,; that promises a moon to the have-nots. When promises are made to be broken and misguide the ignorant young ones, the only result is a stalemate. Let the youth come forward and choose between modern democracy with social justice or with a n one party communist rule. The choice is ours to make. The country is waiting for a leader;Hami auta manisko khojima chhau. We will overcome.
15 AUG 2010 | 6:33 AM NST
15. who cares
salute to chandra Gurung & Gole,
by the way do not forget to support my royalty claim.
15 AUG 2010 | 12:58 PM NST
Who cares, Chandra Gurung and their types,
It is not I who is "dreaming". Rather it is you who are needlessly re-living your "nightmares" and forcing others to do the same.
I am not advocating a return to Rana rule or even Panchayat rule like you people constantly like to accuse me (and other royalists) of. I am for constitutional monarchy as per 1990 Constitution.
But you republicans love to portray the monarchy as some evil, despotic institution. And therefore you keep bringing up stuff from ancient history. By doing so you are preventing yourself and the people from seeing the positive sides of the monarchy.
In 1990 King Birendra clearly showed that the monarchy was more than willing to move with the times. The only reason Gyanendra took over was because of the Maoist menace under the grand conspiracy of India. As I said in my earlier post, his stance is proving to be correct now.
So King G only took over in the most extreme circumstances. He was anyway trying to hold elections to return the country back to 1990 Constitution. It was the Maoists + "democratic" parties + India + republicans like yourself who went for a New Nepal and new Constitution etc. and look where we are now!
Time for misguided and "nightmare-dreaming" people like yourself to wake yourself up and understand the true picture of the Nepal of the 21st century. Don't stay stuck in Rana history. Nepal is not going to go back to it even if the monarchy is restored! Rid yourself of your paranoia and mental problems! You will help yourself and other Nepalis by doing so. Thank you!
16 AUG 2010 | 1:34 PM NST
You bring a smile to me face: you are as predictable as the sun rising! Prachanda was not attacked in the piece and, hence, you like the article!
Look, here's what we should do: let the British have us. Seriously. The British made India- if not for the Raj, India would be a bunch of Nepal-sized countries (Kingdom of Oudh, Bengal, Punjab Empire, Republic of Bihar(!?), etc. Heck, Hyderabad thought that they were independent in 1947 and Nehru had to invade with the Indian army the following year!) A couple of years under the British and we'll have decent roads, electricity, and healthcare. With lowered infrastructure costs and stabillity, FDI will increase, unemployment will decrease, and standard of living will go up. And we won't have to argue about King-ji: God Save the Queen!
16 AUG 2010 | 1:36 AM NST
18. chandra Gurung
All kings were evil, period. Not a single one of them was good, and it includes Birendra joitingre too.
If you really want a kingdom, you will have to dig up an island somewhere in Indian ocean and settle a colony there.
Royalists can also join Maoists-- there is really not much difference between you two guys. Maoism is comfortable with a leader steering the helm until his death anyway.
17 AUG 2010 | 12:51 PM NST
I think Arthur ji deserves a regular column in the NT. Surely he has done enough tapasyaa.
Not giving Arthur ji a column means that the NT is suppressing the voice of the Nepali people.
17 AUG 2010 | 1:05 PM NST
(Not sure why my comment is not being posted. I responded to Chandra Gurung 24 hrs ago. Here is my re-write of it:)
Chandra G, your comment only proves what I said about you hardcore republicans earlier. You people have your heads buried deep in sand or up your own paranoid, dark you-know-whats.
A Monarchy is not the same thing as a dictatorship. Monarchies don't have to be totalitarian or authoritarian. It's only in your crazy, paranoid imagination that they are so. There are plenty of examples the world over of democratic monarchies. Britain, Spain, Denmark, Japan - to name just a few. Even in our country the 1990 Constitution had already laid a good basis for attaining a democratic monarchical system.
18 AUG 2010 | 11:50 PM NST
21. Satyajeet Nepali (1)
Chandra Gurung and other rabid republicans, you should all note that while there are plenty of examples the world-over of monarchy co-existing with democracy, there is no example of Maoism/communism co-existing with democracy.
Which is why our so-called "democrats" running off to join hands with the Maoists in 2005 is all the more absurd. It was an idiotic thing to do, displaying our so-called democratic leaders' total ignorance of world history and of core communist ideologyï¿½or worse, their selfish greed and ambition to come back to power at any cost. Which is why it made sense to call that alliance an "unholy alliance", and that is why it is unraveling now and taking the country down with it. The 12-point understanding and the CPA that followed it were a big mistake that was forced down ordinary Nepalisï¿½ throats with stupid haste and a heavy dose of Lies and Deceit!
18 AUG 2010 | 4:57 AM NST
22. Satya Nepali (2)
Iï¿½m sorry Chandra Gurung, but your likening royalists to the Maoists is, therefore, just empty rhetoric. In reality, it was you Republicans who went running off to join hands with the Devil (Maoists) in Hell (India). So if anyone belongs together in a utopian island, it is you two: republicans and Maoists! After all, it was your idea to combine the two and show the world a "new model" of peace and democracy, wasn't it? Yes, what a great new model you have made of our country now!
Leave us alone, you big-mouthed rhetoricians! Go with your bedfellow-Maoists and create your brave new world somewhere else. Donï¿½t stop at 12-points. Make a 12-million point New Constitution for your New "Model State". As Budabaaje says, we were better off with the 1990 Constitution in Nepal!
(And by the way, when I call India 'hell', Iï¿½m only 'metaphorically-speaking'; hope you can understand that.)
19 AUG 2010 | 5:03 AM NST
Both flawed Indian policy and a fatalistic Nepali political culture with a dependence on external patronage are products of history.
One of the central narratives of the Nepali state is the turning point when Rana rule was ousted with help from Delhi. Before Tribhuvan escaped to Delhi he was a mere puppet of the Ranas. When he came back, he had successfully created conditions for the second coming of his family's power. After that turning point, the Shah's controlled the state for more than half a century.
The Nepali political elite (all of them; panchyat, post-panchayat, and republican) perceived from this central example that there is incredible power assymetry between India and Nepal. Indian support can make you or break you.
At the far end of the Tribhuwan example is the Economic blockade. The one time when coercion was used as a policy choice by India to instigate internal change in Nepal and it worked. Residents of Kathmandu who experienced both the 1990 blockade and the Maoist blockade of 2006 will see how much similarity there was between the cycle of blockade and rapid political change that occured in both time periods.
In the grand historical narrative, India has the kind of influence in Nepal that can throne and dethrone kings. This geat power assymetry would convince any rational self-interested political actor to think twice before openly opposing Indian designs viz a viz Nepal (no matter what they blurt out in their public speeches towards a nationalistic and largely India wary populace).
An Indian beaurecrat who has learned of easy influence of India in Nepali history would of course be bold enough to threaten minor Nepali political actors. In fact, the great power chasm between India and Nepal sanctions him to do so.