Nepali Times Asian Paints
PRASHANT JHA
Plain Speaking
The notional enemy

PRASHANT JHA


GURGAON Writing about the upcoming Maoist plenum from the capitalist hub of 'expansionist' India is not without irony.

Corporate offices involved in finance, trading, retail, consumer goods, outsourcing, software, and other services punctuate the landscape of this erstwhile village, now a metaphor for the new urban India. The sheer scale and speed at which a segment of the Indian economy is integrating with the global system is staggering. The new capitalists who drive the Indian economy, and increasingly its politics, are aided by a 'democratic system' where the affluent possess enough influence to change law and policy and call the shots between elections.

Foreign policy discussions have shifted from non-alignment to multi-alignment. In less than a month, the Indian PM has visited key East Asian countries to deepen links; Barack Obama came visiting, assured Indians he loved them, and passed a subtle message to China through the emphasis on shared values; the Indian foreign minister then reached out to Russia and China in a trilateral meeting. And by December, all five P5 leaders (of the Security Council) will have visited India in a single calendar year.

While economy, geo-strategy, and internal security are all interrelated, Indian diplomats appear to broadly view other countries through two prisms. There are some powers that can aid the India growth story through economic exchanges and fill gaps in areas like technology, education, energy and infrastructure. These relationships are nurtured for their transformative potential the US is the most prominent example. There are other states that can destroy the India story, and thus have to be handled as a 'security issue' Pakistan leads the pack here. China falls somewhere in the middle, with a relationship of cooperation and conflict. Despite the hydropower, policymakers put Nepal firmly in the second box of crisis countries it needs to be 'managed' for its 'unreformed Maoists' and the trouble it can cause due to the open border.

More than others, the Maoist delegates who meet in Gorkha next week need to take note of this growing Indian political and economic might, and how Nepal is a mere blip on its global radar.

At a time when the Maoists should have been discussing ways to reform the Nepali state, thinking of how to create jobs, and take advantage of the big economies next door, they are fighting about whether India is the 'principal enemy'.

Admittedly, the nature of the Nepali state is heavily determined by India, and different forces lobby with Delhi for support. It is also true that had India stayed neutral over the past year and a half, and not deployed resources and political capital to keep the former rebels out, the Maoists would have been in power today. The India-NA-NC understanding has been a key obstacle for the Maoists. But before that, it was Maoist arrogance that united its opponents. Since then, the Maoists have not been able to do anything to change the balance of power in order to either get into government or push their agenda on integration and the constitution.

While thinking of ways to resist Indian influence is necessary, the fact that a section within a big party is proposing a 'national war' against India is truly astounding. Our currency is pegged to India's and our macro-economic stability is linked to this; we depend on India for essentials from fuel to salt; Indian penetration in the Nepali state and influence over the private sector is immense; the kinship and cultural links across the border are overwhelming; there are millions of Nepali workers in India (who are not about to mutiny in the country where they reside); and the Indian state is at its most powerful and wealthy in its independent history. How do the Maoists plan to 'fight' India in this context?

The Maoists have been successful so far because they were in tune with the aspirations of the people on issues like the republic and inclusion, and they chose the right alliances at the right moments. While there is resentment against India, and nationalism could be a potent slogan, to wage a sustained campaign and rally masses around it in a diverse country like Nepal seems like a tough proposition.

The most feasible course for the Maoists would be to get the best deal on integration and rehabilitation possible; write a moderately progressive constitution; claim the statute as their achievement or alternately, launch a popular movement, but only if the other parties back out on the basic structure of the constitution (federal, republic, inclusive, welfare measures); consolidate the organisation; continue fighting for their core constituency of labour, Magars, Dalits and other deprived constituencies; and let someone else take the blame for the governance mess. Otherwise, given the visceral anti-Maoist mood among the national elite, the desire of established forces to reverse the political transformation, and the shape of the new international alliances, next May could be more counter-productive for the party than this May.

READ ALSO:
Damage done, EDITORIAL
Flexi-Dahal, DAMAKANT JAYSHI



1. jange
Sound advice from a well wisher.

But India has decided that the Maoists, having outlived their usefulness, should "go back to being a mouse".

So, the Maoist saga will end there.


2. Ayesha

Dear Prashant jee,

It�s easy to blame the Maoists for their seemingly irrational anti-Indian policy but your article does not do justice in describing what has led to this. Just turn the pages of history of Nepal and you would know. In 1960s, it was India with whose support to King Mahendra led the termination of recently gained democracy including imprisoning of the highly popular leader, BP Koirala. BP Koirala�s only fault that time was that he wanted to carve an independent future of his country like any leader of any sovereign country. And he had strength (derived from the support of the Nepalese people) to do that. India is intolerant of the Maoists for the same reason; they have strength of the Nepalese people�s support to solve our problems which at times and understandably comes in conflict with the Indian national interests. In that case, what alternatives do the Maoists have? Are they supposed to co-opt with India? They didn�t fight ten years of war to do that. When the Maoists came to power, they thought of acting as a bridge between India and China. It was India�s attitude later on that has pushed the Maoists to take such radical stands. Like BP Koirala said, �it was natural for us to ask for the international support during revolution including from India, but Indians expected to control us because of that support and when that didn�t happen, things changed.� It was the same for the Maoists.

Thank God!  the Maoists leaders do not think like you, �the nature of the Nepali state is heavily determined by India �� , and believe that as a sovereign state we have the right to carve our own destiny be it by talking about war. Yes, Nepal is smaller and vulnerable than India in many ways, but so were Vietnam and Afghanistan which brought the two super-powers to their knees.



3. ritesh
Prashant wants to remind us, again, that we ought to work around the Indian interest or face the consequence like what the Maoists are facing. In the process, he sugarcoats a few suggestions for the Maoists in the last paragraph.  Why can't he tell the Indian embassy officials to behave like  civilized and decent dignitaries and tell them to stop whining, wartapping, making up Naxalite stories, and take action againts those who make threatening phone call to our CAs.  A super power needs to ack like a superpower first, and Prashant needs to understand this too.  Just telling us to toe Indian line or else .. type of writing is not going to be very helpful...  It is getting old..


4. K. K. Sharma
Boosting the morale of the Maoists, and making heros out of them was the fad of the media before. Now that India has shifted its views, it seems it is incombent upon you,to try to demoralize and discourage the Maoists.....Remember; ",... life's battle is won, not by the stronger ones but by those who think they can." 

5. Orgyen
Prashant, you make a mistake by placing Nepal amongst the enemy states of India. You mention the first prism as being countries that can help India with technology, education, energy and infrastructure and the second prism as being the unfriendly countries such as Pakistan and China. I think Nepal should be placed in a third prism. It is India's mixed bag of haphazard foreign policy strategies that has hindered Nepal's "growth story". India's foreign policy is a confused one and clearly lacks vision and leadership. Nepal is neither in the first or second prism. It is the same case with countries like Bangladesh and SriLanka. Indian geopolitical strategy is a reactive one. When China proactively pursues interest in our region, India backtracks and reacts.



6. Arthur
"The India-NA-NC understanding has been a key obstacle for the Maoists. But before that, it was Maoist arrogance that united its opponents. Since then, the Maoists have not been able to do anything to change the balance of power in order to either get into government or push their agenda on integration and the constitution."

Obviously the NA-NC understanding (including a section of UML and Madheshi parties) has some internal basis and could not have just been organised and strengthened by India if that basis did not exist. Those forces perhaps do see what they have in common is opposition to "Maoist arrogance".

But don't they also have in common a desire to preserve the status quo and a visceral reaction against Maoist determination to change the status quo that is naturally viscerally seen as  "arrogance" by anyone who regards the status quo as the way things must remain?

"While thinking of ways to resist Indian influence is necessary, the fact that a section within a big party is proposing a 'national war' against India is truly astounding."

It would be truly astounding of this section was proposed to invade India. Obviously they are not. But if one not only wants to "think of ways to resist Indian influence" but also intends to actually defeat it, then the possibility that India might go to war with Nepal to avoid defeat has to be considered. To claim a serious intention to defeat Indian influence and one has to be serious about fighting such a defensive "national war".

If the main enemies are in fact internal, then this could be a wrong analysis. But suggesting that it is some "astounding" proposal to invade India is no substitute for an analysis of what is actually being proposed and why it is wrong.

"...let someone else take the blame for the governance mess. Otherwise, given the visceral anti-Maoist mood among the national elite, the desire of established forces to reverse the political transformation, and the shape of the new international alliances, next May could be more counter-productive for the party than this May."

Isn't that exactly what they have been doing? Of course the viscerally anti-Maoist "national elite", including Nepali Times, blames the Maoists for the governance mess. But to anyone outside this narrow circle it seems very obvious that the Maoists are not in government and the parties that are clinging on to government to loot Nepal should be blamed for the resulting governance mess.

One would think Nepal's "elite" would have understood by now that they will eventually face elections and that their arrogant behaviour in clinging on to power and looting will result in even less support from the large majority than last time. But those who are not too unfamiliar with actual 21st century democracy and too stupid to grasp it perhaps understand that they have no future and are therefore determined to grab whatever loot they can from government during their last chance to do so.

 


7. jange
GURGAON � Writing about the upcoming Maoist plenum from the capitalist hub of 'expansionist' India is not without irony.

No irony at all.

After all, it was in nearby Noida that the Maoist leadership enjoyed Indian hospitality for 10 odd years while their goons were carrying out murder. loot and extortion in India.




8. rishav
"Notional enemy," I guess this is a way Pranchanda and his colleagues try to deflect any weaknesses and short commings. Very easy to blame someone else, if it isn't the King, it's now the other parties and ultimately the Inidan Government to blame for all the current problems in the country.

I've noticed this tactic of deflection and blaming of others not just by Prachanda but many other politicians.

The current immature political stalemate, will only further exarcerbate the complete political apathy expressed by the vast majority of the Nepali people. Very dangerous territory indeed, even now people shout and scream at these politicians of all parties particularly the Maoists asking for the money back which they have earned as CA law makers.

The Nepali people have an incredible ability to tolerate hardship and probably would get on with their lives normally even if there was no Government what so ever. But still they will not tolearate such lack of political movement for too long and will react most likely in the strongest terms. The successful anti -Maoist Badh march was just one of many things to come if the current aggreements are not made.

The solutions to Nepal's current problems will not come from foreign Govenrment or so called anlaysts even those we may rely on heavily e.g. India, it will come from us as it should be. There are no better experts on Nepali affairs than oursleves as we have lived through these problems day by day for centuries.

Solutions
 - Heavy pressure on the Maoists to reform and ditch the PLA, something which they are relunctant to do obviously, ultimately they will have to face the PLA's displeasure. Becomming a Civilian party is a must, not a phony civilian party wth an option to use their pritvate militia as reserve or threat. This will ultimately end the Insurgency and the Maoists then completely accepting non-violence political democracy.

- Integrration into the Nepal Army based on technical skills not how strong your political beilefs or rankings in the Maoist guerrila force you are. A fixed number entrants based on availability and trained in the peripheral security forces. A good outcome for the PLA.

- If decisions are still stalemated, the people should be asked again for their voice e.g.  referrendums, more emphasis on free and fair elections this time! Also with such political failures a shift in the peoples views have changed alot over the past few years since the last election and not in favour of the Maoists.

All parties need to act decisively if not, the people will not tolerate the current situation for too long and they will face an andolan against the parties including the Maoists of their own making.


9. desi b
Prashant, do you get payed to toe the Indian line? Bihari babu at it again. Gurgaon is not real India my friend.Gurgaon still has unbearable power blackouts and in the summer Delhi heat as well as water shortages. A great example of India shining. If you are so impressed by this place, visit Shanghai, Guangxou, Biejing etc.Maybe you will show the Chinese more love.


10. Fair Commnet
Columns by prasant are so naive no-one can help smiling while going through. If someone really wants to create jobs in Nepal, they need to remove all the blockage for that. And it's clear like day's sun that until and unless Nepal don't get rid of indian control on every socioeconomic aspects. But how can you underestimate the understanding level of Nepalese by continuously putting across your indian interest pretending no-one knows nothing. Get well soon, your best job is to fix yourself first, not to write worthless columns.Â

LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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