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.