Nepali Times Asian Paints
Open Sesame


What do the government and the Maoist rebels have in common? They both play the India card against each other.

One of the accomplishments of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's India visit was to get India to agree that the Maoist issue was a \'common security threat\'. Deuba came back emboldened enough to declare that he wanted to resolve the issue through talks, but was willing to use force if necessary.

His new-found confidence to talk loudly as well as carry a big stick could have only come from assurances he got from Indian leaders.

The Maoists have responded by breaking their three-year moratorium on anti-Indianism. Every statement from Prachanda these days is a tirade against 'reactionary Indian expansionism', or berating New Delhi's support for 'Nepal's fascist rulers'. Analysts see a Maoist ploy to create an anti-Indian wave to ride in order to bolster sagging support at home.

Indian media has suddenly raised the alarm about Nepali Maoists, and this week it was awash with news of Maoist threats in Uttaranchal and supposed plans to unleash human bombs if India supports Kathmandu. They bombed a missionary school in Gorkha this week and said it was to "teach India a lesson". They have also targeted Indian joint ventures.

But Indian military support for the Royal Nepali Army is not new, and New Delhi labelled the Maoists terrorists long before we did. So why are the rebels angry now?

Analysts say the Maoists may have decided that it is do-or-die time. There have been desertions, the cadre who were promised a Kathmandu takeover are restless. The blockade and the closure of industries backfired, and the rebels also have to contend with accusations of fuelling the 1 September riots that destroyed the manpower industry.

Although Deuba came back with a promise of Indian support, some think Nepal is still not clear about what it wants to do. "This is the time both sides should be focusing on the operational level, not just about general policy issues," says political analyst Dhruba Kumar of Tribhuban University.

Given the heightened Indian role in tackling the rebels, it is interesting that even Indian analysts are not sure about where this is going. Writes Nepal-watcher SD Muni in Hindustan Times: 'India's approach has so far been myopic and confusing. It chants the ideal of constitutional monarchy while lending almost total support to the king's authoritarian moves.' Muni has a prescription: India must work as a behind-the-scenes facilitator for peace in Nepal.

Skeptics here are convinced Indian support comes with strings attached, and say instead of more military hardware what Nepal needs is for India to arm-twist the Maoists into negotiating. But New Delhi is also in a fix, as it doesn't want to give the Maoists anti-Indian ammunition to whip up public support in Nepal.

Deuba may have begun the discussion in New Delhi, but the Indians have surely left the nitty gritty for King Gyanendra's upcoming visit.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)