Nepali Times
State Of The State
A new deal in Delhi


NEW DELHI-The conflict in Nepal has swelled the number of Nepalis working in India. Nobody keeps official count, but it's estimated that there are about two million Nepalis in India at any given time working menial jobs: security guards, watchmen, orderlies, waiters and domestics.

A few own small businesses and have benefited from India's booming economy. Running small eateries, operating trucks and buses, and coordinating essential services such as electricity repairs, plumbing, and roofing. These Nepali exiles are making their presence felt in the Indian capital as never before.

Those espousing dictatorship of the proletariat have assiduously cultivated these petty capitalists. They are the ones who accommodate Maobadi leaders, care for the treatment of wounded cadre and bear the cost of bourgeois education for the progenies of rebel luminaries. Their cars ferry the interlocutors of mainstream parties to undisclosed locations. The Indian government evidently knows all about these comings and goings but has chosen to ignore the activities of someone else's terrorists.

"Elected and respected political leaders of Nepal have been coming to India from time to time and holding consultations with Maoists but we have neither invited any leader for consultations nor facilitated any discussion," Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told the Rajya Sabha. Even so, the Indian establishment doesn't seem to be in any hurry to rush the parties and rebels meeting here.

Indecision of their party bosses back in Kathmandu has hamstrung the negotiators here. "When will our leaders realise that nothing comes out of nothing?" asked one exasperated party leader, "they should stop waiting for a positive response from the palace."

For all their extremism and excesses, the Maoists are remarkably accurate in their assessment of where the people and palace stand. The king and hardcore monarchists believe the people's sovereignty is safe in the hands of a hereditary monarch. The Maoists want the people to decide for themselves through a constituent assembly.

In normal circumstances, any political party would have grabbed such an opportunity. But political parties still want the Maoist leadership to do a lot more to establish their democratic credentials. The withdrawal of the blockade and support for peaceful protests would build confidence between armed guerrillas and party cadres at the grassroots.

The Maoists argue that they will be sitting ducks if they decided to join peaceful protests and claim they too favour a longer truce to assist in negotiations, but in the absence of a coherent political package from mainstream parties yet another unilateral ceasefire would amount to surrender.

So the Delhi dialogue is stuck. But both sides seem to appreciate each other's apprehensions and compulsions. The defection of Rabindra Shrestha and Mani Thapa is a relatively minor issue for the Maoists: they are of little value to their war effort. It's the Nepali diaspora in India that the Maoist leadership can't afford to ignore.

With the Nepali countryside denuded, the insurgents now look here for recruits. Without their financial and material support, the wheels of war in Nepal would come to a grinding halt. Even Indian assistance, if any, is probably channelled through organisations of Nepali exiles.

Narayanhiti Palace has an extensive network of relatives and friends in the erstwhile ruling families of India. Maoists have established numerous organisations that mobilise Nepali exiles. Mainstream parties, however, have neglected their former constituencies in India. One immediately senses this talking to any Nepali in New Delhi. Most don't care much for monarchy, but they care even less about the mainstream parties.

Any new deal in Delhi is sure to have the stamp of Nepali exiles in the Indian capital. Along with their numbers and prosperity, their political clout too has increased immensely. Other than serving Gorkhas, they are the most important Nepalis for the Indian establishment.

Perhaps it's now time to define afresh the notion of nationalism to include the concerns of workers in self-exile in India as well as other countries. In addition to South Block, entrepreneurs of South Delhi are the now the other important players of Indo-Nepal relations.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)