Nepali Times
State Of The State
Getting this thing unstuck


Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala at Baluwatar early this week. The two-hour-long t?te-?-t?te helped to some extent to clear doubts about the future of the peace process, but fear-mongering by foreigners is still rife in the Valley.

Outsiders don't have a very good record of reading Nepali realities, but their power to influence government decisions can't be underestimated. These insidious de-motivators could derail peace talks again.

Unfortunately, much anti-Maoist propaganda goes unchallenged. While it's true that Maoist cadres are engaged in extortion, it's equally true that most of their targets lack the moral authority to challenge extortionists because of their own misdemeanors. Morally-upright entrepreneurs have successfully defied ruffians by informing the Maoist leadership about their cadres' excesses. DDCs without legitimacy and authority weren't collecting taxes until about a year ago, so they may as well wait for a political settlement at the centre.

The Maoists' arms are another diversion. The job of state security forces is to win armed confrontations, and the aim of armed insurgents is not to lose. But Chairman Gyanendra's Unified Command failed to bring the Maoists forcibly to the negotiating table. The Maoists are the strategic victors of 'propaganda by war'.

By virtue of being a partner, though a junior one, in the April Uprising, they are inalienable actors in the ongoing political process. Of course, no country has two armies, two judiciaries, or dual centres of state power, but those issues need to be dealt with in a political package. Making the surrender of arms a precondition of a political settlement is a bit presumptuous coming from the seven parties, most of whom earlier collaborated with Chairman Gyanendra.

Alliance leaders, including Koirala and Madhab Kumar Nepal, are aware of their limitations. They sound defiant because right now they have the full support of the international community, often the decisive factor in Nepal's domestic politics.

The Maoists are no longer useful for India. Beijing never liked them, calling them anti-government guerrillas rather than self-avowed adherents of the Great Helmsman. For Americans, all communists and socialists are anathema: in early sixties, it actively opposed Nepali Congress, thinking that the party under BP Koirala wasn't sufficiently anti-communist. Europeans were giving the Maoists a patient hearing, but now even they seem to have lost interest in a lost cause.

Prachanda's concerted propaganda campaign in print, radio, and television has failed. No one buys his apology for the abduction of school children, extortion in the countryside, and brutal executions of innocents. It's difficult to take a leader's words of repentance at face value when his followers' deeds contradict them.

That leaves Prachanda and his cohorts at the government's mercy. The beleaguered supremo can still ignite the urban uprising he is threatening to, but that will be an open invitation for meddlers to enter a confused Kathmandu. The Maoists leadership knows the consequences of proxy wars too well to walk into that kind of trap. That could happen if they lose control over their cadres, which is possible, but unlikely at the moment. Public posturing notwithstanding, Koirala and Prachanda know that unless they accommodate each other, they will be pushed aside by nihilist hotheads from both sides.

But what they also need to realise is that the country can't wait forever for rapprochement between two bahuns so alike and yet so different. Moriarty's utterances, Maoist meetings, the citizens' movement, the UML's mass mobilisation, and unification uproar in the NC camps are all sideshows. Like the 12-point understanding, 8-point accord, 25-point code of conduct, and 5-point settlement for arms management, the next agreement too has to come from these two gentlemen making their considered moves on the national chessboard.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)