Nepali Times

The lack of basic facts, objectivity and analytical rigour in the International Crisis Group's report ('Danger of a widening war', #172) was more than made up by high rhetoric and sanctimonious verbiage. The report claims that "most of those being killed in Nepal are non-combatants". At the start of the second ceasefire, when the total body count from both sides was around 7,300, Prachanda himself had accepted in a statement that just over 5,000 Maoists had been killed in the past seven years. How did the ICG come up with the non-combatant figure?
In a naively patronising manner, the report prescribes that it is "not difficult to imagine a series of agreements around which the king, the RNA, political parties and Maoists could coalesce". Of course we all know that if all these groups could agree we would not have had this bloody war in the first place! The king, political parties and the Maoists are not the only players in the war. By allowing the Maoists to operate from its territory, India has become the most important protagonist in the conflict. Yet, the ICG report has, like most of the Western embassies, special envoys and human rights and such other do-gooders descending in ever greater numbers in Kathmandu, opted not to include the most crucial variable in the present conflict. Analytic oversight?

Berating the king and RNA for the war and everything else is akin to blaming the victim. Before the Maoists began the war, Nepal was practicing multiparty democracy, human rights were respected and people had liberty to lead their lives in peace. The government is only trying to regain the countryside back from the Maoists so that people can lead normal lives and democratic processes can start again. So it is rather mischievous to say that the king "suspended the democratic system in October 2002". The democratic system had already been snuffed out in the previous seven years when the Maoists systematically destroyed the local elected government, chased away the other political parties from the districts, killed off political leaders and prevented the holding of local and national elections.

In contrast, the Maoists are treated with kids' gloves. The ICG report strongly opposes labeling the Maoists as terrorists and makes no moral or practical demands on them as it does on the king and the army. The larger question is: if a group that operates against the laws of the land to get its way through systematic use of terror against civilians, students, civil servants and businesses is not a terrorist group, then who is? If the ICG feels it has the liberty to ask the government to give up its policy of forming civil defense groups in the village, what is stopping the ICG from urging the Maoists to give up arms or to call on the Indian government to stop harbouring a group that is destabilising a neighbour?

There could be no other swifter resolution to this war. Maybe ICG's claims to being non-profit and independent is suspect, as is its claim to knowledge and expertise. As an institution run by former politicians, bureaucrats and business tycoons like the Russian Mikhail Khodorkovsky (doing time in a Moscow jail for alleged embezzlement and malpractices), truth might be a commodity of convenience for the International Crisis Group. After all, war continues to be one of the biggest businesses in the world.

Jack Shaw
Lexington, USA

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)