Amidst growing maneuvers of International power centers to serve their interest, the political situation of Nepal is getting volatile. It seems there is hardly a meting point among those power centers.
Analysis by Tilak Pathak
The Seven Party Alliance (SPA) have declared four-day long general strike beginning April 6. And the government has made it clear that it would resort to harshest measures to foil such attempts of the agitating parties. What the agitating parties believe is that the strike will help them to garner public support and help give new height to the ongoing movement for peace and democracy in the country. The preparation of the agitating parties to make the movement a success and the measures adopted by the government to foil the peaceful demonstration makes one feel that a big political disaster is looming ahead in this conflict-torn Himalayan country.
Maoist rebels have supported the upcoming movement by withdrawing their programs in the capital city. This should be taken as an outcome of second edition of the understanding reached between SPA and the outlawed rebels. Based on this, the government has publicized the upcoming movement of SPA will have infiltration of Maoist rebels and has even vowed to treat SPA cadres on par with the outlawed rebels.
What is important to understand here is that SPA cooperation with Maoists is not their physical presence. Rather it’s their moral support such as requesting people to participate in the peaceful demonstration. Nevertheless, such a request from the Maoists could be a kind of terror tactics against people. Political parties should be able to utilize the participation of people in a systematic manner.
The point of beginning and ending of the roadmap of progressive way out conceived by the political parties seems to be contradictory with each other. They still believe the way out of the political crisis is reconciliation among political forces and restoration of House of Representative for paving way to a constituent assembly.
CPN-UML leader Shankar Pokharel believes that the beginning of this process is based on co-existence. He however asserts that political way out is ultimately based on struggle.
There are two voices in political parties. First types are those who devoted most of their lives for democracy. They may believe that the new struggle won’t bring in something new. They are also troubled by Maoists’ brutality and at the same time, are afraid with the king.
Political analyst Hari Sharma believes the high command of parties is afraid of Maoist rebels and doesn’t believe the king. Sharma also adds the new generation, who belongs to other school of thought, is baffled and hence, there are different view points for Maoists in the same party.
There is no possibility of activity co-operation between the Maoists and political parties unless the former give up the violence. Political parties can’t also be brutal on Maoists as they are the one who should try to bring the rebels to the mainstream politics thus ending the bloody conflict. Political parties are also haunted by their past as Girija Prasad Koirala at a time had taken gun for the political change and his party, Nepali Congress, didn’t only followed the path of violent revolt but also even attempted to finish the King with pelting bomb.
UML and other political parties were also involved in similar practice during the Panchayat era. Thus, they are not in a position to brand the Maoists as terrorists and the alliance between them seems natural.
Political parties and Maoists are closer and people now have started imagination of democracy without the King. Middle-class people of urban area are the foundation of any movement and since they are not been a hardcore part of the conflict, they are not yet ready to confront with the state right now.
No doubt, they support the parties positively but are not yet ready to sacrifice. The massive participation of people in open rally shows peoples’ moral support towards the movement but the lack of participation aggressive programs indicates the lack of active support. If the political parties become clear on their agenda, getting active support for the movement doesn’t look impossible.
The King and the Army: The king is practicing the authoritarian monarchy. Though he wants to show liberalism by talking about democracy, his hidden interest is traditional monopoly. The behavior is a kind of autocracy to which political scientist named the illiberal democracy. The King wants the multiparty Panchayat in the name of Nepali modal of democracy. When King Birendra came to an agreement with people in 1990, he was thinking on the same way. But later on, he was compelled to dismiss the Rastriya Panchyat and other Panchayat organs under popular pressure.
Military is the main foundation of monarchy. In the context of Nepal, security forces especially military’s loyalty is towards the King. Political scientists Dhurba Kumar and Hari Sharma co-authered a book entitled Security Sector Reform in Nepal in which they observed: “Security forces especially military is expanded as the weapon of the King.”
But, analysts say that the main foundation of monarchy is feudalism. Monarchy has used to representative of feudalism who mostly now lead the security bodies. They too have used the King for their benefit but have now shown interest in walking alone. The King is their patron.
Due to the evolution of people’s movement and international relation, military’s base will be fragile. First, Military can appear as political force in the support of international power center. Second, due to the popular people’s movement, there may be conflict within military.
This could be seen in what Para Jung Thapa, the chief of army staff, said on the occasion of military day: “The history of the country shows that every problem arisen has been solved by the king, army and people together and I still believe these powers can work together to solve the present crisis.”
Probably, this is the first time that a military chief used people their speech. It’s not false to assume that Thapa used the word people due to the massive pressure of international community and people’s movement. It is, nonetheless the political diplomacy of military.
Whenever the King senses people are going against him, he talks about dialogue to simmer the aggression. But he only talks with his near and dear ones, not with the struggling political parties. He is playing the politics of deception.
India: The role of external power center is important in the people’s movement in Nepal. We cannot ignore their role. It is natural that the role of India is more important because of neighborhood and social relations.
India is trying to address its three interests at the same time with long term plan. India might assume that they can control the natural resources from the weak King. In the past, India has compelled to Mohan Samsher Rana to sign the 1950 treaty in the name of preservation to the traditional power. Delhi understands such agreement can’t be reached with the people’s government.
Secondly, India has strategy of making positive relations with the political parties. The hidden interest of Delhi is that the political parties shouldn’t go against them.
Thirdly, India wants to show that it was the key for democracy in Nepal. For India, neither the King nor political parties alone is beneficial.
One thing for sure, if India intervenes or not, they will be criticized for it. They will be criticized for not helping the neighbor country if they don’t intervene. India is also conscious not to give rise to anti-Indian sentiment, which India has already faced in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Delhi is confused: if they support to king, there will be rise in the anti-Indian sentiment and if support to people and political parties, it would be turn-around from its historical relationship with the King.
S D Muni, an Indian analyst, says that the image of India in Nepal is that of a helper of monarchy. He writes in the book entitled Maoist Insurgency in Nepal: “India should bring Maoist and political parties to reconciliation which would help to minimize the Maoist hard-liner and violence. This would make India a good neighbor.”
America: Another external force, the superpower America, is not less interested in Nepal’s problem. They fear the popular movement of communist which is against their global strategy. In terms of political, economic and social ruler, its competitor and challenge is China, the neighbor of Nepal.
Nepal is a suitable place to play in the Tibetian issue so to try to dominate increasing Chinese dominance. America wants to increase its role in Nepal to check China.
America is more interested in military and elites. This is an old American policy. Colin Powell, the then foreign minister, visited royal palace and military headquarter in January 2002. This indicates their priority and their involvement in military would not be good.
King Gyanendra has seen American president George W Bush hugging Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf. The American attitude towards Pakistan shows the differences between rhetoric and reality. Though, American talks about democracy, the reality is different. Nepal could be the victim of same American policy.
Due to the different interest of different internal and external political centers, there is an indication that coming days will be more difficult for the country.
(edited for minor mistakes at 4:00pm NST, April 4)