The game in the background. How India played a role in the downfall of the first ever democratically elected Maoist government in Nepal.
By Akhilesh Upadhyay
KATHMANDU- The turn of events that first led to the sacking and reinstatement of Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal exposed that relations between New Delhi and the Maoists once on the mend after their surprise election victory last April have now hit a low.
The writing on the wall was loud and clear: New Delhi and the Maoists had failed to see eye to eye on a number of key issues and had failed to manage their relations. It is a complex web of misunderstanding and mismanagement of crucial relations neither can afford to ignore, not least when the peace process stands at a fragile crossroads.
[This article first appeared on the front page of today’s Kathmandu Post. Here is the PDF version. Also, in the PDF version: Indian parties spat over Nepali crisis.]
It wasn’t always that way. In 2005, New Delhi facilitated the signing of the 12-point peace agreement between the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance, a move that ended a three-way polarization in Nepali politics — between autocratic King Gyanendra, underground Maoists and the mainstream parties — and a protracted conflict.
For that, New Delhi had revised its two-pillar policy of supporting both the monarchy and the mainstream political parties and made a brave move towards giving the Maoists legitimacy. Active in helping the process were a number of Indian political leaders, but there were also two key bureaucrats involved — P. K. Hormese Tharakan, who headed the Indian intelligence RAW, and then-Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. Both had been stationed in Kathmandu at some point in their careers and had a pretty sound understanding of the ground reality in Nepal. Many say the duo was instrumental in convincing a reluctant Prime Minster’s Office in New Delhi to legitimize the Maoists through the 12-point Compre-hensive Peace Agreement.
“Both Hormese and Shyam Saran are no longer involved. They had a strong sense of ownership in the peace process,” says a key interlocutor. Though Indian bureaucracy is a lot more sophisticated than the Nepali, informed sources say that the absence of these architects of the peace deal has left a void.
New Delhi, or at least a certain section therein, also felt that the Maoists had done a quick flip after they got what they wanted: the Constituent Assembly, end of monarchy, republican rule; they were even in government. “Delhi looked less important now. It felt there had been a deviation in the Maoist commitment to democracy and to work with other political parties — the bedrock of the 12-point agreement. A serious trust-deficit began to emerge between the two,” says the interlocutor. According to this theory, Delhi felt that the cost of maintaining relations with Maoists was huge and they had to be given a message: either you mend your ways or we will make you leave the government.
Another major deviation in Delhi’s perception was that Maoists were making a strategic foreign policy shift. A number of senior Maoist leaders have made frequent visits to China in the last one year or so and Beijing too has sent a number of high level delegations to Nepal, including that of seniormost military and foreign ministry officials. In a news report on Thursday, The Times of India notes that the Indian Army is “worried about the deft Chinese strategic inroads into Nepal and possible ‘Maoisation of the Himalayan country’s small but relatively professional army. The recent talk of a new peace and friendship treaty with China, according to this theory, would give Nepal-China relations a strategic footing.