Taking On Prachanda
Communists in India have long influenced India’s polity and foreign policy to a degree inversely proportional to their real strength, which has vastly eroded over the years. They have some power in the three Indian states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. But it is almost certain now that their governments in West Bengal and Kerala will be overthrown in the next round of state elections, which are not far away.
Yet the communists wield considerable influence in many other walks of life. For example, they totally dominate the education sector. It is no surprise that India’s record is poor as far as fresh ideas, particularly in the social sciences, are concerned. The Indian media, particularly the English media, is virtually dictated by leftist elements. So is the non-government sector.
Until recently, the communists were allies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But they left the coalition following the vexed nuclear deal that Singh’s government concluded with the United States last year. By the time they left, they had done enough damage to India’s long-term interests in the realm of foreign policy.
The communists literally threatened Singh’s minority government to get it to close its eyes on China’s various acts of omission and commission, all of which have had a deleterious impact on India, be it China’s claims over Indian territories, China’s anti-India policies in international organisations, or the dubious and unfair business activities of Chinese companies in and outside India that hurt India’s interests.
But there is another communist legacy, which Singh’s government is now regretting. Under communist pressure in 2007, India’s Ministry of External Affairs literally handed over its “Nepal desk” to the prominent Politbuearo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Sitaram Yechuri, who along with his comrades facilitated the virtual Maoist takeover of Nepal.
Yechuri brokered a so-called peace deal in September 2007 between the seven-party democratic alliance and the Maoists, who were engaged in a 10-year insurgency that killed nearly 13,000 people. Under Yechuri’s dictation, India treated the fugitive Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda—the supreme leader of the Maoists in Nepal—as a son-in law who, under Indian tradition, gets limitless pampering.
The communists’ logic was to rid the country of its monarchy, which they believed impeded Nepal’s progress toward democracy. Nepal’s King Gyanendra was forced out and has gone for good—now so has Prachanda as the former prime minister. But the country is still far from democracy.
But it is Prachanda and his Maoist comrades that have gained the most from Nepal’s political chaos. They now openly say that they do not believe in democracy and cannot coexist with it.
As Prime Minister, Prachanda could not take over the rest of Nepal’s democratic forces. He wanted his so-called People’s Liberation Army to virtually take over the country’s armed forces—an unthinkable goal. Imagine a situation where a non-Maoist was democratically elected as Nepal’s prime minister or president and the PLA, merged with the country’s armed forces, defied government orders.
Obviously, that is not acceptable to the genuine democratic forces of Nepal and Prachanda resigned in protest. Nepal then had an alternate government under Madhav Kumar Nepal, whose moderate Communist party believed in multiparty democracy and rule of law. His main job was to ratify a new Constitution by May, following which fresh rounds of elections would have been held. But Prachanda literally went berserk. His armed goons seized the capital Kathmandu and many other cities.
Worse, along blatantly ethnic lines, Prachanda’s goons declared autonomy in many areas. They openly threatened that they would not allow a new Constitution to be written as suggested under a 2007 plan. Under their pressure, other political parties decided to extend the deadline of the new Constitution—making by one more year. But that did not satisfy Prachanda and his goons. Last week, Prime Minister Nepal was forced to quit.
Now Prachanda demands that he must be the new Prime Minister, despite knowing that the opposition Nepali Congress and moderate communists have the majority in the Constituent Assembly. In fact, as was the case last time, the latter two formations want a consensus government along with the Maoists. But they have two legitimate demands to be fulfilled. One, the Maoists must disband their militant oufits who continue terrorising and extorting the people in the countryside and refuse to surrender their ill-gotten arms. Two, they must repose faith in multiparty democracy and not dictate that their armed followers are automatically integrated into the armed forces. But Prachanda refuses to concede. He wants unbridled power.
Literally, Nepal’s Maoists have declared war on Nepal’s nascent democracy and Prachanda’s deputies are openly saying that their earlier stand on supporting the Yechuri-brokered plan was only “tactical”.
Through Yechuri and the beleaguered Singh government Prachanda came to the centre stage of Nepali politics despite having no popular mandate. Rather, he was essentially a terrorist, reportedly supported and armed by China and Pakistan’s spy agency—the Inter-Services Intelligence.
It is not surprising that when Prachanda became Prime Minister on August 18, 2008, it benefited China and Pakistan the most. China managed to get many sensitive projects, including infrastructure development like building roads adjacent to the Indian border.
While Tibetans were expelled and their offices forcibly shut down, the predominantly Hindu kingdom was made “secular” and thousands of mosques were built with Pakistani and Saudi Arabian money on the Indo-Nepalese border.
Ironically, Prachanda now says that his real enemy is India. He says that once in power, he will abrogate the India-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty and recapture territories that were “illegally” lost to India when the latter was under British rule. Last week, Prachanda also asserted that his comrades would have (they always had) close links with Indian Maoists, who, in turn, constitute India’s gravest internal security threat at present.
One may not know what Yechuri and his comrades now think of Prachanda. But given their history, they have no reason to regret, as they were alleged to have taken a pro-China stand during the 1962 Indo-China war. In fact, one of the founding leaders of the CPI (M), VS Achuthanandan, presently Chief Minister of Kerala, incurred the wrath of the party high command during the Chinese aggression for organising a blood donation campaign for Indian soldiers and was shunted out of the central committee to a branch committee.
So what should India do if Prachanda manages to establish his fascist rule in Nepal? The best thing would be to abrogate the 1950 treaty unilaterally. After all, the treaty allows Nepal more transit points than normally allowed to a landlocked country under international law.
The treaty has kept the India-Nepal border open, a feature that helps the Nepalese more than the Indians. It is this treaty that allows the Nepalese to take any number of jobs in India.
Let us see how Nepal under Prachanda manages to sustain itself, like an independent country and not under India’s benevolence as is the case now, which in reality does more harm than good to Indian interests.
Perhaps, Prachanda should be asked to take back the millions of Nepalese working in India. Let every Nepali coming to India secure a legitimate visa to enter the country. Close the open border between Nepal and India and let Prachanda export what he calls his country’s abundant hydropower to China. Now would he do that through satellites?
By Prakash Nanda