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Dipta Shah: The Regional Player that Counts, India

The King's Move in a Geopolitical Context: The Regional Player that Counts - India

By Dipta Shah

International media is rife with reports of Maoist cadre fleeing into India via the open border. Since most of the Maoist leadership is known to be hiding within Indian borders already, it comes as no surprise that the grass-roots cadre should follow suit.

Even the remote possibility that the Indian government is unaware of this reality is unfathomable. Aside from the standard objections raised at the nullification of a dysfunctional democracy, India's harsh statement towards the King may signify more embarrassment than practical considerations.

Although the absolute truth may never be known, India appears to have been caught completely off-guard by the Royal proclamation. As the regional power and a major contributor to Nepal's fight against the Maoist insurgency, India's annoyance/embarrassment is understandable.

The question now isn't whether India should continue to support Nepal, but how India should work to maintain its outward annoyance and simultaneously engage the King's government. India's initial statement appeared somewhat harsher than expected, perhaps a byproduct of India's concern at suddenly losing all of its political agents in Nepal.

More of this is to be expected, because now the Indian security apparatus is forced to deal with the Maoist problem on its side of the border more aggressively and seriously.

Given India's own growing Maoist problems, there can be no more delays or excuses. As already noted by several Indian media outlets, India simply cannot afford to alienate Nepal at this critical juncture.

In doing so, India would be risking a campaign to its north that it cannot afford. If Delhi was to abandon Kathmandu, all bets would be off (including certain arms procurement covenants in the 1950 Treaty), which would then give Nepal a free hand to deal with the Chinese - a complete nightmare for the Indians and the US. Simultaneously, it would be foolish of Delhi to even consider the possibility of military action within Nepal's borders.

Doing so would run the risk of a Sri Lanka rerun, which cost India heavily, 1987-90, as well as a possible confrontation with China. More seriously, it would open the door to the Maoists' long-sought Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ), wherein the Indian and Nepalese Maoists functioned across national and state lines in much the manner of the communists in Southeast Asia in their fight against the Americans.

Where South Asia is concerned, the US government's policy will undoubtedly be closely aligned with Indian policy. And gone are the days when Great Britain would dictate policy initiatives to India (or Nepal for that matter), so the UK will simply follow America's footsteps.

Arguably the most petty reaction to the King's power-grab in Nepal has been the revocation of seats for RNA personnel to the UK's military academy, Sandhurst. All this accomplishes is two less professional military assets for the RNA and two less professional soldiers who could be relied upon to act responsibly and spread the rule of international law within the RNA.

In stark contrast to such a move and others conjured up from the same ill-considered kitbag of options, the best the international community can do at this point is to convince the King to adhere to his self-mandated time-table: 6 months' suspension of certain constitutional provisions and a maximum three year tenure as head of state.

The international community and India should realize that ultimately it is in the best interest of the King and democracy to deal a decisive blow to the Maoists and then return executive powers back to the people.

Doing so would not only bring peace to Nepal and ensure stability for the region, it would also guarantee legitimacy of the royal institution and assure its continuity (albeit in a democratic setting).

The King undoubtedly must be aware that attempts at keeping power indefinitely will only prolong the inevitable - the demise of the house of Gorkha - an eventuality that is not in the King's best interest.


Dipta Shah is a Nepali citizen and a recent graduate from Columbia University's School of International Affairs (SIPA).

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