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Nepal: Pernicious Plot On The Pretext Of Peace

Nepal: Pernicious Plot On The Pretext Of Peace

By Krishna Singh Bam

As the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels prepare for the next high-level talks, public attention has focused on the concessions each side is ready to make. The real thing to watch, meanwhile, is taking place across the southern border. Exploiting the thorough confusion surrounding the future of the Nepalese parliament, sections of the Indian establishment are trying to foist a dangerous plan.

The existence of the legislature, which King Gyanendra reinstated amid growing popular protests in April to put the political process back on track, continues to split the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoist rebels.

A majority of the current legislators are dead set against any hasty dissolution to appease the Maoists, especially when the rebels are refusing to disarm. The Maoists, and their allies within the SPA and civil society organizations, cite instances of the assembly’s incompetence to call for its dissolution.

Amid this stalemate, New Delhi’s purported proposal to add 65 Maoists and 35 civil society representatives to the existing 205-member assembly might sound attractive. In reality, it would represent a serious setback to Nepalese sovereignty and democracy.

Despite all the distortions it has produced in the past, parliament’s sanctity remains central to the vitality of democracy. The reinstatement of a legislature duly dissolved by an elected prime minister – whose decision was subsequently endorsed by the Supreme Court – was by no means constitutional. The fact that the legislature, had it been allowed to function unencumbered, would have completed its natural five-year tenure in 2004 could not be obscured.

Politically, however, King Gyanendra’s decision to revive the assembly made some sense. During the first few weeks, the reinstated legislators, misrepresenting the mood of the people, adopted a series of resolutions slashing the king’s political powers, ending his leadership of the army and repealing all royal prefixes in national institutions.

Since then, MPs and ministers have taken upon themselves such inanities as taking repeated oaths of office and decreeing the proscription of discrimination, the latter having been done so with much greater resolve and substance by the father of the current monarch in the 1960s.

This puerile performance served to bolster the Maoists, who are pressing their dissolution demand with greater stridency. The Maoists, after all, understand how helpful this demand is to deflect attention from growing calls within the country and abroad for their disarmament.

The rebels’ inclusion in an interim government without some tangible progress on the arms issue is unlikely. The peace process, on the other hand, cannot progress without fully and firmly drawing in the Maoists. They must be equal partners in planning the restructuring of Nepal and ready to bear full responsibility for the process.

However, appointing Maoists and civil society representatives to the legislature cannot be an acceptable solution. Despite all their faults, the fact remains that the current MPs won democratic elections. There can be no equivalence between their status and that of the 100 MPs, who, for all practical purposes, would be mere appointees. Any attempt to impose such an arrangement in the name of peace would be a travesty of democracy.

As the world’s largest democracy, India cannot be oblivious to the charade it is trying to force on Nepal. The fact that a cabal in New Delhi -- presumably the same one that forged the SPA-Maoist alliance last November against King Gyanendra after he led a successful campaign to draw China into the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation -- is pushing such a farcical formula calls into question the motive. And the motive cannot be viewed outside recent events.

After the recent train blasts in Mumbai, it has become abundantly clear that India is back to its game in Nepal. Forcing Nepalese authorities to arrest Pakistani nationals on flimsy grounds, India has aggressively revived its campaign to whip up fears of a Pakistan-Nepal-Bangladesh terrorism nexus. India obviously sees its right to self-defense as an essential tool of perpetuating its domination of South Asia.

For Nepal, the plot is more pernicious. With a legislature dominated by its own supporters, India could get any resolution adopted. If the monarchy could be eviscerated and the Nepalese state secularized through political decisions of the HoR, what could stop our honorable legislators from surrendering Nepalese security – and possibly sovereignty -- to India in the same way?


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