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Undo Nepal's Polls: India's Hawks

Undo Nepal's Polls: India's Hawks


By J. Sri Raman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/050208T.shtml

Nepal has belied prophecies of a post-election upheaval. All sections of the Himalayan nation and its political spectrum would appear to have accepted the Maoist victory in the polls to the Constituent Assembly (CA). None has rejected the results - not even the royal camp - at least in public.

This, however, cannot be said of some quarters in India. Demands have been raised within Nepal's proudly democratic neighbor for action by New Delhi to undo the outcome of the CA elections.

The most outrageous demand is one for covert official support for a military coup in Nepal. And it has come from a security expert who can be presumed to speak for influential sections in India's intelligence establishment as well.

B. Raman was the additional secretary at the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's external espionage agency, and headed the counterterrorism division at RAW for more than a decade until his retirement in 1994. We need say no more. Now he is the director of the Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai (formerly Madras), one of the many "think-tanks" providing grist to the mill of India's militarism.

On April 27, Raman wrote: "As a successful democracy, India cannot support a military coup in any country.... But sometimes, in our national interest, we may have to close our eyes to a military takeover or to the evils of a military rule in a neighboring country." India may have to do so, he added, as "we have been doing in the case of Myanmar for over a decade now" and as "we did in Bangladesh last year when chronic political instability seemed to be pushing the country into the hands of jihadi terrorists of various hues and ... vintages."

Raman went on to argue: "We may be well-advised to do so if the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) decides to prevent the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) led by Prachanda, which has emerged as the leading party in the recent elections, from using its position as the leader of the Government to convert the RNA with its glorious traditions into the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of Nepal patterned after the PLA of China and North Korea and after the Cuban Army." The Royal Nepalese Army shed its prefix and became the Nepal Army on May 18, 2006, but loyal Raman and the like-minded do not recognize the change. They might have read some of the numerous reports by human rights agencies and others about the war crimes and rights abuses by the RNA (and to a lesser extent by the Maoists), but this has made little difference to their loyalty.

Raman continued: "In his statements and interviews before the elections, Prachanda (Maoist chief) has given clear indications of (his and) their priorities if the Maoists came to power.

  • First, have the monarchy abolished and proclaim Nepal as a republic with a presidential style of government.
  • Second, assume office as the president of Nepal.
  • Third, abrogate all existing agreements with India and renegotiate those which are considered to be in Nepal's interests.
  • Fourth, merge the armed cadres of the Maoists into the RNA to convert a royalist army into a people's army." No way could he and other Indians, with an idea of "national interest" that had nothing in common with Nepal's, forgive the Maoists for their fourth major objective. Integration of the People's Liberation Army of the Maoists with the Nepal Army, as a sequel to the surrender of the former's arms under a United Nations-supervised arrangement, may be part of the pact that brought the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) into the political mainstream. That, however, did not mean that the Ramans of India could not dream of the restoration of a hated monarchy in Nepal after a military coup.

The Ramans are not alone. Royalists in Nepal share their dream. In an earlier report, I quoted a well-known royalist as talking of a religious crusade against the Maoists. Maj.-Gen. Bharat Keshwer Simha, known for proximity to the palace, had then said: "If the Maoists can take up arms and come to power, Hindus will also take up arms. It will be worse than the Maoists' war." The far right in India fully shares the sentiment. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has refrained from calling for a military coup, but warned the Indian government that Maoists' victory in Nepal polls could lead to the growth of the extreme-left menace in the country, causing serious internal security problems.

"If Indian government could declare Indian Maoists and Naxalites as terrorists, why are Maoists in Nepal not declared a terrorist outfit?" Yogi Adityanath, a BJP member, asked in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of India's parliament) the other day. He saw a "red danger" for India following the former rebels' win in the CA election and the imminent abolition of monarchy in Nepal.

No one is asking for direct military intervention by India, of course. At the peak of the Maoists' armed struggle, their supporters claimed that the India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950, contained secret annexures, covering mutual assistance in case of an emergency such as their rebellion. Sections of Nepal's media reported in February 2005 that Gen. Pyar Jung Thapa, chief of the Royal Nepalese Army, had hinted at King Gyanandra invoking the provisions of the treaty and seeking Indian military support against the Maoists. This did not prove possible then and is unlikely to do so in the days ahead.

If Raman wants India only to encourage a military coup in Nepal, some others in the country's anti-Maoist camp are asking New Delhi to organize sabotage inside Nepal. Another well-known security expert, not without admirers in the establishment, Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research, has argued for manipulation of a minority of Indian origin in Nepal for this purpose.

Chellaney wrote on April 28: "New Delhi ought not to shy away from employing the immense leverage it holds: Nepal's topography, with mountainous terrain sliding southward into plains, shapes its economic dependence on India. The ethnic Madhesis who populate the Terai, Nepal's food bowl, are India's natural constituency, and that card is begging to be exercised."

The US is reportedly undecided as yet about removing the "terrorist" tag it had put on the Maoists in recognition of the election results. George W. Bush, however, told a gathering of Indian Americans in Washington on May 2: "We're working with India to promote democracy and the peace it yields throughout the continent. We're working together to extend the hope of liberty throughout Asia." Are Raman and Chellaney spelling out what the US president had in mind for Nepal?

*************

A freelance journalist and a peace activist in India, J. Sri Raman is the author of "Flashpoint" (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to Truthout.

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