Friday, April 25, 2008

The biggest loser of polls in Nepal is India

The Nepalese people have given their mandate for the change during constituent assembly polls. The biggest loser has been India - By Prakash A. Raj

The results of polls for constitutional assembly in Nepal held on April 10th have shown the CPN-M Party winning half the seats in 240 out of 601 seats for which direct elections were held. About 42% of seats or 330 seats will be elected on the basis of proportional representation and counting is going on for this purpose. The Maoists are well ahead of other parties in this as well. It is possible that the Maoists may emerge with a majority of the total seats. The Nepalese people were promised participation in constitutional assembly polls as early as 1951 but were always denied this opportunity. The voters in Nepal were disenchanted with monarchy and mainstream political parties such as Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) and decided to give the Maoists a chance. However these elections were unlike any elections previously held in Nepal. These elections were not for Parliament under an existing constitution but for an assembly to write a new constitution. There was also involvement of the United Nations (UN Mission in Nepal called UNMIN) and election observers from many different countries including the former American President Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center. This particular election could be said to have more legitimacy than the previous ones.
The wrong policies followed by the Indian Government are responsible for this state of affairs.
It may be remembered that the many of the Maoist leaders lived in India during the decade long insurgency. When the Nepali governments reminded the Indians about this the reply from the Indian side was “we’ll take action if we’re told where they are”. This was made possible in view of open border between the two countries. When this scribe asked the then Indian Ambassador Shyam Saran whether the open border between the two countries would be regularized as any international border I remember him replying “You have to ask the people living near the border”.
The 12 Point Accord signed between the SPA (Seven Party Alliance) and the Maoists was brokered by India and was signed in New Delhi presumably with advice and consent of the Indian Government. The main agenda of Jana Andolan 2 in April 2006 was the 12 Point Accord. This led to King Gyanendra restoring Parliament dissolved in 2002 on the advice of Prime Minister Deuba. The restored Parliament declared Nepal to be a secular state and drastically reduced powers of monarchy. A Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in November 2006 led to formation of Interim Constitution and Interim Parliament which declared Nepal to be a secular federal republic which would be ratified in the first meeting of constituent assembly. It is likely to happen within a month after all the results of the proportional seats are known. The outcome is a foregone conclusion. Nepal will then be declared a republic officially.
The presence of UNMIN and observers from the world over including former President Carter of the United States led to erosion of Indian influence in Nepal. Maoist Prachanda has said he wanted Nepal’s relations with India and China to be equidistant. Indian Ambassador Shyam Saran had said in the past years about linkage between Maoists in Nepal and Naxalites in India. On the other hand Ambassador Shiva Shankar Mukerji has said after the election results that no evidence was found about such linkage. The Chinese had maintained cordial relations with monarchs in Nepal as it was during King Mahendra’s rule that the agreement for construction of road linking Kathmandu with the Chinese border at Kodari was signed. There were protests from India during that time. King Birendra and his entire family were assassinated in June 2001 less than a month after the agreement for construction of second road from Kathmandu to Rasuwa in the northwest was signed. It is quite reasonable to expect that the Maoists will establish closer ties with China after Nepal would be declared a republic. The Chinese had considered the monarchy in Nepal less likely to be influenced by India and would probably find the Maoists as more dependable ally. Almost all of Midwestern and Far Western Nepal have voted for the Maoists in the recently held polls. It’s only four hours drive from Mahendranagar to Delhi. There is only eighteen kilometers of Indian territory separating Nepal from Bangladesh which links northeastern India including Assam. Will a Maoist led Government in Nepal take into account security interests of India?
The question of integration of Nepali Army and Maoist PLA will be raised in the near future. Nepali Army has indicated that it will follow the command of elected government of Nepal unlike in the past. How would the 90,000 strong Nepal Army, which will integrate ideologically indoctrinated Maoist army, impact India’s security? How would the security of the Gangetic Plains and the states of UP and Bihar be affected by new developments in Nepal remains to be seen. The Naxalite movement in Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Orissa and Bihar has become so serious that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described it as the most serious security problem for India. Perhaps the Nepali Maoists could influence the Indian Naxalites to join mainstream politics in India as they did in Nepal. However India already has a constitution since 1950 drafted by a constituent assembly elected by its people and is also a federal and secular country which didn’t stop Naxalites from being active. The Nepalese people have given their mandate for the change during constituent assembly polls. The biggest loser has been India. One of the main architect of India’s loss has been Indian Ambassador Shiva Shankar Mukerji who is being rewarded by being appointed the Indian High Commissioner in London.

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