Saturday, September 4, 2010

A look at Nepal

Recent Stalemate in Nepal:

Nepal is going through a rough time due to instability in her political domain. The Prime Minister (PM) Madhav Kumar Nepal handed over his resignation to the President Ram Baran Yadav at Shital Niwas on 1st July. Till then, Nepal was unable to find out a suitable PM who could have confidence to rule the country having necessary support. 4 rounds of elections already passed without showing a sign of solution. The next round of election is planned on 5th September.

Why Madhav resigned:

In a televised message to fellow countrymen, Madhav said that he didn’t want to see his country as a “hostage of indecision” due to exacerbated relations with the Maoists. Madhav, a former Civil Servant formally took oath for PM’s office on 25th May, 2009 after Pushpa Kumar Dahal alias Prachanda resigned. Prachanda wanted the President to accept his proposal to sack the Army chief Rookmangud Katawal since Katawal didn’t endorse his demand to integrate People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with Nepal’s National Army. This is firstly because these are the people whom National Army (NA) fought since the formation of PLA and secondly because large number of PLA could challenge his authority over NA. Ram Baran Yadav rejected Prachanda’s plea because his approval could make Prachanda de-facto dictator of Nepal and hence Madhav resigned. Till then, Prachanda didn’t co-operate Nepal’s government and helped Madhav to reach such an impasse.

Statistics of election in Nepal after Madhav resigned:
In the house of 601 candidates, either Prachanda or Ram Chandra Paudel from Nepal Congress (NC) had to bag 301 votes to secure the Prime Ministerial position. In all the 4 rounds of elections, nobody could get it. The main problem is posed by Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) comprising of four Madhesi parties who mostly remain neutral in the elections. The CPN (UMPL) and Madhesi parties have around 200 votes. CPN (UML) Chairman Jhalanath Khanal pressed for his nomination in the first round but withdrew later understanding the futility of his attempt. Prachanda already has 235 plus votes and needs around 70 votes to gain the simple majority. On the other hand Paudel has 120 plus votes for him. He needs considerable support from CPN (UML) and UDMF to form his government.
India’s Role:

Being the largest democracy of the world, India has onerous role to discharge. India shares bonhomie with Nepal since the Nehruvian age and it is her responsibility to release Nepal from this political imbroglio. In 2008, India worked tirelessly to abolish monarchy in Nepal and paved way for the Nepali Maoists to give up insurgency and take up government in Kathmandu. But Prachanda’s willingness to integrate PLA with the Army forced India to adopt a volte face policy to sidetrack Maoists from the government. Indian officials persuaded Upendra Yadav of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum to support Madhav and succeeded in installing Madhav in Kathmandu in 2009 in place of Prachanda. But the game plan seems not to be working with the emergence of Jhalanath Khanal (currently the chairman of CPN (UML)) who is sympathetic towards the Maoists.

Manmohan Singh’s “emissary with special mandate” Shyam Saran reached Kathmandu on 4th August in order to harmonize the rival interests erupting from various camps. Shyam Saran is a former foreign secretary of India and served as an ambassador in Nepal from November 2002 till July 2004. He is known to be adept at Nepalese matters and hence is entrusted to find a solution to this problem. He is close to most of the leaders of prominent parties but Nepal is yet to come out from this stalemate. But Saran is not accepted by Nepali people especially by Nepali Maoists. They believe his sole purpose is to destabilize the country with his diplomacy.

Solutions Ahead:

India is presently trying to ward off CPN led by Prachanda due to several reasons. Firstly he showed inclination towards China by advocating “new level of understanding” with “big neighbour”. He also cast aspersions on India over the Kalapani and Susta border issues; demanded revisions of 1950 Friendship Treaty between Nehru and Rana regime. Secondly, India has a feeling that CPN do have some leaders who still believe in insurgency and violence. Prachanda failed to control their aspirations and they could anytime raise their ugly heads. And finally Maoists ruling Nepal can bolster the attempts of their Indian counterparts.

But CPN(M) have 40% of the Nepalese votes as per the last election in 2008 to form the Constituent Assembly (CA). In this situation, the following proposals might be browsed through.

NC candidate Poudel has to take the Madhesi parties into confidence. India has to work assiduously with the Madhesi parties to find a compromise. Madhesi parties belong to southern part of Nepal, mainly from Terai region. They have demands of political and economic autonomy; right to self-determination; implementation of old agreements with Madhesis; integration of Maoist combatants and mass recruitment of Madhesis in National army. Evidently, NC has definite reservations against their last two demands. India needs to make a compromise - might be through implementing “reservation” in Nepal for Madhesis and strike a deal between NC and Madhesi parties to end the deadlock.

4 rounds of futile elections probably showed the CPN (M) that 235 plus votes are not enough to form the government. India needs to create a bridge between NC and CPN(M) and work for viable solutions. The PLA needs to be integrated but after thorough trainings and relevant tests so that they would not conspire within the national army. This process also has to be in a phased manner. Nepal needs to contemplate how to attract PLA in civilian life. They need to generate alternative employments through infrastructure building, hydropower projects, tourism, horticulture, fruit preservation and export, handloom industries among others. The two-pronged strategy, first – gradual integration of PLA into National army and second – take away a fraction of PLA to lead normal civil life. India can engage her to consummate the goal of a stabilized and democratic Nepal.

India needs to advocate an “open-minded” approach as far as CPN(M) in concerned although India’s concerns are not unfathomable. CPN(M) is the largest party in Nepal and no solution is possible by submerging their interests. India needs to be pro-active, hold wellnigh talks with them with a broader vision. CPN(M) led Madheshi supported Constituent Assembly (CA) would be another alternative.

Nepal also needs to appreciate that India is not a perturbation in Nepalese politics or India has to propagate this viewpoint among the common Nepalese. Nepal needs to come out of this quagmire and look forward. In this, India being the largest democracy in the world needs to facilitate the process. Both the nations are to ward off cynicism and work hand-in-hand. They also need to monitor and review every peace process to make the future bright.

Avijit Maity is working as a Software Analyst in a reputed IT Consultancy company. His areas of interests are India's Foreign Policy and domestic policies mainly related to Agriculture, Food, Energy, Education and Industries.He may be contacted at

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