INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

Posts Tagged ‘Nepal

Debordered Insurgency? Redux.

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A previous post made the point that one of the advantages that the Maoists have vis-a-vis the state is their capacity to wage a debordered insurgency inside federal India. What is less clear is how debordered the Naxalites are regionally.

There have long been rumours of collaboration between the Nepalese and Indian Maoists. However, since the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) ended their armed struggle and won a democratic election, a rift developed between the two parties.

Now that Nepal again seems to be on the brink and the Maoists are on the outside looking in, rumours of renewed contacts have re-emerged.

Prachanda, the Nepalese Maoist leader, has denied any link:

“During the 10 years that our party went underground and waged the People’s War, Prachanda met representatives from many communist parties in the world,” Shrestha said. “The meetings occurred due to the parties sharing the same interests and ideologies.

“However, after our party signed a peace agreement and returned to mainstream politics in 2006, there has been no link between us and any other underground party.”

If Nepal descends back into a war waged by even a minority of disgruntled Maoist factions, India would face an even more dangerous, debordered insurgency.

Heated Rhetoric. Minor Clashes.

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r2850967136Heated rhetoric is nothing new in Nepalese politics. The deep divisions in the country and the extreme political polarisation has generated an all-or-nothing attitude amongst many participants. Nepal is still peering over a precipice.  There has been some violence between cadre and activists of both the UCPN (Maoist) and the UML, resulting in a few deaths. Senior Maoists leaders are continuing to direct verbal salvos against both the new government and the so-called Indian expansionists.

Perhaps most indicative of the tenor of the rhetoric has been a Maoist legislator‘s bellicose claim that if the Maoists are pushed, they could destroy Kathmandu.

The Maoist boycott of parliament continues and the always seething Terai has experienced a number of enforced Maoist bandhs.

There is, however hope that the rhetoric and the violence are tactically calculated bargaining strategies unleashed by the Maoists as a means to strengthen their hand in negotiations with the government. The fact that they are engaged in talks with the governing UML indicated that, perhaps, war is not inevitable. Hopefully recent events are only the latest example of Nepal’s no-holds barred politicking.

(Image: Reuters Shruti Shrestha)

Written by Michael

June 11, 2009 at 3:35 pm

On the Boil in Kathmandu

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iphoto_1242042973546-1-0jpgThe political situation in Nepal continues to deteriorate, albeit at a slower pace than had been the case earlier this month. The Maoists have refused to join the new Communist-lead government and the dismissal order for General Katawal has been all but rescinded. Sporadic street protests by both pro and anti-Maoist factions continue in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.

There have been two new ominous and significant developments. The first is a continuation of the Maoist’s attempt to paint recent developments as a pro-Monarchic coup. I discussed what I see as the motivation for this strategy in a previous post.

The Maoists have ratched up this rhetoric and have now added an anti-Indian component. According to Prachanda:

“After Madhav Kumar Nepal became the Prime Minister, a conspiracy is being hatched with the help of foreign powers to restore monarchy,” Prachanda told a workers’ gathering in Lalitpur near here on Friday, the day Nepal observed its first republic day.

This is a shrewd (if desperate) tactic. Xenophobic resentment against Nepal’s Indian community, who form a powerful urban business class, is widespread. More broadly, India’s often heavy-handed interventions in a country which it has often treated like a dependency, lends credibility to the claim and is a good way to bolster the Maoists nationalist credentials and weaken the legitimacy of the new government.

The Maoists are painting themselves as pro-democracy nationalists, and the government as a reactionary, monarchist cabal beholden to Indian business and political interests. It may not be true, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.

And, as with all good lies, there is an element of truth. India has not played a very constructive role in the recent Nepalese crisis and has provided moral and diplomatic support to the anti-Maoist forces. It is alsoa stretch to pretend that the new government and its supporters are democrats. They are a motley collection of discredited politicians, business elites, military figures and, yes, royalists. Their temporary alliance does not, as their spokespeople claim, lie in a principled concern for democracy. They are only united by their desire for power and their hatred of the Maoists.

Finally, the Maoists have begun reactivating the parallel governance structures which they shut down after the peace agreement. Clearly, the Maoists are going to use this is a means to weaken the new government and state. Are the Maoists simply hedging their bets and preparing for the possibility of a renewal of the war? Are they simply seeking to undermine and weaken the new government and the Nepalese state? Or is this a first step in a strategy of actively resuming the People’s War? It’s an open question.

(Image: AFP)

Written by Michael

May 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Nepal’s New Government. What Now?

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After days of Maoist obstruction, Nepal’s new, (non-Maoist, yet ostensibly communist) Prime Minister has been sworn in as head of a coalition that includes 22 parties. According to the BBC:

The 56-year-old was last week named the candidate of an alliance of 22 parties, which have 350 members in the 601-seat assembly.

The composition of the new cabinet has yet to be finalised, but the Nepali Congress, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Terai-Madhes Loktantrik Party and the Sadbhawana Party have said they will join the CPN.

I’m curious as to what will happen next. Will the new government bring some much needed stability to the country, or can Nepal look forward to a continuation of the tensions which have plagued it in recent months?

(Image: AP)

Written by Michael

May 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Comment, Maoists, Nepal

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Ongoing Stalemate in Nepal

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The South Asian security environment has been on a crazy roller-coaster in the past few weeks. Just as Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war seems to have come to (at least a temporary) halt and Pakistan continues a fierce assault to regain authority over its unstable periphery, Nepal remains mired in a constitutional crisis which calls into question its very viability as a state.

The Maoists, who disrupted parliament earlier this week, are now refusing to allow the formation of a new, alternative government. They are also seeking to prevent the President from blocking parliament’s decision to sack the current head of the army.

Perhaps more troubling is some of the heated rhetoric coming from some senior Maoist leaders:

Mohan Baidya Kiran, the United Maoist Party Senior leader and the ideological mentor of Prachanda has opined that the dictatorial 240 years old Royal Regime has re-emerged in another form.

What this kind of rhetoric suggests is that, at least at the ideological level,the Maoists are preparing themselves for the option of the resumption of armed struggle. If the Maoists take up arms to fight parliament and a new government, they are anti-democratic (something which runs counter to the image they have sought to cultivate). If, however, the new democratic Nepal is really a shell controlled by shadowy, reactionary, royalist elements than a new revolution is simply the continuation of the fight for democracy.

I am not suggesting that the Maoists have decided to return to arms. Rather, they seem to be laying the groundwork for making war an option if and when they decide it becomes tactically and strategically necessary. It truly is chilling stuff.

Written by Michael

May 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Objectivity and Maoist Insurgency

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My first comment!

My blog has been getting a respectable amount of traffic and I’d encourage anyone with an opinion or a thought to speak up. It’s great to know what people who share my interest think.

Now is a good time to clarify exactly what my, umm, ideological perspective on Maoism in South Asia is. On my coverage of the crisis in Nepal, a reader has said:

This article is inspired by all those anti maoist journalist of nepal.
In nepal journalist don’t cover new but always make news.

Had anybody seen that a nepali journalist speaking to cnn ibn not as journalist but a part’s spoke person…

I’m not a journalist and have never claimed to be. I do, however, try to be as ‘objective’ as possible. One of the many reasons that I’m interested in Naxalism (and South Asian Maoism in general) is my belief that they have tapped into deep and dangerous undercurrent of alienation, misery and rage amongst millions of people who have been failed by the economic, social and political system. Naxalism, in the first instance, is not a police problem.

Am I sympathetic to the ideology, goals and tactics of the Naxalites? Well, it depends on the day that you ask. Many of their immediate demands (such as their opposition to the alienation of tribal people from their lands in mineral-rich states like Jharkhand) are noble. The people whom they are purportedly fighting for have been failed by every institution in the country. On the other hand, the Naxalite’s ideology, their aims and some of their tactics are terrifying. I have a deep dislike of authoritarianism and cannot but think that much of the Naxalite concern for the interests of tribal groups and the lower castes is little more than tactical expediency.

As for Nepal, I am not at all ‘anti-Maoist’. It seems to me that all of the major players in the country (the Maoists, the other political parties and the army) are playing a dangerous game with the stability of the country and the future of her people. The leaked video of Prachanda’s speech to the leadership of the PLA did not just underscore the Maoist’s insincerity to building a democratic and pluralist Nepal, it also underscored the shallowness of the peace agreement. All of the actors are jockeying for control of the state. I may not much like the Maoists, but the reactionaries (to use a nice Marxist term) opposing them are even more unsavoury.

Maoism is a plant that grows from misery and desperation (terrible metaphor). That misery and desperation is real. If it takes the Maoists to get people to sit up and take notice, so be it.

Written by Michael

May 7, 2009 at 11:25 am

Nepal News on a Naxal Blog

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Most of my posts in the past week have been on developments in Nepal. India’s Forgotten War is devoted to Maoism in India, so why the shift in focus? What happens in Nepal has profound implications on the Naxal insurgency. To ignore the deteriorating political situation in what seems to be turning into South Asia’s latest failed state would be a mistake. Nepal matters.

The Nepalese and the Indian Maoists have maintained ‘fraternal’ relations preceding the founding of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2004. Both organisations are members of the largely moribund Co-ordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia and the the Naxalites have, on occasion, hosted leaders of their Nepalese ideological brethren.

More important than the existing institutional ties are the covert linkages which both groups have cultivated. The Nepalese Maoists (who were present at the founding assembly of the CPI (Maoist) ) have provided guerrilla training, weapons and logistical support to the Naxalites. Their experience in effectively fighting a full fledged insurgency has proven valuable to their older, yet less successful, fraternal comrades.

Since the implementation of the peace agreement in Nepal, however, relations between the two groups have been strained. The Naxalites have engaged in launched verbal salvos at the Nepalese for their parliamentarism. Largely because of ideological, tactical and strategic differences, cross-border co-operation has virtually halted. With the possible resumption of war in Nepal, this may change and the implications for India are not good.

With a Maoist guerilla zone in a failed state that borders large parts of Naxal controlled areas in India the flow of arms, people and money from illicit activities would be a major boost to the Naxalites. It is a situation which both they (and the Nepalese) would no doubt exploit. This is why Nepal is important to Naxalism and this is why I’ve been writing so much about it.

Nepal Plunging Back Into War? (5)

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The peace process looks increasingly moribund as Nepal spirals further back into war (The Economist has a solid peace on the current crisis here).

In recent days the Maoists have resigned their ministerial posts, effectively leaving the country without a functioning government. The other large parties, notably the UML and the NCP, are in the process of forming a new cabinet which will almost certainly exclude the CPN(M). All of this is happening in the context of heightened tensions with Maoist street violence and threats to indefinitely disrupt parliamentary functioning.

Where is this leading? It is clear, given both the popular and parliamentary support enjoyed by the CPN(Maoist), as well as its ability and willingness to deploy violence, the Nepalese republic cannot and will not be able to function without their involvement. From VoA:

Political analyst Yubaraj Ghimire, says any new government formed without the backing of the Maoists is unlikely to survive for long.

“Maoist strategy would be to rule if they can, and not let anyone rule if they can’t form the government. As simple as that,” said Ghimire. “This will make the peace process and the move to institutionalize democracy a casualty.”

No Maoist governmental participation no peace. No peace, no republic. Another South Asian failed state may emerge. The key questions are: to what extent are the Maoists in engaging in posturing; how able is their leadership to compromise in the face of dissension by internal ‘hardline’ factions; and are the Maoists, as their critics allege, really interested in seizing total control of all the major organs of the state?

The sincerity of the Maoists has been severely undermined by the leaking of a video, purportedly made in 2008 (just before the election that gave the CPN(M) a plurality of parliamentary seats), that shows Prachanda telling People’s Liberation Army (PLA) commanders that he intended to disregard the conditions of the peace process and gain control over the state and the army (no English version available yet… trying to find a transcript).

On the surface this is a pretty damning indictment of the party’s sincerity and commitment to post-conflict transformation in Nepal. The only caveat might be (and it’s not a terribly convincing one) that Prachanda was simply telling the PLA leadership what it needed to hear in order to prevent them from rejecting the peace process. Prachanda has clearly had to delicately navigate between the militant factions of the party and those who have been willing to compromise. Without the support of the hardliners in the PLA, peace would have been impossible. Prachanda needed (and still needs) their support. Perhaps he was allaying their fears.

The blame for the current crisis cannot be placed exclusively on the Maoists. The second major actor in this unfolding drama, the army, is as guilty of violating both the spirit and the letter of the peace accords as are the Maoists. They have increasingly played a political role and have actively sought to undermine the elected government. According to The Economist:

In recent months Nepal’s generals have been engaging in politics nakedly, briefing foreign diplomats on alleged Maoist intentions and producing constitutional and policy proposals on issues far beyond security and military matters. The army’s political activism is backed by India, which supported the peace process but now wants a limit on Maoist power.

The current crisis is simply a culmination of the simmering antagonism between the two, large, armed groups which exist in Nepa- the army and the PLA. The other political parties have simply demonstrated their bankruptcy and rank opportunism.

It’s difficult to see how this crisis will end without either a resumption of civil war, a military coup or a slow collapse of the state. The only chance of preventing any of these outcomes is through significant and rapid diplomatic intervention from outside actors. The UN has already expressed it’s concern with the situation and both India and the United States have been engaged with both the army and the Maoists. Both countries have tarnished their credibility as honest brokers in recent weeks and another outside power must become involved.

Both the premise and the mechanisms of the peace process have been revealed as dyfunctional. Whoever does get involved would have their work cut out for them.

(Image:  Prakash Mathema/AFP)

Written by Michael

May 6, 2009 at 6:03 pm

What Next in Kathmandu?

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It looks increasingly likely that the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) will form the next government with the support of the Nepal Congress Party. Am I alone in thinking that this is insanity? One of the reasons that the Maoists gained a plurality in last year’s election was disgust with the mainstream party’s opportunism. The political parties are again choosing narrow partisan interests over the interests of state formation. The exclusion of the Maoists will do little more than demonstrate the shallowness of the republican constitution and its institutions.

The UML and the NCP are myopic. Do they truly believe that they can retain power in while 19,000 former belligerents are confined to their cantonments and the party which a plurality of voters chose is excluded from power? How long before the constitution is swept aside by a coup?

Written by Michael

May 4, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Comment, Maoists, Nepal

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Nepal Plunging Back Into War? (4)

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08lookThe news from Nepal is coming at a frantic pace and none of it is good. Nepal’s post-conflict constitution, her government and her very viability as a state is in question. The latest is that PM Prachanda has resigned his post, taking the CPN (Maoist) with him. Nepal  effectively has no functioning government.

The resignation was immediately precipitated by the crisis over the demanded resignation of Nepal’s army chief, General Katawal. More broadly, the resignation and the crisis is the latest act in an ongoing power struggle over control of the state’s institutions, particularly the army.

Here are the key events of the past few days:

May 1: Contrary to expectations, the United States does not remove the CPN (Maoist) from its list of terrorist groups, sending a clear message to the party that it opposes the removal of Katawal.

May 3: In spite of tremendous internal and external pressure, PM Prachanda demands the resignation of Katawal. The largest ally of the CPN (Maoist), the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), quits the government in opposition to the dismissal.

May 4: President Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepalese Congress Party refuses to accept Katawal’s resignation, claiming that Prachanda’s actions have been unconstitutional.

May 5: Intensified street protests by supporters of the various political parties in Kathmandu. Reports (unconfirmed) that Yadav is refusing Prachanda’s resignation claiming that it is also unconstitutional (will verify).
So there you have it. It doesn’t look good for the stability of the country nor is it easy to be optimistic for the people of Nepal. Nepal is facing its first post-conflict constitutional crisis in an atmosphere of poisonous tension and hostility.

A coup may have been avoided by the President’s decision to block the dismissal of the army chief. A dangerous precedence has been set. One might dislike the idea of the Maoists in control of the army, however, in order for Nepal to succeed as a democracy the civilian government must have full control over all organs of the state regardless of which party is in power. The army, with the help of the opportunism of the opposition parties, has flexed its muscles to the detriment of democracy building in Nepal.

Is Nepal’s experiment in post-conflict state building dead? It looks as if it might be. There are 19,000 Maoist soldiers confined to their cantonments and the process of integration between them and the army seems to have failed. The major parties are locked in a high-stakes game for power and seem unwilling to make difficult compromises for the sake of the country. The Nepalese army, in co-operation with the Nepalese Congress, has indirectly deposed the elected Maoist government. The Maoist Young Communist League continues to function as a violent militia that intimidates its opponents. The peace agreement is dead. It is now up to Nepal’s political power brokers to pull the country back from the brink.

Written by Michael

May 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm