Interview published in People's Review Weekly, Paush 29, 2067 (January 13, 2011)
Deepak Gajurel is a political scientist with Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. His areas of interest are International Relations, especially Himalayan Asia. Gajurel can be reached at email@example.com
People’s Review weekly interviewed him on contemporary political issues. Excerpts:
Q.1: You strongly believe that the country is facing serious political deadlock due to the vested interests of foreign powers. Why are the political leaders relied upon foreign powers rather than resolving the problems by themselves? Don’t they hold such a capacity?
Gajurel: As the political imbroglio goes on in Nepal, involvement of external players is becoming more discernible. India looks on Nepal as a country under its sphere of influence and regards any warming of Sino-Nepal relations with suspicion. India wants Nepal to remain under its sphere of influence. India wants its continuation from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru who had said that Indian borders were up to the Himalayas in the North.
Chinese understanding is that the United States, with assistance from India as well, can play from a weakened Nepali soil and act against the Chinese national security interest, along with hangover the entire South Asian region. Thus, Chinese interest in Nepal is to block the penetration of those forces which could pose a serious threat to its interests, especially through Tibet, China's weak belly.
Nepal's importance seems to be amplified in terms of regional as well as international power equations. Since the beginning of 'peace process,' Nepal's two giant neighbors - China and India - and the United States are doing activities unmatched in the past. The current political deadlock is mere a reflection of the power rivalry among these three major powers, that are competing for increased role in the world arena in general, and in this region of the Himalayan Asia, in particular.
Having said all this, Nepali political players of the day, parliamentary parties and Maoists, are, from the beginning, not working on their own. They have been doing what foreign forces, especially India, are directing to do. In fact, they find their base not inside Nepal, but in Delhi, the result, they are not in a position to work independently. This is evident, in case of oppositions, since the birth of India in 1947.
Q.2: The caretaker government led by Madhav Nepal is doing one after another decision under the Indian pressure. For instance, the government has planned to request India for upgrading security network at the Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA), a sensitive zone and also has decided to go for a new treaty on extradition with the provision of handing over third country’s citizens to the country which has extradition treaty with Nepal. This decision has paved the way for endorsing impending draft of such a treaty already submitted by India to Nepal. How do you see those acts of a caretaker government?
Gajurel: The past experiences suggest that India has, since its birth as a country, always played an interventionist's role in Nepal's politics. Nepal's political movement, be that Congress struggle or recent Maoists', was supported and patronized by India for several decades. More recently, Indian leaders helped broker the 12-point understanding between the Maoists and Nepal's other political parties in 2005, enabling the rebels to emerge as a major political force.
Over the past year, anti-Indian sentiment has mounted in Nepal, visible in articles and editorials in the media and in public discourse. While it is possible that this sentiment is being stoked, as claimed by Indian intelligence agencies, by the Maoists, Indian officials cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for Delhi's fading fortunes in Nepal. Their repeated bungling has resulted in support for India touching an all-time low in Nepal.
India, which mediated to bring the Maoists to the peace process with high hopes, has not only withdrawn its trust in the former rebels, it has also been telling international partners and Nepali actors that 'thinking the Maoists will stick to their commitment to adhere to peace and democratic norms were an error of judgment on our part.' As expressed indirectly from different parts of Indian intelligentsia, if that is the case, it is a clear repudiation of its twin-pillar theory - encouraging constitutional monarchy and pro-democracy forces to work together - and its patronage of the Maoists as legitimate representatives of the people.
Given the geopolitical location of Nepal, in between China and India, India has, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, been alleging that Nepal's soil is being misused by anti-India elements. For this reason, New Delhi has been trying to keep a strong grip on Nepal's security sector. At the same time, present rulers of Nepal, parliamentary parties as well as Maoists, are obliged to do things in India's favor. This I see is the contest for providing India special facility in terms of extradition. This is a serious step which will, in the long run, negatively impact Nepal.
Q.3: The Indian Embassy is directly distributing funds to communities and individuals for small projects up to 30 million rupees. Is this a good trend?
Gajurel: This is certainly not good trend and is completely unaccepted. A sovereign nation can not provide such special rights to any foreigners. Unfortunately, our rulers have not been in serious in such matters. The Indian penetration in the name of 'development aid' would be counterproductive in terms of Nepal's social and political structures.
Q.4: India has alleged that different international terrorist groups have developed network in Nepal to carryout terrorist activities in India by enjoying open border facility between Nepal and India. It seems, open border has become a headache for India but she never talks about regulating the international borders. As an intellectual, how do you view on keeping borders opened?
Gajurel: Indians are crying that Nepal's soil is being used by anti-Indian elements. This was not the case during the Cold War, though China, India, US and Pakistan were there as they are now. China is seeking more and reliable assurance, from Nepali side, that Nepal would not be used by any anti-China element. Because of its location sandwiched between global players and probable threats to the present-day super power - China and India, Nepal provides a suitable ground for visible as well as invisible strategic activities.
It is generally said that Nepal-India borders are open. I see it otherwise. The international borders between Nepal and India are not only open, rather they are unregulated. In this situation, any element can utilize the unregulated and unwatched borders for any purpose. It is not that, as alleged by Indian side, borders are used only by anti-India elements, anti-Nepal elements too have been freely misusing the borders. This is evident from the recently revealed facts, that Nepal Maoists had been trained in India, they used the open unregulated borders for various anti-state activities.
The border issues must be taken seriously both by Nepal and India. Until or unless the international borders are regulated, there is always a risk of unwanted elements taking benefits of the situation. This is why, I suggest, that our borders must be regularized properly.
Q.5: Are you hopeful that all political problems will be resolved and peace will prevail in the country with the new constitution scheduled to be introduced by 28 May this year?
Gajurel: It is imperative to understand that current political deadlock in Nepal is not in Nepali's hands, , though visibly is among domestic players. It was easy to do whatever one had intended for, as in 12-points Delhi agreement, formation of CA, abolition of Monarchy (in an undemocratic and illegal manner) and doing away of Hindu state and so on. With the coming of more than one power in the scene, Nepali political players, be they Nepali Congress, UML, Maoists or Madheshis, have little guts and space to decide on.
I can safely conclude that external powers have more to do in Nepali domestic politics, than Nepalis themselves do. It is unlikely that Nepal would have a smooth sail in the near future. With the intensifying contentions, both overt and covert, between and among China, the US and India, Nepal's politics can hardly be expected to have a democratic regime in the years to come.
I am not hopeful that all political problems would be solved and peace will prevail in the nation even the new constitution would be promulgated in stipulated time. Politics is criminalized and handled with the force of arms and muscle. Once politics of violence in introduced you can hardly do away with this without an overhaul. And there not a light seen at the end of the tunnel that current trend of our politics would change. The politics of violence would continue to prevail even if you have new constitution. In addition, the contentious political players seem to taking the nation into another gulf of violence and instability.
In this disastrous scenario, I see only one hope. There must be a national consensus on where we are taking the country. I am not talking about 'Sahamati' repeatedly uttered by the political parties. I am talking about a national consensus among all national forces.
The King must be brought in into a meaningful dialogue for seeking such consensus. Political players must respect the agreement reached between the King and the parties on Baishakha 11 of 2063 (24 April, 2006). Further course of actions must be chalked out on the basis of that April 2006 agreement. It is up to the present political players whether they want peace and stability in the country or not. No matter whether you agree or not, Nepal will not have sustainable peace until you consolidate all forces and aspects of the nation, including the King.