Aug 22, 2012

Pawns in the game

By Yubaraj Ghimire

Yuba Raj Ghimire
That Nepal’s political actors have all along refused to own responsibility for their dismal failure after the 2006 political change is not new. Occasionally, international NGOs and European donors have been accused of funding and instigating social movements creating divisions borderlining hatred and interfering in Nepal’s internal politics.

But recently, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai made a statement that surpassed all such accusations. “I have come to realise we all are ‘gotis’ (pawns) and our string is being pulled from somewhere else.” He made it obvious that Nepal’s two neighbours — India and China were interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs. It’s not for the first time that such a statement has come from a Maoist leader. Maoist chief Prachanda, when resigning on May 3, 2009 from the PM’s office, had said that he chose to quit instead of hankering after power since that required “appeasing external lords”. His anger was clearly directed towards New Delhi, perceived as too “interfering”.

Bhattarai, considered soft towards India, however, has made similar accusations three years down the line as revelations or comments from responsible quarters in Delhi has triggered an intense political debate. “We intervened to save General Rookmangud Katawal as chief of the Nepal army when he was sacked by the Prachanda-led government in 2009,” said India’s former Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan while commenting on the launch of a book on Nepal last month. The statement takes away the credit so far given to President Ram Baran Yadav, who helped the cabinet decision of May 3, 2009, leading to Prachanda’s resignation as PM in protest.

“Well, there is no need to react to what Saran said since he is now a private citizen,” said Surya Dhungel, legal advisor to President Yadav. But Bhattarai’s anger and his statement about outside interference is more damning. Sharing his anger and frustration with a select group of journalists, Bhattarai first accused China of openly going against the Maoist-backed line of ethnic federalism. Then, he said, “You all know how another country tried to intervene in the appointment of the new secretary, but I stood my ground.”

He was also critical of Yadav having invited and entertained BJP leader Yashwant Sinha as a state guest. These developments come in the wake of revelations by former Jawaharlal Nehru University professor, S.D. Muni, that the Vajpayee government relaxed restrictions on the movements and activities of Nepali Maoists in India after Prachanda and Bhattarai wrote a joint letter in June 2001, promising they would not go against India’s interests, a fact not known to many, including Maoist leaders, so far. Many in the Maoist and other political parties now blame Prachanda and Bhattarai for having led a violent movement in understanding with Delhi.

Muni’s revelation and Prachanda and Bhattarai’s silence, however, project the BJP, and not the ruling Congress, as the “friend” of Maoists. Bhattarai admits that the controversial letter was sent to Vajpayee through his national security advisor, using Muni as a go-between. Interestingly, it was the Vajpayee government that had declared Nepal’s Maoists “terrorists”. As Nepal’s drastic political change in April 2006 is taken as a synonym for disaster and chaos, the general Nepali perception remained largely critical of the Indian National Congress, partly since it had come to power in 2004 dislodging the Vajpayee government. As it turns out, there now seems to have been a continuation of India’s Nepal policy authored by the Vajpayee government.

There is speculation that although Yashwant Sinha came to Nepal (August 4-6) ostensibly on a pilgrimage, he got involved in visible political activity during his stay. Sinha met Maoists and Nepali Congress leaders as well as Madhesh leaders and asked them to work together so that post-conflict initiatives would not go in vain. The post-2005 Nepal policy is perceived as a failure and blamed for the prevailing chaos in Nepal. Sinha’s visit coincided with the revelation that it was the BJP, and not so much the Congress, that was responsible for recognising the Maoists as India’s ally in Nepal in the search for political stability.

Courtesy: Indian Express

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