Nestled in the rugged Himalayas, the mountain kingdom of Nepal could not seem to be more removed from current geopolitical concerns. Yet on its frozen mountains a revolutionary battle rages. For years, Maoist rebels have sought to establish a second totalitarian state, at the price of thousands killed and an entire nation left ravaged by its violence.
I’m perturbed by the myopic attitude of the Government of India as shown towards the current political situation in Nepal. It has failed to understand that the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, is not only anti-establishment, but is also anti-India. What would be the impact of a Maoist Government in Nepal on Maoist insurgent activities in India extending from Bihar to Andhra? It poses a threat to India’s strategic interests and calls for a response worked out on the basis of a lucid analysis of India’s national interests.
India’s present policy towards Nepal is both strategically and morally wrong. Our current foreign policy towards Nepal is totally oblivious to India’s national security interests, in the wake of King Gyanendra’s dismissal of the Parliament and assuming direct powers to combat the mortal threat that Nepal’s Maoist insurgency is posing to Nepal’s political fabric.
The Indian establishment’s personal aversions to the personality of King Gyanendra, if any, should not be allowed to overtake India’s national security interests in Nepal. It should not be forgotten that King Gyanendra before dismissing the Nepal Government sought to visit India for consultations. On all such occasions, the Indian Government found excuses to put off the King’s visit. The Indian establishment should realize that the smaller the nation, the more its sensitivities have to be respected if we have to retain influence in South Asia.
Why the Double Standards?
India counts itself among the primary victims of terrorism, ceaselessly raising the issue of “cross-border infiltration”. As long as Indian authorities maintain double standards on terrorism, however, it would be impossible to wipe out terrorism from region.
There are clear inconsistencies in India’s approach to the insurgency in Nepal. Despite New Delhi’s designation of the Maoists as a terrorist organization – even before Kathmandu described them as such – the unrestricted movement of Nepalese Maoists in India is no longer a secret.
By supporting Nepal in hour of need the government can send a clear signal to Maoists back in home that we are not going to tolerate any nuisance on our soil.
Nepal – Strategically Important for India
India must understand Nepal’s geo-strategic compulsions and physical vulnerability. No matter what kind of regime emerges in Nepal, it would be impossible to undermine the power of the Hindu Kingdom. Geo-strategically its location places it as an important buffer state between India and China.
In the long stretch of India’s borders with Tibet, the Chinese hold is broken only by Nepal and Bhutan. Nepal, therefore, keeps Chinese military presence away from India for a stretch of hundreds of kilometers. India’s loss is China’s gain. China has already made the first moves by sending in the first eighteen truck-loads of arms to Nepal through the land-route from Tibet.
Being a small country, the damage done to Nepal will be immense in the short term. However, India would have to face the long-term consequences of the replacement of traditional forces by radicals in Nepal.
Nepal has the distinction of being the world’s only Hindu state, with over 80% of the people following this faith. India’s Hindus comprising over 80% of India’s population have a special attachment for it. In accordance with a long standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each others’ countries without a passport or visa.
India has an eight million Nepali diaspora — in the army, as guards, helpers, and through marriage. Our ties go back to the days of Ram and Sita and Gautama Buddha. No other two countries have such deep emotional ties. Nepalis have served India’s interests from time immemorial. For the first time in history Nepal is in real trouble and seeking India’s assistance.
Growing Pakistan-Backed Islamic Militia Network & Maoists Joining Hands
The rising number of Pakistan-backed Islamic institutions in some Nepal districts on the border with this country is giving Indian forces sleepless nights.
According to latest estimates, as many as 73 out of 820 such institutions in Nepal have links with anti-India elements involved in pushing terrorists, along with arms and ammunition, into India through a 200-km unguarded gap.
These revelations are part of a recent report by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the paramilitary force guarding Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders. It has clearly pointed out that the bordering districts of Nepal have become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism as the 73 identified madrassas are giving them shelter and helping them financially.
It has identified a 10-km stretch inside Nepal, which has witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of madrassas and mosques in the past seven years.
Though the report, submitted to the home ministry, is tight lipped about the activities of mosques and madrassas on the Indian side, it spoke at length about their proliferation in two districts of Uttar Pradesh and three districts of Bihar.
It mentions that the Indian side has witnessed setting up of 1,172 mosques, 810 madrassas and 383 mosque-cum-madrassas along the border in the past decade.
The SSB’s concern is reflected in the fact that it gave a detailed account as to how such institutions were being used by the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI. The para-military force said managers of the madrassas and the ulema had close links with the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu and got financial assistance through Islamic Development Bank (Jeddah) and Habib Bank of Pakistan. It also mentioned how Habib Bank has expanded its network in the border areas, including Biratnagar and Krishna Nagar in Nepal.
Government Under Wrong Influence
India’s decision against Nepal rests on inputs from Nepal’s discredited polity, from India’s liberalist glitterati, likely pressures of the Leftists in the UPA Government coupled with the dislike of some sections of the Indian establishment of the King.
The Pioneer in its recent edition, made some startling revelation about the reasons that might have compelled the Nepalese Maoists to announce ceasefire, saying that the Ministry of External Affairs was behind the Nepalese Maoists for announcing the truce. The newspaper said that the Maoists leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda was in India recently for talks with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet Secretariat.
Ignoring the Union Ministry of Home Affairs stand that India should take a tough stance against the Maoists in Nepal, the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) and the Ministry of External Affairs have been eagerly pursuing a deal with Prachanda, possibly at the instigation of the CPI (M).
Instead of adopting an independent response based on our national interests, the Government of India seems to have given an impression to the Nepalese King that its approach is no different from that of the Bush Administration in the US and the British Government. India should stop working at the behest of US and other Western countries.
Learn From Our Own Experiences
Congress led UPA is playing with Maoist fire. India appears to be taking a big gamble with Maoist insurgents. Encouraged by the central government in Delhi, the ruling Congress-led coalition government in the state of Andhra Pradesh had removed a nine-year-old ban on the People’s War Group (PWG), which was recently put on a terrorist watch list by the United States.
Maoists in Andhra Pradesh had twice agreed to a truce and used it to their advantage to re-group, re-arm and re-launch their attacks. Maoists are clear in their approach, knowing exactly what they want to achieve from ceasefires and negotiations – time to consolidate gains and enter new areas – the same cannot be said about most governments who adopt the “peace process” approach.
The Maoists intend to bring about what they call “people’s democracy”, another name for the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, unmindful of the abject failure all such experiments have met in the past all over the world. They know this cannot be achieved through peaceful negotiations with the government of the day.
Recommendations & Solutions
The recommended prescription for this situation is straightforward. India should work closely with Nepal to ensure that the Maoist insurgency is extinguished. A “peace process” between the current government and the Maoist rebels should be discouraged; it will only prolong the bloodshed and raise doubts about the long term viability of a democratic Nepal.
India can take an immediate step to curtail foreign support for Prachanda’s revolution. It should formally designate the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) a terrorist entity based on its overt support for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
Government of India should help the Government of Nepal in its counter-insurgency operations in all possible manners and more importantly without associating ourselves with the US and the UK in this matter. India’s foreign policy towards Nepal, therefore, requires to be based on strategic determinants and stances which serve India’s national security interests.
The Hindu Kingdom need our support and not sermons. Presently, King Gyanendra backed by the Royal Nepal Army deserves all out support from India to quell the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. India must step in a big way in terms of military assistance to make the Royal Nepal Army strong and in the creation and training of Special Forces.
India can help Nepal help itself with maturity, foresight and large-heartedness. A Nepal unable to govern itself will be a headache for India because the Gangetic plain will become exposed.
Once that has been effectively achieved, the talk of return to a democratic government in Nepal can be resumed.