A rash of doubts, suspicions and ambiguities have begun to dog the 12-point pact between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists of November 22 – this, no sooner than it was announced to the world with all bells and whistles.
On the establishment side, or, indeed, as far as the enlightened populace is concerned, the most prominent -and objectionable – feature of the SPA-Maoist pact is that it was engineered on Indian soil, acknowledged in a mea culpa last Sunday in a BBC Nepali service interview by the Maoist supremo himself.
MADE IN INDIA
That the two principals of the SPA – to wit, NC’s Girija Prasad Koirala and UML’s Madhav Kumar Nepal – had for that purpose made repeated trips to New Delhi, on false pretenses incidentally, also clearly needs to be factored in any attempt to assess what the pact is really all about. Clearly, too, sight must not be lost that the concord was hammered out in a hush-hush or non-transparent manner.
If everything had been above board regarding its genesis and, furthermore, if its central purpose is as benign as its protagonists wish the world to believe, where was the need for all the cloak-and-dagger drama and subterfuge?
Furthermore, given India’s official stance that the Maoists are terrorists and her mantra-like pronouncements at international fora – most recently at the 13 th SAARC summit in Dhaka – that she is actively engaged in a war against terrorism, New Delhi’s role as midwife in the pact’s birth can hardly be overlooked or minimised.
Neither, for that matter, her hosting of Maoists on her soil for years – all protestations about the evils of cross-border terrorism notwithstanding. Tersely put: what’s in it for India? After all, none but innocent babes will believe that one who pays the piper does NOT get to call the tune!
That basic political reality aside, there is also recent chilling history to be considered: specifically, India’s behind-the-scenes role in the ouster of Palden Thondup Namgyal, the Chogyal of Sikkim, via the help of pliant political parties, leading to the Sikkimese Anschluss that climaxed in 1975. That the thrust of the SPA-Maoist accord is, in Prachanda’s own words, to intensify the SPA movement against the King thus can hardly be overlooked.
Against the backdrop of Sikkim’s annexation and in the present political mess in Nepal, the ominously strident anti-Monarchy chant whipped up in India for months if not years, as reflected in the Indian mainstream media, her Left parties and academia, can hardly be disregarded. Neither, too, the active intervention of Indian political parties in attempting to call the shots and force the pace of political change in this proud, never-colonised land.
DISSENT WITHIN SPA
Let it be recorded that doubts and dissent over the SPA-Maoist agreement has begun to surface from within the constituents of the SPA itself. Thus, president of the Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, Narayan Man Bijukchhe, has publicly stated he was kept in the dark about the 12-point pact! He disclosed that the leaders of the “big parties” signed the pact without discussions with all parties.
Moreover, speaking in Surkhet the other day, Bijucchhe rightly cautioned: “If we continue to accept the understanding that was made under the influence of foreigners, they will raise their heads in this country.”
Equally noteworthy are similar public observations by Nawaraj Subedi, general secretary, Janamorcha Nepal. Subedi announced at a public forum in Kathmandu that the seven parties’ leaders had not been given the mandate to sign any pact, merely permission to initiate talks. Oddly enough, though, his party president Amik Sherchan is a signatory to the 12-point document.
Significantly, too, Subedi lambasted the proviso that during the period leading to elections for a constituent assembly some international organisation, such as the UN, would be entrusted to supervise weapons that the Royal Nepal Army and the Maoists hold respectively. Subedi rightly expressed apprehension about the possibility, under such a stipulation, that the armed forces of India, the US and the UK could be involved in such dubious activity.
Incidentally, C.P. Mainali, leader of a SPA constituent, called for more clarification and, specifically, pointed out the need to be careful to maintain Nepal’s geopolitical balance – a clear hint that a move by such external forces to supervise weapons in the RNA’s possession could provoke a strong reaction from neighbouring China.
Incidentally, it is worth noting that NC’s Joint General Secretary Ramsaran Mahat at a public function in Nuwakot recently declared: “Maoists are still hindering activities of political and social organisations.” Meanwhile, his colleague Arjun Narsingh KC has been strenuously arguing that the NC leadership had still to approve the commitment made in the SPA-Maoist pact, adding that the NC would never enter into a partnership with the Maoists until they gave up the politics of violence. He also clarified that the NC had never said it would go for a republican setup.
Not to be discounted either is the comment from NC’s Vice President Sushil Koirala arguing that the pact was just an understanding and did not constitute an alliance with the Maoists. Notably, too, Girija Prasad Koirala himself has conceded that there were still some “hurdles” which required “further clarification.” In his words, “the whole process would take time to complete.”
The chant from the UML, however, is somewhat different leading to the assumption that the key role in the tailoring of the 12-point arrangement with the Maoists was that of the UML, specifically that of its bossman Madhav Kumar Nepal. Is that why the NC too seems to be having second thoughts now?
While the UML’s seminal role in the above might explain Nepal’s shrill attacks against the King and his laudatory assessment of the pact he helped to cobble together, it is also instructive that UML functionary Yubraj Gwayali has stressed that until the Maoists join the peaceful movement and give up arms there would be no alliance with them.
Be that as it may, the UML has now increased its hostile posture against the King and government, with its leading political commissar even warning the RNA not to take action against UML demonstrators at the pain of facing stern action from a government “formed after the reinstatement of democracy.”
Apart from planning a demonstration against the King on the very day of his return from a foreign tour, the UML’s chief has publicly urged China not to supply arms to the RNA. On Indian soil recently, it may be recalled, he had lambasted China whose leadership, incidentally, has from time to time come in for scathing criticism from the Maoists.
While the force driving Nepal’s anti-Chinese outbursts can easily be guessed, he has indicated that there are considerable differences with the Maoists that still need to be ironed out in further parleys at an unstated time and venue. He did however pinpoint one crucial wrinkle in the SPA-Maoist pact: while the SPA is for the revival of the dead and gone parliament as the via media to conduct elections for a constituent assembly the Maoists, sticking to their guns, insist that it should be done through an interim government.
From Prachanda’s public utterances it is more than clear that they have not budged an inch from their original stance on an interim government and elections for a constituent assembly which will lead to a “democratic republic.”
While adamantly abjuring the need to surrender arms before joining the political mainstream, the Maoists seem to have gotten the SPA to meekly surrender on the inducement of joining hands with them to disrupt the forthcoming elections.
But, after all is said and done, how would the SPA, in the absence of the Monarchy and the RNA, be able to enforce its will on a militant force that has unleashed a ruthless war on the State for ten years, armed with foreign backing and support? That question, plainly, will not just go away by itself. It needs to be addressed by the SPA and the answers provided to the general public.
Interestingly, the international community, such as it is, has welcomed the SPA-Maoist merely on the basis of promises without any firm guarantees that what they say they will deliver. No wonder, then, that their recent reactions stress the need for the Maoists to demonstrate their true intent by disarming before anything else, of which there is, sadly, no indication.
The SPA, to sum up, has, in effect, abjectly surrendered to the Maoists in the hope of seizing political power. Apparently, in their scheme of things, that is all that matters – no matter how unrealistic that mirage is. The Maoists have not come thus far merely to hand over political power to the SPA!
Will the thinking public be as gullible as not to see through the Maoist game plan? While that remains to be seen, one strongly urges the government to seriously think through all sides of the issues involved before coming out with a well-considered response, including to the doubts and ambiguities that dog the SPA-Maoist pact.
As far as this commentator sees, one enduring puzzle is why the SPA and the Maoist representatives did not sign a common document and chose, instead, to do so on different sets of paper.