How often we hear the phrase, “There is no military solution” to Nepal’s conflict. It’s as if military measures have no role in solving our present challenge. This confuses the issue, and in doing so takes us further from resolution.
In one sense, the phrase “military solution” is generally employed to connote conventional battlefield victory. But in Nepal we face an unconventional situation. This unconventional situation is insurgent warfare, the kind of conflict in which a multifaceted strategy must be used – with military means as one of the instruments.
A military component to an overall national strategy is a necessary and required condition to ending Nepal’s conflict.
Contrary to loudly proclaimed belief, the objective of a “military solution” does not lie in the annihilation of either of the conflicting parties. Rather, a “military solution” serves as an effective component to an integrated whole (a deterrent of sorts), the vanguard of which should be clearly stated political objectives.
Nepal’s Maoists have exhibited just such an integrated approach – one that relies heavily on the military constituent of their overall strategy, to pave the way for the other components. In response, the Nepali state must urgently re-define its own “military solution” in similar non-conventional terms.
At the heart of the Nepali state’s integrated solution must lie an answer to the following question: “Why is this war being fought?” The response must inadvertently include a political end-goal, the guiding principles of which should be the cessation of hostilities (at the earliest opportunity) and a sustainable road-map to stable and functional democratic governance. The Maoists have a clear vision of their own version of end-goals. It’s high time the state re-formulated and enunciated a competing vision.
A root cause underlying the progress of Nepal’s insurgency has been the failure of successive governments to assert their constitutionally mandated powers. Governments have failed to mobilize the state’s security apparatus based on discrete political objectives.
This deficiency in the state’s operations contributes negatively to the morale amongst the nation’s security forces. Continued neglect in this area naturally buttresses another facet of the Maoists “military solution” which is the consolidation of the confidence gap between the RNA and the mainstream political parties.
With regard to their own integrated strategy, the Maoists have performed spectacularly. This group has unambiguously stated political objectives and has developed complementary military assets with which to achieve its goals. Despite their subservience to a primitive, alien ideology, the Maoist leadership has cogently steered developments toward their political objectives at every opportunity, with military measures as just one weapon of many.
For example: “bandas” are enforced through terror; every documented period of negotiation or cease-fire has been initiated and terminated with heavy military action; participation in municipal polls were discouraged by public “executions”; and every public statement from the Maoists has included a political message accompanied by the threat of insurgent military action. These are all facets of the Maoists “military solution” employed under the broader umbrella of their political approach.
Perhaps the most ingenious element of the Maoist strategy has been their mobilization of the INGO community (at the political level) to actively thwart the employment of auxiliary forces to supplement the state’s security apparatus (at the military level). This observation is made in full view of the fact that had the state proceeded to deploy non-conventional forces (as is done in almost every other insurgency, including those to Nepal’s South), the impact would have been devastating for the Maoists – a shift of the conflict (in the state’s favor) and a drastic erosion of the Maoists’ recruiting ground.
Inadvertently, certain elements of the international community have assured the progress of Nepal’s insurgency by guaranteeing the uninhibited expansion of the Maoist campaign of forced indoctrination, recruitment, and intimidation. Ironically, therefore, the Maoists have successfully manipulated a purely humanitarian position to the benefit of their “military solution” – even as they continue to do exactly what the international community prohibits the state from doing, mobilizing local communities!
Meanwhile, the battered Nepali state demonstrates neither a willingness to re-evaluate its political strategy nor an ability to re-constitute its “military solution” in terms acceptable to the international community. The Nepali state must urgently develop its capacity to explain the realities of conflict in Nepal. Why do we fight? What are our goals? Politics must lead, supported by military action.
The re-invention of a coherent national strategy to restore law and order must start at the political level through dialogue between the mainstream political forces. The intended outcome of this initiative should be three fold: narrowing the confidence gap between the RNA and Nepal’s elite political class; the formulation of an integrated political strategy at the national level; and the acknowledgement of a viable, complementary military campaign to enable any proposed political solution.
Although the RNA’s symbolic patron may remain the King, the RNA’s champions should undoubtedly be the political hierarchy. Their present verbiage highlights a shameful debt of ingratitude to those who have fought for them and for democracy.
As for the recently “reformed” Maoist movement – which trumpets its dedication to the protection of human rights, universal freedoms, and multiparty democracy – it should have no problems honoring initiatives that forward an agenda of national reconciliation. Let there be another momentous “X-Point Agreement,” but this time amongst the mainstream forces (and their rightful military assets) to complement the much touted 12-Point agreement between the Parties and the Maoists.
Of course, the wishful alternative would be for the Maoists to unconditionally lay down their arms which ultimately, is the real test of their newly found yearning for peace. But the prospects of this outcome are as likely as the idea that any lasting solution can be had in the absence of a military component to the state’s multi-faceted challenge.