Commentary: Gauging The SPA-Maoist Pact in Nepal

Kathmandu, 10 Dec: The 12-point pact between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists of November 22 continues to occupy centre-stage in the country’s academic discourse. There is no doubt that the agreement was reached on Indian soil, acknowledged as it was by the Maoist Supremo Prachanda himself. Why the pact was shrouded in secrecy, full of suspense, and a non-transparent affair is intriguing to say the least. More so, “why the SPA and the Maoist representatives did not sign a common document and chose instead to do so on different sets of paper” triggers plenty of food for thought.

No doubt, the whole exercise behind the deal, in the name of democracy and human rights, is to put the SPA at the helm of affairs once more, piggyback India as in 1990: the same for the Maoists, but in addition, a political safe landing as a bonus! But the million rupee question making the rounds is “what is in it for India?” It would be politically naive if not downright stupid to think that the world’s largest democracy has no stakes whatsoever, in this somewhat unexpected development.

The flip side of the argument that merits equal attention is why the Nepali politicians, after all these years, are now suddenly hobnobbing with their arch enemy, the Maoists who ousted them from power by exposing them to be inept and incompetent? More importantly, why is India so desperate to join hands with the Maoists, an outfit they once not only branded as terrorists but even supplied lethal weapons to the Nepalese government to crush the rebellion they had perpetrated.

Why does India want democracy in Nepal at all costs, even if it comes through mobilizing two sworn enemies, the SPA and the Maoists? If the answer as some would like to believe, is India’s profound love for democracy and human rights, then why this love has not spilled over to neighboring Bhutan remains a mystery.

Strategically speaking, it would have been a far safer bet for the Indian establishment to have supported the King vis-a-vis the SPA-Maoist pact considering that Nepal’s political parties have always lacked a sense of direction and the fact that they still lack popular support. The Maoists, fare no better and are looked upon with contempt by the general populace as the terror and bloodshed they unleashed in the name of the “People’s War” affected them most and badly scarred their psyche.

Surely, India is aware the political stalemate in Nepal was brought about by the musical chairs of the bickering power hungry leaders of political parties and the Maoist insurgents and that it compelled the February 1 move by the King. That these very leaders, of the SPA and the Maoists, should now be seen by the Indian government in a different light, is revealing to say the least.

Time and again, India has accused Nepal of playing the China card, yet it is oblivious of the fact that decisions like stopping lethal arms supplies to the Royal Nepal Army to curb the insurgency, compelled Nepal to turn to neighboring China for the same. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there is a strong lobby in India articulating the view that lethal arms supplies to the Royal Nepal Army should be resumed at the earliest “before China’s one million dollar military hardware supplied recently to Nepal becomes an enduring relationship and dependency”.

Why the Indian leadership is jeopardizing its interests in Nepal, energy, security and hydropower, by way of the SPA-Maoist pact seems politically shortsighted at best. To achieve these ends, if they think the SPA-Maoist combo advocating republicanism is a better bet than supporting Constitutional Monarchy and Multi-party democracy, it could prove to be a gross miscalculation.

If the thinking is that the King, even as a constitutional monarch, could prove to be an obstacle in Nepal not toeing the Indian line in regional and international forums, then it is all the more imperative that the government seriously weigh the SPA-Maoist pact and the issues involved before coming up with a suitable response.

By Ananda P Srestha

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