Shady Delhi Dealings

If the expectation in South Block and among the leadership of the seven-party alliance in Nepal is that the recent Delhi dealings will disrupt Their Majesties’ ongoing tour of parts of Africa, they are bound to be disappointed. No change has been instituted as a result of what must be a unique political experiment in diplomatic arm-twisting, a modern version of gun-boat diplomacy of the bygone era of colonialism.

Its psychological warfare thrust is clearly manifest in the US’s continued outsourcing of its foreign/security policy to the mandarins of Delhi who, despite their frequent rhetoric about the shining new world of the 21st century, follow the outmoded model of spheres of influence and unacceptable concepts such as the dominance of the small by the big.

All this, mind you, comes couched in familiar if fraudulent slogans about safeguarding democracy in Nepal and so on and so forth, not via legitimate political processes such as elections but by a naked exhibition of intimidation by foreign powers and disgruntled political elements. Until the other day, readers will surely recall they were claiming from the rooftops that they had cut a power-sharing deal with the Maoists.

No wonder, then, that strange, even absurd, developments are taking place or have transpired recently in Delhi. One is that UML’s chief Madhav Kumar Nepal dashed back to the Indian capital merely five days after a record three-weeks tour of Hindustan where, for reasons yet unknown, he did not meet Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the power behind the Indian gaddi today.

Indeed, if sometimes it is made out that the chief UML political commissar rushed back to Delhi to forge a tripartite understanding between the dissenting parties, the Maoists and India, at other occasions the ever-gullible public is informed that his latest dash to Delhi was merely to check out his health condition.

Subsequently, one is informed (yes, in the age of the Internet, even in Tunis) that in order not to embarrass his Indian hosts, the UML chief did not meet the Maoist leadership. So, what is the real story? Although it was even rumoured that the skies would fall in Kathmandu after the historic confabulations in Delhi, as of this writing no such thing has come to pass.

Meanwhile, although NC boss Girija Prasad Koirala is once again on terra familiar with other partners of the seven-party alliance, no specific or goal-oriented understanding has been unveiled for the public to marvel at. Is that because no agreement could be hammered out?

Regarding American Ambassador James F Moriarty’s two-day visit to India and press statement issued in the Indian capital following his confabulations with Indian officials and others, there is little discernible change in the familiar American stance, including its insistence that the Maoists are a dangerous lot, not to be trusted, particularly before they surrender their weapons, renounce violence and support the political process.

Incidentally, this commentator, for one, finds it not a little curious that the Maoist leadership have kept mum on Washington’s recent utterances, including their “warning” to Nepal’s parties that it would not countenance their uniting with the Maoists.

Moriarty’s meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, as reflected in the press statement, for example, hardly reveals the complete “iceberg”.

For starters, one wonders why he was not more forthcoming about whether or not his colleagues at the American Embassy in Delhi informed him about the Maoist presence in the Indian capital, and their confabulations with Nepali politicians camped in Delhi on their recent or earlier political missions.

It does not, in any case, require the brains of a rocket scientist to note a connection between the King’s very effective projection of Nepal’s national interest at the 13th SAARC summit in Dhaka, including her role in paving the way for China to come into SAARC as an observer, and the obviously felt need in Delhi and Washington to (a) make their respective assessment of the same and (b) to coordinate their diplomacy including doubtless on how to undo it, if possible.

To expect transparency on such a sensitive subject one would have to be extremely naive. In the real world of hard-nosed diplomacy both the “champions of democracy” would feel the necessity of camouflaging their real intentions with their familiar verbiage about restoration of democracy in Nepal rather than the imposition of an Indo-American condominium over Nepal for what are all too obvious geo-political reasons.

However, to return to the King’s current tour of Africa, mention must be made of his impending visit to Nepalese peacekeepers in Burundi, at the UN’s request, and efforts to begin to build a presence in South Africa, one of the most important countries on the continent, after years of scandalous neglect.

While members of the accompanying media are, naturally, following events back home with keen interest, none has lost any sleep over the same.

M. R. Josse is a writer on Nepal and the author of Nepal: Politics of Statemate, Confusion and Uncertainty and Nepali Politics 2002-03: Gotterdammerung, The Twilight of the Gods.