The state of flux

<br><EM>Yubaraj Ghimire</EM>

Aug. 9, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-4 Aug. 05-2011 (Shrawan 20,2068)<BR>

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram has expressed his concern over the prolonged political instability in Nepal. During his interaction with newspaper editors from Nepal recently, Chidambaram made it clear that the uncertainty in Kathmandu has wider implications, and India has reasons to worry about the situation in a country with which it shares more than 1,800 km of open border.

It may be a coincidence, but Chidambaram’s statement came soon after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked India to play a more assertive role in south Asia, specifically Sri Lanka and Nepal. But what Clinton overlooked was that India had played a leading role in creating a road map in November 2005, and that the international community had mostly gone along with that. The new identity envisioned by them was a Federal Republic of Nepal in the place of a unitary and constitutional monarchy, and its institutionalisation through a new constitution. The constitution is nowhere in sight. And the political flux continues.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal inducted nine new Maoist ministers into his council of ministers, taking the total number of Maoist ministers to a dozen, ignoring the disapproval of his party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), and that of the main opposition, the Nepali Congress. He has not only defied the instruction of his party’s standing committee but has also dared it to take disciplinary action. Khanal had come to power as a stop-gap prime minister, but he has consolidated his position by allying with Prachanda.

The entrenchment of the radical left in Nepal’s politics will be a headache for both India and the US, since its worldview remainsunchanged. So, the concerns expressed by both Clinton and Chidambaram will be viewed in many ways in Kathmandu.Back in 2005, the US was a late entrant in the India-led internationalsolidarity fold as it had reservations about working with the Maoists— which were still on the US terrorist list — and since it believed monarchy was a stabilising factor in conservative Nepal.

Six years later, a politics of consensus, one that is required to draft a new constitution and facilitate a smooth transition, is missing in Kathmandu. Nepal’s politicians have not only failed the people, but India and the rest of the international community as well. Chidambaram was voicing that concern. Meanwhile, most Nepalese lump India along with the Nepali political players of the 2005-06 change for the current instability. The worse, it seems, is yet to come. For, the politicians who stood together during the mass movement in 2005-06 are a divided lot now. The radical left has consolidated its grip on power, and moderate parties have been marginalised. A weak and divided Nepali Congress is reduced to a feeble opposition.

The new developments in Nepal will continue to be on India’s radar. China too thinks that it has a lot at stake in Kathmandu. It claims that a nexus of international donors and NGOs is promoting anti-Chinese and Free Tibet activities in Nepal, and has asked the government to stop that. It is in the light of these complaints that the government has asked for details of international aid agencies and NGOs. Diplomatic missions too have been asked to furnish details of their employees who do not enjoy diplomatic privilege.

About 50,000 foreigners are estimated to be working in Nepal. Even the US embassy is being probed currently for granting US visas to some Nepali citizens as “Tibetan refugees”. The action is not just a follow-up to China’s complaints, but is also an attempt to address wide concerns that, with the authority of the state collapsing, foreign agencies are using Nepal as a playground to further their interests, rather than assisting Nepal’s peace process.

China’s new ambassador to Nepal, Yang Houlan, recently told this columnist that as a good neighbour, it wants Nepal to be a stable and prosperous country and that it should be able to sort out its problems on its own instead of depending on others. He also said China has no desire to compete with India in Nepal. However, China has one advantage over India: it was in no way involved in the political change of 2005-06, like India and the West. It only approved the radical change once it came into effect in April 2006. So it has been spared the blame for the current mess.

Courtesy Indian Express

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