A week of confabs in Delhi coinciding with Prachanda’s much hyped sojourn in mid-September was enough to convince me that India that is not Bharat is desperate, and Bharat of the BJP that is not India is quite confused – but hardly anywhere near the confusion level of our Loktantrick leaders, both political and civil. It was comical (but tragic for long-term Nepal-India relations) to see Oli being demonized by Delhi’s academics, social workers and politicians in the same manner that Russia’s Putin is in the US or King Gyanendra was a decade back. It is another matter that both Putin and Oli are wildly popular in their own countries and sure to win coming elections: Indian establishment, guided as its neighbourhood policy is not by statesmen-politicians but by lower level Babudom, is unable to see the larger picture beyond immediate career trajectories.
It is worth reflecting on how this tragedy unfolded. Oli was ousted from his prime ministerial perch on the third go. The first in October 2015 was to prevent him from donning the mantle at all as per the “gentlemen’s agreement” of smoothly handing over power, with PM Sushil Koirala backtracking under dubious imported advice that his own senior party colleagues were surprised by. It did not stop Oli but it certainly destroyed Koirala’s reputation and his chance of becoming the second president of this blessed republic. It also destroyed the reputation of the agitating Madheshi leaders and their parties in the process: they who had “resigned” from parliament or boycotted it returned without any convincing explanation to vote in futility for Koirala. Under whose pressure or advice is not difficult to guess.
In the second attempt in early May 2016, Prachanda was lured to break away with his emaciated band (the Left and Right wings of his Maoist colleagues having long deserted him) from the Oli cabinet; but Oli turned out to be wilier than the subterranean spooks and lured him right back and bought time till the budget was passed. It tarnished the reputation of the newly elected Kangress president Sher Bahadur Deuba, exposing him to be a “kachcha kheladi”, inept at political games. Prachanda also destroyed what little reputation he had, showing him fickle and untrustworthy. That Oli had to be ousted as far as India’s Babudom was concerned was when he refused to sign a joint communiqué at the end of his February visit (of the kind that Prachanda eventually signed in mid-September of which more later) and instead went on to China in March to sign the historic agreement that broke the India-locked monopoly and opened up transit avenue via China.
The third crude attempt was made in July 2016 and it “succeeded”, if one may call it that, in bringing together an impossible coalition of an emaciated Cash Maoist party with a Kangress that does not know if it is going or coming, a coalition with 9-month death sentences on both leaders that the government machinery will prevaricate and simply not listen to. This is a coalition that is expected to implement an un-implementable and flawed constitution, hold three critical local and national elections before next Dussain even without having an idea what “local” means in the Nepali context. What a Pyrrhic victory for India! It certainly managed to stop the Chinese president from visiting Nepal and signing any new development agreements, even as India is unable to implement the past agreements (some two decades old) that it had signed. In India, it has been portrayed as a victory: just read the gloating of its so-called Nepal hands, from ex-ambassadors and retired academics to journalists close to its establishment. For Nepal, this is a continuing tragedy. Because of Prachanda’s political immorality – presenting a budget in parliament as part of the Oli government and voting against that budget the next day, and being unable to cobble an agreement on constitutional amendments or budget – the country is politically rudderless and budget-less. Indeed, Pashupatinath does seem to be keeping this country afloat!
The anarchic state of governance in Nepal – with government machinery being misused for personal ends by politicians, officials and shady businessmen – is highlighted by the sad Himal Southasia tragedy. A saga that began is the mid-1980s, it achieved international stature with impact not only in journalism but also in academia with citations that rivaled the best of peer-reviewed publications. I too had a small hand in being a midwife at its birth, helping the editor then living in New York, writing some of my most challenging pieces right from its first issue. Himal, after providing nearly three decades of innovative journalism from issues purely Himalayan to Southasian, has folded because it is unable to spend any more energy fighting wholly unnecessary, and it seems obviously deliberate, red tape.
What is ironic is that Himal was born bonny and healthy during the so-called autocratic Panchayat regime, flowered under multiparty democracy, and was strangled by Loktantra! Sad as it may be, it is merely a repeat of what has happened to Nepal with industrialization and development since the demise of the Panchayat in 1990: industries started by the Panchayat were sold for a song with the simultaneous advent of multiparty democracy and the neo-Liberal Washington Consensus and what remained were looted under a Maoist-led Loktantra since the advent of the so-called “peoples’ war”, a proxy war to bring Nepal under an East India Company-like client state situation. Prachanda’s signing of the 25-point communiqué after his India visit is currently heavily criticized in Nepal, and rightly so, where provisions (especially nos. 11, 12 and 13) go against the very spirit of this nation from its very birth. But lest we forget, they are almost word-for-for the same as that signed by UML’s foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey under the Sushil Koirala government with Sushma Swaraj (see point no. 6)!
What this highlights is that India’s Babudom has not changed its outlook one whit, not since the Raj, not under the Indira or Manmohan Congress and certainly not under the BJP, it successfully having put to rest any nonsense that might have emanated from Modi upon his inauguration that India must have a friendly neighbourhood policy. On the contrary, India has now formally given up non-alignment and has chosen, with the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) recently signed between India and the US, that it is a Peripheral Capitalist country quite prepared to do what the Core orders it to do to safeguard the Core’s imperial interests. The Marxist analyst Samir Amin had long ago pointed this out in his book The Future of Maoism.This has got China and Pakistan seriously worried and news has just come in that Pakistan is, for the first time since 1947, conducting a joint military exercise with Russia!
How the New World Order Changeth! And do our myopic Loktantrick leaders have any view or vision on how to steer this country as it meets the upcoming challenges? One will not have to look far: unless they first accept that the root of all of today’s malaise lies in the 12-point Delhi deal of November 2005, and start the corrective process from thence on, the rot in Nepal will continue to fester. If anyone is brave enough to do so, to him or her, hosannas from tomorrow’s history!