The Nepalese Maoists allege that foreign powers, especially India, played a role in the downfall of their government and the formation of the new coalition, reports the BBC. The previous government, headed by Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Prachanda, had resigned after Nepal’s president had invalidated the sacking of the country’s army chief, General Rookmangud Katawal.
Katawal, on his part, had ignored calls to integrate former Maoist fighters into the army, thus violating the peace agreement. If India played a role in the downfall of the Maoist-led government or if it didn’t remains to be seen. There is reason to be hopeful that Nepal’s southern neighbor will play a reasonably constructive role, given that India’s Congress Party, not the Hindu Nationalist Party, have won the general elections this month.
I’m not trying to judge if sacking the army chief was a “mistake”, as new prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal says, or if the sacking procedure chosen by Prachanda was, etc.. But the army chief is an obstacle to peace.
If this translation of a January 2008 speech is accurate, Prachanda may be an obstacle to peace, too. There are two ways to interpret how the Maoists became Nepal’s strongest party. One is that they were most popular. Another is that they blackmailed the voters into voting for them, as a continuation of the civil war would have been the only alternative. In that light, the army chief’s refusal to integrate the fighters – or a substantial number of them – looks understandable. But the peace agreement must be honored. The Economist highlights the background of the struggle between the two sides – and the point where the country’s old elites, the Nepalese Congress Party and the Communist UML, and the president for that matter, are making a mistake indeed:
The difficulty of making a non-Maoist government is a clue to how misguided it would be. Mostly drawn from Kathmandu, a pampered capital, the Maoists’ opponents have consistently underestimated them and the rural grievances that fuelled their struggle.
The Economist, May 16, 2009, page 59
238 members of the 601-members parliament are Maoists. If Nepal’s political leaders fail to write a constitution, there will be another civil war. The risk of integrating Maoist fighters into the army may lead to civil war, too – but not as easily. Both China (a permanent UN security council member) and India (campaigning to become one) should show responsibility and help Nepal to find peace, rather than betting on expanding their own influence.
But usually, nations follow their own interests, rather than acting as Papa Christmas for others. The safest way to peace and prosperity is for the Nepalese to understand their own country’s national interests.
Related: Nepal’s (potential) Tibet Dividend, March 6