Originally Published 2006-02-22 12:03:50 Published on Feb 22, 2006
During the past couple of weeks, Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda has given three significant interviews. He carefully picked up three influential and understanding media channels, ¿ Kantipur in Nepal, The Hindu in India and the BBC of London ¿ to send a strong message across to Nepal, India and the international community respectively.
Changing the face of global security
During the past couple of weeks, Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda has given three significant interviews. He carefully picked up three influential and understanding media channels, - Kantipur in Nepal, The Hindu in India and the BBC of London - to send a strong message across to Nepal, India and the international community respectively. The points highlighted in these interviews broadly fall in line, saying that he is willing to seek peace in Nepal by joining competitive democratic politics under a new Constitution written by an "elected" Constituent Assembly. He has outlined a road-map to get his organisation, including his armed cadres, mainstreamed into Nepali democratic politics under international supervision and the leadership of the seven-party alliance, with which the Maoists entered into a 12-point understanding in November 2005. 

The interviews clearly mark a basic shift in the Maoist position from the goal of fighting for communist order under "New Peoples Democracy" to the initiative for a "multi-party democratic republic". Prachanda's message seems to be aimed at exploiting the serious erosion in the King's credibility after one year of his disastrous direct rule and the sham of local bodies elections in February 2006, universally disapproved by the international community. The interviews clearly underline the fact that the King is the real part of the main problem in Nepal. This message is also aimed at the political parties and the international community which continues to be skeptical of the Maoists' real motives. These interviews bring out the political thrust of the Maoist rebellion and try to underline their seriousness in seeking a viable exit from the persisting conflict. 

Prachanda admitted in these interviews that he has been working on this line for the past three years and it is only after building an internal consensus within his group, reflected in the resolutions of the Maoists' plenum meeting in August 2005, that a public articulation of the shift has been undertaken. 

Behind this shift is also the realisation among the Maoists of the hard ground reality in Nepal where the middle classes are not ready to move towards the establishment of a communist order directly from the feudal aristocracy and the international community will not let the Maoists achieve a military victory to do so, notwithstanding the incapacity of the Royal Nepal Army to militarily eliminate the Maoists. 

Admitting this, Prachanda in his Kantipur interview said: "Given the international power balance and the overall economic, political and social realities of the country, we can't attain those goals (of communism) at the moment." This point has been repeated and elaborated in other interviews as well. Therefore, the Maoists' shift may sound to be tactical, but it is a basic shift because these internal and international conditions are not going to change overnight. That is why Prachanda has also spoken at length on the integration of his armed cadres into the democratically controlled Nepalese Army after, and only after, the Maoists' have been accorded a deserving place in Nepal's new political order. 

Prachanda has assured that his party would accept the outcome of an independent poll for the Constituent Assembly even if the Maoists are defeated at such polls, and would accept the new constitution drafted by such a representative body even if it restores some form of constitutional or absolute monarchy.

Prachanda's charm offensive has put the King on the defensive. The mellowed tone of the King's address on Democracy Day (February 19) is indicative of that, but the King is in no mood to shift from his basic position that the political parties should follow his road-map to democracy by participating in the elections ordered by him, and the Maoists should surrender arms to enter mainstream politics under his overall guidance and supremacy. The King cannot and will not accept the Maoist proposal of the Constituent Assembly because that would amount to be a kiss of political death for the monarchy. 

He could consider revival of Parliament as demanded by the political parties as a tactical move to distance the parties from the Maoist demand of the Constituent Assembly but such a move may not work as Prachanda in his interviews has already prepared himself to deal with this contingency. Moreover, the revived Parliament may also either declare elections for a Constituent Assembly or at least endorse the parties' 12-point agreement with the Maoists and ask for a drastic curtailment of the King's role in the emerging new political order of Nepal. In any negotiated political settlement, it is the King who has to lose the face and most of his presently grabbed powers.

The King will most likely continue to do what he has been doing to perpetuate his seizer of the Nepali state. He seems to have a three-pronged strategy: one, to militarily control the Kathmandu valley by use of force and repression with the help of the Royal Nepal Army. In his calculations, mayhem and anarchy in Nepal's country-side does not matter so long as he has the control of the Kathmandu valley. Two, the King will keep investing his efforts and resources on dividing the political parties and sabotaging the seven-party alliance and its understanding with the Maoists. The questions raised by some members of the alliance on the 12-point understanding with the Maoists and their reluctance to mobilise anti-King demonstrations indicate in this direction. He may even consider installing a new government with the help of pliable political leaders, though it will not help. 

Thirdly, the King is feeding into the dilemmas of international community which is scared of the prospects of the Maoists filling in the vacuum created by the collapse of the monarchy. The American position is particularly hard on any joint front of the Maoists and the political parties against the King. The problem of the US and India is that the King is refusing to take any initiative towards accommodating genuine democratic aspirations of the Nepalese people.

To break the logjam into which the King has trapped Nepal's peace, stability and democratic order, only the international community can and must move. It should take Prachanda on the face value, even if to call his bluff on peaceful transition to the multi-party democracy through an elected Constituent Assembly route. The international community's self-confidence and firm resolve to deal with a republican Nepal, if that has to emerge eventually, will help the wavering political party leaders to assert themselves and build a popular, peaceful resistance to the King's obduracy. India ought to play the lead in this respect because the chaos and anarchy in Nepal will affect it most adversely.

The author is Advisor to Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh, February 22, 2006.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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