Maoist Movement in Nepal: Impact on India

No review of the Maoist insur­gency in India can ever be com­plete with­out an analy­sis of the impact of the Maoist move­ment in Nepal. Did India score a self-goal by sup­port­ing the Maoists in Nepal? Time alone will ful­ly answer that ques­tion. The writer pro­vides a very crit­i­cal Nepali per­spec­tive to the Maoist prob­lem that now spans vast regions of South Asia. The writer states can­did­ly — India faces a seri­ous threat from an acute growth of Nax­alite insur­gency with­in its ter­ri­to­ries. It is true that the porous Indo-Nepal bor­der helped sus­tain the Maoist insur­gency in Nepal for a decade. And it is an open secret that Nepalese insur­gents received shel­ter and some kind of cov­er in India dur­ing the days of insur­gency. She right­ly con­cludes that the bulk of the Indi­an estab­lish­ment realis­es that pro­longed polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty in Nepal can only help the cause of the Nax­alites in Indi­an states as well as give Chi­na the pre­text to increase its engage­ment with Nepal.

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India
Defence and Security Alert (DSA

Polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty in Nepal has always posed pol­i­cy chal­lenges for India. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, geo­graph­i­cal­ly, cul­tur­al­ly and his­tor­i­cal­ly, link­ages between the two coun­tries have deter­mined Indi­an for­eign pol­i­cy vis-à-vis Nepal. But the con­tin­ued polit­i­cal flux in Nepal has made a rethink of Indo-Nepal rela­tion­ship a neces­si­ty.

Nepalese Maoists and India have always had a strained rela­tion­ship. It is wide­ly believed that Dr Babu­ram Bhat­tarai, in return for India’s back­ing for his prime min­is­ter­ship, is now pro­mot­ing India’s inter­ests in Nepal. India, like­wise, seems keen on pro­long­ing the stint of the Bhat­tarai-led Maoist gov­ern­ment. India’s changed pol­i­cy in deal­ing with UCPN (Maoist), how­ev­er, does not explain India’s his­tor­i­cal­ly dubi­ous role in deal­ing with the for­mer rebel par­ty.

When they emerged from the hid­ing in 2006 to join main­stream pol­i­tics, UCPN (Maoist) were viewed with skep­ti­cism because of their bloody his­to­ry, not only inside the coun­try but also on the inter­na­tion­al are­na and most impor­tant­ly in India.

Although India pro­vid­ed the major impe­tus for the peace process, the dil­ly-dal­ly­ing in con­sti­tu­tion writ­ing is still under­stood in many quar­ters as man­i­fes­ta­tion of cam­ou­flaged Indi­an inter­est. This is the rea­son ques­tion over India’s dubi­ous posi­tion is raised time and again.

Secu­ri­ty con­cern

India’s con­cern over Nepal regard­ing secu­ri­ty issue seems to have changed lit­tle even though Nepali pol­i­tics has come a long way in the last six years. Once an armed rev­o­lu­tion­ary par­ty, UCPN (Maoist) has now been dis­armed and has not just joined main­stream pol­i­tics, but is now also lead­ing the Nepalese gov­ern­ment.

Secu­ri­ty has always been India’s main con­cern while deal­ing with UCPN (Maoist) or Nepal as a whole. Now India faces a seri­ous threat from an acute growth of Nax­alite insur­gency with­in its ter­ri­to­ries. It is true that the porous Indo-Nepal bor­der helped sus­tain the Maoist insur­gency in Nepal for a decade. And it is an open secret that Nepalese insur­gents received shel­ter and some kind of cov­er in India dur­ing the days of insur­gency. There was exten­sive report­ing on how Nepali Maoist com­bat­ants were receiv­ing train­ing from their coun­ter­parts in India. It is not clear whether New Del­hi chose to ignore the close ties between the insur­gent groups on either side of the bor­der.

At this point, only a small sec­tion of the Indi­an polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment wants to see unrest con­tin­ue in Nepal because they believe that a state of ‘con­trolled chaos’ in the Himalayan coun­try suits India’s inter­ests the best. But the bulk of the Indi­an estab­lish­ment realis­es that pro­longed polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty in Nepal can only help the cause of the Nax­alites in Indi­an states as well as give Chi­na the pre­text to increase it engage­ment with Nepal.

As the strug­gle for glob­al suprema­cy between India and Chi­na grows, both the coun­tries are keen on increas­ing their pres­ence in Nepal. Chi­na wants Nepal to crack down on the Free-Tibet move­ment in the coun­try. On the oth­er hand, India seems keen on play­ing up the move­ment to counter the Chi­nese influ­ence.

Like­wise, India wants to keep Indi­an air mar­shals at Trib­hu­van Inter­na­tion­al Air­port (TIA) in Kath­man­du. Although the stat­ed rea­son for this is to pre­vent inci­dents like the 1999 hijack of Indi­an Air­lines flight from Kath­man­du, it could also be that India wants to keep an eye over the Chi­nese in Nepal in addi­tion to keep­ing a close tab on Maoist activ­i­ties.

Thus we again see that secu­ri­ty is at the top of the Indi­an for­eign pol­i­cy con­cerns vis-à-vis Nepal. There­fore, the Indi­an polit­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al cir­cle wants the polit­i­cal cri­sis in Nepal to be resolved as soon as pos­si­ble. But they also want the main cred­it for the res­o­lu­tion to go to India.

India faces a seri­ous threat from an acute growth of Nax­alite insur­gency with­in its ter­ri­to­ries. It is true that the porous Indo-Nepal bor­der helped sus­tain the Maoist insur­gency in Nepal for a decade. And it is an open secret that Nepalese insur­gents received shel­ter and some kind of cov­er in India dur­ing the days of insur­gency. There was exten­sive report­ing on how Nepali Maoist com­bat­ants were receiv­ing train­ings from their coun­ter­parts in India. It is not clear whether New Del­hi chose to ignore the close ties between the insur­gent groups on either side of the bor­dert to counter the Chi­nese influ­ence

Con­cern over anti-Indi­an activ­i­ties

Many of the rad­i­cal Maoists, both in Nepal and India, con­demned the 2006 peace accord between Nepal gov­ern­ment and Maoist rebels. But when UCPN (Maoist) became the largest par­ty in Nepal and went on to lead the gov­ern­ment twice, India start­ed wor­ry­ing that the devel­op­ments in Nepal would some­how abet the Nax­alite move­ment back home. India’s major con­cern is that any kind of anti-Indi­an sen­ti­ments in Nepal could be exploit­ed by Nax­alites in India.

It doesn’t help that the Maoists in Nepal have con­sis­tent­ly spo­ken out against Indi­an inter­ven­tion in Nepalese pol­i­tics. The then Prime Min­is­ter Push­pa Kamal Dahal (Prachan­da), the chair of UCPN (Maoist), had to resign as prime min­is­ter in May 2009 because in his own words he was not ready to “kneel down in front of for­eign mas­ters,” which was a thin-veiled attempt to expose India’s role in his demise. Anoth­er impor­tant fac­tor is that the Maoists in Nepal often fan anti-Indi­an sen­ti­ments as a proof of their nation­al­is­tic cre­den­tials.

But as Nepal is com­plete­ly depen­dent on India, only by accept­ing India’s geopo­lit­i­cal con­cerns can Nepal expect to gain a sem­blance of polit­i­cal sta­bil­i­ty.

Back­ground

Since they launched an armed rebel­lion in 1996, the Maoist organ­i­sa­tion steadi­ly gained in strength over time as the state failed to check its grow­ing influ­ence in the coun­try­side. How­ev­er, using mil­i­tary pow­er to fight a rebel group proved to be a wrong move. The more the state tried to sup­press the spread of Maoists around the coun­try through the use of force, the more the Maoists were able to ral­ly the youth to their cause. Mean­time, polit­i­cal par­ties also start­ed view­ing the nation­al army as a tool of monar­chy that could pose a threat to their own pow­er.

UCPN (Maoist), dur­ing their cam­paign for inter­na­tion­al recog­ni­tion, had utilised the offices of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Inter­na­tion­al Move­ment (RIM), an organ­i­sa­tion that espous­es left wing extrem­ism world­wide, as well as Coor­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee of Maoist Par­ties and Organ­i­sa­tion of South Asia (CCOMPOSA), cre­at­ed in West Ben­gal, a bas­tion of the extreme left in India.

India, for the most part, has pro­vid­ed cru­cial sup­port to UCPN (Maoist) and oth­er polit­i­cal par­ties to main­tain its hold over Nepali poli­ty. With about 800 kilo­me­ters of porous bor­der to exploit, the Maoists were able to smug­gle in arms and explo­sives to train their sol­diers.

Accord­ing to a secu­ri­ty expert in Nepal, “India regard­ed Maoists as a tool to over­throw monar­chy and believed that it could always play the Maoists against the state.”

Oth­er secu­ri­ty experts believe there were two phas­es to UCPN (Maoist)’s strat­e­gy — estab­lish­ment of a demo­c­ra­t­ic front and launch of a ‘social rev­o­lu­tion’. They believe that the Maoists have already com­plet­ed the first phase by cre­at­ing a unit­ed front to remove con­sti­tu­tion­al monar­chy and trans­form the coun­try into a fed­er­al repub­lic. They hold that the Maoists are now in the phase of social rev­o­lu­tion aimed at con­sol­i­dat­ing their hold over the Nepali poli­ty and larg­er soci­ety.

About the Author
Shree­jana Shreshtha — The writer is Defence News Cor­re­spon­dent of Repub­li­ca Eng­lish dai­ly, Kath­man­du, Nepal.

Note by the Author:
Many of the rad­i­cal Maoists, both in Nepal and India, con­demned the 2006 peace accord between Nepal gov­ern­ment and Maoist rebels. But when UCPN (Maoist) became the largest par­ty in Nepal and went on to lead the gov­ern­ment twice, India start­ed wor­ry­ing that the devel­op­ments in Nepal would some­how abet the Nax­alite move­ment back home. India’s major con­cern is that any kind of anti-Indi­an sen­ti­ments in Nepal could be exploit­ed by Nax­alites in India

Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA
Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) mag­a­zine is the only ISO 9001:2008 cer­ti­fied, pre­mier world class, new wave month­ly mag­a­zine which fea­tures par­a­digm chang­ing in-depth analy­ses on defence, secu­ri­ty, safe­ty and sur­veil­lance, focus­ing on devel­op­ing and strate­gic future sce­nar­ios in India and around the world.

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →