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

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