The Maoists hold the key to Nepal's future stability. Their declared goal does not differ from that of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA). They simply do not trust the King. They are dragging their feet until elections to a new constituent assembly actually occur. Comrades Prachanda and Bhattarai, Chairman and Convener respectively of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), stressed that their agitation would remain peaceful. They announced a three-month ceasefire. The SPA has indicated that the interim government will speedily elect a constituent assembly to make the new Constitution. The main problem would be to persuade the Maoists to give up arms. The Royal Nepal Army has already indicated its readiness to recruit Maoists in the army. If Prime Minister GP Koirala with his known tact succeeds in persuading the Maoists to enter the democratic mainstream they would become a major, if not dominant, factor in Nepal's politics. If that happened, what would be the result for India?
In the mid-nineteen nineties the Maoists formed their own group to separate from other communists who participated in elections. The Maoists committed themselves to revolutionary change through armed struggle. The organizational structure and nomenclatures they adopted were inspired by the Chinese model. They established their own Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) with its own Central Military Commission (CMC). Analysts tended to conclude easily therefore that Nepal's Maoists were and are controlled by China. The truth may not be that simple.
Interviewed by Charles Haviland for BBC World on 13 February this year Comrade Prachanda was asked: 'Fighting a war is very expensive. If your supporters are mainly in poor rural parts of Nepal, where are you getting your money from?'
He replied: 'We are certainly fighting for the rights of poor people in Nepal. We are the children of Nepali citizens. The main source of our income is the same people we are fighting for. As a secondary source, we used to extract from our enemies; but now, our main source is the support from the people'. It's been well established that no government anywhere has financially supported our revolution'. We are free to make decisions.' No government, perhaps. But what about others?
The Maoists have 40,000 armed activists. Comrade Prachanda may well be speaking the truth. But if he were getting arms and money from outside powers, would he admit it? He could be right, though, about his power to take independent decisions. Regardless of outside support any group engaged in armed struggle enjoys far greater freedom of action than its counterparts engaged in traditional politics. All politics today, including revolutionaries and NGOs, has become corporate activity. It matters little if money comes from governments, agencies or business houses. What matters is the agenda that is followed. The tendency to hide sources of funding arises from coyness associated with conventional morality. In a decade or so such coyness might disappear. Internet and the InfoTech age could introduce a kind of transparency that renders secrecy impossible.
From the beginning the Maoists have been closely associated with the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) with its headquarters in Chicago, USA. On February 1, 1998 the RIM Committee wrote: 'The participation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the concern and assistance given by your Party to the advance of the Communist movement in the South Asia region and throughout the world, even at difficult moments in your struggle, inspire us. The Committee of RIM and the CPN (M) will continue to march forward as in the past -- united by our all-powerful ideology.' In 2001 Prachanda responded: 'The present rapid pace of development would have been inconceivable without the support of Communist revolutionaries, particularly the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, during the period of the historic initiation of the People's War.'
The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) is the US political arm of the apex international body, RIM. Mr Robert Avakian heads both RCP and RIM. Other fraternal members of RIM, apart from Nepal's Maoists, include Peru's extremist party Shining Path. RIM is strongly opposed to China's economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping. Its leaders endorse China's Cultural Revolution. To evade arrest after a White House demonstration against Deng Xiaoping in 1981, Mr Avakian and other RCP leaders fled the US to live in France. While Mr Avakian directs affairs from France, RCP is led by Mr Clark Kissinger in the US. The RCP spokesperson is a former convict, Mr Carl Dix, who firmly believes in world revolution through violence.
The puzzling fact is that the US State Department has designated Nepal's Maoists as a terrorist group. Despite this, RCP's Avakian supports the Maoists. He condemns the US for describing Nepal's CPN (M) as a terrorist group. And yet, both RIM and RCP continue to function in the US. How? After 9/11 the Bush administration's security measures have been extreme enough to provoke allegations of even converting America into a police state!
It would therefore be reckless to identify which foreign inspiration, if any, guides the Maoists. If there is indeed covert US support for the Maoists it may or may not be in cooperation with elements within China. The economic advantages accruing to China's Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) for decades through commerce with the US were not unnoticed. In 1996 reputed columnist Abe Rosenthal wrote in New York Times: 'Wake up America! Wake up to the truth that the Republican leaders are partners with the Democratic leaders in building up the Chinese armed forces.' In 1997 he wrote: 'The great part of US business in China is with companies and cartels controlled by the Chinese military.'
Instead of speculating about the foreign links of Maoists, India would do well to focus therefore on its own interests in Nepal. Nepal and India have the closest of historical and cultural links. Nepal's Maoists have interaction with India's Maoists. They could influence their Indian comrades to enter the electoral mainstream. India and Nepal have enormous economic potential to explore. With Indian funding and technology, the two can utilize all the estimated energy of potentially 50,000 megawatts still available and untapped in Nepal. That would spectacularly transform the economies of both Nepal and India's heartland. If the Maoists remain difficult, India can shut the door and let Nepal fend for itself.
The Maoists want both China and India to have close relations with Nepal. That would be welcome only if China granted autonomy to Tibet and opened it to India. India's foreign policy should be dictated by two simple axioms. First, it must welcome democracy everywhere. Secondly, it must insist on reciprocity in all international relationships.