Nepal On Eve Of Constituent Assembly Elections: A Reality Check
Nepal on the eve of the twice postponed Constituent Assembly elections now scheduled for April 2008 does not provide a promising or optimistic picture. The main reason has been that the Nepali Maoists who were facilitated by faulty Indian policies to enter Nepal's political space have been persistently muddying Nepalese political situation by unreasonable demands in the run-up to the elections. The Nepalese Prime Minister has been coerced and pressurized to give in to Maoists demands including the abolition of Nepal's constitutional monarchy and declaring Nepal a Republic. The Nepalese Maoist leader has not disguised his intentions to be Nepal's first President pre-supposing that the Maoists would capture power in the elections. The possibility of Nepalese Maoists capturing political power in Nepal through the ballot and failing which through bullets does not seem to have received serious attention by India's political leadership despite the grave security implications posed to India by such an eventuality.
The most important question for India and the free world which basically includes the United States, Britain and other Western countries is whether a Maoist regime in Nepal is politically desirable and militarily acceptable in terms of their respective national security interests.
Repeatedly emphasized in this Column for the last two years has been the fact that India has committed a strategic folly comparable to Nehru's pre-1962 strategic folly in trusting China and over-investing in their political sincerity. A Nepalese Maoist regime in Nepal would facilitate China's military presence along the over 2000 km stretch of India's borders along Bihar and Uttar Pradesh along which stood the buffer state of Nepal under a Hindu constitutional monarchy.
Maoist Nepal as China's military surrogate would be only a stone's throw from Bangladesh which too is a Chinese surrogate if the Bangladesh-China Defense Co-operation Agreement that exists between the two countries is taken in account. Further, the Indian Maoists and Naxalite insurgencies that are threatening India's internal security would find ready sanctuaries in Maoist -ruled Nepal besides an inexhaustible source of Chinese weaponry.
A Maoist Nepal would also pose security threats to India-friendly Bhutan via the sizeable Nepalese -origin Bhutanese living in refugee camps in Nepal. All in all the entire range of the activities outlined above in the event of a Maoist regime emerging in Nepal would be strategically destabilizing for India.
Similarly, the prospects of a Chinese military presence materializing courtesy a Maoist regime in Nepal on the Bay of Bengal littoral or in close proximity of it would be strategically disconcerting for the United States and Britain. Presently a China-friendly Myanmar is strategically irritating for the United States and Britain. What would be their reaction to the virtually contiguous stretch of Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar all militarily tied and under Chinese military influence?
The alternative to forestall a Maoist regime in Nepal is to marshal the pro-monarchy elements in Nepal which includes the Nepal Army and not forgetting the 48% Madhesia population of Nepal violently opposed to the Nepalese Maoists and provide them support necessary to re-emerge in political power in Nepal.
The Indian policy establishment may have had a personal dislike for the present Nepalese monarch for various reasons but this dislike should not over-rule the imperatives of India's national security which dictate that a Maoist-ruled Nepal carries all the possibilities of turning into a security threat for India.
Faced with such a strategic predicament, India's policy establishment would be well advised to follow the lead of the United States which in such predicaments always chooses the lesser of the two evils.
In the case of Nepal and its linkages to India's national security interests the answer is obvious. A constitutional monarchy in Nepal however much disliked by India's policy establishment would be a lesser and controllable evil.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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