You are here: Home » Economy & Policy » News
Business Standard

Nepal not to dilute its unique identity

Aditi Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

As Nepal struggles to stave off the tag of "failed state" following its lack of success at multi-party democracy, the country is reverting to its tradition of being the odd man out in South Asia at nearly everything in the collective history of the sub-continent.
When the India and Sri Lanka were fighting anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles and laying down roots for democratic institutions, Nepal revelled in the fact that no power on earth had been able to colonise it, not even Britain, which was forced to sign treaties with Nepal but was unable to subjugate its martial spirit.
When the ruling debate in India in the 1960s and the 1970s was about ways to end poverty and strengthen the state, Nepalese political leaders were fighting to overthrow monarchy from exile in India.
In the 1980s and 90s, when India was trying to absorb an alternative economic model, Nepal was writing its new constitution.
It is this Constitution, that reassigned the King's place, that the Maoists now want to rewrite. Maoists in Nepal want a classless society, but also one where the caste stranglehold of the ruling Rana-Shah elite is ended and would like the King to hand over control of the Army to the elected Parliament.
In that sense the Maoists of Nepal are quite different from the Maoists of India, and even the Great Helmsman (The Chinese government takes a dim view of the activities of the Maoists in Nepal and at a recent meeting between some Maoists leaders and the Chinese Ambassador in Kathmandu, advised them to get their fundamentals right before using Chairman Mao's name, said a diplomat based in Kathmandu).
Nepalese Maoists are Republicans first and revolutionaries later. On 11 April 2003, the leading Maoist ideologue, Baburam Bhattarai, said: "our basic agenda is to form a Republican state. If the King abdicates voluntarily, we will offer him some position. It will be good if he agrees to play the role of Norodom Sihanouk".
Bhattarai, who has studied at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU), was a contemporary of CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat, knows what he is talking about.
Since the Palace massacre of 2001 and the accession of King Gyanendra to the throne, combined with the weakness of political parties in Nepal, the Maoists have followed a two-line struggle - organising low caste peasantry in the hinterlands, looting government armouries and police stations and building up a cache of weapons, and occupying the political space vacated by political parties.
The immediate fallout of the Maoist tactics has been on the economy. The economy which grew at an average of 5 per cent for a decade, registered a negative growth in 2001-2002. The per capita income fell from $240 to $ 224.
According to the World Bank, Nepal will spend Rs 14 billion on security from a revenue estimate of Rs 62 billion. Development aid has not been utilised in areas affected by the war. What is worse, the Maoists have systematically destroyed infrastructure in areas under their control.
The problem is that neither draconian military action, nor repeated attempts at cease-fire and talks have worked in Nepal. With a nominal - and nominated - Prime Minister in Sher Bahadur Deuba, and with an Army that is totally loyal to the monarchy, the military solution seems to be the only one the King is pursuing. In the circumstances, the tag of 'failed' state appears to be more appropriate now than ever before.

First Published: Thu, August 19 2004. 00:00 IST