Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sushil Koirala government: No action only reactions

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The present Nepali Congress-CPN-UML coalition government headed by Congress President Sushil Koirala has completed its 100 days in office. The 100 days for a new government headed by an inexperienced Prime Minister are just the period to get familiar with the matters relating to governance and it virtually cannot take any concrete actions within this period. However, this is the period that is sufficient for any government to prioritize its agendas and policies and set clear goals and action plan to achieve what it wants in a long-term basis. But the government with experienced prime minister and other cabinet members can do a lot during this period. Thus, the period of 100 days for a new government is called a honeymoon period to get things started. On the basis of the 100 days the performance of any new government cannot be evaluated and its activities generalized. However, this period is sufficient enough to set an appropriate course of future actions and approaches to achieve the set goals and one can clearly assess how this government will move ahead and how it may fare.
Given the pace and posture of the Koirala-led coalition government, it is highly unlikely that it would accomplish its goals within the targeted timeframe. Koirala government has been very slow in action which has become a subject of criticism not only from the opposition parties but from within his own party and also from the coalition partners. The main opposition UCPN-Maoist, so far, has not passed any comment on the performance of the government but some leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML appear to be vocal against the handling of affairs by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and his government. However, Koirala appears to be unfazed and untouched by criticism as he is not in the mood of changing his style. Koirala has definitely clean and untainted image. None can accuse him of any kind of corruption so far. There are little chances that he would be involved in financial scams even in future. This is definitely his positive points and strength. But this does not mean that all will be well. There are many people who doubt on Koirala’s political and administrative acumen. Some even call him a politically cruel and managerially weak politician. Inaction is no strength and quality of a politician. Only those who act can err. Those who do not act can make no mistake. The same can be applied to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. If he does not act, he will be able to maintain his image of a clean and untainted politician but the history will condemn him as the worst and the weakest prime minister from the standpoint of action.
Sushil Koirala is, perhaps, the most powerful prime minister over the last two decades. Koirala has the backing of more than two-thirds parliamentarians. In his own party the Nepali Congress, he commands overwhelming support whereas the coalition partners also respect him with high esteem. Even the opposition parties have so far not found any ground to criticize him and the opposition parties, too, respect him. As Koirala is trying to reach out to the political forces outside the Constituent Assembly, such extra-constitutional forces too have high expectations on him to move ahead on the basis of consensus and cooperation of all political forces both within and outside the Constituent Assembly.
The beginning of the Koirala government is definitely good. It has not acted in haste but is moving with caution. This slow motion of the government has come under criticism not from outside but within Prime Minister Koirala’s own party and also from the coalition partner. However, Koirala supporters have dismissed the criticism as mere nonsense as the government is slowly but steadily working to achieve the goals set by itself. Commenting on the performance of the government, spokesman of the government and the Minister for Information and Communication Dr Minendra Rijal said “its 100 days in office are satisfactory”. According to Minister Rijal, the government knows its mandate, limitations and mission and also it is working accordingly. Several actions the government has listed as its success stories include even the minor and regular tasks that any administration has to do. This shows that the government itself is not satisfied with its own performance.
It is true that the first and the foremost responsibility and mandate of the government is peace and constitution. On these agendas, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML had made their position clear during the election on the basis of which people elected the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML to the position of first and the second parties in the Constituent Assembly. These parties had made promises to the people that they would give the country a new constitution within a year and institutionalize peace and achievements of all previous popular movements more particularly the Jana Andolan II. However, the constitution writing is the job of the Constituent Assembly but not that of the government. The task of the government is just facilitate this process. The principal task of the government is the governance and development of the country. In the task of governance, the government is too slow and inert that there is no ground to be satisfied with the government.
Right after assuming power, Koirala government has made a barrage of promises to the people on political, economic and other fronts. It has so far not accomplished a single job that is worth mentioning in the period of its 100 days. Thus, the performance of the Koirala-led government cannot be evaluated as there is no action at all. So the period of 100 days of the Koirala government has been marked by inaction and inertia. The government has done nothing and taken no action but is only reacting. Thus, the 100 days in office of this present Nepali-Congress-UML coalition government is the period of inaction and reaction.
Even in the process of constitution writing, there has not been encouraging progress. The Constituent Assembly has constituted different thematic committees to settle the disputes on some key areas and issues and speed up the constitution drafting committee. Although the parties have promised to give the country a new constitution within a year, the progress made so far in constitution writing in the Constituent Assembly does not at all make us confident that this deadline would be met and the constitution promulgated within this period of one year. The constitution is a must without which the country would continue to suffer instability and political transition. The prolonged political transition is not in the interest of the country as the transitional period is often marked by uncertainty, instability, poor law and order and economic stagnation. Thus, the political transition must be brought to an end at the earliest, for which the promulgation of the new constitution is a must.
But the governance and the constitution writing are two different aspects. The government’s role is just to ensure favorable atmosphere for constitution writing. Thus it should be involved more in the governance and development works. However, there has not been any progress in ensuring good governance and development. Good governance is quick decision and efficient delivery of services to the people. Since there is no action, the government has miserably failed in giving good governance and quick and efficient delivery of services to the people. Thus, the period of 100 days of the present government has not been able to provide any optimism and enthuse the people.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Elitist Diplomacy vs. Public Diplomacy

Yuba Nath Lamsal

In the eyes of many, foreign policy and diplomacy are a purely elitist domain or the prerogative of the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This belief, rightly or wrongly, is in vogue not only in Nepal but elsewhere as well.
This, perhaps, is why foreign policy is kept away from public discourse and scrutiny. The general people are not allowed to participate in the discourses and decision-making related to foreign policy and diplomacy. Only a handful of elites of the ruling class have a say in foreign policy formulation and conduct of diplomacy.
Sea change
But with the march of time, there has been phenomenal change in the individual’s thinking, way of life and the conduct of public affairs. The realm of foreign policy and the conduct of diplomacy, too, have seen and undergone a sea change and transformation at the national as well as global scale, both in principle and practice.
With the advent of democracy sweeping across the world, things are beginning to change, and a new concept is slowly but surely evolving in the realm of foreign policy and diplomacy. It is said that foreign policy is the extension of domestic policy, which means changes in the domestic politics and policy must also be reflected in the foreign policy as well.
However, this is not always true as foreign policy priorities do not frequently change. Foreign policy is guided by a country’s national interests, which remain permanent. Thus, foreign policy will not change with changes on the political front. But the interpretation of national interest may change, and national interest can be expanded with the change in the domestic situation and in the international arena. Under such circumstances, perceptions, priorities, tricks and techniques of diplomacy change.
With Nepal entering a new era of inclusive democracy, this also needs to be reflected in the conduct of its foreign policy. Foreign policy and diplomacy was purely an elitist and aristocratic domain in Nepal under the absolute monarchy. There was little participation of the general people in the foreign policy discourses and diplomatic handling during the monarchical time as the royal palace had direct control over its conduct.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been structured and shaped accordingly. The same system was given continuity even after the political change in 1990 that ushered in a democratic era under constitutional monarchy because no significant and fundamental changes were brought about in the conduct of Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy.
As far as foreign policy and diplomatic handlings were concerned under the constitutional monarchy, the players changed but the game fundamentally remained unchanged as a coterie close to the power centre kept foreign policy and diplomatic handling under its control as a privilege in the same fashion the royal palace did during the Panchayat regime.
After the monarchy was abolished and Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic, the Nepalese people have become masters of their own destiny. People are showing interest and concern in public and state affairs. In a democracy, people’s participation in public affairs is instrumental. Democracy is the system of the people, which is to be run by the people for the larger interest of the people.

As this is the era of inclusive democracy, people’s participation in all spheres of political, social and economic decision-making and governance is a must, which alone will make the democratic polity strong, vibrant and functional besides protecting the national interests.
Since foreign policy is a part of governance and the political process, there must be active and meaningful participation of the people in the debate, discourse and decision-making process in the formulation and conduct of foreign policy. Unfortunately, foreign policy has not yet been brought into public discourse and scrutiny. Even now when we have a democratic policy, the general public does not have adequate information on foreign policy issues and the conduct of diplomacy.
In the developed democracies, every individual has a say in decision-making and foreign policy formulation and its conduct. In a democratic system, multi-layered debates and discourses are conducted through different forums, agencies and institutions including the media.
The parliament is the highest political body of people’s representatives which holds thorough and comprehensive discussion on matters pertaining to foreign policy, based on which the state formulates its foreign policy and conducts diplomacy in accordance with its well-defined national interest. In this process, academic institutions and the media make constructive and critical contribution through forums, and solicit opinions of the people.
The concept of diplomacy has been broadened with the advent of democracy and liberal system. In this interwoven global state, there can be multi-layered and multi-level approaches in the conduct of diplomacy, in which the people directly or indirectly get involved in foreign policy formulation. In this multi-layered diplomacy, the government is the focal point of formulating and conducting foreign policy and diplomacy.
There are multiple channels that simultaneously conduct diplomacy on the basis of broad policies and principles framed by the government. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is and should be the focal point which needs to monitor all the diplomatic activities and initiatives taken and carried out by different channels and organs of the state.
At the same time, track-two diplomacy is also in vogue in the world, from which Nepal can also not remain isolated. Political parties, non-governmental organisations, trade unions, professional organisations and economic and business chambers have their own contacts and relations with their counterparts in different countries, through which track-two diplomacy is conducted. In the present world, track-two diplomacy has proved effective in building the national image abroad and pursuing national interest in the international arena.
Here too, the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can become crucial, which is required to monitor, coordinate and facilitate such activities in the interest of the country. In the absence of proper coordination, some aberrations had appeared in the past, which are now being corrected and reversed, to a large extent. Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared a diplomatic code of conduct, although much still needs to be done in this area.
New system
It is high time our Foreign Ministry is restructured in accordance with the changes taking place at home and abroad to enable it to play an active and effective role to make our diplomatic handling more efficient and also coordinate the array of diplomatic activities being carried out at multiple levels and layers. We must shake off the old and traditional way of conducting diplomacy and start a new system in which the general people are the focal point.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Need to restructure Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Yuba Nath Lamsal
In the present interconnected and interdependent world due mainly to the revolution in the field of information and communication technology, diplomacy plays greater role in fostering greater cooperation among the nations and peace and just order in the world.  No single country in the world is fully self-reliant on all aspects and the countries are, in one way or the other, dependent on others for various reasons. This situation is more prevalent in the present world known as a technology- driven small global village than ever before.  A country cannot survive and prosper in isolation irrespective of how powerful and developed it might be. International links, relations and cooperation are necessary not only for one’s own survival and security but for a global peace and interest of the humanity at large.
The necessity of mutual cooperation gave rise to the evolution of foreign policy and diplomacy in the world. Foreign policy is a strategy whereas diplomacy serves a tool to achieve the goal and strategy envisaged for the best national interest of a country and its people. The policy that a country devises to deal with other countries or international institutions, whether it is general or country specific, taking broader national interest as its supreme priority is called foreign policy. Diplomacy is the tactics, approach and methods to achieve this goal. Country’s national interests are permanent whereas the methods and approaches to achieve and protect the national interest abroad may change depending upon the national, regional and international situations. Thus overall principles and bases of foreign policy remain unchanged as they are guided by the national interests but diplomatic tactics and tricks vary on different occasions. This is the reason why diplomacy is a dynamic subject that always requires dynamism, relentless research, meticulous analyses, monitoring events and developments, and quick and appropriate decisions and response on every developments and incidents that take place in the international arena. In this lies the role of a diplomat, who has to be dynamic, sharp, analytical and far-sighted to immediately grasp the gravity of the issues on a given situation and take quick decision and appropriate measures to deal with the issue and situation. This is the art of diplomacy to pursue and protect the national interest with other country and countries.

The traditional concept of foreign policy and diplomacy was defined and interpreted in a narrow perspective, which we often tend to follow. With the advancement of science and technology, the world has seen a sea of change in all spheres of life. This change has brought about changes into the life of an individual, social system, cultural sphere and human thinking and perception. Given the changed context both at home and abroad, Nepal also needs to reshape and diversify the conduct of its foreign policy and diplomacy to cope with the newer developments, trends and challenges in the world. The traditional concept and factors that our foreign policy framers, interlocutors and diplomats often tend to follow are not sufficient in the present complicated and globalized world. Extra-territorial, regional and international dynamics have also to be taken into serious account in the formulation of foreign policy and the conduct of diplomacy. This involves psychological perception and outlook of different stakeholders and countries in the neighborhood as well as in the international arena. This is determined by existing geo-political reality, economic strength and potentials, trade links and its volume, natural resources and, to some extent, cultural historical and political considerations of a particular country or countries.
In the present world, economic benefits and economic interests are definitely important. But they are not the sole factors and considerations. There are quite many other equally important considerations that shape foreign policy and international relations. Economic interests and security concerns are more dominant factors than other traditional components. The security concepts have also changed in the present world. The traditional concept of security used to lay focus on military security. But the modern concept of security focuses on two key aspects that seek to ensure the people with‘freedom from fear and freedom from wants’. Freedom from fear is related to hardcore security that seeks to defend a country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity for which military, para-military and other security organs are used and mobilized. More important is the human security or soft security that is related to freedom from want, which seeks to ensure better quality of people’s life or guarantee people’s basic necessities like food, housing, employment and access to education and health care as well as access to adequate food. The art of diplomacy comes handier and plays key role in the later aspect of security. It is said that generals win war with guns and weapons whereas diplomats become victories without fatal weapons, which speak of the value of diplomacy.

Based on the aforementioned factors, a country has to formulate and adopt country specific policy. The United States or India or China, for instance, have country specific policy of different countries including in Nepal. The United States’ Nepal policy may not be strictly in conformity with Washington’s India or China policy. So different countries have different priorities with different countries in the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy. So far Nepal seems to be glaringly lacking on this aspect. . Nepal’s foreign policy is generalized with all countries in the world.

Nepal does not have country specific policy based on our overall and broad foreign policy priority and national interest, which is unfortunate. Now is the time that Nepal starts to frame country specific policy of at least major and important countries. Several factors have to be taken into account to frame country specific foreign policy and accordingly conduct diplomacy. Geography, history, culture, trade, economic dynamics and value system are some of the key components that play important role in shaping country-specific policy.
Similarly other countries create experts on different countries and seek their opinion in shaping policy and dealing with them. However, Nepal has never made any efforts to create country-specific experts. This is a fundamental weakness in our foreign policy, which must be reversed and corrected. In the absence of country-specific policy and expert knowledge of different aspects of different countries, we have often been failure in diplomatic dealings with other countries. Its glaring example is the failure in dealing with even a small neighbor Bhutan on the issues of repatriation of refugees, who have been living in different camps in eastern Nepal. As regard other countries, too, Nepal has not been able to pursue effectively to convince other countries on diverse issues. Our dealings with neighbors and other countries depend on the good will and generosity of our friends but not because of our homework, diplomatic prudence and persuasive power. Given this situation that has existed for over a century since Nepal established and established diplomatic contact and relations with other countries and, it seems that we have still not produced diplomats but bureaucrats to obediently follow orders from their masters rather than to professionally conduct diplomacy and give feedback to the government back home. Even the officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who call themselves as career diplomats, are often trained to be more bureaucrats than diplomats. Politicians treat them accordingly and want them to quietly obey their instruction and orders rather than seek their suggestion and utilize their professional acumen as diplomats. Although some tend to be bureaucratic rather than diplomatic, many officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are highly qualified and competent with potentials of becoming finest diplomats but their potentials are rarely realized and their suggestions and advice hardly utilized. It does not necessarily mean that there are no qualified people having potential of becoming good diplomats. There are many dynamic people, who could be a great asset in formulating and implementing foreign policy and conducting diplomacy, outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their talents and experiences could be highly valuable and useful for the country in building Nepal’s image abroad and making Nepal’s diplomacy more effective. However, we have developed a tendency that diplomatic postings are awarded on the basis of closeness to power center instead of merits, which has weakened our diplomatic performance abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which should have been the hot bed of diplomatic activities, is functioning in a lukewarm and lackluster manner. Unlike other countries, politicians dictate professionals and experts in all spheres and sectors in Nepal and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, too, is not an exception. It should have been otherwise as politicians should act as per the advice of experts and professionals.

It is always better late than never. Thus, it would do well if the Foreign Ministry begins work in drafting country-specific policy and creating country-specific experts. This requires a lot of homework and thorough study on different aspects. The new Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Prasad Pandey, based on his public speeches and remarks, appears enthusiastic in bringing the old aberrations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in our overall foreign policy and the conduct of diplomacy to an end and introducing a new system and practice in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also handling foreign policy and diplomacy to be able to strictly protect and persuade our national interest abroad. Let us hope, Minister Pandey succeeds in this noble task. In this, the first step should be to restructure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What constitutes attributes of a diplomat?

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Foreign policy is said to be the extension of domestic policy, which is true to a greater degree in idealist approach and theory of international relation. It is true that foreign policy is not an independent entity but a political tool to pursue and protect the national interest defined by a state at home, while diplomacy is a tactical procedure to ensure that the foreign policy goals and priorities are achieved. However, in the realist approach, this notion may not always and necessarily be true and applicable especially in a country like ours. When it comes to practical diplomacy taking the national interest into the uppermost account of a country, tactics and tricks change in pursuing the broader national interest. In such a circumstances, the immediate approach taken in the foreign policy front to cope with the changes taken place and events fast unfolding in the international arena or in the neighborhood, may appear conflicting between what we traditionally view as foreign policy and diplomacy and the ground reality that dictates our quick decision to make our presence felt and ensure that our national interest is best served. In such a situation, international events and developments dictate our decisions back home in setting foreign policy and diplomatic agendas and priorities.
Everything is changeable in foreign policy. What does not change is the national interest. The national interest compels to adjust the tactics and approach in handling the particular situation in the international arena, in which the ability and acumen of a diplomat comes under acid test and public scrutiny. A diplomat is not merely a representative of the government or an organization but a good analyst, perfect communicator, ken observer, perfect negotiator and skilful crisis manager. Language is the basic and most important component and necessity. Diplomacy involves communication and negotiation. One has to be well conversant and fluent in at least one major international language. In practical sense in our context, fluency in English language in both speaking and writing is a must for a diplomat. Knowledge of local language or national language of a country is an added advantage. Although some tend to subscribe to the views that language is not an issue for a diplomat but skill and art of handling issues is more important. In such a case, diplomat has to entirely depend on interpreters. Depending solely upon interpreter is a handicap rather than an advantage. Body languages, use of metaphors, similes and images often count and carry greater significant and meaning in diplomatic exchange of views, negotiation and communication. In the process of tough negotiation, which is often the case in course of discharging the duty as a diplomat in foreign country, one has to have the ability to analyze the words, face expression and the body language of the counterpart to understand the exact meaning and to respond in a correct and perfect manner. The word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are rarely used in diplomacy unless there is a greater degree of intimacy. At the time of negotiation especially during the crisis period, diplomats often use well calculated words and language and one has to be well conversant in the language of negotiation and communication to understand the exact meaning. In the recent days, some foreign policy and diplomacy pundit suggest the use of direct language and clear messages to make one’s position heard and understood more clearly which, according to them, helps in harmonizing positions of divergent groups and also facilitates to reach a negotiated settlement. However, this is a rare case in diplomacy as diplomats often use ambiguous language which carry double and triple meanings and can only be comprehended from their facial expression and body language. The competence on language of negotiation has the benefit of having the sense of what one’s counterpart intends to say by minutely comparing between the words used and the body language and facial expression and analyzing them. However, when one is not efficient in the common language of communication and depends on interpreter during the negotiation will not have that benefit. Sometimes, it may not be interpreted in a correct manner, which creates problem in understanding the exact position of the counterpart, which complicates the negotiation. Thus, efficiency and fluency in language of communication, for that matter English in our case, is a must for a diplomat.
Observation is yet another key attribute of a diplomat. In other words, a diplomat must be a keen observant so that he/she grasps immediately, quickly and correctly the possible impact on the international arena and also on the national interest of the country he/she represents. It is said that a diplomat has to use his eyes and ears more than the mouth. Nature has given us two ears and two eyes but one mouth. This is because one should listen and watch more and speak less. In other words, a diplomat has to speak only that much which is absolutely necessary and that too after thoroughly observing, listening and analyzing all aspects of the issue and event. Perhaps, this is the reason why a famous Japanese diplomat of the pre-World War I era Kuomura Jurato once said, “A diplomat must use his ears, not his mouth”.
The diplomat assigned in a particular country or for a particular task has not only to constantly keep the government he/she represents informed but also take a quick decision to safeguard the national interest of his/her country. At times events unfold and develop in quick span of time and in a fast manner in which diplomat may not have adequate time to obtain timely suggestions/advise and instructions from his/her government to deal with the situation and take necessary action. In such a circumstance, the diplomat has to use his/her wisdom and instinct to deal with the particular situation and act accordingly. Such acts sometime may create rift with the government he/she represents if the action contradicts the basic position of the government. There are instances that the decision of a diplomat made on his/her own volition have created rift with the government back home and even compelled the diplomat to quit the job. One has to be careful enough to avoid such situation, for which he has to analyze even a minor event and immediately inform the government back home. Thus, the diplomat has always to remain alert, be keen observant and always make homework on all issues and developments and constantly keep on analyzing the situation. Based on the analysis, he/she has to visualize different possible scenarios, which he/she needs to constantly keep on informed the government he/she represents and get necessary advice and instruction on each scenario and development that may take place. This helps the diplomat to make quick decision at times of fast developing scenario and act accordingly that neither can jeopardize the national interest nor does it create any kind of friction with the government.
Apart from defending and protecting national interest and projecting positive image of the country, the job of a diplomat is also to maintain and strengthen friendly and cooperative relations between the country he/she represents and the country one is deputed as a diplomat. Outreach is a key task that a diplomat has always to focus on. The outreach includes, among many others, negotiation, persuasion and contacts building and contact cultivation. The key quality of performing these tasks successfully requires the power persuasion, willingness to take initiative and ability to build and cultivate contacts. These elements help diplomat project positive image of his/her country abroad, win friends and influence the foreign governments, organizations and authorities. For this, media and civil society must be reached, cultivated and kept in good humor that helps in good image of his/her own country and influence the government of a country where he/she has been deputed.
Knowledge on the laws, political system, social and cultural practices and traditions of the country he/she is assigned are other key attributes of a diplomat. In the absence of knowledge of aforementioned elements, the diplomats, however competent one may be, would not succeed as a diplomat and properly discharge the assigned duty. We have a recent instance how a diplomat fails and becomes controversial in the absence of knowledge on the laws and practices of the country and society where the diplomat is assigned. Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar Maya Kumari Sharma had to be called back as her behavior and remarks were not compatible with the diplomatic practices and norms, which is attributed to her lack of knowledge on the laws and practices of the country she was assigned as a diplomat. 
The job of a diplomat is a multi-faceted one, which requires knowledge in all sectors. In other words, a diplomat, despite knowing the basic nuances of diplomacy and international relation, has to possess the knowledge of everything. It is said that a diplomat has to be a generalist with general knowledge on all aspects. This is more so for a diplomat of a country like Nepal as our government may not afford to depute experts of all sectors and subjects in the missions abroad. Nepal’s missions abroad have to be manned by a handful of staff, which compels the ambassadors and other diplomats to handle all the issues that may come across in course of discharging their duty. A Nepalese ambassador, apart from conducting diplomacy, has to deal with an array of issues pertaining to economic, labor, cultural, social, educational, security, and public relation affairs alike. Diplomacy is more than bureaucratic task, which requires someone to be a skillful negotiator and good public relation experts. This is more so for Nepal as a diplomat has to be an all rounder, for which people capable of such qualities need to be chosen for diplomatic assignments rather than appointing someone who is close to power center.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

UCPN-Maoist Conclave and revolutionary polarization

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The national convention of the UCPN-Maoist was recently held and concluded in Biratnagar of East Nepal with adopting a new political line and electing a new central leadership. In the conclave participated in by more than 1000 representatives, chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘ Prachanda’ presented a political report concerning party’s new political line  whereas other leaders put forth organizational and other reports which were overwhelmingly adopted by the floor. In fact, there was no dissenting voice on the political report presented by party chairman Prachanda except a few suggestions for its improvement and perfection.
It had been widely believed that the UCPN-Maoist Biratnagar conclave would instill more energy and enthusiasm in the party organization so that it may revive its old glory that the party had lost in the last Constituent Assembly election. However, the national convention concluded amidst controversy and even threat from a section led by its senior leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai not to remain in any position of the party’s leadership hierarchy.  Since there was no difference on the political report and future political line and programs of the party, the last minute disputes among the senior leaders only suggests that the senior leaders are more concerned about the position than the program.
The UCPN-Maoist was definitely got weakened after a sizable section of the party broke its relation with the mother party and formed a new party called CPN-Maoist under the leadership of Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’. Its results were clearly seen in the Constituent Assembly election held in November last year in which the UCPN-Maoist was reduced to the status of the poor third party from the earlier largest party. It is now becoming clear that the principal leaders of both the parties are realizing the mistake of party split. Prachanda seems to have realized that he may not be able to make his party a number one political force without the unification with other parties especially the CPN-Maoist whereas Mohan Vaidya ‘ Kiran’ may have thought that his party alone  would not be able to spearhead the revolution. Thus, both the parties have clearly understood value and strength of party unity. This ground reality has compelled both the parties’ top leadership to be positive for party unity. However, there are obstacles in both the parties for the unification. There is a strong faction in the CPN-Maoist that does not want reunification with the UCPN-Maoist but wants to re-launch the armed insurgency in the same fashion the united party had launched 19 years ago. Similarly, certain sections in the UCPN-Maoist are also active not to allow unification with the CPN-Maoist. Some external forces also may be active to keep the two Maoist parties divided so that they remain weak. The UCPN-Maoist is the party that had raised the issue of nationalism so strongly in the past that helped secure popular support among the larger audience. However, the party, after joining the peace and more particularly after going to power, its patriotic stance became subdued probably because the party did not want to antagonize India as Indian influence is heavy in Nepal. This stance and position of the UCPN-Maoist proved fatal to the party as Kiran faction broke relation with the UCPN-Maoist on ideological and patriotic ground.
The political report presented by Prachanda in the Biratnagar national convention has, to a large extent, corrected its stance and position on political line and also on nationalist question. The new political line is basically continuity to that of the Hetauda national congress, which has emphasized mainly on peaceful revolution focusing on economic production. However, the Biratnagar national convention of the UCPN-Maoist has adopted twin approach of both peaceful and production-related campaign as well as preparation for the insurrection which demands use of force for the completion of socialist revolution. The political report has clearly stated that some of the important achievements of capitalist-democratic revolution have already been made and some are yet to be achieved. Those achievements include abolition of monarchy, secularism, federalism and election of Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution. It further says that these achievements need to be safeguarded and institutionalized through writing and promulgating a new constitution at the earliest and working for the preparation of socialist revolution.  For this, Prachanda has underlined the need for spearheading the movement in a Bolshevik spirit so that socialist revolution would be successful.
The political report has realized that the party had made some mistakes on issues concerning patriotic movement. It clearly admits that the party failed to pursue patriotic cause. Prachanda has openly acknowledged that the party gave of patriotic position and ignored the interest of the working class. Now Prachanda has made some improvements in the report saying that the party would not repeat such mistakes in future and remain a vanguard on question of nationalism, class interest and revolution. This has provided a new basis for unity with other revolutionary parties including Mainly the CPN-Maoist.
It has been widely believed and accepted that Nepal’s nationalist movement got weakened due mainly to the division and fragmentation of revolutionary communists. In Nepal, only the communists are nationalist forces. The other parties either pseudo nationalist or lackeys of imperialist and expansionist forces. The imperialist forces and reactionary elements both at home and abroad played role and hatched conspiracies to divide communists and weaken the communist movement. Communists always focus on national liberation movement. Ever since Communist Party of Nepal was born, it has always been focusing on freeing Nepal from external hegemony and oppression. The communist parties until recently have been defining Nepal as a semi-colonial and semi-feudal state and emphasized mainly on liberating the country from the semi-colonial and semi-feudal status. But recently, a new definition has been mooted that Nepal is no longer a semi-colonial and semi-feudal state. According to the CPN-UML, Nepal has been an independent country and not a semi-colonial one. However, the UCPN-Maoist and CPN-Maoist do not subscribe to this view and insist that Nepal still continues to be in the semi-colonial state, which needs to be liberated. The national liberation movement is, thus, its priority. In the past especially after UCPN-Maoist headed the government, it did not raise this issue very prominently and strongly for diplomatic reasons. However, the Biratnagar national convention has clearly spelled out the phrase Indian expansionism as its principal contradiction against which Nepali revolution has to be primarily directed. On the question of principal contradiction, the CPN-Maoist and UCPN-Maoist have arrived at a common point whereas they are moving closer on issue concerning ideology, as well. Now the UCPN-Maoist has taken a little more left turn and revolutionary approach, which has created positive ground for unification with revolutionary communist parties. The UCPN-Maoist document clearly states that the unification process would not be limited only to the CPN-Maoist but it would be a beginning in the process of creating a single communist center in Nepal as both the parties are founded on the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. There are quite a many communist parties, big or small, in the country and unity among them is necessary not only to form a broad progressive leftist government but also to bring about radical and progressive reforms and change. Prachanda has clearly proposed that unification with revolutionary communist parties including the revolutionary section of the CPN-UML. If realized, it may help in revolutionary polarization in Nepal. But this may not serve the real purpose if the communist unification proposition remains merely in papers. What Prachanda has proposed should be translated into action for which initiative has to be taken from all sides at the earliest with open mind and open heart putting Nepali revolution and interest of the people on top of all other agenda. Unification of two parties needs a common approach and reciprocity from both sides and one side’s intention alone may not yield results if the other side is not prepared to reciprocate. Now Prachanda has come up publicly for unification with the CPN-Maoist for which he is prepared to do everything possible. The CPN-Maoist leadership, too, need to be flexible and practical so that they would once again be reunified and lead the Nepali revolution to a greater height.