Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nepal-India relation in aftermath of Susma Swaraj’s Visit

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Amidst much mistrust and hullabaloo on a host of issues between Nepal and India, Indian minister for external affairs Susma Swaraj concluded a three-day official visit to Nepal with a cautious note of optimism. Prior to departure to New Delhi, Swaraj billed her three-day visit as ‘more successful than she had expected’.  However, it has been taken in Nepal with both optimism and skepticism.  Optimism in the sense, India has at least in principle agreed to review the 1950 treaty, which most Nepalis call an unequal one. Second, no official signing took place on any issue including the proposed power trade agreement (PTA) that India had sent to Nepal almost four months ago, to which cross section of people in Nepal had serious reservation and objection. It gives an impression on the surface that India’s attitude to Nepal seems to have changed with Modi coming to power.
At the same time, there is widespread skepticism in Nepal as to India’s attitude towards Nepal. Many Nepalis are still not convinced that any deal to be reached with India especially on water resources and hydro power will do any good to Nepal. Be it preconceived or real, this perception in Nepal is based on the past track records as the promises that Indian leaders and authorities made in connection with the relations with Nepal were only made to be broken. And all the deals that were signed with India in the past have had detrimental effect on Nepal only benefiting India. It, now, remains to be seen how the tone of optimism that Swaraj expressed during her visit to Nepal would really be translated into action at the best interest of both Nepal and India or it just fizzles out to the lager dismay of Nepal’s expectation as a good neighbor. Some tend to take Susma’s words as the changed attitude of Nepal especially after Narendra Modi rose to power in New Delhi, which, according to them, was reflected in Susma’s ‘ expressions of optimism’. However, it, too, remains to be seen whether Susma’s sugarcoated words are out of India’s changed attitude or just under compulsion. Only time will reveal the reality for which we have only to wait and watch with caution.
Swaraj’s visit was a part of preparatory work for the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is scheduled to arrive at Kathmandu on August 3.As the visit was a part of the move to create conducive atmosphere for Modi’s upcoming visit, Swaraj tried to pacify Nepali sentiments by demonstrating some sort of pragmatism and liberal attitude, as the Indian external minister, during her three-day trip to Nepal, saw and heard furious expressions and resistance on the street and media mainly against India’s past attitude towards Nepal in general and the recent New Delhi’s proposition for a couple of projects including the PTA. Sensing strong reservation and resistance in Nepal, Swaraj had to agree to look  into certain issues positively and address Nepal’s concern. In the 26 point joint communiqué issued at the end of the Nepal-India Joint Commission’s meeting, a provision has been included that states that Nepal and India agreed to review, adjust and update the 1950 treaty, reflecting the current realities, for which a joint committee comprising foreign secretaries of both the countries has been set up. The committee is mandated to make necessary recommendations for the review of the 1950 treaty and also some other treaties that required updating to suit the changed context. The Joint Commission also directed the Nepal-India Boundary Working Group to commence field works at the earliest. Both of these provisions are positive in the sense that India has in principle agreed to review and update the 1950 treaty. Similarly, India had earlier unilaterally prepared a strip border map and had proposed to be signed by Nepal. India has encroached broader in more than 55 points and if signed the India proposed strip map, it would have legitimized India’s act of broader encroachment. Thus, there had been strong objection in Nepal about India’s proposed strip map. Now the joint border committee will look into this issue and come up with a new proposal acceptable to both the countries. These positive aspects need to be translated into action to really create atmosphere of trust and goodwill between these two countries, for which India is required to demonstrate sincerity without trying to play any new tricks to become a good neighbor whereas Nepal has to remain watchful and do good homework in dealing with India for our best interest.
Some observers and analysts are of the view that the Swaraj’s visit has some other positive aspects, which need to be given continuity. According to them, India has now started handling relations with Nepal at the political level and Indian politicians have begun direct dialogue with Nepal’s politicians. They are of the view that Indian bureaucracy and intelligence agencies were largely responsible in handling relations with Nepal, which, often created irritants and multiplied problems between the two countries. With direct dialogue at the political level, the role and interference of bureaucracy and agencies, according to them, will now be diminished paving the way for cordial relations between the two countries.
This is an argument, which may make sense, to certain extent, but not wholly. India has its set policy on Nepal, on the basis of which opinions are built and relationship is handled. South Block and the agencies do not independently handle Nepal relations but do so based on their country’s policy and decisions at the political level. Thus, the views that dialogue at political level would serve and protect Nepal’s interest are flawed. What is needed, if India at all wants to have better relations with Nepal, it must change its colonial policy.
The truth is: India has recently realized that its neighborhood policy in general and Nepal policy in particular is flawed. As a result, India’s image in the neighborhood is being tarnished very badly and anti-Indian sentiments are growing in the neighboring countries more than ever before. Its benefit is going to China as Beijing is considered and regarded in all South Asian countries as a benevolent neighbor that is willing to cooperate with the neighbors for their development needs without any conditions and interference. Even Indian intellectuals and analysts have realized and started raising this issue. In a recent piece of analysis in the Indian Express, C Raja Mohan has pointed out this saying ‘India promises, China delivers’. Against this background, Indian Prime Minister Narednra Modi appears to be at least trying to show that he was interested to change India’s image in the neighborhood and also in the world. However, this cannot be achieved by mere rhetoric but by concrete action. If Modi is really interested to change India’s image it has to change its bullish neighborhood policy in black and white as well as in practice.
As far as Nepal is concerned, India has set Nepal policy, on the basis of which relations with Nepal is being conducted and handled. Unless, New Delhi brings about changes in its policy and attitude, Nepal-India relations cannot be smooth. If India is really serious and sincere for having better, friendlier and neighborly relations, it must change its Nepal policy to suit the changed national and international situation. Nepal, too, needs to lobby through effective diplomatic acumen for such a change. For this, Nepal too needs on its part needs to do a plenty of homework to ensure that our interests are protected abroad. But Nepal has its serious weakness in handling foreign policy in general and India policy in particular. In the first place, Nepal does not have any country-specific policy. In the absence of clear cut India policy, Nepal is losing in the diplomatic dealing and communication with India. Against this background, Nepal needs to prepare out India policy with clear cut definitions of our interests with India and our bottom line on every issue and matter.
One very striking point that needs to be mentioned here in connection with Swaraj’s visit is the India’s attitude towards Madhesi parties. Nepal’s Madhesi parties are the creation of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), as New Delhi’s trump card in Nepali politics. But Sushma Swaraj seemed not to have given much attention to them, which is being analyzed as India’s diminishing interest with these Madhesi parties and politicians. According to media report, Swaraj even refused to meet Madhesi leaders individually; instead she met with all Madhesi leaders belonging to all political parties in a group.  Reports have it that Susma Swaraj, in response to the complain by Madhesi leaders that they were treated in Nepal as the second class citizens, is reported to have counter- questioned, ‘since Madhesis have become President, Vice President, Home Minister and Foreign Minister, how could be Madhesi treated as second class citizens?’ She is also reported to have told them that India was interested to nurture relations with Nepal but not with Madhes. If it was at all true, this is a most striking and positive attitude.

Despite this, skepticism and suspicion continue to prevail in Nepal about India’s attitude and behavior. Thus, India needs to change its policy in black and white and accordingly put it into practice. As the decision has been made to set up a committee comprising foreign secretaries of both the countries to work for the review of 1950 treaty, this has to be expedited. Secondly, instead of entering into a new agreement on any new water resource related project, the already agreed projects need to be implemented and completed. It has been almost 17 years, since agreement was reached to construct Pancheswar multi-purpose project. It was agreed that the detailed project report would be prepared within six months of the signing of the agreement. But the work has not started even in 17 years. This is because of India’s unwillingness that Pancheswar project has not started. Thus, the Pancheswar project has to start at the earliest before signing any other new project on water resource. Similarly, India had agreed during Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal’s visit to New Delhi to construct Naumure hydro power project. But it, too, has not taken off. Thus, there has been general impression among the people of Nepal that India is not willing to construct hydro power projects in Nepal, rather it only wants to hold them. If India has really changed its attitude and wants to help Nepal, it has to firstly and immediately start the construction of these two projects. Similarly, Nepal has been cheated in all the previous water resource related treaties including Koshi and Gandaki agreements, which also need to be renegotiated along with the 1950 treaty to ensure that interest of both the countries is equally protected. This is also high time that Nepal should raise the issue of renegotiating Koshi and Gandaki agreements protecting Nepal’s upper riparian rights.
These are some of the issues that have marred Nepal and India relations. If India wants to have bilateral relations with Nepal smooth, it must address these concerns of Nepal. As the Indian Prime Minister is visiting Nepal in the long spell of 17 years since IK Gujral last visited in 1997, Indian side has claimed that it would be historic event in Nepal-India relations. However, Modi’s visit will be meaningful from bilateral perspective only when he (Modi) takes the issues raised by Nepal with utmost seriousness and addresses them to the satisfaction of Nepal. Else it will matter the least for Nepal as far as its interests are concerned.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ill design exposed once again

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Many tend to believe that Nepal is on the spotlight of the international community and more particularly of our immediate neighbors. It is not merely its abundant natural resources including rich hydro power potential from its perennial rivers but Nepal’s strategic location and position that have attracted attention of the world. Nepal is situated in world’s highest point between Asia’s two giants—China and India, which are vying for becoming global powers. These two countries are both competing and cooperating in various spheres. They are cooperating with one another in areas where their interests converge and competing when their interest clash.
Given this cooperation and competition between China and India, Nepal’s geostrategic position and advantage can be its assets and it can be utilized for Nepal’s well-being. It largely depends upon how we demonstrate our ability, skill and acumen. But the same strategic advantage can become strategic vulnerability, if we fail to handle it properly and utilize it for our advantage. The present situation of Nepal is exactly the same as Nepal’s strategic advantage has been reduced to strategic vulnerability due mainly to our failure to reap the benefit from this position. As a result, Nepal is being squeezed badly and in a brazen manner by the powerful southern neighbor especially on the use and utilization of our own resources, that, if Nepal agrees to the conditions proposed by India as has been reported in the media, we, one day, will be in a position to be a mute spectator when our own resources would be looted by others.
This is exactly the case that has cropped up between Nepal and India on the use of Nepal’s own water resources and development of hydro power potentials. Given Nepal’s disadvantageous position in all previous water resource and hydro power related agreements with India, a new but more serious debate has started in Nepal on the use and harnessing of Nepal’s water resources when India suddenly proposed a new agreement concerning power trade and hydro power development in Nepal. India has proposed this new agreement to be signed before or during the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal probably in August.
It has been reported in the Nepali media that the Government of India has sent a draft proposal to Nepal Government on hydro-power development in Nepal, which, if true, are detrimental to Nepal’s national interest. According to the media, one of the provisions in the four page draft proposal for comprehensive water resource development forwarded by India states: the parties (Nepal and India) “will cooperate in effective harnessing of Nepal’s hydro power potential through facilitation and speedy construction of hydro electric projects in Nepal, either with 100 per cent Indian investments or joint venture with Indian entities”. This clause clearly intends to deny and discourage investors from other countries to invest in Nepal’s hydro power sector and give monopoly to India in Nepal’s water resources and hydro power. This will have far-reaching negative consequences in Nepal’s overall development. Nepal’s lucrative market for foreign investment is the hydro power and if the foreigners are denied to invest in this lucrative sector, they will definitely not be interested to invest in other sectors as Nepal’s market is relatively small compared to that of its neighbors. So this is a well-calculated move not only to control water resources and hydro power of Nepal but also to permanently strangulate Nepal’s development endeavors and keep Nepal in poverty and backwardness forever.
Moreover, India’s intention is clear as it does not want to develop hydro power projects but to drive investors from other countries away from Nepal. If India had really been interested in building and constructing hydro power projects and supporting Nepal, it could have started and completed the already agreed upon projects including Pancheswar and Naumure. Pancheswar project had agreed upon between Nepal and India as a part of the Mahakali Treaty and  the work of the project was to begin within five year of the signing of the project and to be completed within the period of ten years. However, the project has not started even 17 years after the agreement was signed and there is still no possibility of its construction in future.
As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is paying an official visit to Nepal in the long interval of 17 years, it has stirred much speculations, expectations and suspicions. Modi has announced will visit Nepal probably next month at the invitation of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, for which preparations are being made in a hectic manner in Kathmandu and New Delhi.  Hectic consultations are also being made at different levels to finalize the issues Modi’s visit. As has been reported in Indian media, India is likely to announce a broad economic support package for Nepal’s infrastructure development including road construction, telecommunication, railway networks and hydro-power projects, among others. However, nothing specific, so far, has been finalized as both the countries are still in preparatory phase. But the economic package seems to be India’s carrot to control Nepal’s hydro-power and water resource, which has already raised much alarm in Nepali intelligentsia and general people.
Although Indian Embassy has claimed in a statement that the proposal was put forward just for discussion and can be altered and modified if Nepal wishes so, the proposal clearly points to India’s ill-design to take advantage from Nepal’s political transition.  History is witness that New Delhi has always come up with proposals and got them signed during political transition in Nepal. In 1950, when the Rana regime was on the verge of collapse in the wake of popular movement, India came up with the proposal of a treaty, which Rana government agreed in the hope of clinging onto power with India’s backing. This is how the 1950 treaty, which many Nepalese people call it unequal treaty, was signed. Even in 1989 when the popular movement against the King’s absolute regime was at its height, India, apart from imposing economic and trade sanction against Nepal, proposed a new treaty that was clearly against the interest of Nepal in exchange of lifting sanction and also support to the monarchy against the political parties demanding multi-party democracy. However, king Birendra refused to give in to India’s proposal, instead, he chose to bow down to people agreeing to relinquish his absolute power. Now Nepal is undergoing a political transition, which has been taken as an opportune time to force Nepal to sign some new agreements giving India an upper hand and control in Nepal’s water resource.
It has also been reported that India is interested to construct 900 megawatt Karnali hydro electric project and an agreement is likely to be signed during Modi’s visit. However, construction of this project is doubtful as there are several other projects that India has already agreed to construct but not implemented. Even if agreement was signed on the Karnali project, it will never be implemented. Its only intention is to lure Nepal to sign the objectionable power trade agreement and other deals. All facts and figures tell us that Nepal has always been cheated and betrayed in all water resource related accords and agreements like Koshi, Gandaki and Mahakali. India has been eying on Karnali River for a long time as it is only the major river system left to be entered into Nepal-India bilateral agreement. Of the four major rivers of Nepal flowing down right from the Himalayas are Koshi, Gandaki, Karnali and Mahakali. The rest of other rivers are tributaries of these four river systems. Once agreement was signed on Karnali project, all four major river system of Nepal would be in total control of India.
Right from the beginning, India has been trying to discourage involvement of other countries in Nepal’s hydro power sectors. India has also been objecting and obstructing, directly or through the use of backdoor channels, Nepal’s efforts of independently handling and developing hydro power projects. When Nepal was trying to develop Karnali-Chisapani project with support from the World Bank way back in 1970s, it was India that used both direct and backdoor channels to sabotage this project. Arun III project, too, saw exactly the same fate. The present Indian proposal ‘ either to have 100 per cent Indian participation or joint venture with Indian companies’ comes at a time when Chinese companies and investors from other countries are showing interest in investing in and developing Nepal’s hydro power sector.
The new developments are the product of rivalry of great powers mainly India and China in Nepal. China does not seem to have any kind of ill intention towards Nepal but wants to support this Himalayan Republic with no string attached. But India has not been able to comprehend this reality. Instead, India is always suspicious about China and wants to discourage China’s involvement in Nepal. As China and India are our immediate neighbors, Nepal wants friendship and good will of both of them. However, we have bitter experiences with India especially on issues relating to water resources. Against this background, Nepal needs to be cautious and well prepared to negotiate skillfully in all aspects with India so that Nepal’s interest is duly protected. For this, good homework has to be done through thorough consultation and discussion with different stakeholders and experts in Nepal so that Nepal’s geo-strategic position becomes our strategic strength but not vulnerability.

Friday, July 18, 2014

KP Oli’s win may further polarize Nepali politics

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The ninth national congress of the CPN-UML is finally over amidst much hullabaloo. The most important part of this congress was the election for the central leadership. In the race for the principal leadership of the party or party chairperson KP Sharma Oli emerged as the winner defeating his rival Madhav Kumar Nepal. Apart from Oli’s personal win as chairperson, his team has also won a comfortable majority in the central committee. This gives free hand to KP Oli to steer the party for another five years without any hurdle.
The national congress is the forum to exercise thorough and meticulous debate and discussion on policies, programmes and future course of the party. However, this part saw the least attention and exercise in the CPN-UML conclave. The leadership issue took the central stage and consumed more energy and time in the entire eight days of the national congress. The political report that was presented by outgoing party chief Jhalanath Khanal was unanimously adopted virtually without debate, which was indicative of the fact that the delegates had no interest at all in political and ideological issues. But they seem to be more concerned with the positions in the organization ladder of the party as the issue concerning the leadership consumed much of the time, energy and resources during, before and after the congress.
There had been both open and behind the curtain exercises for grabbing the party leadership. KP Oli had been doing quite a serious homework for the last one year, while Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, too, and had adopted their own strategy, tricks and tactics for party’s principal leadership. Jhalanath Khanal was desirous to continue one more term as party chairman provided he was chosen unanimously. When the other two candidates namely Madhav Nepal and KP Sharma Oli appeared not willing to give up the race for the party chairman, Khanal voluntarily opted to remain out of the race.
KP Oli had also contested the election for the party chief post during the eight national congress five years ago but lost to Khanal. Thus Oli had a natural claim to the party chief. Some Oli loyalists said that it was Oli’s legitimate right to claim the party’s principal post as two of his contemporaries—Khanal and Nepal had already enjoyed the party’s top post as well as country’s premiership. Jhalanath Khanal had been elected party chief twice and Madhav Nepal, too, was in the position of the party chief the party for 14 years. But Oli has so far become neither the party chief nor the prime minister. As far as the contribution to the party and the country is concerned, Oli has made equal sacrifice for the cause of the party and the country. He remained behind bars for 14 years for opposing the tyrannical king’s absolute regime. Oli’s historical background is definitely glorious. But his role and stance on Mahakali Treaty was severely criticized and he has built the image of more ‘India friendly’.  
Anyway, the ninth national congress is over and has been able to elect new leadership for another five years. Given the manner with which the election was held and democratic exercises fully done, the ninth national congress of the CPN-UML is definitely a historic one. No national congresses of the CPN-UML had ever seen and exercised such internal democracy. Although there had been vulgarity, to certain extent, during the election campaign of both the camps, which should have been avoided, the election and open competition was definitely good that makes the party vibrant and more active. Election was held for all the posts, which is a unique exercise in the organizational life of the CPN-UML. There were two distinct and rival sets of candidates and election was contested between the two panels. One was led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and the other one by KP Sharma Oli.
In the organizational life of any democratic party, the national congress is the most important forum as it is the highest and most powerful forum that determines party’s fate and future. The national congress is also important on the ground that it chooses a set of leadership for the next few years until another national congress is held. On top of that, the national congress is given higher weight because this is the forum in which delegates that are elected right from the grassroots level can have direct interaction with the central leadership and participate in policy-making of the party. This is a highest form of democracy that is exercised once in five year.
The way the ninth national congress of the CPN-UML was concluded in a fully democratic and competitive manner, it should serve as an important lesson for other parties as well. Differences and line struggle are natural and normal in an active and vibrant party. But such debate and struggle has to be managed in a way that does not lead to party split. The CPN-UML needs to be cautious to maintain unity even after the ugly and tough leadership battle in the party. This is necessary because of past records and experiences. Splits and disintegration in Nepal’s political parties is a common and a frequent phenomenon. Several parties have seen split and disintegration due to leadership rivalry but not because of disputes and differences on ideology and politics. This is a general phenomenon in all political parties in Nepal but more so in the communist parties. The Nepali Congress saw its split many times. There was a single communist party in Nepal until 1970s. Keshar Jung Rayamajhi sowed the first seed of split in Nepal’s communist movement. This process of split and disintegration continued and even intensified so badly that we have now more than a dozen communist parties in existence. Now the CPN-UML has to make sure that the party does not disintegrate due to leadership rivalry.
CPN-UML is the second largest political party and the largest communist party in the country in terms of its strength in the Constituent Assembly. Any developments in this party will definitely have impact on Nepal’s politics. Thus, all gazes had been fixed on the ninth national congress and the CPN-UML and its outcome. Now the congress is over and the rein of leadership has been passed onto KP Oli and his team. With this leadership change, no significant change is expected in the political course of the party as the congress has not adopted any new political philosophy, ideology and world view. The change of course of any political party is guided and determined by the political line and ideology. There has not been any change in ideological and political line in the party even after the ninth national congress as it has more strongly reiterated its adherence to the People’s Multi-Party Democracy or PMPD propounded long ago by Madan Bhandari. The basic tenets of the PMPD are the peaceful competitive politics based on the multi-party basis and social justice. The PMPD is a proposition that armed revolution in Nepal is no longer relevant and the only way to go to power is the peaceful competition.
With KP Oli coming to power, the CPN-UML’s leadership has once again gone to the Jhapa movement generation. KP Oli is one of the leading figures of Jhapa movement. After CP Mainali was stripped of powers 32 years ago, no leader of the Jhapa movement had been in the principal post of the CPN-UML. With the passage of time, the CPN-UML has sharply deviated from the spirit of the Jhapa movement but the party still has some leaders that had been involved Jhapa movement. One of them is KP Oli.
As said earlier, no significant changes are expected in the CPN-UML with the change in the leadership.  But one thing is certain that the working style of the party will definitely change with KP Oli in the helms of affairs. KP Oli is perhaps the only politician in the contemporary politics of Nepal who is better known as a man with tough nature and anti-Maoist and ‘India friendly’ image. This image may further polarize Nepal’s politics which may not be good in the present political situation that is demanding consensus and cooperation among the key political forces for constitution, peace, stability of the country.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Federalism may again fail the Constituent Assembly

Yuba Nath Lamsal
A key political and strategic issue in the contemporary politics of Nepal since this Himalayan Republic entered into a new political and peaceful  phase after the signing of the peace accord between the government and the insurgent Maoists in 2006 has been the state restructuring or federalism. The gravity and complication of the state restructuring issue was earlier not comprehended initially by the political actors of the time except the Maoists as it was entirely a new concept in the political lexicon of Nepal. When the
issue formally came to the fore for discussion and decision in the Constituent Assembly and outside, then only the political parties and other stakeholders realized its complications and intricacies. This is fundamentally the sole factor that failed the first Constituent Assembly and ultimately led to its shameful demise.
Political forces and parties saw their victory in the demise of the first Constituent Assembly without accomplishing its principal task of delivering a new constitution. This is because no political party had to compromise anything. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML had nothing to lose in the demise and dissolution of the CA as they were not in the dominant role in the House. The Maoist was the largest party but it too did not have the sufficient number to get its agenda through and endorsed with its own strength in the Constituent Assembly. As a result, the Constituent Assembly had been a burden to all. Moreover, the Maoist was disillusioned that if fresh elections were held they would be in better position. Thus, all parties agreed on this option.
 But, in essence, the nation was defeated when the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved. The entire exercises made for more than five years were since the peace process began were lost and energy and resources spent on it got wasted. More importantly, the hopes of the people that the country would enter into a new phase of peace, stability and prosperity were once again dashed. The country continued to remain in transition marked by instability, anarchy, insecurity and uncertainty.
State restructuring is not merely an adjusting the upper echelon of power division but it is a process of shifting the power from core to the peripheries and from center to the local level and from a one group or clan to the people at the grassroots. In the beginning when the issue of state restructuring or federal structure was first raised by the Maoists, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML were a little hesitant. But the Maoists took it as a key condition for entering into peace process, Girija Prasad Koirala, who was the president of the Nepali Congress at that time and principal leader of the seven party alliance, agreed on this issue and
convinced his own Nepali Congress as well as other parties that were part of the seven party alliance. This is how the state restructuring issue was agreed upon and federalism was accordingly incorporated in
the Interim Constitution. Thus, the Interim Constitution has clearly mentioned that Nepal is a federal democratic republic.
Since the Interim Constitution has clearly stated that Nepal would be a federal democratic republic, which is a guideline not only for running the country but also the principal basis for writing a new constitution. Although the Constituent Assembly is sovereign, it, too cannot override the principles the Interim Constitution has established. This means federalism, democracy and republic set up are unchangeable and these three things cannot be compromised come what may. And the country now cannot back out from federalism.
But sharp differences have continued to persist among different political actors of the country right from the beginning since this issue came up for discussion. The complication is on the number, border and nature of the new federal states to be incorporated in the new constitution. This issue has now come as a big headache for political parties. The political parties cannot backpedal from it as they have already committed it in the Interim Constitution and also have promised the people to restructure the state on the principles of true federalism.
Some political parties are of the view that there has to be minimum number of federal states. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML mainly represent this view and say that the country cannot economically
afford many federal states. They want maximum seven federal provinces. However, the Maoists are insisting for more federal states to accommodate their own roadmap of federalism. The Madhesi parties are other
dominant forces that have their own roadmap and demand of federalism. They are not concerned in other things but want one single Madhes state in the southern plain from the east to the west. There are some other
political parties and forces that are opposed to the entire idea of federalism but their views and demands are least likely to be heard and addressed.
The more complication has surfaced as some forces have raised the issue concerning the identity-based federalism. The Maoists and some ethnic communities are backing the identity-based federalism. Madhesi
parties, too, are sympathetic to this demand. There have been divergent views and perceptions on the identity and identity-based federalism. Some call identity as the ethnic identity and they are demanding that
federal states be delineated on ethnic line. But others are of the view that ethnicity is not the sole identity of a person or group and are federating states on ethnic line. According to them, there are other factors that give a person or group their identity.  Geography, nature and civilization also determine the identity of a person or group. The failure to fully and rationally comprehend the essence of identity has complicated the entire issue. As a result, the debate on federalism within Constituent Assembly and outside have not been productive as the parties have taken two rival and opposite directions and sides. Even the Commission constituted to recommend the federal states and model failed to prove its neutrality and competence. The Commission, too, was divided on the number, nature and modality of the federal states and it presented two parallel reports to the government.
Similar case was with the state restructuring committee and the constitutional committee of the CA, which also could not come up with an unformed report.  This divide in the political circle of Nepal continues even today in the new Constituent Assembly. Now the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are in the position to muster two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly which would be sufficient for the passage of the
constitution. This means that the ethnicity-based federalism would be defeated. However, the Maoists are not in the mood of giving this issue so easily although they do not have required strength to defeat or block the decision in the Constituent Assembly. They are now creating a united front both within the Constituent Assembly and outside to exert pressure on the Congress and the UML to agree on their agenda including the identity-based federalism. So a new kind of polarization seems to be inevitable in Nepal that is likely to create more complication not only in the constitution writing process but also in the entire political course
of Nepal.
If this issue was not resolved amicably, this will likely to instigate and incite violence and conflict in the society once again as the ethnic communities are not going to accept the constitution if their identity was not recognized in the new federal structure. However, at the same time, other forces are also equally determined not to allow ethnic federalism. Thus, the state restructuring or federalism issue has created the situation of deadlock that political parties neither can take a drastic decision nor move back. Given this situation of
gridlock, political parties are likely to shelve the federalism issue except accepting it principally in the new constitution. They will come up with the new constitution leaving federalism issue to be decided later. This may create a new scenario in which political parties may ultimately arrive at a conclusion of  approving the present Interim Constitution with some modifications and giving it to the newer and final shape as
the new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. This scenario is very likely because the political parties are not in the position to outright reject and ignore the Mohan Vaidya-led CPN-Maoist party that is not in the Constituent Assembly. Vaidya group, too, may agree on the proposition of turning the present Interim Constitution into a new constitution as it was also part when the Interim Constitution was drawn in 2006. Political parties may choose this option as a bitter pill under compulsion in order to ensure that all players and actors accept it, which is necessary for peace and stability of the country.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Is unity among all leftist parties possible?

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Lately, it seems that some communist leaders are slowly reckoning with the fact that they are on the wrong side of history. And if recent developments are any indication, they are on the path of correcting their past missteps and irrationality. Perhaps forced by circumstances, the five Maoist communist parties have at least agreed to forge a united front for a working unity on some common agendas and issues. Four of these five parties are the ones which were once together in a single party when the Maoists had launched an armed insurgency. Now again these parties are in the process of a broader left unity.
When they were united in the past, their combined strength was so strong that no other party in the country could ever match their might. The UCPN-Maoist had won 121 seats out of 240 under the first-past-the post system of the election held in 2008.  But the UCPN-Maoist won only 26 out of 240 in the election held in November last year. The UCPN-Maoist claimed that conspiracy and rigging were primarily responsible for its defeat in the election. It may be true to some extent but not in totality. The rigging alone was not the sole reason for its humiliating defeat.  Internal problems, contradictions in principles and action as well as deviation on certain issues are more responsible for this poor showing of the UCPN-Maoist in the election than the external conspiracy.
On the ideological front too, the party committed mistakes one after another. There had been serious mistake and shortcoming in the process and decisions concerning the army integration. The party gave up its agenda and stance one after another whereas it failed to deliver anything when it was in the government. In foreign policy front and more particularly in relation with India, too, the party slowly but surely gave up its earlier stance. As a revolutionary communist party, the UCPN-Maoist had raised high the banner of patriotism and national liberation movement in the past. However, in the name of diplomatic dealings and communication especially after the party joined the peace process, hobnobbing with some external elements and even agency people of other countries was so visible that it badly tarnished its image in the eyes of patriotic Nepali people. In the first election, many patriotic Nepalese people had supported and voted the UCPN-Maoist for its nationalist posture. But its stance and position on certain issues and dealings with external forces especially India came under scathing criticism from a large chunk of patriotic people, who in the November election chose not to vote the UCPN-Maoist. This was one of the issues that led the Vaidya group to exit from the party. But the UCPN-Maoist was so carried away with the false notion that this party would continue to maintain its earlier strength even after the party split.
However, the election results came as a serious blow to the UCPN-Maoist, which compelled it to do a serious soul searching as to what went wrong and where the leadership failed to visualize this scenario earlier.  The party has finally arrived at a conclusion has it made series of mistakes on both ideological and practical fronts. Party chairman Prachanda more than once has made his position clear that there had been mistakes in the past and vowed to correct those mistakes to ensure that the UCPN-Maoist regains its earlier position once again. As a result, he genuinely started dialogue with several other parties for unity.
While Prachanda realized that his strength alone would not be sufficient to regain the popular support to make the UCP-Maoist the largest party, Mohan Vaidya, too, arrived at a conclusion that his party also would not be able to lead and complete the revolution he has been championing. Thus, both the groups realized the necessity of unity among at least the parties that have common programmes and policies. The creation of a united front of five parties including the UCPN-Maoist and CPN-Maoist is, thus, guided by the doctrine of necessity and out of compulsion. Similarly, other three small groups led by Matrkia Yadav, Mani Thapa and Pari Thapa, too, have come to realize that they, with their marginalized strength,  would not achieve what they had planned to do. Moreover, their position and popularity further declined after they disassociated with the mother party. Thus, they have finally agreed to forge a united front for the time being but are expected to ultimately merge into one single party. Now the unity among the parties that follow Maoism/ Mao Thought as their guiding political and ideological principle is a praiseworthy move, which, one day, would facilitate to create a single communist center in Nepal.
All communist groups in Nepal claim to be the only revolutionary and genuine party and accuse the other either reformist/revisionist or dogmatist and left extremist group. But the problem with them is not the ideology but clash for interests and competition for power. In the communist party, the rivalry for leadership and power is so harsh and ugly that they do not normally accept the existence of the other or rival, which ultimately leads to party split. This is not in conformity with Marxist dialectics.
The Communist Party of Nepal was formed by Puspa Lal along with his three other colleagues including Nirajan Govinda Vaidya, Narayan Vilas Joshi and Nara Bahadur Karmacharya in 1949 with the clear objective of liberating Nepal from the semi-feudal and semi-colonial status. National liberation movement was therefore a fundamental purpose of the communist party. The Communist Party of Nepal had thus become of target of expansionist and imperialist powers and their agents in Nepal for its nationalist and patriotic posture.
 Right from the beginning, factionalism and factional rivalry had crept into the communist party which continued to grow. In the third national congress, the factional fight formally sowed the seed of division in the party. Since then the fragmentation process has continued unabated, as a result of which we have more than a dozen communist groups in Nepal. Although the apparent reason for the split in the communist party was differences in ideological perspective, the inherent factor was the intention of capturing party leadership. This tendency continues in all communist parties even in present which is the main obstacle for party unity.
In multi-party political system, multiple political interest groups and ideologies exist and compete, which is a natural phenomenon. But rivalries and competition among the political forces that share common and identical interests, objectives and ideology is quite unbecoming. Thus, it requires all the political parties that have communist tag and communist programmes to come together. Now, we have seen a new initiative that has brought the five Maoist parties together. This may serve as a beginning of the unity among all the communist and leftist parties in Nepal.
At present there are clearly, three major trends in Nepal’s communist movement. One is parliamentary trend which is being represented by the CPN-UML. The second trend is represented by the Mohan Vaidya-led CPN-Maoist, which does not subscribe to parliamentary road but the path of protracted people’s war in the fashion Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party launched the revolution in China. The other trend is twin tactics of peaceful parliamentary and insurrection to capture state power. The UCPN-Maoist represents this trend.
Whatever the approach and modus operandi, their objective is to liberate Nepal from capitalist and imperialist exploitation and establish a socialist type of political superstructure in which there would be equitable society free from exploitation and discrimination with judicious distribution of resources. Marxism is the basic and fundamental ideological guideline. Thus, there is no meaning to have so many communist parties in Nepal with similar policies and programme. As the communist remain divided, rightist and reactionaries have reaped benefit. Thus, the communist parties have to either give up their communist tag and programmes or come together under a single banner so that there would be a strong communist center in Nepal. Now the bigger parties have to take initiative and the smaller ones need to respond and reciprocate positively for the interest of all working class people in Nepal. The unity and cooperation among the communist parties is even more needed in the present context when Nepal is in the process of constitution writing. If the communist parties unite and work together, Nepal will have a genuine progressive and socialism oriented constitution. For this, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist and CPN-Maoist need to be more flexible.  If these three parties strike a deal to cooperate one another in constitution writing and other issues, other fringe left parties, too, will join which will have a common strong voice and stance for a socialist transformation of the country. This is necessary and possible provided senior most leaders of three main parties respond positively. This should not be just for marriage of convenience but should be motivated by the intent of genuinely unifying the communist movement of Nepal.