Friday, April 29, 2011

Nepal's Against India's Dadagiri?

India's External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's sojourn to Kathmandu last week has seemingly ended in a failure. It was said success of his visit largely depended on improving relations with UCPN ( Maoist), largest party in the constituent assembly (parliament) and partner of present coalition government led by Jhala Nath Khanal of UML, and help build consensus of political parties in drafting the constitution and complete the peace process in Nepal.    Media reports suggest that Krishna's hour-long meeting with Maoist chairman Prachanda on April 22 ended in acrimonious arguments. Krishna has questioned the Maoist party's anti-India propaganda, saying its ambassador Rakesh Sood was harassed with shoes and stones whenever he went out of Kathmandu and Indian companies and businesses came under attacks. After the meeting Prachanda said Krishna exhibited keen interest in Nepal's internal matters by India which is simply unacceptable.    He pointed to the Indian minister the facts that they had put his party in great difficulty and compelled to step down when his government sacked Army Chief Rukmangad Katwal and also during the prime ministerial election. " Now, we want relations between the two countries to begin afresh based on a new and equal footing. Neither can Nepal get the new constitution nor will environment become favourable for India by sidelining the largest party in the constituent assembly. I feel that India needs to focus more on these issues than our party's internal activities," Prachanda was quoted as saying by daily Telegraph of Nepal on April 24 under the pungent heading "No More Dadagiri".    It is interesting that Phanindra Nepal, chairman of Unified Napal Nationalist Front, in an open letter to SM Krishan during his visit demanded that New Delhi should return 60 ,000 square kilometre Nepali lands occupied by India. The letter said India's friendship with Nepal is not based on equality and Justice. People have clearly understood India's intentions of controlling Nepal for its own interest.    Prashant Jha, a veteran journalist, writing for the daily Hindu of India on the eve of Krishan's visit to Nepal said his challenge will be to encourage all parties to work together as the constitutional deadline approaches and help build a consensus. " Krishna would do Indo-Nepal relations a lot if he could, at the highest levels and in public, deliver a political commitment that Delhi does not have preference in Nepal domestic politics and any legitimate government will have its full cooperation. This must be followed by instructions to its agencies not to play destabilizing role in Nepal."    But Krishna allegedly took the line dotted by the South Block to trigger chaos and instability in Nepal. It is likely that that New Delhi wants to test the nerve and reaction of Beijing to the situation in Nepal. In the recent past Chinese leaders visiting Kathmandu had categorically stated that China will not accept outside interference into internal affairs of Nepal. Instability in Nepal will impact not only the landlocked country but the South Asia and the entire region. How Beijing acts in dealing with impending instability on its close southern neighbour remains a matter of great interest.    No doubt, India has the largest stake in Nepal's political stability where China is making its inroads in a big way. Krishna returned home leaving the Maoist party beleaguered and political situation uncertain. The tenure of the constituent assembly, extended by one year, ends on May 28. Analysts say, given the wide differences among the political parties, the assembly will not be able to complete its task of drafting the constitution within this time. The coalition government of communist parties - UML and UCPN - is likely to seek further extension of the constituent assembly that failed to write the constitution in three years.    It is said that a faction of ruling UML and other parties, ostensibly prodded by New Delhi, are strongly opposed further extension of the assembly. Alliance of three Madhesi parties - Sadbhavana Party, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum - said they would not allow extension of the assembly. It has signalled an ominous sign by raising the demand of "complete autonomy and right to self- determination" with threat of street movement from May 2. Observers in Kathmandu said these parties are heavily influenced by New Delhi and the fresh demands were raised at Delhi's behest. This leaves a grim prospect of chaos and conflict to follow.    Jhala Nath Khanal government has proved weak to face such a situation. He was elected Prime Minister in early February with UCPN's (Maoists) support upon a seven-point agreement with its chairman Pushpa Kamal Dhahal ( Prachanda). A Faction within his UML leaning on India sought to scrap the 'secret' agreement. This faction was joined by Nepali Congress known an extension of Indian Congress and Madhesi parties. Because of strong opposition from within his party Khanal could not give Home Ministry to the UCPN as envisaged in the agreement. So, it made UCPN unhappy and as a result Khanal could not yet form a full fledged cabinet. Heading a weak government Khanal is under fire from all sides for growing insecurity, corruption and inflation.    A recent survey carried out by Inter Disciplinary Analyst, a think- tank of Nepal revealed 96 percent people opposed federalism, 57 percent demand Hindu State, 48 percent voted for constitutional monarchy and 43 percent opposed monarchy. It is a clear indication that majority of the people are not happy with the decisions made by political leaders without taking cognizance to their sentiment.    As uncertainty looms large, elderly journalist Madan Madi Dixit writing in Rajdhani daily of Nepal on April 21 said it is simply impossible of completing the new constitution within May 28. "We must embrace fresh election and should elect honest and dedicated candidates - bring in a smaller size of constitution drafting body but concurrently be of inclusive nature. " Who will hold the election if the present government goes with the constituent assembly on May 28 ?