By MR Josse
KATHMANDU: Maoist boss Prachanda’s decision to exit (or ‘Prexit’) the coalition led by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, with a view to toppling it, is aimed, essentially, at undermining Sino-Nepali relations heretofore on the verge of a dramatic and exciting take-off.
That Prachanda combined his gambit to withdraw from the Oli-led coalition – which incidentally he himself had helped forge – through a power-sharing arrangement with NC chief Sher Bahadur Deuba, who once had placed a price on his head, is not only another shining example of how ‘loktantrik’ Nepal is surging progressively ahead towards all-round prosperity and soaring international acclaim but moreover fits, like a glove, with the essential geopolitical character of Sino-Indian rivalry in/over Nepal, extant for decades, but rarely openly acknowledged.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Before venturing any further, it would be germane to briefly recall the Prachanda/Deuba duo’s highly symbolic gesture of demonstrating support for the Federal Alliance, whose activists were on a relay hunger strike demanding the creation of two states in the southern plains carved along ethnic lines – a stipulation that they had roundly rejected at the time the new constitution was formalised!
The significance of the timing of this unmistakable act of political fealty to New Delhi becomes even more glaring when recalling that Prachanda had three months ago almost withdrawn his party’s support from the ruling coalition.
According to media reports at the time, Prachanda refrained from plunging ahead on that reckless path, due to eleventh hour Chinese persuasion, much to New Delhi’s, and Deuba’s, chagrin. The question thus arises: why did he change his mind? What deux ex machina intervened since on the high-voltage government toppling drama?
While only Prachanda – and perhaps Deuba – knows the answer to that conundrum, much can surely be extrapolated by re-phrasing that question, thus: who, or what political force, has the motive, the capability and access to compel Prachanda to do a volte face, with Deuba in tow? Given that, by his own public admission, Prachanda spent eight of the 10 years of the ‘jana yuddha’ in and around New Delhi – certainly under 24/7 surveillance by his hosts – the answer to the above enigma is blindingly obvious.
That key consideration aside, it is surely no coincidence – if it is no more than that – that the social media has been abuzz with reports of the Indian envoy celebrating ‘Prexit’ at an upscale watering hole hours after it became a fact of political life – not to mention that Oli himself publicly hinted at much, at a five-star hotel, another day.
There is, then, Prachanda’s own grandiose claim – disseminated via ‘select’ journalists invited to his lavish residence – that it was he in fact who “initiated many of the agreements that were inked during PM Oli’s visit to China in March” or, even more outlandishly, that the “Chinese side will be happier with a government under my leadership.” (Himalayan Times, 10 July).
Who has forgotten that Prachanda – after his maiden visit as PM to Beijing for the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympics – was received by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao for substantive meetings but that he subsequently dashed off to India declaring, in an effort to calm enraged Hindustani tempers, that his India sojourn was his “first political visit”?
Blanket Indian support for the Maoist cause is too well-known to deserve re-telling or elaboration; no wonder the loyalty of Nepali Maoists has been towards India, despite her constant interference in Nepal’s affairs. They understand that such support comes at a price. All that stands out in stark contrast to a China that, in the post-Mao era, has infused the ‘non-interference’ doctrine with virtually sacramental significance.
UNDERMING XI VISIT
If I have ventured a theory to explain Prachanda’s sudden change of political heart, I shall now attempt to do the same to explain why New Delhi applied pressure on his neuralgic pressure points (unknown to us, mere mortals) to bring about
Briefly surmised, it is to scuttle a visit to Nepal by Chinese President Xi Jinping which would mark the first to Nepal since President Jiang Zemin’s visit in 1996, at King Birendra’s invitation. First, about the timing: three months back, while a visit by ‘a high ranking Chinese official’ was being hinted at by Beijing, it was only very recently – in fact, around the conclusion of the foreign secretary’s latest visit to China – that it became evident that Xi would in fact come visiting Nepal.
While as much gradually emerged from periodic reports in our media, based on credible Beijing sources, surely New Delhi’s men in Beijing must have been confirming the same to South Block. Lately, there were even reports that if the BRICS summit slated for New Delhi in mid-October were postponed, the Chinese dignitary could be making a separate bilateral visit here!
But, why should that be alarming to New Delhi? More than a month ago, I had written, “Over the past several months – and particularly in the wake of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s official visit to China in March this year – there has been a steady drumbeat of inflamed rhetoric and propaganda exercised over China’s increased presence/activity in a Nepal steadily but determinedly escaping from India’s clutches, in the aftermath of the crippling five month-plus boycott it inspired/supported.”
Given Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s obsession that India be acknowledged as a Great or Leading Power, and his desperate attempts to ingratiate himself with a West increasingly uneasy with the prospect of China emerging as a Super Power, an attempt to stymie Nepal-China relations from rising to unprecedented heights in a vital geo-strategic region that encompasses Tibet, would be much appreciated as an exquisitely timed geopolitical demarche, serving splendidly both India’s and the West’s interests.
Prachanda and Deuba have willy-nilly been co-opted into that Great Game; where it will lead Nepal remains to be seen!