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NEPAL IN CRISIS: Deuba needs all help and support. Update 51.

Note No. 232           20. 07. 2004

by Dr.S.Chandrasekharan

It is not clear what G.P.Koirala is up to? His recent statements and his action give the impression that he is more keen to pull both Deuba and the King down rather than finding a lasting solution to the Maoist problem which has now assumed serious proportions.

The Maoists on the other hand do not want Deuba to settle down and is putting increasing pressure on his government. In terms of incidents and attacks, the last week was one of the worst experienced in the valley. On 19th of this month, the Maoists abducted over 50 students from the valley for indoctrination. This was the first case of kidnapping from the valley since the Maoists’ peoples’ war started in 1996. The intention was to show their strength not only in their strongholds but also in the capital itself.

The problem now is G.P.Koirala.

G.P.Koirala is perhaps the senior most political leader in Nepal after Surya Bahadur Thapa. He holds the record of having served the longest as elected Prime Minister for over five years. In the first elections held after the 1990 elections, it was Koirala’s hard work, organisational skill and his popularity with the people that carried the day and his party got a comfortable majority.

To this day, despite the split in the Nepali Congress, Koirala stands head and shoulders above the rest in his party and on the flip side, has never allowed any other leader to grow up in his group. It looks that G.P.Koirala’s disappointment and frustration in making wild statements now may be due to his inability to convince the King to choose him as the interim Prime Minister to deal with the Maoists and conduct the elections.

Perhaps Koirala is the only senior leader left among the political parties who could tackle the grave situation that has arisen both due to the ongoing Maoist problem and the King’s thoughtless action in sacking the Deuba government and taking over the powers.

But to remedy the situation, Koirala needs the cooperation of the King and he cannot act in isolation. In one of the earlier meetings the King had with all political parties many months ago, it was Koirala who suggested the name of Madhav Nepal instead of suggesting his own name! Later this year when the agitating political parties were called to suggest an individual among themselves for the post of prime minister, Koirala backtracked and said that he was not willing to recommend Madhav Nepal’s name. ( Madhav Nepal unfortunately holds the grudge that it was India and the Indian ambassador who scuttled his chances of becoming prime minister, though it is totally untrue).

The agitating parties were not willing to suggest a name or a panel of names within the time frame stipulated. One cannot therefore fault the King in choosing and reinstating Deuba.

Koirala visited New Delhi for a week from 26 June and met all the political leaders. Even before he left, his party sources announced that he was going to meet the Maoist leaders as if they were waiting in New Delhi to receive him.

Another newspaper in Kathmandu alleged that he met Prachanda in the residence of an Indian parliamentarian on 4th of July. Both these reports were denied later.

Ever since his return from New Delhi Koirala has been making wild statements probably to put pressure on the King. Knowing very well that neither the establishment nor India would welcome UN intervention, he called for UN help in solving the Maoists crisis. Then he made another serious statement that he has initiated talks with the Maoists. When asked specifically where, how and by whom the Maoists leaders were met, he gave very vague answers.

It is known that almost all parties are having a channel to the Maoists. But for Koirala to say that he is having peace talks as if he is running a parallel government is irresponsible to say the least.

The Maoists:

The Maoists having assessed that the situation has reached a "strategic stage" and that the events are turning in their favour, have stepped up their attacks recently. Incidents in the last one week and some in Kathmandu valley itself should be cause for concern. The kidnapping of school children, the first of its kind from the valley already referred to, shows that the Maoists can strike at will at any place including the capital itself!

The incidents other than regular kidnapping of civilians, teachers and students include

* On 11th July, Maoists detonated a bomb inside the premises of Nepal Telecom Branch Office in Bhaktapur.

* On 12th July, over 300 Maoists with modern equipment attacked an army base at Baitadi

* On the same day, the Dhangadi Mayor Dhan Bahadur Bom was shot dead at Kailali.

* On 13th July, there was another incident near Bhaktapur, when Maoists detonated a bomb in the municipal building.

* On 14th July Maoists shot dead a teacher working in Rani Devi Public school, Kathmandu.

* On 17th July, Maoists detonated another bomb near Koteshwor police post, Kathmandu. One of the pedestrians injured in the blast succumbed to the injuries the next day.

Perhaps the most serious incident from the Indian point of view was a joint attack on an Indian Police post in Bagaha District, Bihar. Full details of the attack are not available. It is said that many of the attackers were women having mongoloid features and the attackers raised slogans like "MCC Zindabad," "Nepal Maobadi Zindabad." They blew up the post after taking away seven self loading rifles, five .303 rifles, two carbines, one wireless set and a large quantity of ammunition.

This particular incident is certainly an indication of the shape of things to come. It is not known yet whether the joint attack had the blessings of the higher ups in the Maoist leadership in Nepal or was an isolated incident at the local level. If it is the former, then there is a serious situation developing and India will have to weigh carefully its response. What is needed immediately is increased patrolling on the Indo Nepal border by the newly inducted SSB and improvement of intelligence collection by Indian agencies on the border.

The beleaguered Prime Minister Deuba is facing many problems.

Deuba’s problems start from within his coalition first. The leader of UML has been demanding that the first priority should be to hold peace talks with Maoists and even a third country’s involvement would be welcomed by the people! His finance minister from the UML who is also the Deputy Prime minister, appears to be acting as an independent Prime minister!

G.P.Koirala has refused to have anything to do with Deuba's government and says that his party would join only after the King has handed over executive powers to people and activating the constitution. By activating he means reconvening the Parliament which is unconstitutional now. By having direct talks with the Maoists, Koirala is undermining the position of Deuba and his government.

As said earlier, the Maoists have stepped up their attacks particularly in Kathmandu. They have categorically stated that they are ready for a cease fire and talks only if their demand for a constituent assembly to re write the constitution is accepted. No government in power can accept such pre conditions for a cease fire and talks.

In response Deuba has said that his government will show maximum flexibility except on constitutional monarchy and multi party democracy. Both the government and the Maoists are not willing to start talks without preconditions!

Nepal is passing through a very critical period. It needs all help and not just sympathy. It is hoped that Government of India is fully alive to the situation and aware that the Maoists are also a security threat to India.