March of time

In his first overground foreign foray in twenty-five years, Maoist chairman Prachanda, rubbing shoulders with leaders from a number of countries, on Saturday addressed a leadership summit on “India: The Next Global Superpower”, organised by The Hindustan Times, an Indian daily newspaper. Before boarding the plane for New Delhi, the Maoist leader said he was carrying to the summit a “changed message” in a changed context. In the Indian capital, he spoke on the situation in Nepal, what the Maoists wanted, and also touched on India’s policy vis-a-vis Nepal. The Maoist leader, who has several times publicly appreciated India’s role in providing a venue and atmosphere for the signing of the historic 12-point agreement between the SPA and the CPN-Maoist, now sees India in a new light. He said, “We used to call India a reactionary power just because it used to back constitutional monarchy. Since India is no longer doing so, there is no need to term India reactionary”. His statements in New Delhi reflected this sentiment.

Prachanda stressed the need to develop a “new relationship” between Nepal and India against the backdrop of the political change in Nepal and the “change” in the Indian perception of Nepal. In a country where appreciation of Indian policy towards Nepal becomes a sensitive matter, at least in some quarters, this positive change in the Maoist perception of India will likely be subjected to various interpretations. The Maoist chairman was not unaware of this when he said, “Vested interests are resorting to propaganda, saying that the Maoists of Nepal and India are coming together”. The question is one of pursuing mutual benefit and friendship. There are some here who see anti-Indianism as an unqualified virtue, and there are some who favour an uncritical acceptance of Indian policy towards Nepal, perhaps in a note of resignation arising from the ‘geopolitical compulsions” of a country sandwiched between the world’s two most populous Asian giants.

Both camps represent extreme views. The first view is absurd, as anti-Indianism or, for that matter, anti-anybody, cannot constitute a sensible foreign policy of any country, least of all the one in Nepal’s situation. Whatever reservations about the Indian establishment’s motives this camp might have, the fact is that the geography of Nepal and India cannot be altered, nor can the deep cultural and social bonds be broken. We have to live with reality. The other camp’s approach may raise doubts about the successful pursuit of Nepal’s legitimate national interests. What is needed is the golden mean which takes into account the enlightened interests of each side, with an acute awareness of the other’s sensitivities. Though it is too early to jump to a conclusion about what Maoist foreign policy would be like if they came to power, Prachanda’s changing outlook, however, provides grounds for believing that the CPN-Maoist is becoming more realistic than before. If this change comes to striking a balance between the two extremes, it would respond to the requirements of Nepal.