Watching a television interview with former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa on October 30, some stray thoughts struck my mind. Thapa was candid and sometimes diplomatic, vague and escapist. His analysis of external linkages with domestic politics was not only realistic but it also defended the cause of freedom and democracy in todayâ€™s world where no classical doctrine of non-interference is acceptable to the international community. His example of the Soviet Union and its domino effects on the entire Eastern Europe was no less convincing. I agreed with his points, especially the one relating to ending the present impasse and the Maoist conflict.
The domestic context of foreign policy is well articulated in recent Third World politics. Most conflicts confined to the territory of a country have domestic sources. Two-thirds of the countries of the world suffer from violent conflicts whose remedy lay not outside but within the country. In South Asia, all conflicts except those of cross-border nature and dimension have domestic origins, however dreadful these demands might have been for countries undergoing them. The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and the Maoist insurgency in Nepal have domestic aims â€” achie-vement of a separate Tamil state for the Tamils and an end to exploitative nature of the state in Nepal.
Arguments for reviving the Constitution and strict adherence to the balance of power situation created within the Constitution would not give respite to the people. Nor can the suggestion for status quo ante resolve the insurgency. Bereft of new agendas, most leaders seem to be beating about the bush asking for royal favour for talks, forgetting that the King can neither be radical nor prepared to share power that he has grabbed. Dr Tulsi Giri, who continues to speak about the nature of the present royal mission and who is not reprimanded or contradicted as demanded by Thapa before, has said that, even after the poll, the King would continue as an active monarch.
Some people think that election alone is the ultimate solution of all crises, without analysing the causes of conflict. Nepal had three elected governments in the past but none of them proved capable of taking far-reaching decisions on ending the Maoist problem. Always haunted by the palace, they pointed to the constitutional limitations for effective negotiations. The demand for constituent assembly, let alone the agenda of republican democracy, was non-negotiable in view of the rigid constitutional provisions. Thapa knew the intricacies of palace politics better because of his roles during the partyless regime and in the post-1990 multiparty system. Humiliated and pushed to the brink, he had emerged as a warrior accusing the underground gangs or bhumigat giroha of always masterminding politics in the name of monarchy. Even being elected leaders, no prime ministers, including Thapa, resisted the rise of royal power, which did not co-exist with democratic governance.
It can also be said that no elections by any government can resolve the present crisis as was evident by the three elections held before. Both elections and the restoration of parliament that is considered by the agitating parties as the panacea for the crisis are likely to be a fiasco immediately after its revival. The parties would be divided again when it comes ot forming a government or on some other crucial issues. Although poll is both a mechanism and essence of democracy, but without creating a democratic atmosphere, it turns out to be a mere electocracy, devoid of the essence of democracy. So unless parties are prepared to undergo the rigours of mass movement with clear-cut agendas, the crisis is likely to deepen further.
The Thapa solution is far short of existing realities, although his other views are clear and timely. The invocation of nationalism or clamour for non-interference would not cut much ice in the present national and international context. The classical method of mobilisation of people in the name of nationalism is outdated as the people have developed their own evaluative capacity and cannot easily be swept away by emotive slogans.
Another important aspect is the trend of polarisation between the parties and the Maoists. Understanding and trust between the parties and the King is also wishful thinking for solving both the insurgency and fulfilling the demand for democratisation. Parties cannot join the royal camp under the existing conditions or even within the ambit of the present Constitution. The minimum that the parties are expected to do is to accept the Kingâ€™s ceremonial position, army under the elected government, and other socio-political reforms, including the restructuring of the state. These minimum conditions will not acceptable to the King unless he feels that his position is threatened. If that is the case, what else the parties can do but start a strong mass movement.
Prof. Baral, an ex-ambassador to India, is executive chairman, NCCS