Red in Nepal, India Red

It is almost funny the way politics work in today’s world. The world’s only Hindu kingdom is in the process of transforming itself into the world’s only country where a communist party has come to power on a national level, vanquishing all others in a free, democratic, multi-party election. The magnitude of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)’s victory is so breathtaking that even last ditch supporters of the country’s centuries old, now disgraced, monarchial system have chosen to call it a day. The Maoists, lead by their charismatic leader Prachanda, have won more than double the seats of its nearest competitor, the Nepali Congress lead by veteran Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Surprisingly, the reactions in India have been mixed, which in fact was strongly represented by proxy in the Nepal elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has a proprietorial concern for the security and well-being of the Hindu monarchy. Some among its creamy layer are also related by marriage to the Ranas, the most powerful royalist coterie in Katmandu, while some others are known to have fraternal links with business groups that provide financial assistance to Madhesi factions supporting this or that Indian immigrant groups. However, the more important surrogate electoral presence was that of the Indian Congress and Left. The Nepali Congress, built in the image of the Indian National Congress, is not just emotionally attached to the Indian party; it has, according to rumours freely circulating, habituated itself to draw up its strategy and program in close consultation with its Indian counterpart.

Many among the Indian Left have termed the victory as ‘historic’, comparing it with Namboodripad’s famous 1957 victory. That was a time when Kerala, in an unprecedented achievement, voted the Communists to power in a multi-party electoral battle and the world’s press made a beeline for Trivandrum. And the Left’s seven consecutive electoral triumphs, stretching over thirty years in West Bengal, have been accorded the accolade that was due. However, the victory of the Nepali Maoists is almost epochal; an independent country, still a monarchy, has handed the Communist Party, participating in a multiparty election, an overwhelming majority of the seats that were at stake.

But this brings us to some very important questions. The Nepali Communists have for long favoured discontinuing the Indo-Nepal peace and friendship treaty. After their victory, they have also said that they would review all other bilateral agreements between the two countries. They believe that new treaties should be signed which reflect the changing reality and the fresh dynamic face of Nepali politics. The Maoists have a known inclination towards their counterparts in China and this is a big warning for New Delhi, which has carefully built its relation with Nepal over five decades. Scraping of the ‘unequal’ treaty will probably sound warning bells for Indo-Nepal relations. The time has come when New Delhi cannot afford to take Katmandu for granted. In the face of India’s ‘big brother’ attitude, many of its neighbours have felt pressurized to toe their line. India, on its part, has always tried to dispel notions that it would interfere with its neighbours’ internal problems. In this, Nepal has steadfastedly supported New Delhi. The change of guard in Katmandu might just see the equations being changed. It is time for India to reconsider its Nepal policy in the face of changed circumstances and adapt a less friendly regime in Katmandu.

Anupam Dhar

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