By Dr. Rajan Bhattari, Nepal’s Constituent Assembly Member and Foreign Affairs Expert –
Nepal is facing a serious crisis after the war with the British-Indian regime in 1814-16. The current arms struggle that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) started in 1996 in four districts, however, has now spread all over the country within a span of nine years. More than 10,000 people lost their lives, tens of thousands injured and similar number has been displaced providing internal refugee crisis. Billions of rupees worth of rural infrastructures have been destroyed. The mental trauma and the suffering to the people cannot be calculated and written. The distress that it has created may not be overcome within one or two generation’s time. As the magnitude of violence has been growing, the national and international concerns over the situation have also been increasing significantly. There has been numerous programs already organized and researches are conducted and documented. There is no dearth of works like identification of problems, its impacts in the society as well as possible solutions. As the scope of politics often correspondent closely to geographical scale however, very little analysis and research has been done so far narrating the geopolitical aspects of the ongoing conflicts in our country as well as in the region.
This writing aims to analyze the insurgency through our country’s existing geopolitical and geo-strategic aspects and its possible impact in the region. This paper tries to address the questions like the changing geopolitical constellation at the global level as well as in Nepal and its impacts in geo-strategic position. Whether there is a global linkage of insurgency with our geopolitical and geo-strategic factors? If there is, then, what are possible implications of those linkages to Nepal’s geopolitical situation? Then what are the responses from the concerned neighbors like India and China? Are there any possibilities of joint responses from the regional level to contain the violence? What are the roles the US and the European Union states playing? On the basis of available resources and the personal interactions with the various foreign policy makers, geo-strategists and security experts of Nepal, I try to respond those questions in this paper.
The first part of the paper deals the geopolitical specialties of Nepal and its changing characters in line with the changing global geopolitical situation. The geographical location, size, cultures and religions, economic strengths, vital resources are the major determining factors in defining the geopolitics of Nepal and these are the factors in formulating the geo-strategy for survival and development of the country. The change in the international politics especially after the establishment of United Nations and adaptation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and processes of decolonization and formation of the Non-aligned Movement were some of the remarkable development in the international politics and it has had tremendous implications on Nepal’s foreign policy. Though internally the country has been facing severe political uncertainty in the last five decades, but in the international arena, it had been playing assertive and active role in those international organizations and expanding bilateral and multilateral relations.
However, with the escalation of violence and growing evidences of human rights abuses, its reputation has been significantly declining in the last four/five years. The challenge posed by the Maoists to the state does have implications to its neighbors as well as in the region. This has not only tarnished its images but also reduced it roles in the international and regional politics. Likewise, the growing violence and conflict situation has drawn remarkably the concerns of the international forces particularly India, United States, China, European Union and United Nations. Their major concerns are the increasing violent activities, deteriorating security situation, human rights abuses and pressurize the states for the prevention. The growing spillover impact to its neighbors especially in some of the states in India has seriously raised New Delhi’s eyebrows. This has remarkably increased the military assistance from India, US and some EU countries. The increasing third countries military assistance to Nepal without the Indian knowledge or consent has diluted the issue of arms import to Nepal from third countries. Despite the increasing spillover impact its neighboring countries however, I argue that there will be less likely to build up a regional level response to devise the common strategy to counter the Maoists insurgency due to India’s unwillingness as well as provision in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)’s not to discuss the bilateral matters in the regional level. Since the two times failure of domestically initiated dialogue processes in the past, there has been general realization among the national stakeholders about the necessity of the international mediation. Similarly, several countries, international organizations including the UN have also expressed their willingness to mediate the dialogue. Among the interested parties, the UN has been the most favored organization for the mediation not only to the rebel group but also to the other political parties of the country. I conclude by arguing though there is no immediate possibility of regional and international power to devise the common strategy to intervene directly in containing the Maoists activities however, if the violence escalates and abuses of human rights continuously increases, in this post Cold War world there is strong possibility of international involvement in some ways intervention as well.
Geopolitics is a study of the relationship between geographical factors and the politics of states and nations and their interactions with the neighboring countries and international community. The Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén who used the terminology geopolitics first time in 1899 (Encarta dictionary, 2004), described that the geographical location, size, natural resources, population and other physical features and environmental influence a country and determine the political, military, level of economic development and cultural characteristics of a nation. Kjellen further explained that the geographical as well as physical features exert impact on relations between the nations. His focus about the geographical features was more on mountains and oceans and their impact on international politics as well as interstates’ relations.
Another notable German geographer Oyvind Osterud described that ‘geopolitics indicates links and causal relationships between political power and geographic space; in concrete term it is often seen as a body of thought assaying specific strategic prescription based on the relative importance of land power and seas power in the world history. The geographical tradition had some consistent concerns, like the geopolitical correlates of power in world politics, the identification of international core areas relationships between navel and terrestrial capabilities’ (Osterud: 1988).
Traditionally, the factors of geography and other physical features play vital role in any country’s survival, independence, security and identity. Similarly, the geographical and physical factors have had greater importance in determining foreign policy matters. However, with the economic globalization, increasing inter-dependency, introduction of the international laws on various issues, formation of international organizations like United Nations, World Trade Organization, evolutions of international regimes such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Atomic Energy Agency, Environment Protection Acts, Crime Prevention regimes etc., the traditional roles of the geographical factor described by various writers in determining a country’s position in international arena have significantly declined. “The decay of the value of distance has today diminished the relevance of geography and the nation’s ability to gain power status by geographic means has markedly declined, even it has not disappeared completely” (Dahal: 1997-p25). Currently, the geopolitical studies include the country’s territorial size, location, natural resources, level of economic development, composition of the population and its size, its organizational and intellectual abilities, communication and circulation and their impact on nations’ role in international politics as well as country’s foreign policy matters.
The change of global situation especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of the United States as a sole superpower and the event of September 11 not only influence the geopolitical definition and scopes of an individual nation but it has tremendous implications in the global politics as well. The modern technologies in the area of transportation and communication system have brought a revolution in connecting people and the nations together. Such a development has incredible impacts and changes in defining the traditional forms of interstates relations. It also made easier for the people to move around and communicate each other.
For a small state like Nepal foreign policy maneuverability and roles in the international politics are limited by a number of factors: the most limiting factors are the location, level of economic development and territorial size. The strategic location that Nepal occupies has limited freedom of maneuver. Barston stated, “The freedom of choice and type of external relations of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland is very limited because of economic dependence resulting largely from their land locked geographical location vis-à-vis South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabe)” (Barston: 1971-p44). Similarly, the geographical location Nepal occupies and its economic dependence mainly with India and landlocked position limit the freedom to maneuver in its foreign policy. As being in the middle of the two giants, depicted by king Prithivi Narayan Shah as “Yam between two builders” basically dictated its foreign policy throughout the history.
However, in the course of time Nepal had adopted foreign policy to protect itself by aligning with either of two of its neighbors. Only after the 1950s democratic movement, it has been basically adopting a nonaligned foreign policy. The basic guidelines on its foreign policy and geo-strategy remained same despite the changed domestic political situation in the last five decades. After the end of Cold War, the earlier roles the non-alignment movement played in the international politics is remained in the margin, but the policy it had adopted in the 1950s still weight great value to a country like Nepal whose geographical location lies in between two powerful countries. And its slow pace of level of economic development locates it in the periphery of world capitalist system. Though technological innovation changes in the global system, but the gap between the powerful and weak, wealthy and poor and big and small has still been widening. “The Third World states are maintained in their subordinate position within the world capitalist economy” (Viotti and Kauppi: 1990, p400).
Again, with the tremendous progress in technology, transport and communication system as well as growing international, regional organizations, and various international regimes have certainly provided greater scopes not only to the big and developed countries to overarch their roles but also economically weak, underdeveloped and landlocked country like Nepal to expand its roles. The development of various laws, networks and forums like the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Non-Aligned Movement etc. and subsequently obtaining their membership has provided forums for the small and weak countries to work collectively on various individual and regional issues of common concern. As of the case of Nepal, it has been taking comparatively active and assertive foreign policy. One of the strong reasons of its activeness lies in its early gaining of membership of different international and regional organizations. It has already elected two times in the United Nation’s Security Council and become an active member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It has also been able to secure membership of World Trade Organization and another regional forum like BIMSTC. The selection of SAARC Head Quarter in Kathmandu was also the result of its active and successful foreign relations with the member states of the SAARC.
Nevertheless, its assertive and active foreign policy, its images of friendly, cooperative with the other states and peacefulness has been continuously marred by the escalation of domestic conflicts and violence since last decade. Similarly, the Jun 1, 2001 Royal massacre has also contributed in damaging its international reputations. Both of these events have tremendously drawn the international communities’ attentions and raised concerns on Nepal. Owing the deteriorating security situation in the country, the international communities, immediate neighbors, European, the American and the international body like the UN have expressed their concerns over the escalation of violence and abuses of human rights and civilian rights. Similarly, the growing domestic conflicts have evolved a process of new alignment and realignment of international forces. The increasing violence and the killings of innocent civilians, disappearances, threats, loss of private and public properties has further affected the structural stability of the states economy and polity. Such a situation strained Nepal’s roles in the international forums. Under the post Cold War world, the post September 11, 2001 scene pre-emptive strikes are “validated” and the issue of security and the terrorist threat have been increasingly dominating the regional and global discourse.
Since the country’s geographical location, size, population, cultures and religions, its economic strength, vital resources etc. are the major determining factors in defining the geopolitics of the country as well as these are the factors in formulating the geo-strategy for survival, defense and development. It would be appropriate to discuss the determinant factors of Nepal’s geopolitics and processes of changes since last few decades.
Size: The size of a country is defined in terms of power. The power of a country derives from the size of its territory, the size of the population, national income, natural resources, military strength etc (Khadka: 1997-p54). By the existing standards of size and power, Nepal is small, weak, and one of the least developed states (Dahal: 1997-p26). However, various writers argue that in terms of size Nepal is not as small as it appears. Only because of it’s surrounding specially its two geographically largest and most populous neighboring countries of the world: China and India contributed in creating the image of “small” nation of this country. Nepal’s neighbors to the south and the north are the most populous countries in the world and their images has shaped this reflection of “small Nepal” both at home and abroad (Pandey: 1999). With an area of 147181 square kilometers, Nepal is bigger than some of its neighbors. According to the 1996 World Bank Atlas, only 41 countries out of 209 have a population larger than Nepal. As Pandey argues, the geography of the country has affected not only the perception of its size but also the substance of its public policies and performance (Pandey: 1999).
In terms of military strength, it is a fact that Nepal’s military capability is not an element for comparison with its immediate neighbors but it is still larger than with a vast number of other countries in the world. Nepal is often described as a “small Himalayan Kingdom”. It is a perception that has been created to a country whose geographical size is larger than many of its immediate neighbors and its population is also bigger than of hundreds of other countries in the world. Nepal’s perception of insecurity is a psychological phenomenon resulting from its physical environment which in turn is a consequence of its size (Khadka: 1997-p56). Since such a perception has also shaped its orientations and relations with the outside world, it has been preoccupied almost single mindedly as to how best to seek protection from any potential risk to its sovereignty. It’s a defensive mentality that has been developed and some how created because of its immediate neighbor India is twenty-three, and China sixty-eight bigger in size. Such a perception needs to be changed in today’s world where not only the theory of balance of power determines the interstates relations but also equality, mutual respect and Panchasheel prevail and guide to countries on their foreign policy in this post World War world. As Pandey argues that a country of 23 million people that wants to develop has to “think big” “dream big”, and “be big” not in a physical sense, or in an arrogant or megalomaniac way but to be rid of the defeatist complex we carry on account of our social debilities and physical surroundings (Pandey: 1999 -p).
Such a psychology as well as the projection of a country needs to be overcome and firstly the political leaderships must rise above such mentality and portray the image of the country as a player in the regional relations as well as in the international relations. The city state Singapore with a population of 3.4 million could be cited as an example on how to portray as a player in the regional as well as in international level being a small in geographical and size of population. Geographically, it is the smallest country in South East Asia however; its influences and reputation in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in the international stage also are significant and influential than many other countries in the region which have hundred times larger in terms of population and land size. Though, there is a tendency in international politics specially among the large countries to either paternalize or bring smaller countries into their area of influence, but many countries in the world specially after the end of World War II have been challenging such tendency and becoming more assertive. And with the change of international relations and the process of globalization and regionalization, such paternalist attitude has also been declining. There is a tendency counter such attitudes through playing assertive roles and building positive images in the existing international and regional forums and help in reformulations of international laws. As Nepal has also been contributing by sending its troops in the UN peace keeping missions in many parts of the world and elected two times as the member of the Security Council of the UN and become one of the active members and host of the Head Quarter of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and also recently secured a membership of World Trade Organization and BMSTC, such developments have significantly changed its traditional isolationist images. It has also gained recognition in the international political arena.
Such image building and the reputations of Nepal have also been seriously tarnished in the international level due to the growing violence and conflicts. While talking with this author, the foreign affairs specialist and former Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey argues that since last few years, Nepal has been loosing its international status due to its failure in the maintenance of domestic order. Corroborating his argument he stresses that since last few years there has been no high level visits i.e.; head of the states or the head of the governments from any significant countries made to Nepal (interaction with the author RN Pandey, August 8, 2004 at his residence).
Geography: As described by Nicholas Spykeman, geography is the “most fundamental conditioning factor in the foreign policy states because it is the most permanent” (Spykeman: 1938-p7). Anything dictates Nepal’s foreign policy that is its geographical position described by various Nepalese and Indian writers. Present Indian Foreign Minister Mr. K. Natwar Singh once said, “Geography dictates Nepal-India relations” (Bhattarai: 2001). Caught in between two largest Asian countries, the geographical factor that attracted the late king Prithivi Narayan Shah to pronounce the country as a “Yam between two boulders”. According to the Department of Survey, HMG, Nepal occupies a 1590 – kilometer-long border with India and 1414-kilometer border with China. As Dahal argues that ‘Nepal occupies pivotal position in the Himalayas – between the Central and South Asian regions, a part of Euroasian landmass, to use Mackinder’s terminology (Dahal: 1997-p27). To the north of this monarchical kingdom is Tibet, the Autonomous Region of communized China; to the east, west, and south are the federal states – Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh – of republican India. Dahal further argues that such a Nepal’s position forms its geo-strategic setting critically important for India’s security and stability of its heartland, the Gangetic belt, where an enormous share of its human and resources base is concentrated. It is the primary reason why India has been striving toward a firmer influence in Nepal for its territorial and political defence in areas that border on China, which Indian strategists perceive as the actual rival of India (Ibid).
Nepal’s geographical location is also very important for India’s defence. Due to its strategic importance for Indian defence from China to the north, the British had done everything to transform Nepal into a friendly buffer state between China and British possessions in India. After the end of British rule in India, the post colonial government of India had also taken note of Nepal’s strategic importance and quickly signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship covering all aspects of Nepal – India relations in 1950, followed by a letter of exchange subsequently. Similarly, both countries concluded an agreement on arms procurement in 1965 and in 1978 India agreed to sign a trade and transit treaty with landlocked Nepal.
Thus, there are some genuine and legitimate concerns on India’s security viewpoint on Nepal. While Nepal pursues its foreign policy it is utmost necessary for Nepal to consider those security sensitivity of India. It is also important to note that while giving due consideration for India’s security concern does not mean that Nepal has to compromise its sovereignty and independent stance and neutral foreign policies which Indian policy makers often demand from Nepal. About the Indian security concerns, the expressions made by the Indian leaders time to time have become quite controversial. When Nehru in 1950 said, “Nepal is geographically almost a part of India, although she is an independent country” (Norman: 1965-p269) what many Nepalese found such a statement a kind of paternalistic and even interpreted it as Indian attempt to undermine the Nepal’s sovereign and independent status. Such statement does not help to create healthy environment in two countries relations. Such expressions only contribute in creating suspicions in a country like Nepal which is weak and small compared to its immediate neighbors. ‘Indian perceive that Nepal lies in the south of the Himalayas that Nepal’s geopolitical importance cannot be the same both to the north and the south of the Himalayas’ (The Rising Nepal, Feb 23, 1976). It is a fact that Nepal’s relations with India and its access to the sea Port in Calcutta, which is about 1000 kilometer, and also southern border connection due to the plain lands and open border is easier than with Tibet’s vast mountainous lands. But again it does not signify that Nepal cannot maintain equal relationships with its two neighbors. It is important to note here that Nepal has to be sensitive in not allowing its land to be used by any anti-Indian forces and provide better confidence to the Indian side and should not allow any activities that undermine the Indian security sensitivity.
Similarly, Nepal has to be equally sensitive about not allowing any anti-Tibet or anti-Chinese activities in the Nepalese soils. Nepal’s northern neighbor Tibet, the Autonomous region of China, is also a strategically important location for extending China’s relations with South Asia. Tibet is regarded as China’s trouble spot where a large number of anti-China forces have identified of interests. Therefore, Nepal needs to be sensitive about the Tibetan situation and possible misuse of Nepali land by those anti-Chinese forces. Though after the establishment of Nepal-China diplomatic relationship in 1955, the relations between two countries has been regarded as friendly and cordial. Both countries have resolved the border issues and there are not any contended issues that would likely to create problems in near future in between these two countries’ relations. China’s concern on Nepal is that any trouble especially in the area of security and instability in Nepal would strengthen anti-China elements in its borders. The Khampa uprising in 1960s and 1970s was the most paramount and sensitive issue for the Chinese in the past. Since last few decades, the Khampa activities has been somehow contained, however, it has not been completely stopped. Chinese are very much concerned that Nepal not to be a springboard for the anti-Chinese forces like Khampas. Therefore, the geographical location of Nepal is also important to China which has been emerging as a global power. As an emerging global power, China’s interest not only to secure its borders but also to seek stable, cordial and friendly relations with its immediate neighbors. A country which cannot secure stable relationships with its neighbors and maintain stability, it would be difficult for that country to gain international status. China certainly has geo-strategic importance on Nepal and that need to be given ample considerations while Nepal pursues its strategic interests.
Therefore, the geographical location of Nepal has had important interests to the both neighbors and any problem that has emerged here is the matter of concerns for both of our neighboring countries and attracts their serious concerns.
Cultural and ethnic links: The cultural and ethnic links are also very important in discussing the geopolitical aspects of a country. According to Dr. Harka Guruang, “The land corresponding to present-day Nepal in the Central Himalayan represents an area of interface of two culture worlds: Indic and Bodic. Their contact zone runs north-west to south west at a tangent to the mountain azis whereby the Caucasoids (Khas) predomenate in the karnali basin and the Mongoloids (Kiranti) estwards” (Gurung: 1997). Nepal is a meeting point for two specific countries and civilizations, India and China and for two regions south Asia and Central Asia. Nepal is a host country of both religions Hindu and Buddhism and these religions are the most dominant religions in India and China respectively. Being a birthplace of Siddartha Gautam, Nepal can attract large number of Buddhist pilgrims from China and on the other hand there are several Hindu shrines where large number of Hindu pilgrims can visit Nepal. “Nepal is wedged between India on the south and Tibet, China on the north, and this intermediary position has had definite bearing on the development of her culture. India and Chinese Tibet were the two countries from which Nepal received cultural contribution through which Nepal passed her achievements to the outside world” (Sharma: d.n.a.). It is said that the cultural and religious ties and commonalities are stronger than the geographical proximities or other economic interests. Nepal as a sandwiched country between two giants needs to explore and foster commonality of interests.
The northern region of Nepal has been inhabited by immigrants from Tibet and the southern region by the people of Indian origin. The Nepali of the Terai region, who are of Aryan stock and predominantly Hindus, have linguistic, cultural and religious bonds with the people of India. Similarly, the people of the upper hills and mountain region are Mongoloid stock, share closer cultural, linguistic and religious ties with the people of Tibet, China. Thus, Nepal is a meeting point for two civilizations. Both the regions of Nepal especially in the south due to the open border and accessible land have made strong ties with the neighboring regions Bihar, Utter Pradesh and West Bengal of India.
Other issues between the two countries are the common culture, religion and traditions. Each year hundreds of thousand of Indian Hindu pilgrims visit Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu and also large number of Nepali pilgrims cross border and visit Indian temples. In the border area, there is a large number of Nepalese people who have family ties with people in the northern Indian states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Such a close cultural links of two countries have also been promoted by other social and educational exchanges. It has been a common practice, especially for Nepalese students, to receive higher education and trainings in India. A large number of Nepalese are working as a migrant labour in different part of India. Similarly, a large number of Indian citizens are also working in Nepal in various fields such as teachers, shopkeepers and also occupy the Nepalese businesses.
The political relationship between the leaders of post-Rana Nepal and newly independent India is another determinant factor between the two countries. The political leaders of two countries have had their personal and political association. Large number of Nepalese politicians had taken their education in India since there were no facilities for higher education in Nepal for the common people during the Rana oligarchy system (1846-1904) due to the lack of schools and colleges in the country. During the student time in India, many Nepalese leaders were put into Indian jails because of their participation in the freedom against the British colonialism. The two dominant political parties of Nepal (the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal) were established in India in the late 40s and they launched pro-democracy movement in Nepal while they were in exile in India. This had helped to develop a close personal and political association between the leaders of the two countries. P. R. Sharma has pointed out that “The comradeship between the two countries’ leaders had a great bearing on both countries relations when these Nepalese leaders occupied positions in the government after the overthrow of the Ranas in 1950s” (Sharma: d.n.a.p65).
Border and population move: Border is another area which does have implications in the geopolitical factors. The northern Himalayas and the mountains are the natural borders for the protection of the nation; the malaria prone jungle in the south similarly warded off foreign penetration. With this very natural safety Nepal’s position as buffer state was secured. However, with the eradication of malaria and construction of various roads and migration of people from the hills to the south plains area, Nepal’s buffer position has been changed. Numerous roads and entry points were built to connect India which enhance economic, trade, cultural, educational, political permeability of Nepal but it has reduced its natural frontiers with India.
There are a number of passes connecting Nepal with Tibet, such as the Takla Khar pass, the Mustang pass, the Kuti pass, the Hatia pass etc. but it is extremely hard for Nepal to gain access to the seas via Tibetan territories to the Chinese ports. The Kodari Highway links Nepal with Tibet in the north and currently with the Chinese assistance Rasuwa Syaprobeshi road has also been being constructed. After the completion of Rasuwa Syaprubesi road, this would be the second road link to Tibet. Nepal and China have reached an understanding in opening up of other links such as in Mustang, Kimathanka–Sankhuwasava and Humla. If those proposed links are opened, the flow of Nepal-China trade, tourism as well as other economic and cultural activities like in the past will be speeded up bringing both Nepal and China much closer. This would certainly reduce Nepal’s hyper-dependence on India.
There are 30 landlocked countries in the world and most of these countries are the developing countries. These countries are also economically dependent on the larger neighboring countries and the dependency imposed by their landlockedness has led to a situation where their economic development becomes strongly conditioned by the economic development of the transit countries. Another problem of these countries is that these countries have become vulnerable to coercion and manipulation by the transit countries. Nepal ‘s landlockedness is a problem in itself and its access to the sea is made possible by the railways. Though the air shipments have been increased in recent years, the possibility of river navigation has not been exploited yet. Nepal’s transit route is only via India and its nearest Calcutta port is about 1000 kilometers. Since the country has been facing enormous problems in its transit routes, it has tried to exploit the alternative route with Bangladesh again its effective utilization depends on India’s attitude, since Nepal and Bangladesh have no common borders (Muni: 1992–p65). Though India has not denied the transit routes for Nepal except a brief period of 1989, the high costs of traffic in transit, there were all sorts of administrative problems that have been due to the application of India’s domestic laws that ” were designed primarily for Indian trade, not for traffic in transit” (Glassner: 1978- p312).
Nepal’s open border with India and landlockedness has become a heavy constraint to its economic development. It has also socio-cultural as well as geo-ethnicity problems. Such a situation not only needs for frequent discussions and negotiations on transit issues with India but also drags several unexpected issues between the two countries relationships. This situation has also forced Nepal to pursue the policy of economic and trade diversification policy in the past (Khadka: 1997-p65). Since the open door policy adopted by China, Nepal’s trade volume with China has been considerably increased. As reported in the Kantipur Daily that Nepal’s bilateral trade with China has been increasing remarkably and Nepal’s deficit reached up to NRs. 16 billion in the year 2003/4 with both of its regions; Tibet and Hong Kong (Kantipur Daily, August 21, 2004).
The issue of migration has also become one of the issues that the governments and people across the world are confronting today. “International and internal migration is inextricably connected to a wide range of issues and dilemmas that confront governments and peoples across the globe today” (Bali: 1997). In Nepal also, the migration from hilly areas to the southern plain and from India is significant especially since last five decades. With the eradication of malaria and the clearance of forests in the southern land which is fertile land and provides market accesses, the people in the mountains specially in the mid western and eastern regions such a mobility is a growing trend. The growing trend of concentration in Terai has multi-dimensional implications in Nepal’s economic heartland with the potential to revisit psychological prejudices and centrifugal tendencies.
The growing migration would have implications on the ethnic, religious, social and political composition of a society and a whole country as well. The increasing presence of the diverse communities would not only change the existing socio-cultural, ethnic and religious compositions but it would also have affects on national and international politics. As small number of Jews community in the USA has been playing important roles in the US politics internally as well as on its foreign policy as well. Similarly, growing number of Nepali speaking people in some of the states in India does have roles in those respective states political, social as well as the cultures. Certainly, it would also impact on Indian foreign policy and in the region as of the people of Indian origin in Nepal have had impact on Nepal.
Natural resources and economic development: Nepal’s natural resources specially water and Himalayas, mountains and lakes are the precious resources which offer Nepal tremendous potentialities for industrialization, economic development and prosperity of this country. These are not only important in terms of its scenic beauties but also constitute assets and strength which has strong impact on Nepal’s geopolitical factors. The total hydro potentiality of this country is 83000 MW which is the second largest potentiality after Brazil. As water and energy have become very much scarce resources at the global level, Nepal’s such potentiality in this area certainly gravitates the attentions from the other economically powerful countries. Similarly, the mountainous scenic beauties that Nepal occupies are also important for developing a major tourist destination and preserving the tremendous biodiversities. The world endanger species it posses have international interest on Nepal.
Nepal’s energy could also contribute to India and China as well as other South Asian countries. It has not been able to utilize the tremendous hydro-power potential. Nepal’s rivers flow south from the north and there are possibilities of developing these rivers as multi-purposes projects such as irrigation, hydropower production, river transport, flood control and preservation of ecosystem. As emerging global economic powers, both India and China have been facing serious energy shortages. They need enormous energy to pursue their fast economic growth and process of industrialization. And producing surplus power and selling it to neighboring country is an important aspect for Nepal to speed up its economic development and improve the living conditions of the poor. Similarly, the scenic beauties of the Himalayas attract a large number of tourists in this region. And if proper system could be developed there is also possibility of bringing them in various provinces of India and in Tibet to familiarize respective regions’ ecology, cultures, traditions and values of life.
However, utilization of Nepal’s resources especially the water resource has always been a very controversial issue. In the two cases of Koshi and Gandak deals with India in 1954 and 1959, Nepal felt ‘cheated’ and more recently, also in Tanakpur. All has set off a bad precedent arousing serious national concerns (Dahal: 1997-p30). In the midst of high controversy, the Government of Nepal and India have signed a treaty with amended version which included status of the river as well as other projects known as the Integrated Development of Mahakali River including Sarada Barrage, Tanakpur Barrage and Pancheswar Project. As Nepal’s future development lies on due proper utilization of its natural resources specially the water, it is utmost important for it to develop comprehensive frameworks on its utilization. It is also vital in developing a national consensus among the major political and social forces about its maximum utilization by considering other social and geo-ecological impacts. The sharing of water resources requires a comprehensive framework of national consensus: on procedural matters; on the utilization of the whole river resources; on the issues of process, strategy, and policies; on distribution; and on a whole array of foreign policy matters pertaining to the nation’s vital interest (Ibid).
Considering the vitality of the natural resources in the national development as well as of the past controversies, a clause has been inserted in the new 1990 Constitution of Nepal that any agreement with other countries which is related to the natural resources including the water exploitation that is considered important and having long term effect has to be approved by the two-third of majority of the member of the Parliament. Such a process not only helps in building national consensus but also contributes to developing a comprehensive program for the utilization of the resources aiming to improve the people’s livelihoods and also strengthens our roles in the international politics. Therefore, the geopolitical aspects of our natural resources need to be considered in this very changing world and on the basis of that a comprehensive framework need to be developed for its proper utilization. The utilization of natural resources demands collective efforts and it does have strategic interests not only for Nepal but for its neighboring countries as well.
Economy and trade: Economic factor has become a very vital for a nation to its roles in the international arena. Since the early 1990s, ideological ingredients have become less important when compared to the economic policies during the Cold War era. Meanwhile, geo-economic activities have become a prominent phenomenon around the world. Geographical proximity now is seriously taken into account when a nation or region makes its trade policies and carries out foreign economic exchanges. The formation of the regional trading and economic blocs like Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), ASEAN Free Trade, MURCOSUR, G-7 and European Economic Cooperation etc are some of the examples towards the geo-economic activities that had developed in recent decades. So, it is possible for the world community to re-divide the world’s areas according to geopolitics and geo-economics in the future, which ultimately means the geographic division must serve economic development of that particular region.
The economic links between Nepal and India is very strong. Due to Nepal’s small size, its geographical location and its limited size of resources compels it to depend on India for essential commodities such as fuel, salt, coal and also for manufacturing products. Though, Nepal had considerable amount of trade with Tibet in the past and also it still imports some manufacturing products from there, still it is limited and for the basic goods it has to rely on India. It is also because Nepal shares an open border with India where it can have more access with India than with Tibet.
It is not only Nepal’s economic dependency on India; the Indian economic interests in Nepal are also quite profound. All the Nepalese rivers flow to India from Nepal and India has been able to utilize them to irrigate massive portion of farming lands in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Nepal has always been a safe market for Indian manufactured goods. The volume of two countries annual trade is also significant. There are considerable amount of Indian investment in Nepal. As Hari Krishna Jha has pointed out, “If Nepal’s economic interests in India are vital, those of India in Nepal are also substantial” (Jha: 1975p2). Due to the economic blockade imposed by India in 1989/90, the volume of trade between two countries was declined significantly, however, after the reciprocal arrangement, it has been steadily increasing two countries’ trade and they signed a trade treaty in 1996 by widening the area of future trade between two countries which was regarded as one of the best treaties signed between two countries. However, it was amended in 1999 with the pressure from Indian side and which narrowed the scopes of two countries’ trade.
Nepal’s economy and volume of its international trade is miniscule compared to its two giant neighbors. However, the increasing volumes of trades as well as the vital resources that Nepal possesses have implications in its roles in the regional as well as in the international politics. Nepal’s trade with India is the largest which occupies of its total 56% trade. It is steadily increasing and trade deficit is also growing up correspondingly. Similarly, Nepal China trade has also been growing particularly via Tibet. And the trend of increment is on the rise due to the increasing connections between the mainland China and Tibet. The construction of railways up to Lhasa by the year 2006 and opening up of more and more passes between the two countries will certainly contribute to the two countries economic and trade activities.
Being in middle of the two growing economic powers, Nepal does have immense possibilities of exploring and attracting investments from both sides in the area like tourism and hydropower sectors. Similarly, Nepal can offer a link route between India and Tibet which was the main passing route between the two countries until two century before. However, there have been fears that with the opening of Nathula Pass in Sikkim for trade between China and India, the commerce between Nepal and China via Khasa may dry up (The Himalayan Times, August 25, 2004). With China and India already on the path to becoming economic powerhouses and opening up such passes between the two countries, Nepal needs to study the full implications of this and other developments should keep ready measures to protect its economic interests. With the increasing globalization of political economy, the declining importance of the geographical factors and converge of economy, finance and trades have been increasingly dominating the interstates relations. Nepal should establish its comparative and competitive advantages to enable itself to compete for market power.
Geo-strategic setting of Nepal:
“Geo-strategy defines the capacity that each nation owes to its configuration to its sea and continental boundaries and to the influence that it exercise through its intrinsic or acquired power” (Dahal: 2004 p9). Nepal’s geo-strategic interests lie in maintaining the ties with its two neighbors and expanding its relations with more and more countries in the world. Similarly, it has to be more active in international and regional organizations and forums which should be the primary objectives of Nepal’s strategy. Traditionally, Nepal was an isolated country and its prime foreign policy objective was to preserve its national sovereignty and independence. However, with the change in the nature of global politics and its subsequent implication in the region as well as on an individual country, the overall objectives of the country has also broadened and now is to expand its bilateral relations with more and more countries and increase its roles in the international organizations and forums. Except the period of late 18th and early 19th century, Nepal has always been pursuing defensive policy. Even during the British occupation of India, Nepal preserved its sovereign status by reconciling with the imperialist regime. India’s independence and the end of Rana rule in Nepal had provided opportunity for Nepal to expand its relations with the outside world. The expansion and diversification of Nepal’s participation in the global system got further impetus under subsequent phases of political development. At present, the country has diplomatic relations with 113 countries and is represented in all major international organizations and forums – a fact which has helped the country in developing not only a distinct personality in the comity of nations, but also in diversifying her political and economic contacts (Mahat: 2004). Over the years, Nepal has been able to expand its relations and gain comparatively better position as well as reputation in the international stages. Owing to the changing nature of global politics and perception of security, there are less possibilities in facing external threats. However, with its failure in maintaining order, the threat it has been facing is tremendous and serious.
Any talk about the geo-strategy involves the identification of the major interests of Nepal’s survivability and its future development. Similarly, it is also important to recognize the strategic interests of our neighbors and other global power centers. The strategic setting of the country creates center of attention. Whatever happens inside Nepal are the issues of major importance not only for its immediate neighbors but also for the interest of the US, the European countries and other international organizations and agencies. China and India’s paramount concern in Nepal is related to the security and stability. Any disturbances in Nepal would have spillover impact to both of these two countries. Similarly, both of the countries are the competing regional powers in Asia, so, their interest over Nepal is also to enhance their sphere of influences and contain each other’s influences. Another common interest of both of neighboring countries is to contain the super power influences here. They also have their economic and trade interests.
Similarly, the US interests in Nepal lies in expanding its influence in a location which lies between two emerging world powers China and India. It also wants to contain the increasing communist influences. In the aftermath of September 11, one more issue that the US has been pursuing is to include more and more countries into its anti-terrorist global alliance. There were reports of seeking Nepal’s cooperation in setting up a military observation post in northern areas, possibly in the Mustang region bordering Tibet, where the US intelligence agencies had trained and used Khampa rebels for organizing raids in Tibet between 1960-74 (Nepalnews.com, May 4, 2002; The Hindustan Times, May 5, 2002; Muni: 2003). However, the former US ambassador to Nepal, Michael Malinowski strongly denied the charges later on about the setting up the US intelligence agency in Mustang (Nepalnews.com, 4 May, 2002; Muni: 2003).
Another area of American concern is to contain violence and abuses of human rights. The UN, the European member states and the North American states regard themselves as the guardian of human rights. The post holocaust world the norm of human rights outlaws genocide, torture, and massive human rights abuses, but what happens if states behave as gangsters towards their own people, inflicting sovereignty as a license to kill? (Wheeler: 1996-p44). Sovereign states are expected to act as guardians of their citizens’. But when a sovereign state fails to protect its citizens, it has become a practice in the post World War world specially after the end of Cold War, to intervene to stop the abuses of human rights. Therefore, the international communities would not ignore increasing violence and violation of human rights in Nepal and what they call their strategic interest while initiating steps to curb it. As it has been the practices, the human rights provisions and international conventions have been drawing attention not only the central governments but also has enormous influences on their domestic publics. The post-Cold War period offered two glaring cases. In the cases of Kurdistan and Somalia, the principal force behind intervention was not state leaders taking the lead in persuading reluctant publics to respond to human suffering. Rather, it was the media and domestic public opinion which pressurized policy-makers into taking humanitarian actions. James Mayall argues that action was only taken to protect the Kurds ‘ because the attention devoted by the western media to the plight of the Kurds also on the Turkish border threatened the political dividends that Western governments had secured form their conduct of the war itself’ (Mayall: 1990 and Baylis, Smith: 1997-p426). Therefore, the continuous violence and increasing human rights violation in our country which already have drawn the attentions of the Western governments would certainly contribute in building the public opinion able to pressurize the Nepali state for the preventive actions. Concepts such as demography, human rights, prevention of counter-revolution social movements etc have been used to broaden conflicts beyond the constitutional bounds of the state.
The change in the international politics has been brought by a number quantitative and qualitative issues. After the end of World War I, the democratization processes had occurred in every individual country which altered the conditions of the international relations. The success of Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 in USSR, the formation of the League of Nations in 1919 and the then US President Woodrow Wilsons 14 points outline agendas for the international relations were some of the changes (Scott: 1996-p41). Though, the failure of the League of the Nations, rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe and subsequent eruption of the World War II in late 1930s, the process received huge setback. However, after the war, the process again took momentum. The establishments of the UN, adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, process of decolonization and anti-aparthied movements, formation of the Non-aligned Movements were some of the development in the process of democratization in international politics (Ibid). Such changes in the international politics have tremendous impacts on the domestic politics as well as interstates relations. The diplomacy and the foreign policy making became more open and transparent in the national politics. The influence of elected bodies like Parliament in the foreign policy making has also increased. Such a process of democratization in national level unleashed tremendous impact in the international relations.
Another change is taking place in the world politics due to the unprecedented development in transportation and communication. ‘Telecommunications and jet travel have created “global village” and burgeoning social and economic transactions are creating “a world without borders” (Brown: 1972). These technological achievements have had a two-way effect. They have contributed in the expansion of the international relations. The ease of travel and communication has increased the bilateral and multilateral connections between the states as well as with the international organizations. Similarly, international conferences, summits and meetings in regional level as well as in the international level have increased remarkably. This has also enhanced the mobility of the financial capital and population. The technological innovation and transformation have accelerated the process of globalization in the world. Such processes have not only reduced the world into a global village but also made a global village much more complex especially for the poor and uneducated access to it became almost impossible.
It has become a clear departure from classical or traditionalist approach to the scientific study of the determinants of state behaviors. The First and Second World War led to a growing acknolewledgement that ‘international governance could not rely on the balance of power if the most extreme forms of violence against humanity were to be outlawed and the growing interconnectedness and interdependence of nations recognized’ (Held and Mcgrew: 1999-p55). The adoption of the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly were the examples of the recognition of international governance. Similarly, its recognition to that ‘all states are equal’ has to some extent provided value to many small and developing countries in the world. The UN has also provided a vision of alternative principles of collective decision-making processes between the states and non-governmental organizations and eroded the sanctity of territorial sovereignty. However, the US and UK’s decision to attack on Iraq last year without UN approval has challenged its Charters and basic Principles of the UN. Similarly, UN’s increasing failure to prevent the humanitarian crisis as well as assistance has also questioned its global roles and efficacy of the UN.
Similarly, the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has created a global level framework for promoting civil and political as well as socio-economic and cultural rights. ‘The post war global politics has challenged the Westphalia perception of the national sovereignty’ (Scott: 1996-p38). It is established that sovereignty means not just the supreme power over the citizens and unlimited authority in the domestic affairs but also certain obligations and responsibilities to the citizens and also to the global communities. With the inception of concept of global governance as well as increasing process of globalization, the conventional view of nationalism as well as the national sovereignty has been changing.
The political decisions and actions taken by a country or a community in any parts of the world rapidly acquire worldwide ramifications in this interconnected world. The attack on Twin Tower and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 has changed the whole pattern of world politics. The actions and decisions of any country’s either on domestic issues or on regional or international issues, it would generate instant implications on the international arena and draw global communities’ attention. Issues like developing nuclear weapons or failing to protect endangered spices or massive violation of the human rights even it has been happening within the border of a sovereign nation, it would acquire world wide concerns. “The idea of global politics challenges the traditional distinctions between domestic/international, inside/outside, territorial/non-territorial politics, as embedded in conventional conceptions” (Walker: 1993). Although national governments and states remain powerful actors, they now share the global arena with an array of other agencies and organizations. Furthermore, the growth of the non-state actors and their increasing joint activities and interactions has also tremendously challenged the conventional definition of interstates relationships as well as broadened the scope of the international relations and foreign policy matters. The rise of geo-economics, regionalization and globalization has contested the geopolitics of nation-states and evolved multiple memberships of people in regimes.
Furthermore, today’s world politics does not attach only in traditional geopolitical concerns such as security and military affairs but it also covers economic, social and ecological issues. Likewise, issues like terrorism, drug, human rights, pollution, epidemic, violent conflicts etc., which have no geographical borders and are increasingly becoming transnational policy issues. And this expansion of scope and areas on geopolitical issues demand more collaboration and cooperation between the states and not-state actors. As a result, in the last fifty years numerous international, regional, bilateral organizations and networks between the governments and non-governmental organizations have been established as well as these organizations and networks have introduced laws, rules and regulations to monitor, supervise and also to enhance the international and regional cooperation for the effective implementation of those laws and regulations. There are thousands of inter-governmental organizations (INGOs), NGOs, community based organizations, pressure groups in bilateral, regional, international and intercontinental level which aim to pursue the goals and objectives which have a bearing on transnational rules and authority system (Rosenau: 1997, Held and Mcgrew: 2000-p55). In 1909 there were 37 intergovernmental governmental organizations (IGOs) and 176 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), while in 1996 there were nearly 260 IGOs and 5472 INGOs. Similarly, during the period 1946 – 1975 the number of international treaties in force between governments more than doubled from 6,351 to 14,061, while the number of such treaties embracing inter-governmental organizations expanded from 623 to 2,303. (Union of International Association: 1996) This shows the volume of internationalization of issues and process of decision-making and the involvement of the states and non-state actors in the global arena.
The growth of number of new forms of political agencies and organizations reflects the rapid expansion of transnational links and corresponding desire by most states for some form of international governance to deal with collective policy problems (Luard: 1977, Kragner: 1983, Held and Mcgrew: 2000-p51). The development of international agencies and organizations has led to significant changes in decision making structure of world politics. New forms of multilateral and multinational policies have been established involving governments, NGOs and other social and humanitarian agencies. It shows the rapid process of involving the internationalization of political decision-making has been underway in recent times. These developments have been accompanied by the growth of diplomatic connections.
Growth in international connections among the people’s organizations and non-governmental organizations has challenged the traditional practices where state was the only actors and had monopoly in maintaining the interstates and global relationships. Even within the government, it was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which had been solely responsible for all aspects of international relations and foreign policy. This responsibility in today is increasingly different ministries and departments generated the problems of collective actions. For the governments, it has become quite difficult to decide what is and what is not a domestic matter. They find hard to monitor the international treaties and systems. The extensive intergovernmental and trans-governmental activities, multilateral conferences, conferences in international and regional level as well as summit meetings have become extremely intense. Such developments have influenced all aspects of international politics as well as nation states’ foreign policy matters whether the nation states are big or small, economically developed or developing, and powerful or weak.
However, the central part of the nation states remains the national sovereignty, self-determination, national independence and security. The core value and norms of the contemporary global society of states are international peace and security, state sovereignty, self-determination, non-intervention, non-discrimination, and generally the sanctity, integrity and inviolability of all existing states regardless of their level of development, form of government, political ideology or other domestic characteristics or conditions (Ibid).
Similarly, another factor that changes the geopolitics is the demographic mobility. The growing trend of migration is on the move both voluntarily and involuntary depending on the underlying motivation of the migrants. It is global in scope and there is no part of the world unaffected by migration. Involuntary migration takes place as a consequence of natural disaster, war, civil war, ethnic, religious or political persecution, situations where people are forced to flee their homes and countries. The involuntary migration can also be taken as with slavery and migrant workers. In voluntary migration, people mainly look for permanent settlement, studies or tourism. In the last few decades with the changing economic climate and uneven development processes, there are large number of people moving from the developing countries to the industrialized countries. Such demographic changes affect in the country’s geopolitical factors by altering internal social and political equilibrium. The increasing movement of people from one country to another and also within a country has on the one hand increased the connections between the states, on the other hand it also helped in expanding the relations between the states as well as people and contributed in broadening the scopes of the foreign policy issues.
Describing Nepal’s delicate geopolitical realities, founder of modern Nepal king Prithivi Narayan Shah said, “Nepal is Yam between two boulders”, and suggested that Nepal should maintain friendly relations with both of its giant neighbors to preserve its national independence and security. Even today his pronouncement remains as a guiding principle in formulating the country’s geo-strategy for an active foreign policy. Though the first shah king’s dictum was interpreted as a defensive strategy. It still remains the point of reference for the foreign policy makers. The geographical location that Nepal occupies today is one of the very basic factors which plays important role in determining its foreign policy as well as gives milieu for its responsibility in international politics. Nepal’s geographic position has undoubtedly affected its policies, but it is not the sole causal factor that has predetermined and protected Nepal’s security. (Dahal: 1997-p27) The basic geographical position of the country remains the same what the late king described more than two centuries ago. Nevertheless, the global and regional political situation has been constantly changing since then. So do their effects on Nepal’s foreign policy. Since the external environment is not constant and keeps changing, sometimes at a rate beyond projection and predictions, the effectiveness of foreign policy tools in shaping a nation’s future course of action may be ineffective (Kadkha: 1997- p52).
Traditionally, geographically disadvantaged poor countries like Nepal were insignificant actors in influencing external environment. But in the era of post World War, many of these nations strive to act in international politics collectively to get their voice and visibility get heard and needed in policy making. Their joint efforts for securing maximum benefits to the geographically small, economically weak and backward countries were seen in the international treaties and agreements. Though they are still limited in playing such roles, they have been able to secure achievements in some important areas. Securing equal membership status and voting rights in the UN General Assembly and in the World Trade Organization and many other international and regional forums are some of remarkable achievements in favor of small, landlocked and least developed countries. It is generally perceived that the roles in international politics of individual poor countries like Nepal are mere in takers to maintain their presence in international arenas as well as to make attempts to circumvent any unwanted inputs that could have adverse affects on their regimes or political system. However, such perceptions are also undergoing substantial change. One remarkable feature of Nepal since advent of Rana regime is that it has acted as producer of security commodity for Anglo-Saxon defence and UN Peace Keeping operations.
Similarly, while discussing about the geo-strategy of our country, the normalization of Sino-India relations need to be considered. The adversary relationships between the two countries of last four decades have been changing. The growing bilateral trades, investments, science and technology and common sharing on international issues would have implications on Nepal’s foreign policy settings.
The issue of foreign policy and geopolitical factors has been playing a quite strong role in Nepal’s domestic politics too. Due to its geographical location Nepal’s linkage with the global environment has always been within the context of the neighborhood environment. However, during its last 236 years of its modern history, Nepal attempted to challenge those geopolitical dictate time to time. Many times in the history, Nepal tried to counteract unwarranted obstructions posed by the surrounding environment specially after the 1950s to its foreign policy goals. It has been vigorously pursuing high degree of interactions with the global forces. Before 1951, Nepal had diplomatic relations with only five countries. Today, the number has grown to 113, with permanent diplomatic missions in 22 countries (Diplomatic List: 2004). The expansion of Nepal’s role in the international arena could also be viewed in the economic front. The foreign debts, aids as well as grants in the last fifty years have been dramatically increased. As Madan Dahal states that since the first five years plan Nepal received $ 2.4 billion by the time of last decade (Dahal: 1999-p10). It is a huge amount of money for a comparatively small country like Nepal. However, about its utilization, over 60% of the total foreign assistance drives back to donor countries (Ibid). This gives the indication that the politics of aid and debts has strategic motive of big powers rather than expanding the production structure of Nepalese economy to support a cohesive welfare state.
The changing security considerations
Securing a territorial border and nation’s integrity was the paramount objectives of any sovereign country. However, in the last few decades, the conventional perception of security has gone profound change and the focus on military and strategic consideration has significantly declined. Human security has been taking center stage. Security of the people and their welfare has become a focal issue for the governments. According to the Human Development Report, South Asian, that national security cannot be achieved in a situation where people starve and arms accumulate, social expenditure falls and military expenditure rises. Like the concept of development, the concept of security has increasingly become people-centered. South Asia today is the most militarized region of the world, but that does not make the region any more secure (Haq: 1997).
In this very changing concept of security and strategic considerations, Nepal has been facing a tremendous pressure in setting the people free and securing the basic needs such as sufficient food, shelters, education, and health care and maintains law and order etc. for its citizens than anything else. The state’s failure to initiate the socio-economic development has become the major cause of conflict which has led the country virtually fall in the state of chaos, instability and violence. It has been argued that the root cause of increasing Maoists violence in the country is the subsequent governments failure to provide basic needs to the people. “The biggest sources of insecurity to the Nepalese society at present remain terrorism and violence unleashed by the Maoists” (Mahat: 2004). The Maoists violence which has become the most serious challenge to this country attacking its survival. The challenge posed by the Maoists to the state does have immense ramifications not only to the immediate neighbors but also to the region. The origin of Marxist rebellion from the hills, the heartland of the nation weakened the possibilities of defense and seriously affected the affection of people to the space. It also made the territorial ideology of the state, nationalism very weak.
Escalation of violence and Human Rights concern:
The Maoist movement that has been launched since 1996 has become one of the most successful insurgencies in recent time. The eight years of Maoists insurgency and counter insurgency operations caused the death of over ten thousands people, loss of enormous amount of public and private properties and destruction of the scarce rural infrastructures of this poor nation. Between 13 February 1996 and 9 October 2004, according to figures obtained from a human rights organization, INSEC, 6804 “Maoists” were killed by the security personnel during ”encounters”. This figure does not include the people ”disappeared” in police and army custodies and numerous others were tortured. According to the official statistics, the number of people including the security personnel killed by the Maoists stood at 3583 as of 9 October 2004. The total number of abducted people in the same period stands 20434. Some 200,000 persons, mostly teachers, landowners and government employees have been displaced from their homes and 250 gone missing. The trauma faced by widows and orphans, sexual violence, forceful eviction of women from their homes, beating, torture, arbitrary detention etc. has been appalling. The migration of conflict-affected people to India and abroad remains unrecorded. Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Center (CWIN) reveals a record of 1,158 children directly affected by the violence and 197 boys and 81 girls killed, 4000 uprooted from their homes and 300 sustained injuries.
Not only it has become a death and destruction of the lives and properties, it has also shaken the country’s fourteen-year old multi-party democracy and its very foundation. Following police failure to contain the insurgency, the army was mobilized from late 2001 but with little effect. The death toll has continues to increase, so, does the rural infrastructures. This leads political analyst conclude that the conflict has evolved into the most serious internal crisis facing the nation-state of Nepal since its founding in the mid-eighteenth century (Thapa: 2002-p77).
The promulgation of the 1990 constitution was a step in guaranteeing the basic rights including the civil and political and socio-economic rights of the people. The most important feature of the new constitution is its recognition that sovereign power lies in with the people. Similarly, the adult franchise, parliamentary system of governance, multi-party system, rule of law and constitutional monarchy are other features. The rule of law is a provision which ensures freedom and equal treatment for all Nepali citizens guaranteed by an independent and competent system of justice and courts serve as protection mechanism. The constitution has also provisions of other mechanisms which guarantee the checks and balance system over each other such as the Election Commission, Commission on the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority, Judicial Council and Security Council. Similarly, various laws have also been introduced in order to promote and protect the rights of the people. The formation of National Human Rights Commission, Indigenous People’s Rights Commission, Women Commission and Oppressed People’s Commission have also contributed in protection of the human rights of the general people or specific groups.
Despite those constitutional provisions and commitment to the international human rights documents and creation of various promotion and protection mechanisms in the country, the human rights situation and securing the basic rights of the people in the country in general have not been improved. The initial euphoria of having democracy will resolve all the past problems and provide access to power in decision making process were soon dashed. The newly established regime of democratic Nepal thus failed to tackle the economic, cultural, social and political discriminations and backwardness. The marginalized and oppressed people continued to feel excluded on the basis of caste or their ethnic background. Lack of democratization in bureaucracy, arms forces and police as well as culture of impunity that they have enjoyed created frustration, alienation and anger among the general public. Furthermore, the growing political instability and successive governments failure to tackle the entrenched poverty and much needed economic development have become the issues for the Maoists to gain popular support especially among rural youths against the elected regimes.
First time in its modern history, the state has mobilized its security forces to quell the domestic rebels at such intense levels. In the initial days, force mobilization was limited with the police operation known as ‘Operation Romeo’ and ‘Kilo Sera II’. However, as the violence spread all over the country, the consecutive governments introduced new legislations to widen the power of the police and also established a paramilitary police force known as Armed Police Force – 2001. After the Dunai (the headquarter of Dolpa district) attack by the Maoists, the then government decided to station the Army in 16 district headquarters. It was the first time that the army were mobilized against the Maoists insurgency. After the breakdown of the ceasefire in November 2001 and subsequent Maoists attack in Dang military camp, the State of Emergency was declared and were mobilized the armed forces throughout the country. The police and army began joint “cordon and search” operations specially in the Maoists affected areas. During this period also the security forces often crossed their limitations and made arbitrary and illegal arrests, inhuman torture and indiscriminate killings. Disappearances and murders in those areas became common.
After the escalation of violence and deteriorating security situation in the country, the state’s defense budget has sharply increased which affected the development outcome. To meet the defense expenditures requirements, the successive governments have raised the taxes, diverted funds from the development expenditures and increased foreign debts and aids. Similarly, the Maoists attacked on some of the big multi-national companies such as Dabur Nepal, Nepal Lever Ltd, Coca-Cola, Colgate and recently in the country’s largest five star hotel Soaltee. This scared not only the possible foreign investors but also drawn the attention of the international forces. As it is reported that after bombing in Soaltee Hotel, Nepal’s ambassador to India Karnadhwoj Adhikari was called by the Indian Foreign Office and expressed their displeasure about the escalating violence in Nepal (Kathmandu Post, August 19, 2004). Such attacks on Multi-National Companies would certainly have long term economic impact in the country.
Currently, the Maoists are in control of several areas of Nepal and the government has withdrawn police and civil servants to the district capitals. They had introduced ‘visa’ system in some of the hilly districts which has caused serious problem in supplying food in those districts. Several relief projects, NGOs and international donor projects have been forced by the circumstances to pull out their workforce in the remote regions which has created the difficult situation for the civilian population. Similarly, Maoists also targeted the friendly countries properties and embassies’ staffs. Killing of two US embassy staffs, attack on American Center and attacks on several Indian owned industries, schools and other areas have shown the deteriorating nature of security situation. This also shows the weakening power of state to prevent such situation.
Such an increasing violence and destruction, the international human rights organizations like National Human Rights Commission, several domestic human rights organizations, Amnesty International, Asia Watch etc. have been regularly expressing their concerns on the deteriorating situation. During the UN human rights session in Geneva, Chair country in the annual session asked Nepal to endorse the UN technical assistance to Nepal (The Kathmandu Post, April 30, 2004). Despite efforts to block, the UN session made the statement binding Nepal has to accept technical assistance through United Nations on human rights monitoring in the country. Various international and national human rights organizations have reported that Nepal’s current human rights situation is one of the worst recorded human rights reports in the world. And it is also reported that the current human rights catastrophe in Nepal is unparalleled with any other countries except Iraq. It also sparked off discourse about Nepal veering toward “Country at risk” or “failed state”.
The escalation of violence in Nepal has attracted serious concerns and subsequent responses from the neighboring countries as well as other friendly countries and international communities. Though Maoist insurgency is basically a product of a long political, economic and social mismanagement of the ruling elites, century old discriminations, exploitations and suppression of marginalized, women, Dalits, and poor in the country, however, with the existing open border system, insurgents’ use of Indian lands as for the arms and ammunitions supply, trainings and sanctuary. It made the security situation thoroughly dysfunctional and increased the possibilities of utilizing by the other extremist forces for their vested interests. Due to the increasing human rights violation and the growing humanitarian catastrophic and many other reasons, the involvement of the international communities have greatly increased. They not only expressed their concerns but subsequently they have increased their military, relief and development assistance to the state. They have also increased their monitoring and supervision roles and urge government, rebels to follow the Human Rights provisions. Even some countries such as Switzerland and Norway and the international agencies such as the UN have offered their service for conflict mediation.
India: India’s response to the insurgency in Nepal is taken as a matter of great interest. It is not only because India is a closest neighbor of Nepal and one of the largest suppliers of arms and ammunitions to the Nepali security forces, but also because the insurgents use Indian land as well as the open border with India in their advantage. Due to the 1800 kilometers open border with India, the Maoists leaders and cadres frequently cross the border and make their shelters in the Indian adjoining states of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Indian land is being used by the Maoists to organize their activities and recruit Nepali immigrants to their organization. Similarly, the open border has also been used by the Maoists to import necessary arms and ammunitions. It is reported in the media that Nepali Maoists regularly receive trainings in different parts of India. The prominent Indian daily which is regarded as pro-establishment in India, “The Times of India” reported that the Nepali government had made an official request that the activities of Nepali Maoists in India territory be checked, claiming that they were being trained in Bihar by members of the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoists Coordination Center (MCC). Quoting Intelligence reports, the paper claimed that the PWG was planning to create a Compact Revolutionary Zone from Hyderabad to Kathmandu taking Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand into its area of influence with the help of other outfits (Mishra: 2001).
Similarly, the media also reported that Nepali Maoists and the Indian Maoist groups like PWG and the MCC were making connections. One of the prominent Indian fortnightly “Frontline” reported its May 2000 issue that the “growing coordination between the extremist groups” in Nepal and India unleashed simultaneous attacks in both countries when Nepali Maoists struck in Nepal’s central mid-western district of Dailekh, on 07 April, 2000 killing 47 people and within a week on 14 April, Indian Maoists of the MCC killed 14 people in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand. The CPN (Maoist) is using the Indian land as their sanctuary has further confirmed by the media reports in Nepal and India after the arrest of Mohan Baidya last March, the ideologue and the most senior second to the President Maoist in Siliguri, West Bengal earlier this year, and Martika Yadav, the Maoist Politbureau member and Suresh Ale Magar, Central Committee members from Bihar in March this year and other 12 senior members of the Party. In the past, Indian authorities used to deny the reporting on the Maoists that they have been taking shelters in Indian lands. However, with these arrests and many other connected activities between the Maoists of both sides facts expressed themselves as hostile witness.
Similarly, the formation of a Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) was another development in the process of institutionalizing their coordinated activities. The CCOMPOSA was formed on July 1st 2001 whose members are the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Peoples War Group, Maoists Coordination Center, Communist Center of India (Maoist) and the Revolutionary Communist Center of India (MLM). Other member groups include three Maoist parties from Bangladesh and one from Sri Lanka (Sharma: 2002, Mishra: 2003). The founding statement of CCOMPOSA unveils that “to unify and coordinate the revolutionary process in the region” which means there are possibilities of increasing the coordinated activities between the Maoists groups in the region. Furthermore, the Revolutionary International Movements (RIM) from which Nepali Maoists’ receives ideological backing concluded earlier that in a favorable geo-strategic location like Nepal’s, Maoists’ capture of power could possibly trigger similar stirs across the South Asian region (FES, Political, Economic and Social Development in Nepal in the Year 2003). Therefore, the issue of Maoists violence and its geographic scale of activities are growing not only in the Nepalese land but also into the Indian lands. This has very much alarmed the central government too. As the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs stated in its Annual Report 2002 – 2003 that the Naxalites related violence has been increased significantly from the year 2001 to the year 2002 (MHA: 2002 and 2003). The same report further stressed that there were 546 incidents of Naxalites violence killing 509 people. The report added “a group wise activities of the left wing extremist groups in the country during the period under review reveals an increase in the violent activities of all the majors groups… as compared to the corresponding period last year (Ibid).
Growing coordinated activities across the borders and the escalation of violence forced India to declare Maoists as terrorist group in 2001, almost six years after Maoists had launched arms rebellion and series of coordinated activities. As India’s South Asian expert S.D. Muni argues ‘like many of the other countries, India also woke up to the Maoists’ challenge in Nepal after the escalation of violence in November 2001′ (Muni: 2003). The escalation of violence inside Nepal as well as their synchronized activities not only posed the threat to the Nepali state but also raised the eyebrows of New Delhi. The insurgents’ increasing activities has also raised serious concerns of New Delhi. ‘It is probably no less meaningful that Indian Ambassador Shyam Sharan was the very first of all Indian envoys called for urgent consultations following the changing of the guards’… (Josse: 2004). Though, it has declared the Maoists as terrorist group, but the steps that Indian government has taken to curb its activities along the border were not effective. Even the Indian military assistance to the state, which was promised in 2001, started to deliver in Kathmandu, however, ‘the free movement of the Maoists across the Indo-Nepal borders was still not restricted’ (Ibid). It seems India’s promises and supports to the Nepali government started to come only after it received strong pressure from Nepal and other friendly countries across the world. After the PWG’s strike in Andhra Pradesh, M. K. Narayan, Internal Security Advisor commented, “Unwillingness to acknowledge the gravity of this event is incomprehensible. Somewhat similar tactics – of simultaneously attacking several targets- had preciously been adopted by the Maoists in Nepal and these became the precursor for the bloody pogroms that followed which earned Nepal the sobriquet of “killing field” (Jose: 2004).
Moreover, when Nepal began to receive arms from the US and UK, New Delhi was getting concerned because increasing presence of former two countries’ in Nepal is not liked by India. The former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal in his speech at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris on 17 December 2002, hinting at this concern said: ” Western countries should also be careful about extending excessive military assistance to Nepal in order to avoid increase in the lethality of internal conflict and leakage of arms to the Maoists” (The Indian Express, New Delhi, January 3, 2003, Muni: 2003). India’s concerns may not only be related with these two powers, they are also “encroaching” upon what Indian perceive as the area of influence India fears that the insurgency in Nepal could spill over to the geopolitical heartland of India, and points out the possibility of smuggling sophisticated foreign arms to Indian insurgents’ (FES, Political, Economic and Social Development in Nepal in the Year 2003).
India also does not like to see the third parties involvement in the peace process. Even the consensus being built among the major domestic political forces as well as the rebels about the possible involvement of the United Nations in the next round of peace process, India has been insisting that since the conflict is a Nepal’s internal matters, it should be solved by Nepali themselves. On August 13, 2003, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Shyam Sharan urged the Maoists to “cut of their links with the terrorist entities in India like the PWG and the MCC” and made it clear that “India was not favor of any third party mediating in the Nepalese peace process” (The Kathmandu Post, August 14, 2003). However, two months later on October 18, 2003 speaking at a press conference at Rajbiraj, he changed his earlier version about the possible role of the third party in the peace process by saying that “India is ready to help solve the Maoists problem” (FES, Political, Economic and Social Development in Nepal in the Year 2003). He made different statement just before departing Kathmandu to assume India’s Foreign Secretary post while giving interview to the Nepal Television; Mr. Sharan said that if Nepal is interested in inviting the UN, India would have no objection. India’s such inconsistency was not a new one on Nepal internal political issues even a case of much propagated Mahakali River Treaty in 1996, under the Treaty provisions; within the six month of signing the Treaty, DPR supposed to be finalized and within a year the financial matters was to be finalized and in eight years time the project was to be completed. But it has been eight years since the completion of the Treaty; even works on DPR has not been started.
It was also reported that India was not happy when Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand’s government and Maoists declared ceasefire on January 29, 2003 and agreed to resolve the crisis. It expressed its dissatisfaction of not consulting before the ceasefire and felt it was marginalized. The then Foreign Secretary Mr. Sibal even raised the issue at a Track-II meeting where Nepal’s Ambassador in India Dr. B. B. Thapa was also present, that ‘India was not taken into confidence and that there was no consultation from the Nepalese side on vital issues affecting bilateral relations between the two countries’. He further asked as to ‘what was India expected to do in relation to the Nepalese Maoists: stop monitoring their movements across the borders and stop giving military support to the Nepalese government since ceasefire and talks have been announced” (The Hindu, February 17, 2003, Muni: 2003). India’s displeasure on the matter could be viewed when it refused to join the multilateral committees with the other donor countries to monitor developmental, political and security issues in Nepal later in the year.
Some political analyzers argue that India’s displeasure springs from increasing military assistance that Nepal has been receiving from Belgium, the UK and the USA, which India thinks was its prerogative. Nepal has been receiving more and more military assistance from the third countries specially from the US and UK. India had reacted against Nepal and imposed economic blockade in 1989 when Nepal imported some ammunitions from China which were nominal in terms of quantity and even the quality were lower than this time. However, this time India could not make even an issue. Commenting on the issue, former Indian Ambassador Nepal, K. V. Rajan said ” India was left in a weak position to question the need or assert itself under the 1950 Treaty (Rajan: 2003). Similarly, a senior journalist and a familiar person on Indian politics, Editor of a Weekly Magazine ‘Samaya’, Yuba Raj Ghimire commented with this author that ‘the increasing US presence has provided some spaces for Nepal to maneuver its foreign policy and the issue of arms import to Nepal from third countries has also been diluted due to the increasing military assistance to Nepal from the US and the UK without the Indian knowledge or consent’ (August 10, 2004).
It is argued that India has been gradually changing its approaches to Nepal and becoming more assertive to counter the increasing US and UK’s presence by using all its leverages. The Indian foreign minister K. N. Singh pledged in his last visit in Kathmandu that India is taking robust policy on insurgency here in Nepal. “India is continuing support to Nepal in strengthening her security capabilities” as well as “full support to Nepal to put down the insurgency” (The Rising Nepal, June 6, 2004). It has introduced several new programs and supports. Even now it has been providing direct economic grants up to the village levels. It has also opened up an office of Consular General in Birgunj. Its growing priority could also be discussed when newly elected Indian Foreign Minister K. N. Singh chosen Nepal as the first country to visit.
Similarly, since last few years, it has been scaling up its military assistance steadily to the RNA and other support as well. The increasing India’s multilateral supports to the RNA in fighting with the Maoists and increment of border supervision and monitoring are some of the examples. Furthermore, India has also proposed to construct a military training school for the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) at the Salijhandi area in Rupandehi district (western part of the country). It is one of the massive projects fully funded by Indian government as India’s efforts to help strengthen the RNA to fight the Maoists (The Himalayan Time, December 23, 2004). If it goes according to plan, the project would be the most significant one in a very strategic area from India.
Similarly, the arrests some of the top Maoists leaders earlier this year has contributed in clearing the confusion and helping in developing certain positive environment. Though it is argued that the arrests were not made only the purpose of controlling Maoists in the request of Nepali government rather Indian government found itself that the Maoists have become a threat to their own security problem. As they are having linkages with the Indian insurgent groups like West Bengal based Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), United Liberation Front Assam (ULFA), NDFB, MCC, PWG etc and formation of CCOMPOSA, India has become alarmed about this situation. As claimed by noted Left intellectual Shyam Shrestha; ‘Indian intelligence report indicates that Maoists senior leader Mohan Baidhya was arrested in last March because of his connection with KLO of Siligurhi-Jalpaigurhi, NDFB of Bodoland and ULFA of Assam and C.P. Gajurel’s arrest August last year in Chennai Airport was because there was a suspicion that he was maintaining relations with LTTE of Sri Lanka’ (Shrestha: 2004).
With the growing violence and increasing Maoists’ targets in the Indian interest here in Nepal as well as building up nexus between the two sides’ Maoists group, the New Delhi seems much concerned now than in the past. J. N. Dixit’s statement quoted by Sultan Shabin’s at The Asia Times on June 4 also provides the urgency about the situation. “In Nepal, terrorist violence by the Maoist group continues unabated. The political leadership is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The political situation in Nepal has a fall-out in north Bengal, Bihar and northeastern UP. It could also have ramifications in Bhutan which still has a large Nepalese population. Bhutan itself is subject to domestic political pressures.”
India is still stick with its policy towards Nepal based on multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy and it seems there is no problem at the political level. The government claims that there are some encouraging signs between two countries in resolving the crisis. The official visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in September is one of the testimonies towards this direction and both countries see the possibility of reaching understanding on various issues including common policy strategy of suppressing Maoist insurgency. The Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh himself has come out several times with the view that the Maoists of Nepal and India unitedly have become a threat to the Indian security itself. The Home Minister of India organized a conference of Chief Ministers of nine Maoists affected states in last September and chalked out the common strategy to deal the increasing threat of Maoists activities. As former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa recently said in an interview that he is optimistic that all understanding is being developed with India in resolving the Maoists issue. He felt that India is becoming a dangerous threat to Maoists and if understanding could be reached fully with India, the Maoists problem could be resolved’ (Kantipur Daily, August 20, 2004). Likewise, in October 2004, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs organized a Chief Ministers conference in Hyderabad to discuss and formulate a common and comprehensive strategy in dealing the increasing security threat posed by the growing Maoists activities. Similarly, with the initiation and support from the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 5 and 6, a two day conference which regarded as track II initiative was organized in New Delhi where political leaders, former diplomats, academicians, political activists, people in media were invited from both countries and discussed about the Maoists activities in Nepal.
India’s official position is clear. It declares CPN (Maoist) as terrorist group and provides military supports to the government. Now, together with the US and UK, Indian government is also one of the biggest suppliers of arms and ammunitions to the RNA and coordinating the policy to prevent Nepal becoming a “failed state”. Apart from this it has also been regularly providing economic and other supports for the infrastructure development as well as other service sectors. The notable support it had provided in the past is the Tribhuvan High Way connecting Kathmandu to border point in Raxual, India. Likewise, it had also provided assistance for the construction of the East-West High Way and establishment of Bir Hospital in Kathmandu, B.P. Memorial Hospital and other educational institutions in Dharan. It has recently agreed to establish pipelines for the oil supplies from Raxual, border point to Amalekhgunj. Similarly, it has agreed to share climate information as well as other cultural and educational support to Nepal. One of it is its recent support in establishing the optical fiber in the East West Highway. However, its efforts in controlling the Maoists activities inside India as well as in the borders seem not effective as it is expected.
Similarly, the Maoists official position about India is also clear as it stresses India as a hegemonistic country which always tries to get undue benefits by using its geopolitical leverages from its small nations in the region. However, in practices specially in the last few years after 2001, Maoists activities as well as stance on various issues towards India do not match with those official position. Their silence on various issues on Nepal-India relations such as the issue of the Indian military presence at Nepali land in Kalapani, India’s one-sided decision to construct dams in the border region specially the Mahalisagar in Kapivastu and Laxmanpur in Banke district are the examples. Those activities of India have generated massive reactions inside Nepal and all in all political parties have opposed it. However, the CPN (Maoists)’s position on those issues is not very clear. And it is regarded as their calculative move. They seem aware about the consequences. India acts effectively and sincerely, it would create difficulties for their activities.
China: Ideologically, China supposed to be the one of the supportive countries to the Maoists struggle because Maoists claimed that they have been launching this ‘people’s war’ by not only using Maoism as their ideological tag but also it is a “similar” tactics that Chinese Communist Party used 55 years ago under the leadership of Mao against the Japanese aggression and established PRC. However, any country that distances itself from the Maoists and their activities firstly was the government of China. Expressing their grave concerns about the escalation of violence as early as in 1999, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal stated his country’s anxieties over the increasing of violence in the country and pledged all support to the government of Nepal in dealing with the Maoists (Kathmandu Post, Sept. 3, 1999). It seems China is still stick with earlier position on the issue even today. The former Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Congyong’s policy statement on May 10, 2002 has been regarded as the most comprehensive statement in that respect coming from China. Wu said “the insurgency had created unprecedented difficulties, especially the declaration of the state of emergency last November due to the deteriorating security situation. China is much concerned about this, and has given a timely response and voice firm support to HMG’s efforts to quell (the) insurgency from the very beginning.” (The Kathmandu Post, May 11, 2002 and July 2004).
This statement clarifies the Chinese policy towards the insurgency and articulates the Chinese support to the government of Nepal. In the same statement, the then Ambassador further elaborated “First of all, China labels the insurgents as ‘antigovernment outfits’, and we never call them ‘Maoists’. They misuse the name of Chairman Mao, which impairs the image of the great leader of China, and at the same time, it can serve as an excuse for the international anti-China forces to create troubles” (Ibid). It is very clear that the Chinese government does not like to call them as Maoists and even they have reservation about using this name. It is not only because Nepali Maoists use this ideological tag and do berserks activities but also they are also concerned that using this name could provide space to those anti-China forces who may use it to defame the great leader and China itself.
The Ambassador stated, “Chinese government consistently opposes terrorism in any forms and upholds international cooperation to combat terrorism. In this context we condemn the violence and terrorist acts unleashed by the anti-government outfits in Nepal” (Ibid). China’s view expresses its firm stance against the terrorism and extends its support for the international cooperation to combat it and also holds the view that it regards the Maoists activities as terrorist activities and subsequently condemns it. The current Ambassador Sun Heping reaffirmed same position by explaining, “China resolutely opposes any forms of terrorism. We strongly denounce the violent activities targeting civilians and civil infrastructures, and oppose any actions obstructing the efforts to restore peace and stability in Nepal. The stability in Nepal is not only in the interests of Nepal and its people, but also conducive to the peace and stability of the South Asian region” (Spotlight Weekly, November 7, 2003).
In regards to its assistance to Nepal, the present Ambassador said in an interview in last March that China’s efforts are conducive to restoring peace and stability in Nepal, and “we will continue to provide assistance to Nepal on the premise of not interfering with Nepal’s internal affairs” (People’s Review Weekly, March 25, 2004). Not only on the issue of Maoists insurgency where it has kept its distance and left the issue resolved internally, but also in overall bilateral relations, China’s role has been quite supportive and uncontroversial. Dr. Narayan Khadka, senior leader of Nepali Congress (Democratic) told this author that ‘even here, there is no existence of threat perception from China to Nepal’ (August 10, 2004). Talking about China’s position, Senior Journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire said that ‘China is strictly adhering Panchasheel. Since 1979, it has not been holding activities which are harmful to any countries. Even Indian accepts that Chinese are supporting only the legitimate regimes’ (Author is interview on August 09, 2004).
About the possible third party involvement in the peace process, the successive Ambassadors of China to Nepal have been reiterating that Nepal should tackle the own problem by itself. The independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal should be fully respected and maintained’. About the United Nation’s possible role in the peace process, the present Ambassador Sun said, “it was Nepal’s decision to make”. This he stated in a lecture program organized by Nepal Council of World Affairs and China Study Center on May 28, 2004. China’s current position on its neighbors’ policy and specially its policy towards Nepal, some of the public policy observers would like to term it as a “sleeping dragon”.
However, it would be wrong to assume that China’s current passive role means it is ignorant about what is going on in the neighborhood. With the growing violence accompanied by break down security orders situation of country as well as increasing foreign countries’ activities, China has been taking seriously. As in one interview published in The Kathmandu Post on October 1, 2002, the former Chinese Ambassador Wu said, “We are closely watching the situation in Nepal. We hope that there will be peace and stability in this country” (The Kathmandu Post, October 1, 2002). The Ambassador’s expression is a very clear statement that the northern neighbor has been watching the situation. As one of the emerging world power, the issue of security and stability to its one of the close neighbors are the vital issue for China.
The impact of the growing Maoists insurgency on Tibet has also begun to surface. The increasing use of China made weapons by the Maoists and the arrest of the two members of the CPN (Maoist) with illegal arms and ammunitions in Tibet could be cited here. Maoists’ such increasing activities in Tibet would certainly drag the central government’s attention. Though, there are not any possibilities of taking any direct steps at this very moment, but as a strong power of this region it would certainly take the matter seriously.
One of the initiatives that China has been taking is its steady support in the infrastructures development. It has agreed and already started a process to construct another High Way (Rasuwa – Syabrobeshi) to connect Nepal and China which would be the second one after Kodari High Way. During the Crown Prince’s recent visit, it has committed to build another Ring Road in the Kahtmandu Valley. Its commitment to install a Herbal Plant in Nepal and laying Optical Fiber lines in the Kodari Higway. Apart from this it has also been providing grants as its regular assistance as the development grants to the government. So, China’s responses and actions are to stick with its policy of supporting to the legitimate regimes and it opposes the anti-government insurgency’s activities.
US: The escalation of violence has notably increased the US assistance as well as its involvement in Nepal. It was for the first time that the US Foreign Secretary Collin Powell made a visit in February 2002 and pledged both economic and military assistance to Nepali government to counter the increasing Maoists activities. The increasing US government’s attentions on Nepal could also be matched with the three times visits made by Christina Rocca, the Assistant Secretary of State in the year 2002- she said: “We are committed to help Nepal combat the insurgency by providing security assistance to the Nepalese government. Assistance will be provided in the form of a package including equipment, supplies and training for the Nepalese security forces” (The Kathmandu Post, 15 December 2002). In a more elaborative form, Rocca said in March 2003 before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “We believe the parties have come this far only because the RNA was able to make an effective stand – a goal which US security assistance aims to bolster. In co-ordination with Great Britain, India and other partners, our security assistance will provide directly needed arms, equipments and training to enable the Royal Nepal Army to counter the Maoist military threat (the US) and also support efforts to bolster government control in areas vulnerable to Maoist influence by funding high-impact rural infrastructure and employment projects” (The Kathmandu Post, March 28 2003).
Though, America had established its diplomatic relations with Nepal in the late 1940s, however, after the escalation of Maoists activities it has been taking active diplomacy in Nepal. Nepal’s geopolitical location between Tibet on the north and India on the south could be used as a locus to contain any possible threats from the communist powers, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. It has increased military and economic assistance recently. The escalation of violence here and the 9/11 events, the US has increased its concerns as well as support to the Nepali government. More specifically, the killing of its two Nepali staffs by the Maoists in Kathmandu, it branded Maoists as “terrorist” and put Nepal on the list of “US foreign policy challenges,” after India. Last year, it provided $17m military and $ 40 million development aid to support Nepal’s initiative for strengthening accountable governance and development’ (FES, Political, Economic and Social Development in Nepal in the Year 2003). Its military assistance has increased significantly in the recent years. The US has provided 8000 new M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, twin-engine STOL aircraft, ammunition and other non-lethal weapons. Similarly, the US soldiers are involved in a ‘joint combined operations’ with the RNA. Apart from those weapons, it has also increased its economic assistance since last three years regularly. Similarly, the US has also been providing military and human rights trainings to the RNA. It seems the growing evidences of violation of human rights has generated massive concern within the human rights organizations, medias and US public. As a result, the US Congress recently has passed a bill recently, which demands for the first time, that the security forces of Nepal comply with habeas corpus orders issued by the Supreme Court and cooperate with the national Human Rights Commission (NHRC to identify and resolve all the security related issues (The Kathmandu Post, 23 December 2004). With this increasing US assistance and joint works with the RNA, the Maoists denounce it and interpreted it as part of grand “American imperialist’s” strategic plans to encircle China. However, China does not share such views. But since last China has conditionalized its aid to Nepal according to which Nepal has to spend 30 percent of the volume of total aid to Nepal is northern region so as to prevent Maoist insurgency spill into Tibet. India also following suit and creating Terai as “buffer zone”.
It is reported that in the process of making common policies towards dealing Maoists problems in Nepal, differences have emerged between the US and the European Union members’ policies. The US believes that the increasing military offensive can bring the Maoists to the negotiating table. The European Union members including UK do not share this view. They prefer “negotiated settlement” which addresses the root causes of the conflict and seek to achieve “democratic peace”. It is also reported that because of such differences, the former US Ambassador to Nepal Michel Malinowski left earlier than actual his extended tenure expired.
UK and EU: The United Kingdom is another country that has been actively engaging in Nepal’s peace processes. Its interests in Nepal are historical. It was the first European country which recognized Nepal’s independence and established diplomatic relations with Nepal, but also the British Gurkha connection where still it recruits sizeable number of Nepali youth in their military units. The UK is the only country after the UN which has appointed, Sir Jeffrey James, as its special representative to facilitate the negotiation processes. Since his appointment he has made seven visits to Nepal and met political parties’ leaders, the king, people in civil society organizations and security personnel. The UK government’s emphasis is to restore the democratic institutions as well as initiate the peace processes. Another area where the UK government has been active is in pooling joint efforts to help Nepal. For that purpose, it had sponsored a conference in London in May 2002 and invited all the major donor countries. Apart from this, it has also been providing military assistances to the RNA. It has provided under its Global Conflict Prevention Fund’ two MI-17 helicopters and $ 20 million military and development aid considered as non-lethal.
The European Union has also been insisting on all sides to end violence and create an environment of meaningful and sustainable peace processes. As a recently released statement of the Royal Danish Embassy, Presidency of the EU stated that “The Presidency of the EU calls on all sides to the conflict to bring an end to the violence, to agree to a renewed ceasefire as soon as possible and to look for practical measures to build confidence and crate a climate for a meaningful and sustainable peace process,” (The Kathmandu Post, August 11, 2004). The EU’s another area of concern is the violation of human rights. The presidency in its statement further expresses its concerns about Maoists violence and terrorists attacks, the use of child soldiers, extortion, abduction and forced indoctrination’ (Ibid). Meanwhile, the European Union’s high-level team visited on December 13-15, 2004 and urged the Maoists to come for the dialogue. They reiterated in their statement that ‘only viable option is a political solution through negotiation’. Further they stressed that the EU does not support authritarian regime and sees no alternative to a government with a broad-based democratic mandate. It was the first such high-level visit organized by the 25 members European Union to the country. Similarly, to address the humanitarian crisis such as internally displaced persons, the EU is also planning to establish a European Commission Humanitarian Office in Nepal.
Similarly, the EU countries specially Norway, Germany and Switzerland are also active in Nepal and providing sizeable amount of economic aid. The Swiss had organized a seminar in Switzerland two years ago by inviting representatives from all the political parties including the Maoists. Switzerland and Norway are the two European countries who have offered for the mediation in the proposed peace processes. Similarly, Japan, Canada and other industrialized countries have also been providing their regular assistances. However, with the increasing threats specially from the Maoists in remote districts, some of the donor agencies specially the German development agency GTZ and British agency DFID have stopped their programs after Maoists killed one of their staff in Dailekh. Similarly, Netherlands terminated its annual five million Euro grants to Nepal and Switzerland also did not renew its support to the small industry promotion project. Some people believe that such increasing strategic interest that has been pursued by the world’s major powers certainly provides spaces to a country which is virtually a India-locked where now Nepal got more maneuvering spaces for our foreign policy. Sharing these views, former Secretary and Director of IIDS Dwarikanath Dhungel told this author that ‘the increasing involvement of the US has contributed in diluting several issues which used to become the problematic issues specially’ Nepal’s relations with India. It is a positive development which needs to be explored by Nepal in its foreign policy’ (interaction with author, August 13, 2004).
UN: The United Nations has also offered its good office for the mediation. In a statement earlier this year, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan offered if assistance sought from his good office, it is ready to provide. For this purpose he has appointed Samuel Tamrat as a special UN envoy and he has made several visits in Nepal and met with the Prime Minister and leaders of the political parties. About the UN role in the possible peace processes, there has been general consensus among the major political parties including ruling and opposition parties that they are agreed to get UN involvement. The rebel has been consistently demanding the UN role in the process. With the demand from the domestic stakeholders and the willingness of the UN itself, there is a possibility of increasing the UN involvement in the country.
The international agencies: Likewise, other international agencies UNHCR and ICRC are also active in peace related activities. The ICRC has been pursuing both sides to restore freedom of movement especially in the rural areas. It is urging the contesting parties to “Restore freedom of movement for people and goods and improve civilian security for the people in the conflict zones” (the Nepalnews.com>, January 16, 2003). Similarly, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), which are the biggest donor agencies of the country, have been insisting to stress on infrastructure development, poverty alleviation and empowerment of the people in the country. They pressurize the state to uphold the austerity measures by strictly abiding their policy prescriptions. Though their policy prescriptions have received severe criticism inside and outside the country however, they have continuously been insisting for the reduction of the government’s roles in the social and service sectors. In a recently held press meeting, the ADB stresses that it will promote greater economic, social, legal and political empowerment of poor rural women in Nepal particularly those from ethnic minorities and lower castes (ADB statement, December 16, 2004). It further stresses that a massive awareness raising campaign on issues related to gender, caste, and ethnicity that will translate relevant laws and regulations into local languages, conduct media campaigns, and include community-based training of both women and men.
Possible impacts on Nepal’s geopolitical aspects:
The growing attentions and the responses Nepal is receiving in the last few years from the neighboring countries and the other major powers due to growing insurgency, leaves multi-lateral implications to Nepal’s internal as well as its foreign policy. As Bhim Rawal, member of Department of International Relations and the Central Committee of the CPN (UML) said ‘if the conflict prolongs in Nepal it would certainly have multiple effects in our security situation and that would also affect on the regional security’ (interaction with the author, August 25, 2004). The increasing violence already invited huge increment of arms supply to Nepal. India, the US, and the UK have significantly increased their military assistance. Similarly, the members of the US army’s Pacific Command have been providing trainings to the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). Large amount of national budget has already allocated to the purchase of weapons. At the same time, the deteriorating security situation in the country increased the prospects for arms black-markets in the region. This will not only pose challenge to our internal security but also would affect our immediate neighbors as well as ultimately the global security system. Gurkha recruitment facility to India and the UK, Peace and Friendship Treaties with India and Arms Assistance Agreement and interrelated policies have made Nepal a part of Anglo-Indian Security System evoking fear into the Chinese minds which also think Nepal vitally important for its security.
The increment of foreign power’s involvement in our internal affairs has increased. The Nepal’s independent role as sovereign state in the international forums has been reduced significantly and it has also been loosing its image as well as the reputations. Such a situation does not contribute in enhancing our country’s reputations and images in the international level. As noted foreign policy analyzer Ramesh Nath Pandey said that ‘due to the increasing violence and internal conflict, there has been remarkable decline in state visits by the foreign head of the states and also head of the governments to Nepal. Similarly, apart from the attending regular conferences and meetings, Nepali head of the state and the Prime Minister have also not received invitations from the friendly countries’ (interaction with the author on August 9, 2004).
The deteriorating situation of the country also increased the possibilities of using Nepali land by other extremists forces in the region. With the breakdown of the law and order in most part of the country, the other vested interest groups who want to create troubles in this region would have chance to play in such a very critical time. Nepal is adjacent to Tibetan Autonomous Region of China and we know that this is one of the trouble part of China where anti-Chinese forces like Khampas organized activities in the past. Though their activities since last few decades have declined significantly, however, they are not ended. If the Khampa rebels started to reorganize in our land, that would be a serious jitters for the Chinese government. China has been making considerable efforts for the development of Tibetan Region and consequently the political and law and order situation have also remarkably improved there. Any trouble that it has to face because of Nepal conflicts, certainly it won’t tolerate it and take steps which may undermine our national sovereignty and national interests.
Similarly, there are already several insurgency movements in various states of India bordering Nepal. The Indian governments; central and states-level have been putting their efforts in controlling them. However, with the open border arrangement between the two countries, there are possibilities of using Nepal’s land by the extremist groups similar to Bhutanese land being used by the ULFA and BODO extremists. As the Indian media as well as the government officers are saying that the members of Pakistani intelligence, ISI have been infiltrating to India via Nepali borders. Though, there is not substantial proof on it but it still generates irritation between two countries’ relations. The Indian authority would take any anti-Indian activities inside Nepal very seriously and they would take steps, which would not also be in the interests of Nepal.
As it stated earlier, India has already expressed its dissatisfaction about the increasing involvement of the US and other European countries in Nepal because India regards Nepal as its area of influence. China has not expressed such views publicly, but as an emerging global power which is increasingly becoming a competitive country after the US, it could be understood that the Chinese government would not take positively the increasing US and other Western countries activities inside Nepal. If the Maoists conflict prolongs and their activities continue to grow, then there are strong possibilities of engendering clashes of interests of the major powers here. In such situation Nepal would become another Afghanistan in South Asia. Due to the failure of Afghanistan to manage internal conflict earlier in the 1970s, the former USSR armies invaded it in 1979. The invasion had given the reason for the US and its allies to equip the Islamic Jihads (Mujahiddin fighters) to ‘fight’ against the USSR military. But when USSR troops withdrew, the extremist forces like Taliban grew up and under the Taliban regime, terrorist groups like Al ‘Qaeda found the place as safe heaven for their activities. Last 25 years of Afghan situation is the good example on how an internal conflict spills into geopolitical dimension and ultimately provides a space for the big powers to make it a battleground. It is a lesson that needs to be learned specially by countries like Nepal where world powers have immense strategic interests.
Prospects of developing common regional approaches:
All the countries in South Asia are facing internal conflicts and the threats arise from internal tensions and conflict except the Indo-Pak tension which invited three wars, nuclear threat and continuous geopolitical low-intensity skirmishes. The prolonging conflict in Nepal would certainly have spillover impact in our neighboring countries specially in India. There have already been some coordinated activities initiated by the insurgency groups in the region. Similarly, the coordinated actions taken by CPN (Maoists) here and MCC and PWG in India have already warned the central government of India and initiated some sorts of the works. Specially after the formation of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA) and its defined objectives have alarmed the governments in this region about the scaling up of conflicts at larger space. The members of the CCOMPOSA are Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It is reported that with the support of the CPN (Maoists), the Nepali origin Bhutanese who are taking shelter in Nepal’s refugee camps have also formed a CPB (Maoists). Now, the vertical surge of protracted people’s war led under the principle of Maoism and their very much coordinated activities have posed a serious threats not only to individual countries but it is affecting to all of the countries of the region. Similarly, the merger of two influential Maoists groups in India People’s War Group and Maoists Communists Center in September 2004 is another development towards the consolidation of Maoists group in the region. Though level of strengths in these countries is different, their activities are extending in the five countries of the region. Among them, like mostly the rural parts of Nepal has already been paralyzed by the Maoists activities since last couple of years and also ‘they have been significantly increased their activities in Andhra Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, southeast Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhan and Bihar states’ (The Kathmandu Post, August 17, 2004) of India.
Furthermore, the Maoists groups in the region are forging ties with the other insurgent groups in the region. As stated by Shyam Shrestha that the arrest of second senior leader Mohan Baiday was in relations to his links with Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), a West Bengal armed group and arrest of C.P. Gajurel in Chennai Airport was also related his alleged links with the Tamil Elam of Sri Lanka (Shreshta: 2004). Similarly, it is also reported that the PWG of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Elam of Sri Lanka have shared knowledge on military warfare (Bista: 2004). There have not been any verified reports about the Maoists linkages with the other insurgence groups like ULFA, BODO, NAGA as well as Kashmiri militants. However, as the Maoists and all these insurgence groups have been using violent tactics as their means of struggle, then it cannot be denied the possibilities of developing linkages as well as organize coordinated activities among these groups. ‘This does not exist today but if the conflicts prolong, the possibility is always there’ (Rawal, Pandey, Ghimire, Simkhada, interactions with the author, August 2004).
Now, the pertinent question is that does such an increasing nexus among the insurgence groups in the region provide any ground to build up a regional level response to devise the common strategy to counter the insurgencies? The answer came flatly ‘no’ from those individuals and academic personalities with whom this author held interactions during the process of writing this paper. They argue that it is simply not possible because India as dominant power in the region does not want to bring the issue at the regional level. One of the reasons India does not want to bring at the regional level because it still does not feel the issue need to be dealt jointly. Secondly, because of the Kashmiri conflict, if other internal conflicts of different individual countries’ started to bring in the regional forums this will set up a precedent by Pakistan and the Islamic militants. Therefore, India is reluctant to deal issue in the regional level.
Due to the existing geopolitical situation of South Asia, until India is not ready in jointly dealing the issue, there will be no use of the rest of other countries to come together. It is not only because it is a dominant power but also the rest of the south Asian countries do not share common borders each other and without India’s initiation, it would be practically useless for other countries to devise the joint programs in dealing the insurgency. Another reason of not seeing possibility is because of the existing SAARC Charter. The existing SAARC provision does not allow any individual countries’ to take up bilateral problems of political nature to be discussed in the regional forums.
It is also because ‘India regards the Nepali Maoists conflict is a Nepal’s internal matter and needs to be dealt internally or even if there is a need to get third party involvement in the process then get her mediation’ (see former Indian Ambassador Shyam Sharan’s statement). It is argued that through its own involvement in the resolution of the conflicts, India wants to expand its area of influence and even some say India’s attitude is to negotiate with the weak regime, get maximum benefits and after the agreement abandon them’ (interaction with Yuba Raj Ghimire). Therefore, there is less likely hood of devising common regional response in the South Asian level to counter the challenge posed by the increasing connections as well as the development of the networking among the Maoists groups in different countries of in the region.
Differences also exist between the US and European Union member states in the past in dealing the Maoists problems here. As in the past the US has been insisting in mobilizing the army to control the Maoists, but member states of the European Unions and the UN agency have been consistently pressuring for the dialogue. However, it is reported that the international communities are working in devising the common strategies by bridging their differences in dealing the Maoists problem. These parties have their basic policy on Nepal is common. All these friendly countries including its two giant neighbors are still sticking with their policy of multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy. They insist that the Maoists problem should be resolved within the framework of multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy (see recent European Union presidency’s statement as well as India, China and the US positions).
Prospects of external involvement in the negotiation process: In the past, there have been ceasefires twice and two rounds of dialogues. However, none of these past dialogue processes became successful to end the conflicts. There was failure of the domestic stakeholders to bring the process into the logical end. There has been growing realization among the major stakeholders including the rebels that there should be external involvement in the negotiation processes. The Maoists, parties in the previous parliament and the civil society groups have already demanded that there should be external involvement in the negotiation process. Maoists are more specific in saying that they would accept the UN mediation. Similarly, the CPN (UML), the largest party in the dissolved parliament has also urged for the UN involvement in the process (see the UML’s nine points Road Map for the peace). The other major parties including the Nepali Congress (D), Nepali Congress and large number of civil society groups, intellectual communities and professional organizations have expressed their support to get the UN involvement. Meanwhile, the friends of Nepal in the international community are also expressing their concerns regularly and are keen to help in any possible way to establish a lasting peace in the country.
However, there has not been any process that has taken place in regards to the external involvement. At a time when two rounds of nationally initiated negotiation attempts have failed and when differences have further intensified, nothing would be better than getting a friendly international support. It is also increasingly realized that the prolonging conflict and continuing violence and abuses of human rights would further intensify the foreign interference and ultimately invite unintended intervention. Speaking in a recently held program, all the senior leaders of the major parties argue that ‘the delay in resolving the crisis would ultimately threaten the national sovereignty of the country’ (The Kathmandu Post, August 28, 2004).
Similar views was also expressed by UN Assistant General Secretary Kul Chandra Gautam in a program organized by Nepal Council of World Affairs, “We should have the wisdom to seek international support long before the situation further deteriorates and becomes a real or perceived threat to international peace and security, at which time we may very well have some unsolicited international intervention as has happened in several countries in our own region and beyond in recent decades” (Kantipur, August 23, 2004).
Furthermore, to enhance the negotiation processes there is a need of the involvement of that kind of country or the international agency which does have experiences on negotiation, can play unbiased, impartial and neutral role as well as has leverage to generate national and international moral pressure to warring factions. Its role should not be limited to ending the conflict. It should also be able to play effective role in the post conflict reconciliation, rehabilitation and reintegration people in society as well as other infrastructures development processes.
Potential countries and agencies involving in the peace process: It is reported that there are several countries, international agencies and international non-government organizations who have expressed their willingness to involve in the negotiation process.
India: Among the countries, India is one of the South Asian countries which has expressed its willingness to involve in negotiation (see a statement made by the former Indian Ambassador Syam Sharan last year). As one of the close neighbors and past experiences in mediating between the different political forces in Nepal, it is again interested. In 1950 tripartite agreement known as Delhi agreement (Delhi Samjhauta) between the outgoing Rana regime, King Tribhuvan and Nepali Congress, India so as realized with mediation. But it received tough criticism from the Nepali political parties and intelligentsia immediate after its conclusion. Similarly, its role during the last five decades of Nepal-India relations have not been out of controversies. Similarly, India’s past attempts to negotiate Sri Lanka’s conflict also did not receive positive outcome. It is because general attitudes towards India in the region are not as good as it is in the government level. Argues Harish Kapur ‘adversial attitude dominates inter-states relations in South Asia. One can hardly think of any other region – except Middle East, where the level of interstate relations in so low, mutual suspicions so high and potential conflicts so plausible as in South Asia’ (Kapur: 2002).
Another reason is also because India as being a regional power does have its geopolitical and geo-strategic interests in Nepal. It would be difficult to expect unbiased, impartial and neutral role from a country which has its own vested interests in security, market monopoly, water resources and communication. Also, because of its past roles, there are already not very positive attitude inside Nepal about Indian roles in Nepal. Therefore, it would not be practical as well as uncontroversial India’s direct involvement in the mediation process. It is also because, Nepal’s sensitive geo-strategic location, it would not be viable to ask India to mediate the conflict. Being in the middle of two Asian giants, it is a geographical constraint of Nepal also does not let it to invite one of these two big neighbors. It directly poses security dilemma evoking vicious misperceptions.
However, it does not mean that Nepal can ignore India and its necessary cooperation for the negotiation processes. It is also one of the top most important factors that India’s positive attitude and cooperation for the successful negotiations is always required. Therefore, Nepal should seek Indian cooperation and also give due consideration on both of its neighbors legitimate concerns while handling the negotiation processes.
Switzerland and Norway: Countries like Switzerland and Norway who are regarded as neutral and experienced in mediation are also reported that they are willing to play roles. However, both of these countries have not expressed their interest publicly. But it is reported that both of these countries have expressed their interests in the internal meetings. Norway, as being an experienced country in this field is also neutral country. It had concluded a successful mediation known as ‘Oslo Agreement’ between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the then Israeli government in 1993. It has also been involved in Sri Lanka to mediate between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Elam (LTTE). As also being one of the donor countries of Nepal, Norway does have its leverages where it can play comparatively effective role in the mediation process. Another positive point for Norway is it is a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and does have good relations with the US. So, its influences as well as its reputations will be helpful in the negotiation process.
Switzerland has its long and consistent supports to Nepal since 1940s. Its neutral foreign policy and hosting various international organizations add to Switzerland’s role in the mediation. As host country of the humanitarian organization like International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) which has also been intensively involving in Nepal’s conflicts, and its regular development assistance, Switzerland does owe leverages in Nepal and can be well acceptable Nepalese society.
INGOs: The reputed and experienced international non-governmental organizations could also play effective roles in the mediating role in Nepal. The INGOs could play important role in creating enabling environment and pre-negotiation (Khanna and Kueck: 2003). INGOs like ICRC, Amnesty International, Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, Carter Center etc. have wealth of knowledge and experiences in mediating and negotiating international and domestic conflict (Clements and Ward: 1994). The ICRC and the Amnesty International, both the groups are involved heavily in the conflict, their roles could also be effective in the mediation. As ICRC has already done the mediation in releasing the abducted security personnel in the past and Amnesty has also been involving on human rights monitoring and supervisory roles, their function on mediation would also be effective.
United Nations: UN involvement is the mostly sought external involvement in the negotiation process. The reason behind the UN involvement is that because it is an international organization whose basic objectives are to build peace and keep peace in all the countries of the world. Any member state of the UN which is marred by the conflict and involved in abuses of human rights and faces serious humanitarian crisis, according to its adopted Charter provisions, it has to take initiations to end those conflicts and the abuses of the human rights of that member state. As the UN General Secretary Kofi Annan said, “The World cannot stand aside when gross and systematic violation of human rights are taking place with grave humanitarian consequences”. Since its establishment in 1945 specially after the end of Cold War, it has been playing roles in meeting those objectives. It is the world’s most influential international body which does have expertise in the area of peace making and peace keeping. Another reason of seeking UN involvement is its neutral, unbiased and impartial records of its past activities in such involvement. Thirdly, as Nepal lies in a very sensitive geo-strategic location any external involvement in the negotiation process should be acceptable to our both neighbors. And as a world body and both of our neighbors are the member of the UN and one of it even a member of its most powerful body of Security Council also and another neighbor is seeking a membership, the UN is the most legitimate and appropriate body. Therefore, UN’s involvement would be acceptable to both of our neighbors.
Another reason is that as UN has been providing assistance in the area of infrastructures building, economic development, good governance, human rights, health, education etc. in Nepal and it has good influences in Nepal. Similarly, the UN owes high regards in Nepal. All these leverages offer UN as the best option for the involvement in the negotiation process. Another important reason of the UN involvement is that as one of the warring faction, Maoist has been demanding its mediating role, other major parties in the previous parliament; CPN (UML), NC (D), NC and other small parties are also favoring its involvement. As the UN cannot mediate without the consent of both conflicting parties (Upreti: 2004), the growing consensus for the possible UN involvement in the process is also helpful in obtaining consent from the both warring factions. Therefore, since the failure of domestically initiated dialogue process and the general realization of the need of international mediation, the best choice for the external involvement would be the UN.
With steadily declining the roles of geographical factors in the foreign policy as well as in the international relations, the issue of geopolitics is undergoing tremendous change. Burgeoning of international organizations and regional forums has changed the traditional forms of interstates relations based on Westphalia mode. Similarly, with the growing global connections among the states and the people have also posed new challenges to them. Such a challenge is not only in dealing with the multi-tracks relationships between the governments and peoples of different countries but also facing issues like security threats, outbreak of diseases, financial crisis, trade disputes, political and economic hegemony, cultural and religious domination etc. and require all the nations work together to deal the issues.
In this very global situation, the crisis that Nepal has been facing today has also implications in our country’s geopolitics, geo-economy and geo-strategic situation. The increasing violence and deteriorating human rights situation has already tarnished our country’s image in the international level and drawn international community’s attention. Similarly, the increasing coordinated activities among the various Maoists groups in the region would also have affect in regional geopolitical situation. Its spill over impact to some of our neighboring countries which has already started to emerge, would certainly force the countries of this region to devise joint strategies for containing the insurgency. During Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit, India said ‘Nepali Maoists insurgency is a common threat to our both nation’s security and will be dealt jointly’ (see statement made by Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan during a Press briefing program in New Delhi). Both Nepal and India have agreed to strengthen their security coordination as well as beef up the border monitoring activities. Though up to now, there is no possibility of direct involvement of the neighboring countries as well as other international powers in dealing the insurgency, but if we, domestic stakeholders are unable to deal the crisis, the possibility of the direct involvement of the international forces including our immediate neighbors cannot be denied. And if the foreign forces are directly involve in dealing the crisis, this would have severe implications not only in our national sovereignty and survivability of a nation state, but it would also have implications in the geopolitical situation of this region as well as in the international level too.
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#(Acknowledgement: The author wishes to acknowledge the comments and suggestions made by Nilamber Acharya, former minister and notable intellectual, Dev Raj Dahal, senior political scientist, Prof. Lok Raj Baral, senior political scientist and former diplomat and Colin Spurway, visiting analyst from the UK on its first draft of this paper)
Note : This research paper had been originally published by Friends for Peace in Jan 2005.
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