India’s Role in Nepal’s Maoist Insurgency
Nepal is in the centre of questionably the most victorious Maoist revolution the world has witnessed in recent decades. In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) started the alleged People’s War. This was a group of small armed movements in Rukum, Rolpa, Gorkha, and Sindhuli, remotes areas, before spreading throughout the entire country.
Over nine thousand people have died in this People’s War, shaking the government right down to its very foundations. In 2001, the army was called in to deal with the Maoist insurgency after the police were unable to. In 2003, a second ceasefire was called but after seven months, it collapsed. A resolution of the situation does not appear imminent.
Because of the Maoist insurgency, there have been debates among the world as to how and why it started. “Popular wisdom holds that the insurgency is a direct result of the increasing despondency felt by the poor and the socially marginalized in the country”. While there is some truth to this, we also have to look at the insurgency’s transboundary links with India.
Nepal is surrounded on three sides by India and is heavily dependent on her for trade, commerce and sea links. This allows India to play a big part in Nepalese politics to benefit herself. For example, India played a major role in the removal in 1951 of Nepal’s 104-year-old Rana dynasty, the continuation for 30 years of a partyless monarchical rule, and the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990.
Nepal looked to India for matters of all politics in her early days as a democratic country before 1955 when the Nepali government established diplomatic ties with China and several other countries and tried to cut the strings with India.
“B. P. Koirala, who headed the government after his party, the Nepali Congress, emerged victorious in the country’s first general election in 1959, tried to follow King Mahendra’s policy of “equal friendship” with all countries, especially India and China. However, his strong relationship with Nepal’s southern neighbour was apparent on several occasions. When after little over a year, on December 15, 1960, King Mahendra took over the reins of power by dismissing and arresting the Koirala ministry, one of the charges directed against Koirala was that his government had encouraged anti-national elements to a large degree, clearly hinting at India and its supporters”.
Within six months, India had promised four aid agreements with Nepal and in 1962, New Delhi ordered all anti-royal Nepali exiles in India to cease their activities. This led to the Nepalese king reigning supreme for another 30 years. “The regime only collapsed in 1990 as a direct result of its decision to ignore the wishes of New Delhi in what was, superficially, a trade and transit dispute”.
However, tensions arose when in 1990, India “forwarded a draft treaty proposal to Nepal that 1. forbade Nepal to enter into any military alliance with any other state or organization without prior consultation and agreement with India; 2. Obliged Nepal to consult in advance with India when importing arms, training armed personnel, and raising additional military units; 3. Gave India or its nationals first preference in Nepal’s development and industrial projects whenever Nepal sought foreign assistance for such purpose; and, 4. Ensured India’s preferential involvement in exploiting water resources originating from shared rivers”.
On February 4, 1996, the Maoists submitted the 40-point demands to the Nepali government, and the top three demands directly related to India. These included the “all unequal stipulations and agreements” from the 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, as well as forbidding vehicles with Indian number plates to cross over the border. However, today anti-India talk is not apparent in the Maoist official documents.
India’s role in the Moaist insurgency is an obvious one, but uncovering it takes a lot of diplomatic tact. However, until Nepal finds a way to cut the strings to India for once and for all, she will always play a dramatic part in how the country is run.
Mishra, Rabindra (2004) India’s Role in Nepal’s Maoist Insurgency, Asian Survey, University of California Press.