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Afraid of Nepal? Don?t be

It should now be clear that the democracy filly is the one to back and that the past, especially in foreign policy, is another country.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2006 02:16 IST

As the comprehensive peace agreement between Nepal’s Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is signed today, there will be people who will closely follow how Nepal’s ‘democratic experiment’ shapes up. Two major consequences of the agreement will determine the road ahead. One, the assimilation of the Maoists into the multi-party political mainstream; two, the process by which the monarchy will be sidelined and its after-effects. On the first issue, despite cynicism in certain sections about ‘Maoist intent’ — especially with regard to the efficacy of disarming the cadres under the ‘watchful eye’ of the United Nations — one should be hopeful. CPN(M) Chairman Prachanda’s statement that the party will proactively cooperate in conducting a free and fair election to the Constituent Assembly under an interim government can be taken as a genuine ‘letter of intent’.

Prachanda’s observation that “there is no link between Pashupati and Tirupati” adds weight to the argument that, barring nomenclature and tactics, Maoists on Indian soil are a different kettle of fish — and have a completely separate agenda — than Maoists in Nepal. At a more pragmatic level, the CPN(M)’s phase of ‘armed revolution’ has ended with the objective of sidelining a despotic monarchy having been achieved. The logical next step for the CPN(M) would be to enter and participate in a real democracy. Kathmandu and beyond needs governance and development. Anyone wishing for a stable Nepal — and India should certainly encourage such an entity — needs to be less paranoid and more optimistic of the Maoist-SPA alliance.

The second problem worrying some naysayers is the issue of the monarchy. This is, in a way, a red herring that is dressed up as concern over a popular demand for a king. The monarchy, so goes this thesis, provides the necessary glue for a Nepal that has disparate political forces making the country toss and turn like a ship caught in a violent storm. But this theory is played out to demolish the very reason why a peace agreement is being signed: to provide the glue of democracy. As theatres of turmoil in other parts of the world prove, democracy does not slip in and settle down where a vacuum exists. Democracy has to be nurtured. New Delhi has vacillated in the past about which horse in Nepal to put its money on. It should now be clear that the democracy filly is the one to back and that the past, especially in foreign policy, is another country.