Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Prachanda: Tearing Up Foreign Domination of Nepal

Posted by Mike E on May 30, 2008

India, the powerful country below Nepal’s southern border, has long imposed unequal relations on Nepal — taking over from the British colonialists. A key point of contention has been the 1950 Indo-Nepal treaty which denies Nepal true independence in a number of way (by opening its border, by imposing military constraints on Nepal’s right to military sovereignty, and by asserting a specially citizenship status for Nepalese people within India). One of the demands of the Maoist New Democratic revolution in India has been the overthrow of this unequal treaty. In addition there is a long practice of recruiting Nepali youth from the Ghorka region to serve as soldiers in the British, and now Indian armies. And there is a powerful economic and cultural domination of Nepal (through film, music, trade and so on).

In the following excerpts from a larger May 18 interview, Nepal’s Maoist leader Prachanda discusses this struggle for full Nepali national independence — which forms such a key part of liberating the people from both imperialism and feudalism. He describes a “transitional period” where there will be study and debate of how to proceed — preparing for carrying through the just demands of the Nepali people for full independence (and on that basis a “new relationship” with neighboring countries.)

Karan Thapar: What sort of relations will you be looking at with India?

Prachanda: A new relation on a new basis. The new base has been laid down with the understanding from Delhi. A new unity with Delhi is already in process.

Karan Thapar: When you say a new relationship, do you mean a better relationship?

Prachanda: Exactly, a new relation means better relations, understanding and cooperation.

Karan Thapar: And closer to New Delhi?

Prachanda: Exactly. Yes, we want to come closer to New Delhi on the basis of new relations.

Karan Thapar: How does this equate to what you keep saying that you want equidistance from Delhi and from Beijing? To people in India this sounds as if you are demoting the relationship with India to the level of relationship with China.

Prachanda: But I always said that there is a special relationship with India, geographical and cultural, and therefore we should have a special relationship with New Delhi. No one can ignore this historical, geographical and cultural fact. What I am saying is that we will not side up with one country against the other. We will maintain equidistance in political sense and not in terms of cooperation and other things.

Karan Thapar: The culture, history, and geographical relationship that Nepal has with India, will remain intact?

Prachanda: Yes, it will remain. It is a historical fact and we will have to strengthen this relationship.

Karan Thapar: Let me discuss some problems that may arise. You said that you want to abrogate the 1950 Indo-Nepal treaty and you want to renegotiate it. What are the aspects of the treaty that you don’t like?

Prachanda: Our people have put forward this concern that they feel that the treaty lacks inequality and that it is not beneficial for Nepal. We thus want to review all the points of the 1950 treaty. And we want to revise it according to new necessity.

Karan Thapar: The 1950 treaty guarantees the open border with Nepal and it also says that people of Nepal have national citizen status in India. Do you want to revise it and rework that?

Prachanda: Not exactly right now. There are other provisions that we want to discuss in detail.

Karan Thapar: So you want to retain the open border and you want to retain national citizen status of people, but there are other provisions?

Prachanda: There are others which I don’t want to discuss right now in detail.

Karan Thapar: Is one of them the defence purchase provision which requires Nepal to consult Delhi and only then acquire arms. Is that one?

Prachanda: That also should be reviewed and should be made according to the necessity of the 21st century.

Karan Thapar: Let me tell you what your colleague, Babu Ram Bhattarai told Nepal Telegraph on May 10. He said it was only because of the open border that Nepal could not achieve economic prosperity. Do you agree with him?

Prachanda: In the transitional phase, right now with the processes going on, it is not correct.

Karan Thapar: So this view is not correct?

Prachanda: Right now it is not correct.

Karan Thapar: He expressed this roughly just a week ago.

Prachanda: I will have to discuss with him. I do not know in what context he said it.

Karan Thapar: One of the problems in renegotiating the treaty is that India may use the opportunity to look for better terms. Does that work for you? You want better terms for Nepal. India may want better terms for itself.

Prachanda: It is beneficial for both sides to review the treaty and upgrade it according to the new necessity. When Rana resigned, a lot of changes have come in Nepal and there has been a lot of change in India. Thus the 1950 treaty should be upgraded according to the new necessity.

Karan Thapar: You also said that you want to review all the other treaties to see what revisions or further enhancements can be made. Is that a decision to revoke the other treaties and renegotiate them or simply the desire to review them?

Prachanda: Yes, I want to have a general review on all the treaties. But specifically I want to review the 1950 treaty.

Karan Thapar: The 1950 treaty, you want to change, but others you want to just review generally?

Prachanda: Yes, we want changes in the 1950 treaty, others may be okay, or may be revised, but we want to generally review them.

Karan Thapar: People in India after they hear you, will say that Mr Prachanda on one hand wants a new and a better, closer and a stronger relationship, on the other hand, he wants to revoke the 1950 treaty, review all other treaties and he wants equidistance from China and India. Aren’t these two things contradictory?

Prachanda: It is not contradictory. According to me it will help in better relations, will strengthen relations, and have close cooperation with each other. By review, we mean, both sides will be there, and we will review the historical treaty to upgrade it and revise it according to the new necessity.

Karan Thapar: You also say that India can also look for new advantages and gain?

Prachanda: Yes exactly.

Karan Thapar: However, the problem is that when both countries start reviewing things, and when you start revoking treaties and you start changing relations that have been there for 50 years, you can end up creating problems and damaging Indo-Nepal relations. Does that not worry you?

Prachanda: No, that will not happen. When your intention is to strengthen relations for betterment, how can it then sabotage relations or even destroy them.

Previously, India vouched for a two-pillar theory and that monarchy should be there in Nepal. However, now that there will be no monarchy and many political changes will take place, then there has to be a change.

Karan Thapar: So you want to re-negotiate the relationship.

Prachanda: Yes.

Karan Thapar: So you are saying to the Indian people and government that I don’t want to renegotiate the relationship to destroy it.

Prachanda: Yes, and we want to strengthen relations by re-negotiating.

Karan Thapar: And you are saying that India should be looking to renegotiate also to look at advantages for itself.

Prachanda: Yes.

Karan Thapar: You are happy with that?

Karan Thapar: The fact that nearly 30,000 Nepali Gorkha soldiers are employed by the Indian Army. The Army has seven Gorkha regiments comprising 43 battalions. This is seen in India as an unbreakable link that binds Nepal with India. You want to stop this, why?

Prachanda: Yes, we want to discuss this issue. We don’t want to stop it right now. We want to review the whole history of the development and the implication on both countries. What kind of relation is created through this institution is what we want to review. We want to review and discuss it.

Karan Thapar: You said a very important thing. At this stage you don’t want to stop the Gorkha recruitment by the Indian Army. You want to review it and discuss it. At the moment you are not seeking to stop recruitment?

Prachanda: Yes.

Karan Thapar: Why do you want to review it? What is there to discuss?

Prachanda: I think this will be debated in our constituent Assembly. It is an important topic. Now we are about to draft a new constitution and that will guide us for Nepal’s vital interest.

Karan Thapar: In your eyes, do you see Nepali Gorkhas who get employed by Indian Army or the British army as mercenaries. Is that why you don’t like it because it is mercenary behaviour?

Prachanda: These are historical questions. We will have to review it in that perspective.

Karan Thapar: Today, tens of thousands of jobs are guaranteed by Indian Army and another 5,000 by the British army and other than that there are almost lakh of people who get pensions. You want to eradicate poverty and unemployment. Then why touch this. This is a source of employment. Why affect it?

Prachanda: Here in Nepal there was feudal autocracy as a political system. Now that we are changing that into a democratic system, and we are looking at rapid economic development so that our youth don’t have to look for employment in other countries. We want to change the political and economic scenario.

Karan Thapar: There is no danger that within a month or two you would stop recruitment?

Prachanda: No. It is also because we are right now in a transitional phase.

Karan Thapar: So what ever happens will happen gradually and slowly after debate and discussion.

Prachanda: Yes.

Karan Thapar: In 1996, when you drew your 40-point programme, you called for a ban on Hindi films. Is that also a part of your agenda still?

Prachanda: Right now the situation has changed as we participated in elections and we will lead the peace process and we will draft a new constitution. We are not going to put this question forward in that way.

Karan Thapar: So right now, there is no likelihood of ban on Hindi films?

Prachanda: Yes, you are right. Right now it is not possible because we have so many other compromises and consensus with so many political parties. We have to go forward in a particular way.

Karan Thapar: So you have no problem if Shah Rukh Khan’s film or Amitabh Bachchan’s films come to Nepal?

Prachanda: They are coming to Nepal and we have no ban right now.

Karan Thapar: And you have no problem with Manisha Koirala acting in Hindi films?

Prachanda: No, not at all.

Karan Thapar: Will you be looking to India for support and help in removing you from the terror list that the US maintains.

Prachanda: After the elections, I had a direct contact with USA, and I had a serious discussion with the Ambassador of US and I think that India has already helped us with the elections and constituent assembly. So, this way they have already helped us.

Karan Thapar: Can they help further. Can India speak to US President George Bush and ask him to stop treating the Maoists in Nepal as terrorists?

Prachanda: We may expect this, but we can’t request India to do so.

Karan Thapar: Why can’t you request them?

Prachanda: I think we have direct access with the US.

Karan Thapar: But you would like India to do it?

Prachanda: We expect it and hope that India can create conducive atmosphere.

Karan Thapar: So you expect it and hope India listens to this interview and takes a hint.

Prachanda: Yes, exactly.

Karan Thapar: What will you think will be the impact on Indian Maoists by your coming to power in Nepal?

Prachanda: I think a strong message has already gone. After the elections, there was a wave in favour of our policy. After the elections, a Maoist has sent a letter to me congratulating me for this historical victory in elections. I think there will be a serious discussion and debate within the Maoist circles in India and we have already given a message to not only Maoists in India, but to all over the world.

Karan Thapar: Looking at your own experience in Nepal during the last two years and six months in particular, would you advice the Indian Maoists to give up the peoples war, to join mainstream, to use the ballot rather than the bullet as a way of acquiring power?

Prachanda: I think that I cannot directly address them, but our behaviour and our policy and our practices give out the message of the power of ballot.

Karan Thapar: One of the top Maoist leaders in India, Azad in an interview to The Hindu has said that the Nepali Maoists are unlikely to succeed and that the Nepali Maoists will soon realise that they have made a mistake.

Prachanda: Right now, the same person Azad has sent a letter congratulating me and that he thinks it is a very serious victory for the Maoists. I think it is before and after the elections, that he has evaluated it in a different way.

Karan Thapar: Many people think, Comrade Azad, as you call him, is saying two things. He says one thing to you in the letter and praises you and on the other hand, says another thing to the press and sounds sceptical and cynical. Is he double-faced?

Prachanda: Is there a written statement somewhere?

Karan Thapar: Yes, it is in The Hindu on Friday. [This site has posted the interview.]

Prachanda: I see. I have not gone through that interview and statement.

Karan Thapar: So right now you are not aware that Mr Azad speaks with two voices. He says something to you and something else to the others. Does that worry you or disillusion you?

Prachanda: No, I have to go through that statement in detail. I cannot blame anything on anyone.

Karan Thapar: At the moment you will reserve your judgement.

Prachanda: Yes.

Karan Thapar: The party in India that is most worried about the Maoist victory is the BJP, which says that you will be anti-Hindu in your behaviour and actions. How can you reassure them that this is not going to be the case?

Prachanda: This is an illusion. We are not anti-Hindu or anti-Buddhist or anything like that. We are committed to a secular political system and state. We are also continuously upholding the religious freedom and we understand the phenomenon of Hinduism in Nepal.

Karan Thapar: If the BJP is to win the elections in 2009, is there a possibility that the relations between India and Nepal can suffer?

Prachanda: I do not think so. Even BJP is a very serious party of India. They will understand the dynamism and change in Nepal and will come forward according to the changed situation.

One Response to “Prachanda: Tearing Up Foreign Domination of Nepal”

  1. TellNoLies said

    US changes terror policy in dealing with Nepal’s Maoists

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