Saturday, May 24, 2008

A New Threat To New Delhi, By By Jeremy Kahn | NEWSWEEK

The Jaipur attacks may have had a surprising source: Bangladesh.

The streets of Jaipur, India's fabled "pink city," ran red with blood in mid-May after seven bombs planted on bikes exploded in a crowded market, killing 61 people and injuring close to 100. It was the latest in a string of attacks to rock India's heartland in recent years. Most have been linked to Islamic militants allegedly supported by Pakistan.

This time, an unknown group called the Indian Mujahedin claimed responsibility for the blasts. E-mails sent to TV networks and a Hindu political party included videos showing one of the bicycles used in the bombings, its serial number clearly visible. But many security experts think the group is actually a front, a ruse meant to put an indigenous face on a foreign-based organization.

Among the chief suspects is Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, or HuJI for short. HuJI has been blamed for bombings before, including blasts in Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad last year that killed scores. It's also thought to be tied to a 2002 attack on the American Center in Kolkata. If authorities are right about the group, they have a dangerous new trend on their hands. For HuJI is not based in Pakistan—India's rival and the source of most Islamist terror in the past—but in Bangladesh: India's other large Muslim neighbor. "Bangladesh is becoming a haven for transnational Islamists," says Brahma Chellaney of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "It is in danger of becoming another Pakistan."

The threat isn't entirely new; for years, separatists fighting India have used bases in Bangladesh's lawless and impoverished hinterland, slipping across the porous 4,000-km border at will. What is new, however, is that these secular insurgents are now being joined by Islamic militants, a trend that's accelerated since 2004, when Pakistan began reining in terrorists on its own soil under an agreement with India and under pressure from Washington. Deprived of their old bases, some of these groups—which allegedly still get aid from elements in Pakistan's intelligence services—have now decamped to Bangladesh, where they've found a wellspring of recruits among the country's increasingly disaffected population.

Some of these groups, including HuJI, have also allegedly received protection from mainstream Bangladeshi political parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which governed the country from 2001 to 2006. Col. Gurinder Singh of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi says that Bangladeshi politicians have found it increasingly useful to fan anti-India sentiments and to blame New Delhi for Bangladesh's economic and political chaos. Such rhetoric has lent legitimacy to anti-India terrorist groups. Singh notes that this stands in sharp contrast with Pakistan, where mainstream politicians have recently emphasized their desire for peace with India.

HuJI started out in the 1980s as one of many Pakistan-based militias fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. It then began targeting Indian forces in Kashmir. In 1992, it set up a branch in Bangladesh (known as HuJI-B), allegedly, according to Indian security experts, with financial support from Osama bin Laden, and began calling for the creation of an Islamic state there. In addition to attacks against India, HuJi-B has been linked to dozens of bombings and assassinations in Bangladesh, targeting moderate leaders, intellectuals and journalists. HuJI-B reportedly maintains a half-dozen camps in the hills outside Chittagong and farther south.
In March, the U.S. State Department made HuJI-B a "specially designated global terrorist organization," noting that the group had signed bin Laden's 1998 fatwa declaring U.S. citizens legitimate targets. But the real threat posed is to New Delhi. India is home to millions of Bangladeshis, many of them illegal migrants, whose urban communities may provide comfortable hiding places for extremists. The Indian government has lately been trying to improve ties with the Army-backed caretaker government in Dhaka, and these efforts have started paying off, says Indian security expert Wasbir Hussain. "For the first time, the [Bangladeshi] authorities have said they will seriously consider India's claim that there are up to 200 terrorist camps in Bangladesh," he says. "Before, they denied this outright."

But many doubt whether Bangladesh's fragile government can take on the militants. "The state is getting weaker," says Suba Chandran of India's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. "Even if the government is sincere in trying to stop Islamic militancy from spreading, I am not sure they are able to do it." If New Delhi applies too much political pressure—or attempts military action against the terrorist bases—it could further destabilize Bangladesh. Given the instability in Pakistan, the last thing India wants is two failed states on its borders. At least Bangladesh doesn't have nuclear weapons.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

UN Report on Progress of Nepal Peace Process

Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations assistance in support of its peace process

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1796 (2008), by which the Council, following the request of the Government of Nepal and on the basis of the recommendation of the Secretary-General, renewed the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), as set out in resolution 1740 (2007), until 23 July 2008. UNMIN was established as a special political mission with a mandate to monitor the management of arms and armed personnel of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)) and the Nepal Army, assist in monitoring ceasefire arrangements, provide technical support for the conduct of the election of a Constituent Assembly in a free and fair atmosphere and provide a small team of electoral monitors.

2. This report reviews progress in the peace process and the implementation of the mandate of UNMIN since my report to the Council of 3 January 2008 (S/2008/5).

II. Progress of the peace process

3. The twice-postponed election for a Constituent Assembly in Nepal, the centrepiece of the political transition charted in the twelve-point understanding of 22 November 2005 between the then Seven-Party Alliance and CPN(M) and in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 21 November 2006, was held on 10 April 2008 in a generally orderly and peaceful atmosphere. I congratulated the Nepalese on the election and commended their enthusiastic participation in this landmark event. Over 63 per cent of Nepal’s 17.6 million eligible voters participated in the polls, with a high turnout of women and young people. The Election Commission repeated the polling at 106 out of the total of 20,886 polling centres.

4. The election was the most observed in Nepal’s history: more than 60,000 national and nearly 800 international observers were deployed across the country. In public statements, major international observer groups, including the European Union, the Asian Network for Free Elections, the Carter Center and others, and major national observer groups concurred that the election was conducted in a relatively peaceful manner and that the administration of the polls had been well executed. The successful holding of the election and broad acceptance of the result is a significant achievement for the peace process and a tribute to the courage and will of the Nepalese people. It also demonstrates the commitment of its political leaders and the professionalism and integrity of the Election Commission.

5. The election had been made possible following the 23-point agreement signed by the parties on 23 December 2007, summarized in my previous report to the Council. The agreement committed the parties to amending the interim Constitution to state that Nepal shall be a federal democratic republic, and that the republic shall be implemented at the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, until which time the Prime Minister shall conduct all the duties of the Head of State. The mixed electoral system for the Constituent Assembly was to be amended, so as to retain 240 seats elected on a first-past-the-post constituency basis while increasing the number of seats elected on the basis of proportional representation from 240 to 335, and those to be nominated by the Council of Ministers from 17 to 26. The Constituent Assembly will thus have 601 members. On 4 January 2008 the interim Legislature-Parliament adopted the amendments in the electoral legislation. The 23-point agreement became the basis for the return of CPN(M) to the interim Government, allowed for cooperation within the Seven-Party Alliance, and made possible the commitment of the Alliance to holding the election on 10 April 2008.

6. The road to the Constituent Assembly election of 10 April was not an easy one. As explained in my previous reports, the political situation in Nepal had become increasingly complicated, many of the structural causes of conflict manifesting themselves as urgent demands by various communities and groups in the intense political climate that had emerged since the People’s Movement of April 2006. Chief among them were the demands of traditionally marginalized groups for adequate representation in determining the future constitution and the structures of the State at all levels. In particular, their desire for a federal system of government and control over their public affairs has been central to the political debate since early 2007.

7. The electoral formula contained in the 23-point agreement was decided by the Seven-Party Alliance without consultation with the Madhesi and Janajati groups, who felt that the agreement did not address their grievances. A number of Madhesi politicians split away from existing parties to form a new party, the Tarai-Madhesi Democratic Party. The party, together with the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and the recently formed Sadbhawana Party, established the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), an alliance that launched a protest movement in support of a set of demands as a basis for their participation in the election of 10 April. The Government entered into negotiations with these groups in the latter half of February as Madhesi demonstrations and blockades intensified, resulting in nine fatalities and disruption of essential supplies. On 28 February, the Government and UDMF reached an eight-point agreement paving the way for the participation of the Madhesi parties in the April election. A similar agreement was signed on 1 March with the Federal Republican National Front, reflecting Janajati demands. The agreement with UDMF was generally welcomed by Madhesis across the Tarai, but most armed groups that had been operating in the Tarai rejected it and continued protests, including acts of violence, although with limited effect.

8. With these two agreements in place, the attention of the registered political parties turned to election campaigning that intensified through March and early April. Although campaigning was peaceful in many constituencies, credible and persistent reports of obstruction of the activities of other political parties by Maoist cadres, including the Young Communist League (YCL), were received throughout the period, particularly from hill districts. UNMIN expressed its concern to CPN(M) and urged respect for the code of conduct previously agreed upon by all parties contesting the polls, but intimidation and clashes continued in the hills with varying degrees of intensity. There was also election-related violence in Tarai constituencies, and significant breaches of the code of conduct by other political parties.

9. While Maoist cadres and youth were most widely involved in election-related violence, they suffered the largest number of fatalities in the weeks preceding the election. On 8 April, seven apparently unarmed Maoist cadres were killed and 12 others injured in Dang district, when they were fired upon by police accompanying a Nepali Congress candidate. This was the most serious incident in the run-up to the election, but the Maoist leadership showed restraint by vowing to press ahead with the ballot. Other serious incidents had included the killings of two candidates on separate occasions, and the bombing of a mosque in Biratnagar causing two deaths. There were four deaths, including that of a candidate, on polling day.

10. On election day, personnel of the Maoist army and the Nepal Army who were registered to vote in the proportional representation segment of the election cast their ballots in an orderly fashion at polling centres outside their cantonments and barracks. During the campaign there had been reports that some Maoist army combatants had left the cantonments to participate in activities related to the election. UNMIN conducted head counts at the cantonments and stressed to the leadership of CPN(M) and commanders of the Maoist army the importance of compliance with orders to remain in cantonments.

11. Despite reservations, the major parties have accepted the results. The counting of both the first-past-the-post and the proportional representation segments of the election was completed on 23 April, and the final allocation of seats won by each party was announced by the Election Commission on 25 April. CPN(M) has emerged as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, winning 120 — exactly half — of the seats in the first-past-the-post race and 100 in the proportional representation portion, followed by the Nepali Congress with 37 first-past-the-post and 73 proportional representation seats, and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (UML) with 33 first-past-the-post and 70 proportional representation seats. MPRF obtained 30 first-past-the-post and 22 proportional representation seats, while the other two UDMF parties between them won 13 first-past-the-post and 16 proportional representation seats.

12. Final official results were announced on 8 May after the political parties had nominated members from their proportional representation lists and the Election Commission had confirmed that their nominations conformed to the quota requirements of the electoral legislation. Twenty-six members remain to be nominated by the Council of Ministers. The 601-member Constituent Assembly will comprise people representing all of the major social groups in the country, with a greatly increased proportion of women and relatively younger members. Thirty women were elected in first-past-the-post races, all but six of them candidates of CPN(M). With the application of the 50 per cent quota in relation to proportional representation seats, women comprise 33 per cent of the elected members. This is a much higher percentage than the global average of 17.8 per cent of women representatives in elected bodies. Candidates representing a wide diversity of communities were elected from constituencies across the country in the first-past-the-post portion of the election. The constituency results, together with the requirements of the quotas for the proportional representation seats, ensured that the representation of historically marginalized groups — Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits and religious minorities — is greater than in any elected body in Nepal’s history. Although the most disadvantaged groups, Dalits, will remain proportionately underrepresented, the considerable overrepresentation of historically dominant groups has decreased.

13. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, which would double as the country’s legislature until new elections are held under a future constitution, is required by the interim Constitution to be convened within 21 days after the final results were made public by the Election Commission, which occurred on 8 May.

14. Although the Constituent Assembly election has been conducted, significant challenges remain. First and foremost is the formation of a new government. The interim Constitution provides that the Prime Minister shall be selected and portfolios allocated by political consensus among the seven political parties in alliance in November 2006, or that if consensus cannot be reached the Prime Minister shall be elected by a two-thirds majority. No formal agreement was made among the major parties before the election as to how its results would be reflected in the formation of a new government, but it was understood that the Nepali Congress, UML and CPN(M) would remain in coalition, and that political consensus should extend to other parties on the basis of their electoral performance. CPN(M) has made clear that, as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, it expects to take the leading role in a new government, which it wishes to be a coalition including the Nepali Congress, UML and MPRF. These parties meanwhile have commenced internal discussions regarding their willingness to join with CPN(M) in a new government, and if so on what conditions.

15. A second challenge is the building of sufficient agreement on how to fulfil the commitment in the interim Constitution that the republic shall be implemented at the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, and interim arrangements made for the functions of Head of State during the drafting of the new Constitution.

16. A third challenge remains the completion of the peace process. Although the 23-point agreement provided the basis for going forward to the election, many of its commitments and those of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement remain unfulfilled. No progress was made during the election campaign regarding the discharge from the cantonments of minors and others found ineligible by UNMIN verification. As I have emphasized in previous reports, the agreed mechanisms for dealing with the future of the Maoist army and for the democratization of the Nepal Army need to develop the necessary plans, and the Maoist leadership also faces the task of ending the quasi-security role of YCL and taking responsibility for strengthening the rule of law with full respect for human rights.

III. Status of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

17. As at 24 April 2008, a total of 968 of the authorized 1,048 personnel had been recruited to the Mission. Of 795 civilian personnel on board, 233 or 29.30 per cent are female. Among substantive staff, 32 per cent are female, while among administrative staff, 16 per cent are female. There are 13 female arms monitors, a number subject to the nomination of candidates by Member States. Female national staff account for 27.79 per cent of the total number of staff. The efforts of UNMIN to recruit national staff from traditionally marginalized communities have yielded positive results: 46 per cent of staff (169 out of 367) are from traditionally marginalized groups.

18. I regret to report that the status-of-mission agreement has not yet been signed with the Government of Nepal. Only minor issues remain to be settled by the country’s civil aviation authority, which I hope will be resolved in the near future.

IV. Activities of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

A. Arms monitoring

19. UNMIN has continued to monitor the commitments, under the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies, of the Maoist army and the Nepal Army, including round-the-clock surveillance at all eight weapon storage areas, in the seven Maoist army main cantonment sites and in the designated Nepal Army site in Kathmandu. Inspections included all 28 main and satellite cantonments of the Maoist army and the CPN(M) leadership security detachment in Kathmandu, and around 490 Nepal Army installations. For this purpose the Arms Monitoring Office continued to operate out of five sector commands, co-located with the UNMIN regional offices. Close coordination, under the responsibility of the Heads of regional offices, has proved to be key to several joint operations carried out by arms monitors, UNMIN civil affairs officers, teams from the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights and other UNMIN personnel.

20. During the election campaign, on polling day and immediately after, UNMIN intensified its monitoring of both armies to ensure full compliance with the relevant agreements, requiring their confinement to barracks and cantonments respectively. This operation included the observation of personnel of the two armies casting their votes. The presence on the ground of 42 arms monitoring teams had a general stabilizing effect throughout the area of operations.

21. The Joint Monitoring Coordinating Committee, chaired by the UNMIN Chief Arms Monitor, with senior officers from both armies as Vice-Chairmen, remained an efficient mechanism for the implementation of the agreements and decision-making on operational matters, and an important tool in information-sharing, confidence-building and dispute resolution. Letters of understanding for the handling and demolition of explosive remnants of war have been signed and implemented. Since the beginning of the year, the Committee has held 14 meetings and several bilateral meetings regarding the implementation of its decisions. The Chief Arms Monitor and sector commanders have maintained the necessary close liaison with both armies not only at the general staff level but also at divisional level, and have developed effective relationships at all levels down to that of battalion.

22. The UNMIN arms monitoring teams have continued to conduct village and community visits and engage with the civilian population, cooperating with other United Nations agencies and liaising with international and non-governmental organizations, and assisting the parties in creating a favourable environment for the conduct of the ceasefire through information-sharing and defusing local tensions. This approach has allowed the active involvement in conflict management at the local level of the 10 joint monitoring teams, each comprising one United Nations monitor, one Nepal Army monitor and one Maoist army monitor, supported by the sector mobile teams.

B. Mine action

23. The Mine Action Unit continued the destruction of category one (unsafe to store) improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war at Maoist army cantonment sites, bringing the total number of items destroyed to 12,000, which is approximately 90 per cent of the reported Maoist army improvised explosive devices. A detailed plan for the destruction of the remaining devices was developed and agreed by the Maoist army representative in the Joint Monitoring Coordinating Committee. The last stage of destruction of the improvised explosive devices, which began on 21 April, is expected to be completed by 24 May.

24. The Mine Action Unit also undertook mine-clearance activities with the Nepal Army in fulfilment of their obligations under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which requires clearance of all minefields. As at 4 April, clearance of three minefields and surveys of 16 more minefields has been completed. The Nepal Army has so far approved the clearance of 20 of the 53 minefields, 12 of which are to be completed in 2008. The Unit held strategic planning workshops with the Nepal Army to review current operational and training plans to enhance its mine-clearance capacity. A second mine-clearance training course was given to 37 Nepal Army personnel in April, following which the Nepal Army’s demining capacity increased to four teams.

25. The presence of improvised explosive devices in the community continued to cause harm. From 1 January to 31 March, 22 casualties were reported, including children and young people. Although the number remains high, there has been a considerable decrease compared with each of the previous three years.

26. Early in March, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining conducted two workshops focused on various mine action and legal framework issues that were attended by Government officials from several Ministries, Nepal Army personnel and civil society representatives.

27. The report on the comprehensive assessment conducted late in November 2007 in response to the Government’s request for United Nations assistance in mine action was submitted to the Government for its review. If the Government endorses the report’s recommendations, the Mine Action Unit could coordinate with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support their implementation.

C. Electoral support

28. Following the Government’s decision on 11 January 2008 that the Constituent Assembly election would be held on 10 April, the UNMIN Electoral Assistance Office again increased its staff to meet the requirements of the Election Commission. In Kathmandu the Office comprised 10 advisers assisting the Election Commission at headquarters level to help ensure that electoral operations were on track and in line with best international practice. Ten regional election advisers were stationed in the five regions to assist both the region and district headquarters. Seventy international United Nations Volunteers were recruited as district election advisers and worked together with national United Nations Volunteers acting as language assistants.

29. The advice provided by UNMIN staff contributed to the technical readiness of the Election Commission. During this period, UNMIN assisted in the development of nomination and selection procedures for political parties to enable them to meet the required legal quotas. With regard to voter education, UNMIN continued to assist the Election Commission in redesigning the messages and the materials in the light of the changes to the Election Act. With regard to training, UNMIN worked with the Election Commission to introduce a participatory methodology for the retraining of returning officers and polling staff. Throughout, UNMIN continued to act as a liaison between the Election Commission and the donor community, advising donors on the urgency of the Election Commission’s priorities, and regularly updating them on all election-related issues. UNMIN also provided advice on the establishment of the Media Centre, which served as a platform for the Election Commission, a results centre and a meeting point for national and international journalists. In the area of election logistics, UNMIN assisted in the design of transportation and aviation plans for the delivery of ballots by air to the farthest locations in the country. UNDP assisted the Election Commission in the coordination of international and domestic observers through the Election Observation Resource Centre.

30. UNMIN assisted the Election Commission in creating its regional structure as a conduit between its headquarters and the 75 districts, to which the presence of UNMIN regional staff contributed. Regional election advisers were involved and advised in all areas of electoral assistance, including voter education, training, election operation, warehousing and election logistics. The deployment of district election advisers extended the assistance to all districts, and their presence increased the sense of confidence in district-level electoral staff. Electoral officers stationed in remote and/or troubled districts particularly appreciated the presence and assistance provided by the district election advisers.

31. The Electoral Expert Monitoring Team, which made its fourth visit to the country from 3 to 17 March, considered that electoral preparations were on time and the electoral campaign was proceeding in an orderly manner, despite localized and sometimes violent incidents. The Monitoring Team acknowledged the tight electoral calendar under which the Election Commission was working, as well as the flexibility it had shown to make the process more inclusive. The Team emphasized the important role that political parties had in ensuring that the electoral process, in all its phases, proceeded in a peaceful atmosphere. The Team made its fifth and final visit in April and has submitted its final report.

D. Civil affairs

32. From January to April, UNMIN intensified its monitoring of conflict situations in the regions of Nepal in the context of the ceasefire code of conduct and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, primarily through its Office of Civil Affairs and in close coordination with OHCHR. It paid special attention to political parties’ adherence to the election code of conduct in the run-up to the Constituent Assembly election.

33. UNMIN monitored the pre-electoral period, including campaign rallies held by the Seven-Party Alliance and by individual political parties, as well as protest rallies held by Madhesi organizations. The initial rallies, held in January, took place despite bandhs (general strikes), use of improvised explosive devices, and other attempts to thwart them. In the run-up to the election, the highest levels of violence were recorded in the central and eastern Tarai, and in key contested hill districts in the Far West, Central and Eastern regions. Twenty-seven deaths were recorded as a result of election-related violence, and UNMIN recorded around 80 explosions of improvised explosive devices, mainly in the Tarai, and nearly 30 abductions. Although all major political parties suffered casualties, CPN(M) and YCL lost the greatest number of party workers. They were, however, also cited as alleged perpetrators in a high proportion of incidents. Other serious allegations included misuse of State power and resources, notably by the Nepali Congress, and the partisanship of the police and security forces.

34. At least five different types of election-related conflict were observed during this period: (a) bandhs, roadblocks and the like that disrupted the normal life in an area, and were enforced by different groups to obstruct the conduct of the election; (b) specific acts of protest, often combined with bandhs, which forcibly prevented the Government administration from functioning; (c) assassinations and abductions of individuals connected with the election, including government officials, election observers, political party members, and key supporters; (d) threats and attacks against candidates to force them to withdraw their candidacy or stop campaigning; (e) inter-party rivalry leading to violence and/or human rights violations.

35. The UNMIN Office of Civil Affairs, often in conjunction with OHCHR, conducted fact-finding missions in response to killings and other major incidents. Throughout the electoral campaign period stakeholders requested the Mission’s presence on the ground to help with conflict situations. Concerns over issues of governance continued in the Tarai, such as lack of response from authorities and exclusion from the administrative machinery. The Office of Civil Affairs was able to assist on the basis of its established relations with civil society, political parties, and communities at district and village levels.

36. The Office of Civil Affairs cross-checked incident reports and trend analysis from over 30 districts for the three reports issued by UNMIN, in conjunction with OHCHR, in the immediate pre-election period. On election day, the Office deployed nearly 50 mobile teams in 35 of the 75 districts (where the focus was on the most vulnerable constituencies), coordinated with domestic and international observer organizations, and worked closely with OHCHR and other relevant United Nations agencies to provide the most extensive coverage possible.

37. While polling day was widely recognized to have been generally calm, four deaths were recorded, as well as some other incidents of violence. The immediate post-election environment, including repeated polls, was also largely peaceful, although violent acts by YCL or other Maoist cadres continued to be reported.

E. Gender, social inclusion and child protection

38. The Gender Affairs Section continued to engage with various national partners in activities related to the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) in the context of Nepal’s political transition and the Constituent Assembly election. It focused on promoting the political participation of women, including those from marginalized groups, and on gender equality as a guiding core principle. UNMIN supported parliamentary discussions concerning the inclusion of women in public life and the adoption of a resolution mandating a 33 per cent threshold for women’s participation in all State structures.

39. UNMIN supported the activities of the Peace Support Working Group on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), including a consultation organized by the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction in March, whose objectives included the development of a national plan of action. Among other things, the plan seeks to ensure women’s participation and protection in the post-conflict transition and the protection of women and girls against gender-based violence.

40. During February and March, UNMIN organized a series of meetings with women political leaders, Government officials, parliamentarians and civil society groups from the districts in all five regions, with a particular focus on the Tarai. The meetings highlighted the need for effective women’s political participation, as well as concerns over their security during participation in the election. The Gender Affairs Section ensured a coordinated approach to monitoring the participation of women in the election through its teams deployed in the regions and through its relation with other mission components.

41. The determination of Nepali women to participate in the election was demonstrated by their high turnout. Fears that election-related violence or lack of voter education could deter women from voting were not realized. In some instances, female voter turnout was much higher than that of male voters for reasons of migration.

42. The Social Affairs Section undertook field missions to 39 of the 75 districts, holding meetings with community members from historically marginalized groups and organizations representing various communities to encourage their active participation in the election. Focusing on the most marginalized communities in each region, the Social Affairs Officers discussed issues of concern to those communities, in particular their key demand for inclusion in the Constituent Assembly and in the ongoing peace process. In meetings with political parties, UNMIN encouraged the inclusion of candidates from marginalized communities in their selection of representatives to the Constituent Assembly. The Social Affairs Section regularly provided advice to the various mission components at headquarters and in the regions about historically marginalized groups and discrimination issues, and assisted in promoting diversity in the recruitment of national staff. It also continues to work in coordination with the Public Information and Outreach Section to promote inclusivity issues in UNMIN publications and radio broadcasts.

43. The Child Protection Section monitored the participation of minors in political activities, including their presence at rallies of political parties in every region. Children aged 12 and 14 were drawn into sometimes violent demonstrations by their inclusion in the security wings of political parties. In the Tarai, violence resulted in the death and injury of children. UNMIN held meetings with the youth wings of political parties to discuss young people’s participation in politics. On election day, however, many children were involved in visible political party activities, some violent, indicating that the election code of conduct’s restriction on parties’ use of children was systematically breached.

44. UNMIN and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) held joint meetings with the Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare on the need to have a focal point within the Maoist army for discussions on formal discharge and informal release, as well as focal points in CPN(M) and YCL to discuss children’s participation in politics and their misuse by political parties. In March, the Chairperson of the Young Communist League agreed to appoint such a focal point.

45. UNMIN sought to promote discussion among the Government, the Maoist army and United Nations agencies willing to assist with the orderly discharge of children from the cantonments and their reintegration. Since CPN(M) has defined conditions for the formal release of children, the absence of an adequate institution to manage their release and reintegration has caused delays. As mentioned in previous reports, more than 8,000 individuals left the cantonments between the first-phase and second-phase registration. There seems to be a policy of informal release of late recruits and minors. Many of these were under 18 years of age at the time of the ceasefire, and about 4,000 are estimated to have joined the UNICEF-led reintegration programme since its launching in June 2006.

F. Political affairs

46. The UNMIN Political Affairs Section continued to monitor and analyse the political situation in the country and assist the Mission leadership in its efforts to support the peace process, focused in particular on maintaining confidence among the political parties and democratic forces. UNMIN is closely monitoring the post-election dynamic within and between parties, as well as the evolving role of traditionally marginalized groups, and their impact on national politics as it relates to the Constituent Assembly.

G. Public information and outreach

47. The UNMIN Public Information and Outreach Section maintained active engagement with both national and international media, delivering 12 press conferences, 18 press releases, five long-format television interviews, five long-format radio interviews, and numerous other short media interventions as well as regular background briefings. I delivered a message to the people of Nepal, two days before the election, broadcast on all major television and radio networks, in Nepali and five regional languages on radio.

48. Public communications was an important element of the UNMIN strategy during the electoral cycle, notably the campaign period, immediately prior to the election, polling day, the period of counting and the response of the political parties to the results.

49. Three reports on the conditions for the election were widely disseminated in Nepali and English, and UNMIN engaged intensively with the media as well as making use of the Mission’s own public information tools. My Special Representative conveyed pre-election messages from UNMIN to district and national media in a series of regional press conferences during visits to all regions just prior to the election, culminating in a press conference in Kathmandu two days before the election which was well attended by international and national media.

50. In addition to numerous briefings and interviews, UNMIN provided video and photographic materials to the media, including coverage of the Mission’s mandated activities. In the lead-up to the election, the Mission’s website was extensively upgraded and maintained to serve as a reliable reference point, especially for international media. The Mission’s radio programmes and public service announcements reached the broad public, especially in rural areas, and printed materials targeted the political class in the regions and districts.

51. The Translation and Interpretation Unit continued to work closely with the Public Information and Outreach Section to deliver accurate and timely translations of Nepali and English language materials for internal use and for external dissemination. In addition to translating the election manifestos of major political parties, UNMIN translators assisted the Constitution Advisory Support Unit of UNDP with the final pre-publication editing of an English translation of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063 (2007).

52. Since my last report, staff in the Translation and Interpretation Unit have designed and delivered a training programme for language assistants working across the Mission with its different components. The Unit has created a lexicon of over 3,000 entries and a custom-built Nepali-English machine-assisted translation tool.

H. Safety and security

53. The Safety and Security Section provided support to the UNMIN Electoral Assistance Office in the deployment of the district electoral advisers to all 75 districts. The Section prepared an overall Mission election security plan which was implemented prior to and during the election. Only two minor incidents — one of harassment and one of restriction of movement — were directed at UNMIN personnel on the day of the election.

54. The security situation has remained generally calm across the country. There has been no direct threat against the United Nations. Coordination and cooperation between the UNMIN Safety and Security Section and the Nepal Office of the Department of Safety and Security in Nepal remain strong and focused on ensuring that staff members remain vigilant and comply with existing United Nations security and movement procedures. The Section, together with staff of the Department of Safety and Security, provided emergency response services during the UNMIN helicopter accident in March.

V. Mission support

55. The Mission suffered the tragic loss of seven staff members and three air crew members in an UNMIN helicopter crash on 3 March. The tasks to be carried out in the aftermath of the accident, namely the recovery, identification and repatriation of the remains, the support extended to the families of the Nepalese victims, coordination with the delegations of the four troop-contributing countries, the launching of internal and external investigations, including the official inquiry initiated by the Government of Nepal with United Nations participation, as well as the response to the emotional impact of the tragedy on UNMIN personnel, affected the Mission’s operations. I again convey my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, and would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Korea for offering without cost its expertise in carrying out DNA testing so as to expeditiously identify the remains of the deceased and allow early repatriation to their home countries and families.

56. The loss of one out of four Mission helicopters came at a critical time in the UNMIN mandate, just over one month before the Constituent Assembly election and when the Mission was supporting the deployment of the district electoral teams to 75 districts, a number of which are accessible only by air. These difficulties were compounded by the need to replace the crew of two other helicopters who expressed the wish to be repatriated after the tragedy. Despite these problems, UNMIN support sections successfully assisted in the deployment of 70 electoral teams within the planned time frame.

57. After the fuel supply in the country, most notably in the Kathmandu valley, was cut off for about 10 days in February by a series of strikes which halted the transportation of imported fuel from India, UNMIN put in place fuel reserves at Mission headquarters, all regional offices and all cantonment sites, sufficient to sustain normal operations for at least 30 days. During the latter part of the reporting period the five regional UNMIN offices and the Kathmandu headquarters were provided with stockpiles of emergency water, rations, fuel and personal protection supplies.

VI. Human rights

58. Election day itself was largely peaceful, despite the tensions prevailing on its eve. Episodes of violence were reported, however OHCHR observed intimidation of voters and irregularities that violated voters’ rights to freedom of expression and opinion. In several cases, election and police officials also appeared to be intimidated, and did not intervene or report violations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights congratulated the people of Nepal on the election, which is likely to have a positive long-term impact on the human rights of its citizens.

59. Although the electoral campaign was carried out peacefully in many districts, there were numerous incidents of intimidation and intolerance during the pre election period. Lack of respect for individuals’ right to freedom of expression and opinion was manifest in violence between supporters of competing parties. While most parties were responsible for violent acts, incidents involving CPN(M), including beatings, abductions and threats, were particularly prevalent. On the other hand, 12 Maoist cadres were killed in March, nine of them died as a result of police fire, bringing to 15 the number of Maoists killed in 2008.

60. The two-day cooling-off period preceding polling day was marred by several serious incidents. OHCHR and the National Human Rights Commission urged the Government to establish an independent investigation into the incident on 8 April in Dang district in which police officers providing security for a Nepali Congress candidate allegedly shot dead seven apparently unarmed CPN(M) cadres and injured 12 others.

61. OHCHR raised concerns about actions taken by the police during the Tarai protests of 13 to 29 February, which were linked with the general strike in the area to support demands for Madhesi representation in all organs of the State. While noting that the Government was making efforts to improve public security, OHCHR underlined the excessive use of force by the police resulting in six civilians and a police officer being killed in confrontations between police and supporters of Madhesi political parties. OHCHR found that lack of accountability for police actions, weak legislation giving the police wide powers to use lethal force and the perception that the police was not impartial combined to encourage violence and human rights violations. OHCHR had recommended reforms of the institutions responsible and the introduction of mechanisms to ensure internal accountability and democratic oversight. Police operations needed to be conducted in line with international human rights standards — a requirement to address impunity and re establish public confidence in the rule of law.

62. Although the Government announced plans to set up a commission of inquiry on disappearances and to criminalize enforced disappearance, no draft legislation on either issue has been made public or was submitted to the interim Legislature-Parliament. In the absence of a publicly available bill, OHCHR has provided technical advice to members of parliament and civil society on the issues of criminalization of enforced disappearance and the establishment of a commission based on international precedents.

63. The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction continued to work towards the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While a revised bill included some positive changes, OHCHR continued to stress that, for the Commission to be seen as legitimate and effective, a comprehensive and inclusive consultation process was needed. OHCHR advised the Ministry that additional changes to the bill would be required to ensure compliance with international human rights standards and best practices.

64. On 31 January, a Government prosecutor filed a charge sheet in a civilian district court accusing four Nepal Army officers of the murder of Maina Sunuwar, a 15-year-old girl who was tortured and killed in the custody of the Nepal Army in 2004. The officers have thus far failed to respond to the summons to appear in court, and no attempt has been made to arrest them. OHCHR has urged the Nepal Army to cooperate fully with the civilian prosecution by providing access to documents, suspects and witnesses.

65. International experts provided assistance to the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the site where it was believed that the body of one of the persons who disappeared following detention by the Nepal Army in 2003 may have been cremated. Samples taken from the site were sent to Finland for further tests.

66. The position of Secretary to the National Human Rights Commission, vacant for five years, was filled in February 2008. The Commission is currently undergoing an important restructuring process in order to align its activities with its constitutional mandate enshrined in the Interim Constitution of Nepal. A new technical cooperation project is envisaged to further assist the Commission in delivering its human rights mandate. OHCHR will work in partnership with the Commission and UNDP in the new project to provide specialist advice especially in the areas set out in the Commission’s strategic plan.

VII. United Nations country team coordination

67. UNMIN and the United Nations country team have worked closely together on peace support, humanitarian response and development assistance. This has included aligning strategic planning processes, such as the humanitarian appeal 2008 and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2008-2010, to support and consolidate the peace process. Overall, the United Nations country team implemented programmes totalling close to $150 million in 2007 (up from $105 million in 2006) and has presented plans in the order of $180 million for 2008.

68. Most recently, at the donor consultation meeting held in February, the Government underlined the need for comprehensive donor support to the peace process, encompassing, in particular, the management of cantonments, the return to civilian life of men, women and children associated with armed forces, the restoration of public security, and assistance to internally displaced persons and other victims of the conflict. Prior to that meeting, the Government presented its three-year reconstruction-and-development plan. Once the new Government has been formed, the United Nations and the donor community can work with the Government on defining a transitional peace-and-development framework, with a view to a Nepal development forum later in 2008. The four priority areas of the transitional United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2008-2010 (consolidating peace, improving basic services, providing better livelihood opportunities, and promoting and protecting human rights, gender and social inclusion) closely follow the Government’s priorities as articulated in the three-year interim plan.

69. Together with UNMIN, United Nations country team agencies will continue to work with the Government to define reintegration packages for those to be discharged from cantonments as soon as possible, including the particularly vulnerable, children, women and late recruits. The United Nations will continue to provide support to the Election Commission. In the lead-up to the election, UNDP supported the Election Commission’s resource centre for national and international observers. As follow-up to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), efforts are under way, led by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, to draw up a national plan of action, including activities to ensure women’s participation and protection in the post-conflict transition and the protection of women and girls against gender-based violence. In the build-up to the election, UNICEF worked to persuade political parties to include commitments for children in their manifestos and to agree not to engage children in political events; this was underlined by a public service campaign conducted by Government broadcasts countrywide on television and radio. In addition to non-formal civic education provided before the election, the World Food Programme’s food-for-work activities continue to build critical infrastructure and to create community assets that facilitate reintegration in food-insecure, conflict-affected communities. Particular attention is being paid to monitoring and responding to the potentially destabilizing impact of rising food prices in the world market. The analysis of information on conflict-affected districts continues to aid development planning and coordination.

70. With the Government and lead donors, the United Nations is participating in a review of how to improve the utilization and management of the Nepal Peace Trust Fund and its complement, the United Nations Peace Fund for Nepal, which operate under a common governance arrangement led by the Government, my Special Representative and the Resident Coordinator. The Nepal Peace Trust Fund has attracted $27.5 million in commitments from donors, who have also contributed $9.5 million to the United Nations Peace Fund. Efforts continue to strengthen the secretariat, build a more inclusive steering structure, and establish clearer priorities.

VIII. Observations

71. Nepal’s success in holding the Constituent Assembly election under considerably better conditions than most observers had expected is nothing short of a historic achievement. The desire and commitment of the people of Nepal for peace and change was the driving force behind this success. In addition, the cooperation of the political parties despite the many problems and clashes, as well as the commitment and competence of the Election Commission, all contributed to the success of the ballot.

72. The election is only a milestone in the peace process, however. The real work of addressing the nation’s deeper socio-economic difficulties and drafting a constitution that reflects the will of the entire nation only begins now. The immediate tasks of government formation and preparatory work for drafting the constitution are of the utmost importance.

73. The extent of the Maoists’ electoral success came as a surprise to many. I am encouraged by the commitment to consensual politics and cooperation that the Maoist leadership and party have continued to project since the election. It is vital for other political parties to maintain the focus on the long-term interest of the peace process and the nation, rather than on any immediate political set-back or partisan interests.

74. Therefore, the unity of the main political parties and their ability to work together, as agreed before the election, should continue, and should be extended to other parties. Short-term differences should not distract them from governing by consensus and from cooperating in the vital task of constitution-making. The newly elected members of the Constituent Assembly and their parties face an immense challenge in managing the first key decisions to be made by the Assembly and in determining how to organize the work of the Assembly in an efficient and coherent manner.

75. Before the election, the political parties had reached an understanding to postpone implementation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement regarding the future of the Maoist army personnel and the action plan for democratization of the Nepal Army. These issues now need to be addressed without delay. As I have said in previous reports, a prolonged restriction of armed and trained persons without a long-term solution is not a sustainable situation. Moreover, if the monitoring of arms and armies for which UNMIN has been responsible is to be successfully completed, the current temporary arrangements should transition smoothly into a durable and permanent solution.

76. Now that their tasks have been successfully completed, the UNMIN electoral staff have been progressively withdrawn from the districts and regions, and are departing from the Mission. The number of arms monitors is progressively being reduced as those who are rotating out towards the end of the mandate are not being replaced, and the Arms Monitoring Office will be restructured accordingly. Vacancies are not being filled, and all substantive staff contracts will terminate by 23 July, leaving only administrative personnel that would be gradually phased out from August to December 2008.

77. I do not anticipate a further extension of the mandate of UNMIN, but the United Nations stands ready to provide continuing support for the completion and consolidation of the peace process and for the long-term development of Nepal. My Special Representative and the Resident Coordinator will be in discussion with the new government once it is formed regarding whatever assistance it may request. These are critical times for long-term stability in Nepal, and the United Nations will remain by the side of the people and leaders of Nepal in the historic tasks of political and social transformation on which they have embarked.

78. In conclusion, I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to the Security Council and other Member States for their continued support to Nepal. I would also like to express my gratitude for the dedicated efforts of my Special Representative and his staff and their partner organizations in Nepal.

‘The situation in Nepal and India are completely different’, INTERVIEW WITH INDIAN MAOIST SPOKEPERSON AZAD

.comThe ideological debates and discussions with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have to continue, says Indian Maoist spokespersonAzad.

In a prepared interview, Indian Maoist spokesperson Azad says that just coming to power through Parliament cannot lead to restructuring the system in Nepal. To the extent possible, the Maoists could use their relative control over the state to help the masses in their struggle for freedom, democracy and livelihood, he says. Excerpts from the interview, the first section of which was published on May 16.

Do you mean to say that the electoral victory of the Maoists in Nepal and their capture of state power through parliamentary means is a futile exercise and that it cannot bring the desired radical change in the social system?

I don’t exactly mean that. Control of state power, if they really can control, does give the Maoists a means to defend the gains accrued during the long years of revolutionary war and to effect radical changes in the social system. But this will be difficult to achieve through the type of state power that has fallen into the hands of the Maoists at the present juncture. In fact, even in classical revolutions as in China, where the Communist revolutionaries had seized power through an armed revolution, Mao had warned of the danger of the rise of a new class by virtue of their positions in the state machinery. After Mao, the state had degenerated into a machinery of oppression and suppression of the vast masses. The lesson that we Communists had learnt from this experience is that the party should concentrate on organising the masses and mobilising them to rebel against all types of injustice and exploitation perpetrated by state and party bureaucrats.

In Nepal, where the Maoists came to power in alliance with the ruling classes, it is an even more urgent task to continue the class struggle by organising the masses against all forms of exploitation and oppression. To the extent possible, the Maoists could use their relative control over the state to help the masses in their struggle for freedom, democracy and livelihood. Basic change could be achieved the continuation of class struggle, for which the state can, at best, render some help.

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M), among several others, have said that Indian Maoists have to learn from Nepal’s experiences and take the parliamentary road to come to power. What does your party say on this?

Why Yechury alone? Even the police in States where the Maoist movement is strong had said that before. Politicians had been harping on the same theme ever since the revisionists began participating in Parliament in our country. Some said the Maoist victory in Nepal would have a demonstration effect on the Maoists in India.

Those who say this forget that the situation in Nepal and India are completely different. In Nepal the immediate political task was a struggle against the monarchy, which brought about a measure of unity among various parties and a broad section of the people. The king had created a situation where all forces had to close ranks and wage a struggle for democracy.

In India, it’s a fight against the semi-colonial, semi-feudal social system of which the parliamentary system is a part and parcel. All the parliamentary parties obey the dictates of the imperialists, and hence stand in the counter-revolutionary camp. Here the immediate task is a struggle for land, livelihood and the liberation of the masses.

Secondly, these social democrats, in their attempt to laud their parliamentary line, consciously underplay and hush up the experiences of Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc. Nicaragua is an example, where the Sandinista National Liberation Front took power in 1979 by overthrowing the Somoza family. Though the Sandinistas brought massive changes, the U.S. armed and trained private armies called the Contras to fight the Sandinistas and created economic problems by enforcing a trade embargo. The Sandinistas agreed to hold elections in 1990 after peace negotiations with the U.N., but they lost to a right-wing coalition of 14 opposition parties. Massive U.S. funding and support from the reactionary classes of Nicaraguan society, combined with a grave economic crisis, led to the defeat of the Sandinistas.

These social democrats also underplay the tremendous impact of the decade-long people’s war on the Nepali masses. They have over 40 years of experience in parliamentary politics. What basic changes have they brought in the system? Without their support the ruling UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh would not have dared to carry out the anti-people policies.

There is little wonder they have been asking the Indian Maoists to follow suit. Our party firmly believes that a basic change in the system cannot be achieved through the parliamentary path but through class struggle. In our country this takes the form of an armed agrarian revolutionary war. We, of course, do not reject other forms of struggle and organisation, besides armed struggle and armed organisation, and you would have realised this if you are a keen observer of our movement.

The task before the revolutionaries is to destroy and reconstruct the entire economic, social, political, cultural institutions. Just coming to power through Parliament cannot lead to a restructuring of the system.

Prachanda and Bhattarai had declared that they are willing to invite FDI and to create a business-friendly environment in Nepal. They also said that they would encourage capitalism. Is it correct for a Maoist party to invite foreign investment and develop capitalism?

Nepal is an extremely backward country that lacks the minimum infrastructure and industrial production. It is part of the fourth world, if we can call it so. The U.N. has placed it in the category of Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Hence the first task in Nepal would be to liberate the vast masses from the feudal clutches and develop industry on that basis. As regards developing capitalism in Nepal there need not be any objection from revolutionaries as long as it is national capitalism and is properly regulated to meet the needs of the masses and is directed towards the growth of the internal economy and not for exports or to serve the imperialists. But if the encouragement is for the inflow of foreign capital it will be detrimental to the interests of the country in the long run.

In the past, the Maoists had opposed private institutions in the health and education sectors. But now Prachanda has promised to remove whatever hurdles that may arise in the private sector. We have been hearing reports of talks between the Maoist leaders and the officials of the World Bank. If these reports are true then it could have dangerous consequences for the future of Nepal.

How do you foresee future relations between your party and the CPN(M)? Given the fact that the Indian state does not want the Maoists of Nepal to maintain relations with Indian Maoists, and considering that the demands made by the MJF in this regard constitute a clear indication of growing Indian pressure, will fraternal relations between the two parties continue as before?

We believe and desire that fraternal relations between the CPI (Maoist) and the CPN (Maoist) should continue as before. As long as both the parties stand firmly committed to proletarian internationalism, international pressures and internal pressures will not come in the way.

Of course, there is bound to be increasing pressure from various quarters on the Nepal Maoists to cut off their relations with other Maoist parties. Particularly India and the U.S. will exert utmost pressure in this regard. We do understand the complexity of the situation. Comrade Prachanda had correctly said that ideological ties between the two parties will remain intact. And we believe the ideological debates and discussions have to continue. The various international forums such as CCOMPOSA should continue with their aims and activities in spite of the new situation that has arisen.

What do you have to say about Comrade Prachanda’s comment in an interview he gave The Hindu: “For the Indian Maoist party, its leaders and cadres, these efforts of ours provide some new material to study, to think about and go ahead in a new way. Our efforts provide a reference point.”?

As Marxists we must study critically any phenomena, particularly new experiences. Yet we should not come to hasty conclusions but must carefully observe the outcome of such efforts. All these need to be assessed from a class viewpoint and not a non-class approach. Marxism is a science and it gives the tools to analyse all social phenomena scientifically. This we need to do for the experiment in Nepal or any other. Of course, we have already many historical precedents. These too should be considered and the Nepal experience seen as part of this and not in isolation.

( Source: The Hindu, National Daily Of India )

Water Resource in Nepal-China Relation, By Mr. Hiranyalal Shrestha

Nepal and China are close neighboring countries linked together by common rivers and mountains. They also have relationship at people’s level from prehistoric times. Both the countries share common concern about ecology of the Himalayas, glacial lakes and river, which are located between Nepal and China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet. China has been contributing with the interest in the development of Nepal’s water resource both from the governmental and non-governmental levels. Therefore China and Nepal share common views on important issue of water resource.

The Ganges originates from the Gangotri glacier of the Himalayas located at the altitude of 7,010 meters near India and China border. The Karnali, Sapta-Gandaki and Sapta-Koshi originate from China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet. Following through Nepal they merge with the Ganges eventually joining the Bay of Bengal. The above three rivers contribute to the flow of 71 percent of water of the Ganges in dry season and average 41 percent of water annually. Out of 1,087,300 Sq. Kms occupied by Ganges, 8,60,000 falls in India, 1,47,480 falls in Nepal, 33,520 Sq. Km. falls in China, and 46,300 Sq.Km. falls in Bangladesh. Out of 5,52,000 Sq.Km. occupied by Brahmaputra, another of the rivers in this area, 2,70,900 falls in China, 47,000 falls in Bhutan 195,000 falls in India and 39,100 Km. falls in Bangladesh. If we are to develop this area making the best use of water of Ganges and the Brahmaputra, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet must extend their hands of cooperation.

Himalayas is not only a scenic place to attract the tourists; it is also a reservoir of water to provide an unending flow in the rivers. The Himalayas is taken as the third great reservoir of water apart from the snow mass of the North and South poles. But industrial countries are spoiling the Himalayas, which is a source of beauty. Due to the growth of temperature form industrial pollution and atomic experiments, danger of natural calamities including the floods has increased in the process of contraction and narrowing of glaciers, increase of avalanches, and the merging and separating of glacial lakes. A challenge has appeared for China and Nepal to undertake a joint study and research about the threat of calamity that has appeared in the Himalayan region in cooperation with other countries. The ICIMOD Report 2001 describes about the ecological situation of Nepal in the following terms: Water is the largest natural resource of Nepal where there are more then 6,000 rivers. The flow of water emanating form the Himalayas has been estimated to be 4930 cusses per year. This constitutes 70 present of the surface water. There have been problems of soil erosion due to landslides induced by the explosion of glacial lakes. About 15 percent landmass of Nepal is perpetually under the cover of snow. Such a situation remains in areas with average height of 4,600 meters form the seal level. In the first half of the 20th century, the process of formation and explosion of the glacial lakes due to increase in temperature has brought about such a situation.

In a joint study of glacial lakes and rivers undertaken by China and Nepal, a report was prepared on the GOLF situation of water catchments areas of Pumko (Arun) and Poiko (Bhote- Sunkoshi). Chinese academician Xie Zichu has in the preface of the report said: "The two neighboring countries Nepal and India are bound together by the Himalayas. The water resource obtained through the melting of glacial lakes has greatly benefited the people. But both the countries have also suffered from the calamities due to the explosion of the glacial lakes. The two countries have been compelled to suffer from these calamities with considerable damage to mutual projcts and the loss of life and property of the people. Adequate success has also been scored in the first Joint Nepal China Expedition carried out wit the participation of the Canadian scientists also. The latest report of the scientific expedition has now been published." In it, identifying the glacial lakes and rivers in the water catchments areas of Bhotekoshi-Sunkoshi and Arun Rivers, has also made recommendation. Stress has been given on continuous study and monitoring of the glacial lakes and the measures to prevent them from bursting out by giving outlet to the excess water.

Sinior water resource expert Ananda Bahadur Thapa had told this columnist during his service at RONAST that question of establishing and International Centre for Snow and Ice had arisen in a meeting held in Paris while observing a hydrology decade about twenty years ago. Later it was not given adequate attention. An international center is necessary even now to study the ecology of the Himalayan area. The panic created by Thsorolpa is only a forewarning. All the countries of this region including China and Nepal should initiate necessary action by showing concern about the ecology of this region.

With the idea of diversification of the use of water resources of Nepal instead of depending on the country alone, the then Soviet Union, India China were given permission to construct hydroelectricity projects in Panauty, Trishuli and Sunkoshi respectively. The Sunkoshi hydroelectricity project with the capacity of 10,050 Kw. was constructed in Lamossanghu area of Sindhupalchok district. Its reliable capacity is 47,000 kw. a 57 kilometer 66 Kv. transmission line was also installed from the project area to Patan under the grant assistance of China. This project was constructed and handed over before deadline in accordance with agreement signed between Lin Dae Yun, leader of the Chinese delegation and Dedar Man Byahiti, the then Minister for Commerce and Transport on may 26, 1967.

After other countries including China started to make contribution in development of Nepal’s water resources, and the modern transport was opened through Kodari Highway, some point were amended in favour of Nepal in the Koshi and Gandak agreements in 1966. In the 1970s, China had provided grant asistance for the Sunkoshi hydroelectricity project and Pokhara Irrigation Project. Similarly, China had involved itself in the construction of Marsyangdi, Indrawati and Modikhola hydroelectricity Project with a capacity of 36,000 Kw. and an irrigationproject in Sunkoshi. Similarly, another Chinese company GTEK Nepal has already signed an agreement on upper Modikhola hydroelectricity project with the Electricity Authority of Nepal. The project that has the potential of generating 14 megawatts of electricity is an important hydroelectricity project to be built from the private sector of China.

In a seminar on Nepal-China Energy Development organized in December 2000, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Zeng Xuyong said that China would continue to provide assistance being given to Nepal for three decades recommending the generation of indigenous electricity in view of the large amount of money being spent by Nepal in imp0orting petroleum products.

Expressing confidence on growing cooperation between Nepal and China in the field of energy development in the future he said: "China will provide and active cooperation in the energy development of Nepal even in the future. The Chinese assistance can be either grant or BOT based".

In each meeting of the Nepal-China Joint Government Committee and Nepal China Non-government Cooperation Forum there used to be discussion on tourism and water resources development. The feasibility study of large small-scale hydroelectricity project was also made by China. the Daramkhola hydroelectricity Project has been run by CMIC in cooperation with Gorkha Hydroelectricity Project. A negotiation is also going on with Shanghai Group on the construction of Upper Tamakoshi Project.

With a version to future water resources cooperation, there seem to be two possibilities for cooperation between Nepal and China. Constructing a bypass from Brahmaputra through the Arun River can permanently solve the water dispute of this region. If some water of Brahmaputra can be diverted from Tibet, where there is access of water due to low population, to the source of the Gangetic plan that is suffering from the scarcity of water due to increase in the population in that region. Therefore China’s Autonomous Region of Tibet can be included in the Ganga-Brahmaputra sub-regional development following example of Mekong River Sub-regional development of this region facilitating the maximum use of water resources.

A railway extension is being made to Lahsa soon. It should be linked to Kathmandu by the next decade. If the railway could be operated with electricity of Nepal, the pollution-free trans-Himalayan railway journey may be an amusing adventure on the roof of the world. If the Nepalese electricity can be used for heat regulation inside the compartments of the train, an epochal leap can be recorded in the field of electricity generation creating an alternative energy market for Nepal.

This region can be oriented towards modernization befitting the 21st century through Nepal-China cooperation in field of development of water resource, preservation of ecology in the Himalayan region and the development of show sports and the promotion of tourism simultaneously.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Exclusive interview with Prachanda, Maoist leader

This is a complete verbatim transcript of Nepali Maoist leader Prachanda's interview with Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu, conducted at an undisclosed location in the first week of February 2006. Highlights and excerpts from the interview were published in the print edition of The Hindu of February 8, 9, and 10, 2006.

Varadarajan: Your party has waged a "people's war" in Nepal for 10 years and the anniversary is now coming up. There are some who say that this war - and the Royal Nepal Army's counter-insurgency campaign - has cost the country dearly in terms of the violence and bloodshed that has accompanied it. In your estimation, what has been the main accomplishment of these 10 years?
Prachanda: For 250 years, our peoples have been exploited under the oppression of feudal lords. The people's war has helped crush the feudal structure in the rural areas. We think this is the main achievement. Also, in the overall sense we feel that in Nepal there is going to be a great leap forward in the socio-economic condition because we are going to lead the country to a democratic republican structure. A political situation has been developed through this process, and we feel this is also a very big achievement of the people's war.
Varadarajan: In your party plenum last August in Rolpa, you took a momentous decision - to strive for and participate in multiparty democracy. If you were going to accept multiparty democracy after 10 years of war, why go about this in a roundabout way?
Prachanda: I want to answer your question in two parts. There is the whole theoretical and ideological question that we are trying to develop, because we want to analyse the experience of revolution and counter-revolution in the 20th century on a new basis. Three years ago we took a decision in which we said how are we going to develop democracy is the key question in the 21st century. This meant the negative and positive lessons of the 20th century have to be synthesised in order for us to move ahead. And three years ago we decided we must go in for political competition. Without political competition, a mechanical or metaphysical attitude will be there. So this time, what we decided is not so new. In August, we took serious decisions on how practically to build unity with the parliamentary political parties. We don't believe that the people's war we initiated was against, or mainly against, multiparty democracy. It was mainly against feudal autocracy, against the feudal structure.
Varadarajan: How difficult was it for your party to come to this decision? How difficult was it to build consensus on the need for multiparty democracy within the leadership and cadres?
Prachanda: An agenda was first presented to the Central Committee on democracy. Then there was an internal debate within the party rank and file for a whole year. After that, the CC plenum unanimously decided that within a definite constitutional framework we have to go in for competition. Without competition, we will not be able to go forward. This was a unanimous decision.
Varadarajan: Is this decision a recognition by you of the impossibility of seizing power through armed struggle? That because of the strength of the RNA and the opposition of the international community, a new form of struggle is needed in order to overthrow the monarchy?
Prachanda: Here again there is not only one question. There is a specificity to the political and military balance in today's world. This has to be seen. The second thing to be seen is the experience of the 20th century. Third, there is the particular situation in the country - the class, political and power balance. It is by taking these three together that we came to our conclusion. We are talking of multiparty democracy in a specific sense, within a specific constitutional framework. We are not talking about bourgeois parliamentary democracy. This multiparty democracy will be anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. In other words, only within an anti-feudal, anti-imperialist constitutional framework is multiparty democracy possible. That is why armed struggle is also necessary, and unity in action with the other political parties against the monarchy is also a necessity. The socio-economic change we are fighting for is against feudalism and imperialism and it is within the context of that struggle that we are talking of multiparty democracy.
Road map to democratic republic
Varadarajan: So if the king announces tomorrow that the steps he took last year were wrong and allows free and fair elections under the present Constitution, the Maoists will not take part? Is a new constitutional framework a pre-condition for taking part in elections?
Prachanda: Yes, you can put it that way. If the king says that I was wrong to have done what I did last year, now come on, let us sit across the table, and then he talks of a free and fair election to a constituent assembly, then we will be ready. Our minimum, bottom line is the election of a constituent assembly, that too under international supervision, either by the United Nations or some other international mediation acceptable to all. Under those circumstances, we will go in for elections and accept whatever the peoples' verdict is. This is our bottom line. But if the king says, come on, make an interim government and hold elections, we will not come forward.
Varadarajan: But will you oppose the parties doing that? If the parties agree to go ahead on this interim basis, what will happen to your alliance or agreement with the parties?
Prachanda: If the king asks them to form a government and the parties go in for parliamentary elections without looking at the demands we have been making for the past 10 years, it would be difficult for us to go along with the parties. Because this is what you had before. The king and the parties were together for 7-8 years. That was the situation. And still there was struggle, because the demand for a constituent assembly is a longstanding one. It is not a demand that came up only today.
Varadarajan: How crucial was the August plenum decision on multiparty democracy to paving the way for the 12-point agreement with the parties?
Prachanda: After the Royal Palace massacre itself, we had made an appeal to the parliamentary parties. There was a general understanding and some meetings were also held because the 2001 royal massacre was against democracy. In the 1990 movement, we were together with the Congress and UML [Unified Marxists-Leninists]. We felt the change that was needed in Nepal was against feudalism but the parliamentary parties were not ready for this. For three years we struggled inside Parliament. For three years we were there. Our 40-point demands were placed but there was not even any discussion on this. So the seeds of our armed struggle were sown inside Parliament, in a manner of speaking. This is a very big difference between us and, say, those in India who say they are waging a people's war. They didn't begin from inside Parliament. We were inside Parliament, so we had good relations with the parliamentary parties for a long time.
The 1990 movement produced limited gains. We could have taken more but got less from the palace because of a compromise. At the time we said the Nepali peoples have been cheated. We said this compromise was bad and that there was a danger of the palace grabbing power again, as had happened in Mahendra's time. We said this from the rostrum of Parliament but the other parties did not have the courage even to act against those elements from the panchayat system that the Malik commission had identified as criminals. And gradually a situation arose where those elements were able to enter the parties, the government.
After the palace massacre, we said that what we had predicted in 1990 had come to pass, that diehard elements have hatched a conspiracy and come forward. And we appealed to the parties to unite together as we had done in 1990. The parties were in government so it was not possible for them to understand our appeal. But slowly, the king's designs became clearer: he dissolved Parliament, dismissed the government and took direct power. This is when I think the parties realised they had been taken for a ride all this time. This is also when our plenum took concrete steps on the question of multiparty democracy. And our statement stressed that the time had come for all the parliamentary parties to join hands with our movement and civil society to fight against autocracy and monarchy.
At the plenum, we decided we needed to show more flexibility, that it was our duty to do this. So we took concrete steps and declared to the parties, 'You lead, we will support you.' This so-called king - he is not a traditional king and the Nepali people do not accept him as king. He and his group are well-known goons and people see them as a regicidal-fratricidal clique. He is not even a person who is capable of thinking politically. So we told the parties, come on, we want to help you. Before the plenum, we contacted the Nepali Congress and UML leaders and tried to bring them to Rolpa. But this was not possible.
Commitment to democracy not a tactic
Varadarajan: Nowadays, we hear the phrase 'The Maoists will sit on the shoulders and hit on the head.' Does this mean your alliance with the parties is tactical rather than strategic, that when the head - the monarchy - is weakened or defeated, you might then start hitting the shoulder?
Prachanda: It is not like this. Our decision on multiparty democracy is a strategically, theoretically developed position, that in a communist state, democracy is a necessity. This is one part. Second, our decision within the situation today is not tactical. It is a serious policy. We are telling the parties that we should end not only the autocratic monarchy but monarchy itself. This is not even a monarchy in the traditional way it was in Birendra's time, so we have to finish it. After that, in the multiparty democracy which comes - interim government, constitutional assembly and democratic republic - we are ready to have peaceful competition with you all. Of course, people still have a doubt about us because we have an army. And they ask whether after the constitutional assembly we will abandon our arms. This is a question. We have said we are ready to reorganise our army and we are ready to make a new Nepal army also. So this is not a tactical question.
Varadarajan: The 12-point agreement suggests you and the political parties have met each other half-way. They have agreed to a constitutional assembly and you have dropped your insistence on a republic.
Prachanda: We have not dropped our demand for a democratic republic. But to achieve that minimum political slogan, we have said we are prepared to go through free and fair elections to a constituent assembly. There shouldn't be any confusion that we have now agreed to a ceremonial monarchy. Some people have tried to draw this conclusion from the 12-point agreement but even at the time we explained to the parties that our slogan is a democratic republic. Earlier, we were saying people's democratic republic but this does not mean we have dropped that goal either. It's just that according to today's power balance, seeing the whole situation and the expectation of the masses, and that there [should] not be bloodshed, we also responsibly believe that to get there too we will do so through peaceful means.
Varadarajan: So the struggle for "people's democracy" will also be peaceful?
Prachanda: We will go for the goal of the people's democracy through peaceful means. Today, we are talking of a democratic republic and our understanding with the parties is that the way to realise this is the constituent assembly. At that time, any other party would be free to call for a ceremonial monarchy, some may be for constitutional monarchy - such a thing is possible with the seven parties.
Varadarajan: But whatever the outcome, you are ready to accept it.
Prachanda: We are ready to accept whatever is the outcome. This we are saying in clear-cut language.
Logic of ceasefire
Varadarajan: Your three-month ceasefire, and then the one month extension, did a lot to improve the profile and image of the Maoists, which had been damaged by certain incidents like the Madi bus blast. What was the logic behind that ceasefire and what are the roadblocks in the way of declaring another ceasefire in the near future?
Prachanda: When we called our ceasefire, there was no 12-point agreement with the parties nor was there any particular political or moral pressure on us from them or civil society. But we acted based on the whole political situation, because on our side too, some mistakes were increasing, from below, in the implementation of our policy and plan. At the lower level, some mistakes were happening such as the Madi bomb blast. So with the middle class our relationship was getting worse. Earlier, there was an upward trend in that relationship but we felt there was a danger of the graph falling. We were saying things from the top but still this was not being implemented. So we wanted the middle classes to be with us, and put out our political message to the broad masses in a new way. We also wanted to tell the international community that Gyanendra is not a monarch, these are autocratic, fascist elements who are more keen on bloodshed and violence than anybody else. We wanted to demonstrate this, and rehabilitate our image with the masses. So for these reasons we decided to go for a ceasefire.
As for the specific timing, there were two factors. The UN General Assembly was going to be held and the so-called king was going to go there. There he would have said he was for peace and democracy. Such a notorious element was going to go and create confusion over there. This possibility also needed to be crushed. This was a question. So we thought of a ceasefire as one way politically to hit out at him.
It was only after the ceasefire that the dialogue with the political parties began. And then a conducive atmosphere got created for the 12-point agreement. We also wanted to send a message to the international community that we were different from the way we were being projected ideologically. For example, right now we are having discussions with the European Union and with others, but among all the international forces, U.S. imperialism is the most dogmatic and sectarian element. The U.S. ruling classes are dogmatic. They don't understand what is happening. We are trying to look at the world in a new way, to change in a new way, and we wanted to send out this message. And in this regard, during the ceasefire, we were quite successful.
Right from the outset, we knew the monarch wanted us to abandon the ceasefire immediately. He was under so much pressure, he had to cancel his programme of going to the U.N. He was so politically isolated that he was desperate to provoke us to break the ceasefire. We knew that we had to sacrifice and ensure that for three months at least it was upheld because there were festivals, and we wanted to develop our psychological relations, spiritual relations with the masses. When we extended the ceasefire by a month, it became clearly established that this so-called monarch does not want a political solution, does not want peace. He is a bloodthirsty element, a fascist and autocrat. And when we finally ended the ceasefire, we clearly stated that if a forward-looking atmosphere for a political solution emerges, and all the political forces are ready for peace and democracy, then in that situation at any time we can again announce a ceasefire, and sit down for negotiations. But now, that situation does not obtain.
Nature of alliance with parties
Varadarajan: As a first step, are you prepared to join together with the parliamentary parties, with Mr. Koirala and Madhav Nepal, and go and talk face-to-face with the king to discuss the future of Nepal?
Prachanda: Immediately after the 12-point agreement, I had clearly said that if there is a unanimous understanding with the parties that we should go and talk to the king, then we will go. We are not prepared to meet the king alone, and we are also requesting the parties that they should also not go alone. Nothing will come of it. Only if we act collectively can we achieve anything. The alliance has to be strengthened and taken forward. For example, right now we have this huge drama of municipal elections. More than two-thirds of the seats will be vacant, and still he is trying to stage a drama.
Varadarajan: But rather than the Maoists calling a seven-day bandh, wouldn't it have been better as a tactic for you and the parties to have given a united call for the political boycott of the elections. That way, the king would not get the opportunity to claim the elections were a farce because of Maoist threats.
Prachanda: Yes. I agree with what you are saying. That would have been better. When the 12-point agreement was reached, there was a second understanding that within a week or two, we eight parties - the seven party alliance and the Maoists - would issue a joint statement appealing to the masses to boycott elections and stage mass demonstrations. But that has not proved possible.
Varadarajan: Why?
Prachanda: Because the parties' leadership is a little hesitant. They are perhaps a little afraid that if they join with the Maoists and issue a joint statement for boycott, there could be greater repression on them. I think this could be a factor, though we have not had face-to-face discussions on this with them.
Varadarajan: Some feel that the Maoists' military actions are reducing the political space for the parties. For example, a few days before the parties were planning a big demonstration in Kathmandu, the Maoists attacked a police station in Thankot and the king got the opportunity to impose curfew, thereby ensuring the demonstration failed. Have you considered what actions you need to take so that your political space also increases but the parties don't feel squeezed between the king and you?
Prachanda: I agree a way has to be found. This is a serious and complicated question. When the 12-point agreement was reached, there was a need for continuous interaction between us and them. There was need for several meetings. Only then could we establish some synchronicity between their movement and ours. This did not happen. Despite this, we told the parties through other mediums that whether we stage actions or not, the king is still going to move against you. This is the same king, the same goons - he is also a very big smuggler - who made sure we couldn't peacefully demonstrate. When we went for negotiations in Kathmandu and our team was there, we decided to have a big meeting there. Sher Bahadur Deuba was the Prime Minister at the time. But the RNA and Gyanendra insisted we could not have such a rally and threatened curfew. They compelled us to move the meeting to Chitwan. So we told Girija and Madhav that even if we had done nothing in Thankot, they would not have allowed any big demonstration. Curfew would have been imposed anyway. Instead, Thankot has put Gyanendra under greater pressure.
Nature of monarch
Varadarajan: You mentioned the RNA and I would like your assessment: Does the king control the RNA or does the RNA control the king?
Prachanda: This is a very interesting question. Right now, in fact, this is precisely what we are discussing within our party and outside. Until now, it seemed the balance was 50-50. Sometimes the RNA runs the king, and sometimes the king runs the RNA. But it seems as if we are now going towards a situation where the RNA is in the driving seat. It seems as if power in the hands of Gyanendra is decreasing and he is doing what the RNA dictates. This seems to be the emerging situation but we cannot say this with facts. But looking at the overall situation, it seems that Gyanendra is going down the path laid out by the RNA. One thing is clear. He became king after the royal massacre - and it is clear that without the RNA, that massacre could never have happened, the Army core team was in the Narayanhiti palace and they are the ones who engineered the massacre. So he was made king in the same way as before, during the Rana days, when Tribhuvan fled and came to India and Gyanendra as a small boy was put on the throne. So there is no question of his going beyond the script dictated by the RNA. And this small clique of feudal aristocrats designed the royal massacre and is dominant. The manner in which he became king obliges Gyanendra to follow their direction.
Varadarajan: I too was in Kathmandu immediately after the palace massacre to cover the story. Like many reporters, I was initially suspicious of the Dipendra theory but later, after managing to meet some of the closest relatives of those who died, who spoke to actual survivors like Ketaki Chester and others who cannot really be termed as people connected to any monarchical faction with a particular agenda. And they all said it was Dipendra who committed the crime.
Prachanda: This is impossible. Of course, the clique has managed to establish the story amongst its own circles, among people who may be neutral as you say. They have established it in their class but that is not the reality. You know how different stories were put out immediately. First that the guns went off automatically, then another story was made. There was even an effort to suggest the Maoists had made a surprise attack. In the end, they pinned it on Dipendra. So the question arises, if it was so clear-cut, why didn't this story come out in the beginning? But my main logic is not this. If you look at the whole history of [crown prince] Paras - he was there at the time - now the whole history of Paras is well-known. Second, the role of Gyanendra in the 1990 movement. He had a big role then - he wanted to shoot down 2,000 people in Kathmandu and control the movement through force, he was a die-hard element. Even Surya Bahadur Thapa used to call them the bhoomigat giroh, an underground clique, and their leader was Gyanendra.What kind of goon Paras was - this is also known. For more than a month, the massacre was planned and Gyanendra based himself outside. So I don't think for even a moment that it was Dipendra. And in any case, the Nepali people simply refuse to believe this story.
Reorganisation of PLA and RNA
Varadarajan: Let us say a situation is created for a constituent assembly. In the run-up to that, the People's Liberation Army is not going to lay down its arms. Is it not possible that the parliamentary parties will feel themselves threatened by your dependence on arms? What kind of guarantees can you give in the run-up to any election that there will be no obstacle placed by you or the PLA in the political mobilisation by the parties?
Prachanda: When we had discussions and had an agreement last year - and we hope to meet again and take things forward after these municipal elections - we said we understand you have doubts and reservations about us and our army. We want a political solution to Nepal's problems, a democratic solution. So we made a proposal that you rehabilitate Parliament, we will support you. A two-thirds majority of MPs is with the Nepali Congress, UML and smaller parties. Call a meeting and declare that Parliament has been reinstated, that this is the legitimate parliament and that what Gyanendra is doing is illegitimate and illegal. Do this and then set up a multiparty government. We will not be part of it but will support it. And then you invite us for negotiations and we will come forward. After that, there will be a move to set up an interim government, and the main aim of that government will be to have elections for a constituent assembly.
In this rehabilitation and restoration of Parliament, there is no need to have anything to do with the king. He would have become illegal anyway. He has violated the constitution and also people's expectations for peace and democracy. So he would be illegal, your parliament would be legal and we would fully accept the legality of your parliament. We will come for negotiations with your leadership. Under your leadership, we will be in the interim government.
As for the RNA, you should appeal to the democratic elements within it by saying the king has violated the constitution, and the expectations of the masses, you come over to this side, this is the legal government and it is your responsibility to support it. And then the king should be given an ultimatum of a week or two weeks - that he should move back to the status quo ante before February 1, 2005 and agree to elections for a constituent assembly. If he doesn't agree, we would then abolish the monarchy. And we would tell the international community, this is the legitimate government, please stop recognising or supporting him. Ours is a legitimate government and this should be under the leadership of Girija Prasad Koirala. We are ready to support this.
Under such a situation, the democratic elements of RNA will be there, and so will the PLA, so we will organise the army as a new Nepal army. At that point, the problem will not be our weapons. The problem of arms and weapons is with the RNA which for 250 years has been loyal to the feudal lords. That is the problem. Our army has only been around for 10 years. This is not a problem. If there is a political solution, we are prepared to change that too. This is the first proposal that we have put forward. We will abolish the monarchy, there will be an insurrection (bidroh), the kingship will be over and then we will have the peaceful reorganisation of the army.
This is one way to deal with this problem and we are seriously putting it forward. It is revolutionary, it is viable, it is possible. It is precisely in this way that it is necessary to end the monarchy in Nepal. This is our first proposal and I feel the parties are not ready for this.
Varadarajan: What you are proposing is that the parliamentary parties stage a revolution!
Prachanda: Yes, but we feel their role can be a historic one. But they are not ready. The second way is also what we have been discussing, that the U.N. or some other credible body will supervise things. The RNA will be in the barracks and the PLA will also be under supervision. Both armies and arms will be under international supervision and will not enter the fray. Then there will be elections for a constitutional assembly. Our army will not interfere in the process.
Varadarajan: But what form will this international supervision take? Will it include foreign troops?
Prachanda: No troops. There can be a militia or police, which we create only for election purposes.
Varadarajan: Who will be part of this militia?
Prachanda: We have not gone into such details - there can be the cadres of the different parties, but all without firearms, to manage security for the elections. So there will be elections for the assembly and whatever verdict of the masses comes, it is on that basis that the army has to be reorganised. If the republic result comes, then the RNA's generals and commanders will have to go and the interim government would appoint as generals officers who are loyal to democratic values. If a constitutional monarchy wins, then there is the danger that the old generals will remain. So my point is that the army can be changed. This is the underlying idea behind the 12-point agreement and the parties also agree with this.
Varadarajan: So you are saying the problem of the PLA and its arms is not a big problem.
Prachanda: It is certainly not a problem the way people outside believe. If there is political will on our side and the parties, it can be solved.
Varadarajan: But you concede there is a history, which is why the parties are suspicious.
Prachanda: Yes there is, but we are talking about this too. There have been attacks by us on them, and we had seized property. Whatever had been taken from the Congress leadership has been returned - land and property - UML leadership too. So we are trying to build an understanding. If the parties' leaders say that in the past the Maoists attacked us, then we can also say that the RNA army was deployed against us when you were in government and so many of our comrades were killed. Whatever we may have done, the other side did so much more and this also has to be accounted for. But if we start talking like this, we will not be able to solve the major problem. If we have to make a breakthrough, then we should both review our history. We have to review our mistakes but you have to as well, because we have a common enemy - feudal aristocracy. We have to defeat this enemy and in consonance with democratic values we have to reorganise the army and state.
Role of India, China, and U.S.
Varadarajan: How do you see the role of India today? Last year, when the King seized power, India took a tough stand against him which surprised many. Today, this policy has its critics but the bottom line is that the Indian Government does not seem to regard the Nepal Maoists as illegitimate in the way that the king and the U.S. regard them.
Prachanda: In the past, India's role was not good. It was a policy of total alignment with the king. Last year, after February 1, when the situation changed in a big way, the role of the Indian authorities strikes us as positive. There is now a tough stand against autocracy. Still, the two-pillar theory [that Nepal's stability rests equally on constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy] persists and the Indian authorities have not officially abandoned this theory. They haven't said there is need for only one pillar. So officially, India is still sticking to the two-pillar theory and we want the Indian authorities to change this theory. They are right to support the democratic movement, but sticking to the two-pillar theory causes confusion.
Varadarajan: But if India abandons it, wouldn't the King accuse the Indians of interfering in Nepal's affairs, and then he will accuse the Maoists of being agents of India.
Prachanda: We do not think such a thing is possible. During the 1990 movement, when Rajiv Gandhi imposed a blockade on Nepal, the Nepali people did not oppose the blockade because it was in the context of the blockade that the democratic movement picked up speed and advanced very fast. If India is in favour of the democratic movement and a forward-looking political solution, then it will not be considered intervention. But if India supports regressive forces, this would be called intervention. Exertion of external pressure in favour of the masses is never regarded as interference. This is how it seems to us. The people of Nepal will not see this as intervention.
For example, some political leaders came from India recently to show solidarity with the movement. Gyanendra tried illegally to detain them at the airport, calling it intervention. But more than 99 per cent of Nepali people did not regard that as intervention. They saw it as fraternal assistance. Of course, when Hindu fundamentalists like this Singhal comes to Nepal, the King welcomes him. When they crown him 'King of the Hindus', he doesn't call it interference, but when political leaders come and say there should be democracy, he says this is interference. So the anger of people has grown against the King, not India. This is why we feel it is time for India to abandon the two-pillar theory.
Varadarajan: If tomorrow you were to meet Manmohan Singh, what would you ask him to do?
Prachanda: First, change this two-pillar theory. The Nepali people are trying to end the monarchy and you should end your relationship with it. Second, release all our comrades who are in prison in India. We are fighting for genuine multiparty democracy but they are imprisoned there, in Patna, Siliguri, Chennai. If you release them all, a message will go out. And if you feel the Naxalite movement in India is a problem for you, we feel we are trying to deal with the problems in Nepal in a new way, so if you release our comrades and we are successful in establishing multiparty democracy in Nepal, then this will be a very big message for the Naxalite movement in India. In other words, the ground will be readied for them to think in a new political way. Words are not enough, we need to validate what we are saying by establishing that democracy. Third, once a democratic republic is established in Nepal, then the historical doubts that have existed in the relations between Nepal and India can be ended once and for all. So for all these reasons, you should strongly support the movement for democracy.
Varadarajan: In many ways, the United States has emerged as the king's strongest backer. How do you evaluate Washington's role?
Prachanda: Their role has not been good. After February 1, India's role has been positive - for example the agreement we were able to reach with the political parties, I do not think it is likely that the Indian authorities knew nothing about this. But the U.S. role from the beginning has been negative and they are still trying to effect a compromise between the monarch and the political parties against the Maoists. Despite the fact that we are talking of pushing multiparty democracy, the U.S. has decided our movement and alliance has to be crushed. So they have a negative role.
Varadarajan: What is the American interest in being soft on the king?
Prachanda: It is not that they are afraid of what might happen in Nepal. Rather, their strategy is against the Indian and Chinese masses and also, I think, against the Indian and Chinese authorities. The U.S. has a grand strategy, and Bush is talking of China and India as big economic powers and even as threats. Perhaps they see Nepal as a country that is between these two countries and believe that if the situation here does not give rise to forces which are in step with themselves, then there could be a problem. So the U.S. is looking at Nepal from the strategic point of view. It is not that they have any economic interest here. Political control is the key, so they want to strengthen the king.
Varadarajan: What about the attitude of China? Some people in India argue that if India continues to take a tough stand against the king, he will turn to China for help and Beijing will benefit.
Prachanda: Earlier, we had a doubt, that perhaps China might be behind the king, that China would try and take advantage. But then we analysed the situation and came to the conclusion that China would not play this role. China's relations with India are improving and China will not want to jeopardise such a big interest by backing the Nepal king. And in the end, I think our analysis has been proved correct. Recently, when the Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, went to Beijing, he had talks, and a few days later, for the first time, the Chinese authorities issued a statement that they are worried about the situation inside Nepal and that it needs a careful resolution. Until then, Beijing had always maintained that what was happening inside Nepal was an internal problem. Today, China has no interest in antagonising India to build a relationship with the king. This is our analysis. And it looks like India and China could have a common approach towards Nepal. Certainly, a common approach is needed. If China and India do not work together, there will be a big problem not only for now but the future. So they need to have an understanding in favour of democracy, in favour of the people of Nepal. As far as U.S. interests are concerned, they are neither in favour of Indian or Chinese masses. So at the political level, all of us must come together to counter them, we should not fall under their trap.
Varadarajan: How do you explain for the contradictory nature of some of U.S. Ambassador Moriarty's statements? Last year, he did use tough language against the king in his speech to the Institute of Foreign Affairs.
Prachanda: The U.S. from the start believes the Maoists are a more immediate threat than the king. Even in the most recent statement from the State Department, they said the king should immediately open talks with the parties to deal with the Maoists. And this is the product of their vested interest. If the Bush administration's intentions were good, there is no reason to regard us as a threat. If its intention is in favour of democracy and solving Nepal's political problems, then there is no reason to see us as a threat especially when we are saying we are for multiparty democracy and are willing to accept the verdict of a constituent assembly.
We are glad with the new situation that is emerging after Shyam Saran went to China, it seems the situation can change. Our movement is also going forward and I think in 2-3 months, if the struggle continues, then there is a real chance of ending the kingship once and for all and making a democratic republic in Nepal. This is the best outcome for China and India, and everyone else. The U.S. does not want this. They want to maintain the monarchy at all costs.
Moriarty consistently has been speaking against the Maoists. He is connected to the Asia-Pacific military command of the U.S. He is not a political man. And we know that although his views are different from some in the U.S. establishment like, say, Senator Leahy, but overall, the position of the U.S. authorities is not in favour of democracy and Nepal people.
Leadership question and inner party life
Varadarajan: Has your party put behind it the differences which emerged last year between yourself and Baburam Bhattarai?
Prachanda: There was a problem and we solved it so well that the unity in our party is stronger than ever before. Our problems were not of the kind the media wrote about. We had an ideological debate about how to evaluate the 20th century. Why did the communist movement suffer such an enormous setback? Why did the Russian revolution get overcome by counter-revolution? Why did China also go down that path? This was a debate within the central committee for many years. There were other problems linked to shades of opinion within the party - like the Madi blast - but the purpose was to sort out our future plan. This was the purpose of the debate. But the timing was such that these things happened after February 1. If the timing had not been so bad, there wouldn't have been that much propaganda. But the time the king took over was also the time the debate in our party sharpened.
Varadarajan: The question was raised of a cult of personality in the party. As you know, any objective evaluation of the experience of the 20th century communist movement has to consider the cult of personality as certainly one of the factors in the reversals.
Prachanda: That is correct. But I want to clarify one thing. Between Dr. Bhattarai and me, there was never any debate on the issue of leadership. He has never challenged my leadership. On the issue of leadership personally, there has never been a difference. There were differences on ideological questions, about what we should do now, and there was a debate. And this debate we solved in the Rolpa plenum in August. We took it to a higher level and our unity has become stronger.
On the issue of leadership I want to say that our party will be the first communist party in the 21st century which has picked up on a clue from the 20th century - where it had got stuck - and we are going to open it. At our plenum, we placed a resolution on the question of political power and leadership. That when we go for state power and are in power, then we will not do what Stalin or Mao did. Lenin did not have time to deal with issues of power. Although Stalin was a revolutionary, his approach, was not as scientific as it should have been, it was a little metaphysical, and then problems came. We also evaluated Mao in the plenum. If you look at his leadership from 1935 to 1976 - from when he was young to when he was old and even speaking was difficult - must he remain Chairman and handle everything? What is this? So we decided that when we are in power, the whole team of our leadership will not be part of day-to-day power. Not just me but our team. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Badal, Mohra, others, we have a leadership team which arose from the midst of the struggle. When we go to Kathmandu, we will not be involved in power struggles or day-to-day power. That will be for the new generation, and we will train that generation. This is a more scientific approach to the question of leadership. If we don't do this, then we will have a situation where as long as Stalin is alive, revolution is alive, as long as Mao is alive, revolution is alive.
This will be a big sacrifice for our leadership. Of course it does not mean we will be inactive or retire from politics. Our leadership team will go into statesmanship. We are hoping that by doing this we will solve a very big ideological problem of the communist movement. This is not only a technical question but a big ideological question. There can be no question of concentrating power in the hands of any individual or group. When we placed this resolution before the plenum, then our entire leadership team gained confidence in themselves, the movement and the line. Our unity has become much stronger. Now we are in an offensive mood.
We feel we have contributed to the ideological development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Traditionally, in the international communist movement there are two types of revisionism - right revisionism of class collaboration, and the other, dogmato-revisionism, of turning certain ideas into a dogma and getting stuck to them. This is more among the Maoists. Those who call themselves Maoists are more prone to dogmato-revisionism, and we have to fight against this too.
Varadarajan: To what extent do you think the logic of your line on multiparty democracy applies also to the Maoist movements in India?
Prachanda: We believe it applies to them too. We want to debate this. They have to understand this and go down this route. Both on the questions of leadership and on multiparty democracy, or rather multiparty competition, those who call themselves revolutionaries in India need to think about these issues. And there is a need to go in the direction of that practice. We wish to debate with them on this. If revolutionaries are not going to look at the need for ideological development, then they will not go anywhere.
Varadarajan: The Indian police agencies say you are providing weapons and training to the Indian Maoists but here you are saying they should go in for multiparty competition.

Prachanda: There is no question of us giving anything. They blame us for Madhubani, Jehanabad, but we have no relationship of this kind with them.
Varadarajan: What is your evaluation of the recent political developments in Latin America - with what is happening in Venezuela with the Bolivarian movement, in Chile, Bolivia?
Prachanda: We feel there is a new wave of revolution on the horizon. The first wave began with the Russian revolution and ended with the Cultural Revolution but now it looks like the second wave could be starting. Dogmatism and ideological stagnation is evident in the U.S. Bush is in league with Christian fundamentalists. Throughout Latin America there is resentment and hatred against imperialism, from Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, and an explosion can come at any time. The encirclement of America has begun. But I also believe this explosion can start from South Asia. Nepal and India have a big role to play. The U.S. will not be able to control things. And the developments in Latin America are a good augury.
Varadarajan: In conclusion, tell us a little about yourself. How old are you now? When did you join the movement? Where did you study?
Prachanda: I am 52 and have been in the movement full time for the past 34 years. I drew close to communism when I was 16, as a student in high school, and became a whole-timer when I was 28. I did a B.Sc. at the Chitwan agriculture university and was studying for a Masters in Public Administration when there was a big movement around the time of the referendum Birendra was organising. That is when I joined the movement, and couldn't complete my course. Since then I have been active, most of the time underground.
Varadarajan: And family life? Are you married?
Prachanda: Yes. My family, of course, is also in the movement.
Varadarajan: Thank you very much for this interview.
Prachanda: Thank you.

Source: Hindu Daily Of India