Suman Kumar Chaulagain
Security and Foreign Policy Expert, Nepal
Suman Kumar Chaulagain, originally hails from Dolakha district, and has completed Masters Degree in English (MA) literature from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu. He is associated with Nepal Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS) as a Research analyst. Previously he was attached with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).
Security and International Relations are the areas wherein Mr. Chaulagain excels. ‘Why the Ongoing Peace Process could not Move Ahead?’, ‘Fall of Euro’, ‘American Policy on Asia Pacific Region’ and ‘The Mystery of Current Debate in Pakistan’ among the Government, Army and the Court are some research works already penned by Mr. Chaulagain.
Sujit Sharma for the Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com interviewed this competent researcher on several facets of Nepal's security and international relations.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TQ1. How do you evaluate the ongoing army reintegration process being brought into practice in Nepal? Do you think that the golden handshake awarded to the large number of Maoist ex-combatants who opted to live a civilian life can encourage other armed outfits to seek similar options?
Chaulagain: Well, there is a contradiction to use the term ‘integration’ or ‘reintegration’. The UCPN (Maoist) side prefers to use ‘integration’, and commonly this word is used in the context of Nepal to refer to the Maoist Army Combatants who will join the Nepal Army (NA). The logic of the Maoists to use the word ‘integration’ is that a new army is going to be formed after merging both the armies. Whatever may be the issue, the army integration process in Nepal seems to be guided by the UN principle of Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR). Within the DDR model, the stage of army management process seems to be getting tougher in the ongoing peace process, mainly with the issue of rank determination.
Nepal’s ongoing peace process is often termed as a Nepali-owned peace process because political parties normally have agreements and commitments in their hands prior to the peace process actually moving ahead, which has never let the process to get sidelined. In some other countries, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has been breached many times by the parties and conflict has returned. But, the case in Nepal is not like this because both the armies have proved that they would like to end the peace process positively and have exhibited a high degree of respect to the political agreements.
I personally think that forming a ‘directorate’ within the NA is quite a positive form of integration. However, the issue of the golden handshake offered to the Maoist Army soldier is pretty worrying in that it could be only voluntary retirement-oriented and not a rehabilitation-focused one. Had the combatants chosen rehabilitation packages, they would have undergone specific skill-based training, and at the end of the training, they would have had long-life employment opportunities in their own possession. On the contrary, the voluntary retirement process has encouraged them to get some money and run away. After all, the money will be spent in unnoticeable sectors and soon frustration will take over them. As a result, they might turn to unlawful activities. It is equally possible for other youngsters to team up and raise weapons with the intention of receiving similar sorts of golden handshake offered to the Maoist Army combatants by the State.
TQ2. The Young Communist League (YCL), the paramilitary structure of the Unified Moist party, has now begun issuing threats to the top echelon of the party demanding treating them at par with the "People's Liberation Army". Why has this situation arisen inside the party which was regarded as the most disciplined one until some years ago?
Chaulagain: After the UCPN (Maoist) signed the Twelve-Point Agreement and the CPA, it formally entered into parliamentary politics. Then, the politics of materialism replaced its revolutionary face, which created many serious implications within the party’s avowed long-term mission and vision. A non-ending race to ‘earn money’ was encouraged and everyone within the leadership and cadre level started looking for their secured future. This politics of amassing wealth encouraged protection to favoritism and Nepotism.
Recently, the YCL has been frustrated due to inequality and indifference exhibited towards them during the integration and voluntary retirement processes of the Maoist Army combatants. Despite the fact that they previously fought together, their colleagues received outstanding packages, but the YCL cadres received cipher and were left in the deep blue ocean. They were compelled to demand a right value for their equal contribution from the top leadership. This is what I see to it.
In a psychoanalytical sense, it is awakening from hibernation –such hibernation has been that the YCL cadres have lived a long life of uncertainty. The party top brass offered them fake assurances every now and then, and now they have woken up to claim their share since their mother party practiced the ‘politics of money’. The YCL protest programs against the party top echelon is therefore a sort of quest of their dignity. Their movement is symbolically a punch against the politics of treachery.
TQ3. Various substantial evidences show that some so-called friendlier nations of Nepal, both near and far, had helped fuel the decade-long bloody civil war in this Himalayan nation. The same countries are now eagerly looking forward to support the ongoing peace process. What is your personal opinion on these contradictory standpoints of those alien forces vis-à-vis Nepal?
Chaulagain: Within a decade, global politics has had observed many changes in military, economic and political spheres. In the wake of the collapse of the Euro zone and economic depression experienced in the U.S., and the continuous rise of economic might of China and India, Nepal policy of its neighbors and friendly countries, including the U.S. and the European nations, has dramatically changed. In the changed political context, Nepal has become a land of potential economic and strategic opportunities for these countries.
Our two giant neighbors are trying to establish their hegemony in Nepal’s economic, political and military issues. The successful conclusion of the peace process and writing of the new constitution will be remarkable achievements for these two neighbors from the socio-economic point of view.
Nevertheless, there are other interests of our neighbors and allies included in the logical conclusion of the peace process and the new constitution drafting. Political analysts argue that in a decade or so, China will leave the U.S. far behind, if it desires to do so, and enhance its military and economic capabilities, and then can eventually lead the whole world. On the contrary, the U.S. is focusing its concentration on how to bring the whole Asian continent under its sphere of weighty influence. For this grand vision to materialize, the U.S. needs to continue controlling South Asian territories through India and counter China primarily. It is strategically extremely important for the U.S. and India to establish peace and write the Constitution in their favor to increase political dominance among the political parties, as a long-term vision for preparing the ground to flare up anti-Tibet movements from within Nepal.
India and the U.S. know that the alternative of controlling and impeding China becoming a Super Power is Tibet’s separation from China. In the past, when the Maoist insurgency was in full swing, India was cautious whether China provided support to the Indian Maoist movement in connection with the Nepalese Maoists fighters. Now, the scenario is quite different and China is anxious of the U.S.-Indo ties which have secretly initiated anti-Tibetan movements in the name of peace and constitution promotion in Nepal.
TQ4. According to the latest media reports, several sub-factions are gradually emerging within the three major factions prevailing inside the Unified Maoist party. Why this happened? Do you think this will have an impact on the national politics in the days ahead? What say you?
Chaulagain: It is true that the UCPN (Maoist) is divided into three major factions, known as Prachanda, Baidya and Bhattarai panels. The history of factionalism formally took a formal shape from Kharipati meeting in which significant number of Maoist leaders led by Baidya lodged a note of dissent against Prachanda’s working paper. Factionalism continued to grow which was clearly observed at the Palungtar Plenum. It was in this plenum where the Baidya faction advocated for a fresh revolt, whereas the Prachanda and Bhattarai factions jointly spoke in favor of peace and constitution.
In the present day context, some months ago, the Baidya and Bhattarai factions had united in Dhobighat and raised their voice against the leadership of Prachanda. Later, during the formation of the Bhattarai government, the dissent of the Baidya faction was obvious since they openly opposed the Four-Point deal between the establishment of the UPCN-M and the Joint Mahesh Democratic Front during the course of forming the government under the Premiership of Bhattarai and the Baidya panel also opposed the November 1, 2011, Seven-Point Agreement.
The present chaotic situation resulted from a clash of ideologies within the Maoist Party. Since it deviated from revolutionary personality and upheld parliamentary practice, the majority of the leaders took a path of ‘money-politics’. Establishing a regime of Proletarians and making a class-less society became a fake pledge given to the people during the so-called People’s War. Maoists’ deviation from revolutionary politics to the politics of luxury, wealth, favoritism and nepotism has turned into two distinct viewpoints on the surface of the Nepalese politics. Firstly, the joint faction of Prachanda and Bhattarai thinks that it is not possible to establish Chinese and former USSR model Communism in this 21st century, therefore, there was no alternative but going for the peace-building process and drafting of the new constitution. Secondly, for the dissenters, or say the thought of the faction led by Baidya, there is a very small aperture to establish peace and write the constitution for the oppressed, marginalized and poor working class as the plots of the reactionaries and the status-quoists are on the surface.
In a nutshell, the Maoist rift certainly has its impact on national politics. If Prachanda is not able to appropriately satisfy the Baidya faction, this faction may opt to split the Party. If a new splinter appears out of the Maoist Party- possibly to be led by Baidya himself, it has no choice but to go back to the armed struggle to safeguard the people’s aspirations due to the deviations seen in the party at the moment. We know that this very faction has rejected the decisions already taken in the CA body despite the party establishment unanimously gave its full consent. In the recent days, the repercussions of denial has been felt in the CA functioning which, as a result, the issue of constitution drafting is becoming more a distant affair, especially in garnering consensus on many contentious issues, including Federalism and State governing system. In addition to the constitution drafting process, it has also sharp differences over the integration issue of the Maoist Army Combatants.
TQ5. Two weeks ago, a central advisor of the Unified Maoist Party, Mr. Gopal Giri, while talking to, The Telegraph Nepal had hinted that China, India and US are drawn in Nepalese politics for the preservation of their respective security interests. Do you agree with his opinion? Your comment with adequate explanations please?
Chaulagain: I explicitly understand what Mr Gopal Giri was trying to indicate. I do agree with him that the U.S., China and India are present in Nepal due to security reasons. I would like to give couple of examples.
During the recent visit of US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert O Blake, to Nepal, he had expressed that the country (read Nepal) should ensure that Tibetan refugees were accorded and enjoyed full rights at par with Nepali citizens. American sympathy for Tibetan refugees is guided under a principle of how to promote movements in favor of Tibet’s separation from China. Americans are not blind to the fact that the loss of one-third of China’s land mass, i.e. Tibet would constitute a vast loss for China in terms of prevailing military and economic hegemony across Asia and some other parts of the world as well. Thus, the U.S interest in Nepal is how to cut-down the size of China and avoid it from becoming a super power of the globe. For this, U.S. policy is to go hand-in-hand with India, and letting India play a key-lead role against ‘one china policy’ of Nepal. It is not new that India is fuelling the Tibetan issue. We know that India has had high concentration in the Northern landmass of Nepal. It is willing to have a joint military exercise with the Nepal Army in Mustang, and even its former Ambassador to Nepal Mr. Rakesh Sood preferred to visit Nepal’s Himalayan region (Mustang and Lukla) many a times, presumably to oversee China from Nepal’s territory.
China, on the contrary, is promoting its presence in the South of Nepal by launching various business policies, possibly to closely observe whether Indian activities fuel for anti-Chinese movements? In addition to China increasing its Southern business strategy, it has reminded Nepal to remain committed to its ‘One China’ policy. This particular fact was highly reiterated during Chinese Prime Minister Wen’s recent visit to Nepal.
Exclusive for telegraph weekly/telegraphnepal.com