Two Concerns about the Nepali Peace Deal
Nepal’s peace deal may be another beginning of a long haul of conflicts and negotiations, writes JUYAN ZHANG, a native Chinese observer. His concerns are based on ambiguities in Prachanda’s motives and the role of army and fighters.
In my article “A Chinese Perspective of the Nepali Situation,” published in Nepal Monitor on June 9, 2006, I suggested that Nepal would not go red as China did in 1949. The reasons I offered included an absence of a world socialist movement and the lack of support from China and India, as well as the global role of the United States.
In his commentary in the Christian Science Monitor (Dec. 5, 2006), my colleague Dharma Adhikari reported that Prachanda, the leader of the Maoist rebels, dropped calls for a communist republic because he “admitted that a purely Maoist utopia is now geopolitically impossible.” This, to some extent, substantiated my observation. I am quoting this not to show how insightful I am, but to point out that geopolitical factors are real and have to be considered when observing the political process in Nepal.
When I talked about the success of any revolution, what was in my mind was not only seizing political power by the revolutionaries, but also economic and social survival of the revolutionary regime in the long run. I agree with Dr. Joe Goldstein’s observation that a revolutionary movement depends largely upon the way the leaders of that movement treat the proletarian masses. And it is true that when Castro seized the power, he did not receive much external support.
However, after Castro seized power, the survival of his regime largely depended on geopolitical factors. Cuban economy was in complete control of the Soviet Union from 1960s to 1980s. Its oil, steel, agricultural mechanics and industrial materials were all imported from the Soviet Union. And almost all of Cuba's sugar and nickel, the island nation’s major export stock, went to the Soviet Union. Since 1959, the Soviet Union provided upto $5 billion in military aid. After the Cold War, China is replacing the Soviet Union and providing support to Castro’s regime.
The question for the Nepalese Maoists is: Even if they could successfully seize the political power through violence, how would the regime survive? In a landlocked Nepal, not endowed with an abundance of natural resources except for untapped hydro powers, I would say that such a regime would only usher the Himalayan nation into a sitatuation far more worse than in North Korea. And don’t forget that North Korea survived because of the Soviet Union and China’s support. But who will provide support to a Nepali Maoist regime?
In the same article, I also said that Maoists would not simply fail and there would be a long haul of conflicts and negotiations between the Maoists and the government. I believe that the peace deal signed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Mr. Prachanda is but another beginning of this long power negotiation.
I was surprised by the suddenness of the peace deal signed at the end of 2006. I wish it could bring perpetual peace to the country where Buddha was born.
But I have at least two major concerns about the recent peace deal.
Concern one: Prachanda’s motivation
The first concern is about Prachanda’s motivation toward the peace process: Why did he suddenly decide to participate in the peace process when he led a bandh that crippled Kathmandu and when he had the military strength to block highways to the capital? What is his plan?
Little is known about what Prachanda really thinks, but from what he said and what he did, I can say that he is a realist and a strategist, because he knew when to use violence, when to call bandhs, and when to strike a peace deal. Also, he seems patient: He confronted the government forces for 10 years, and I believe he is still waiting for opportunities to come.
I think Prachanda’s coming back to mainstream does not mean that he and his party would completely give up their plan to establish a communist republic. Please note that Prachanda has not agreed that “a communist republic is geopolitically impossible.” Rather, for him, such a republic “is now geopolitically impossible.” Thus, no one except him can guarantee that the Maoists are not harboring a vision of a communist republic for the future.
Nepal’s situation after April 2006 is very much like that of Russia right after the February Revolution and before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The February Revolution is the first stage of Russian revolution, in which the Tsar was overthrown and the alliance between liberals and socialists was formed to elect an executive and constituent assembly. Then months alter, Lenin and his Bolsheviks brought the revolution to its second stage by overthrowing the liberal provisional government and establishing a communist regime.
After King Gyanandra’s power was scrapped by the parliament in the wake of the April 2006 bandh, a provisional government is to be formed by the alliance of eight parties, in which the Maoists are like Lenin’s Bolsheviks; while the United Marxist-Leninists and other liberalists are like the Mensheviks. So would Prachanda wait opportunity for the next stage of revolution?
Not all communists are dogmatists, but many of them are. If we want to understand the Maoists' intention, we need to refer to the classic communist leaders’ acts in history. When history seems to repeat itself in a surprisingly similar way, and when Prachanda assumes he is Nepal’s Lenin or Mao— which he does (Check the Nepali Maoists’ official website) — would he do the same as Lenin did?
Prachanda already tested his power through blocking the traffic to the capital, the general strike and the long armed rebellion. Given his popularity among the poor, I believe that after April 2006, he confirmed that he could dominate the political process through peaceful means as well, not necessarily through violence. And the option of peaceful means does not necessarily mean that he would stop pursuing a communist republic.
Again let’s go back to the history of communist revolution: Prachanda did exactly the same thing in 2006 that Mao in 1945 when China was on the brink of another civil war after the Japanese surrendered. Then Mao personally flew to the interim capital to attend the peace negotiation with the nationalist party’s central government, which faced numerous strikes called by the communists and other parties as well. The deal was brokered by Patrick J. Hurley, then U.S. ambassador to China to bring the two parties together to build a democratic alliance government.
The negotiation resulted only in the publication of a document and soon after a full-blown civil war broke out, which eventually brought the Chinese Communist Party to power four years later. Mao just used the negotiation as chance to show the world that he liked peace—of course there was also some pressure from Joseph Stalin. But the truth is: He intended to build a communist nation from the beginning; and he did not intend to give up his armed forces.
Concern Two: The fighters
My second concern is with the deal on armed forces. What interested me with the negotiation is that Prachanda expects the Nepali army to be cut by half, with a corresponding downsizing of the Maoist force, and the remaining Maoist fighters would join the new Nepali national army. If this is literally carried out, it means the Maoists will be “embedded” into the national army.
Given the fact that Mao tightly controlled the army by establishing party committees to the smallest combating unit and thus the party had absolute control over the gun, I have to raise my concern with the remaining Maoist fighters who would be merged into the government troops: Did Prachanda follow Mao’s approach and established party committees among the rebels? If yes, will such committees be dissolved after joining the government troops?
The Chinese communists under Mao’s leadership were known for their “Three Treasures”: United Front, Party Building, and Armed Struggle. Obviously Prachanda uses these “treasures” efficiently. If he is going to give up his “Armed Struggle” and if the fighters are to join the Nepali national army, will there be any effort to continue the Party Building? And how would that affect the military in the future?
The ambiguity of the army’s role and powers is a serious concern. In the past five years, two coup-natured events occurred in Nepal, namely the royal family massacre and dissolving of the parliament by King Gyanendra. Such events will probably become part of Nepali political process in a turbulent transition. The question is: Who will guarantee the military’s neutrality when such events occur in the future?
This concern is real and for me it is a major one.
I only wish the peace deal signed by the Maoists in Nepal is not a copy of Mao’s peace deal in 1945. I am not saying there is conspiracy lurking behind these negotiations. I am just offering my perspective as an observer on the peace deal that became possible so abruptly. After all, skepticism is regarded as the foundation of democracy.
* Previous article by the author:
A Chinese Perspective of the Nepali Situation, June 26, 2006.
Juyan Zhang, Ph.D., teaches communication at Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA. He maintains interest in international affairs and has published a number of academic papers on international topics. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Editor on January 7, 2007 9:29 AM