Book Review: Girija Prasad Koirala's ‘Corleone diplomacy’
A new book on Girija P. Koirala suggests his newfound political convictions are inspired by a quote from the epic movie “the Godfather", writes KRISHNA SHARMA.
Book Title: Simple Convictions: My Struggle for Peace and Democracy (a collection of Girija Prasad Koirala’s speeches made between October 2002 and March 2006)
Compilation and translation: By Shital Koirala and Devendra Dhungana,
Publisher: Mandala Book Point (2006), pages: 118.
Price: NRs. 1050 (USD 16.67)
The greatest lesson Nepal’s incumbent Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala learned in his entire political career spanning 60 years must be a one-liner from the movie 'The Godfather' by director Francis Ford Coppola. In that epic movie, the main protagonist Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, has this advice to his son: Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
It is the fruit of that ‘Corleone diplomacy’ which helped Koirala not just to recapture his ‘lost political image’ but also to liberate the nation from the bloody hands of its autocratic king Gyanendra who had come to power after the infamous royal massacre of June 1, 2001.
The 84-year-old Koirala, the leader of Nepali Congress, one of the nation’s largest political parties, reveals in the book that Corleone’s diplomatic advice was the hard earned mantra that facilitated him to re-shape the democratic future of Nepal. The Himalayan nation has been marred by 12 years of bloody Maoist violence and political conspiracies that were continuously hatched by a regressive monarchy. If he had not learned and practiced this diplomacy and had continued to underestimate the communist forces, which he had been doing almost all his political life, the popular uprising of April 2006 may not have been a success story. Koirala’s self-damaging remark in 1990 at a mass meeting had demonstrated his uncompromising stance on ideologies and perhaps an utter lack of diplomatic skills and political maturity at that time. He had uttered then: “All denominations of communist parties and a criminal gang of the royal family are the same.”
But in recent years Koirala leapt far ahead of his contemporaries in his political and diplomatic bearing to become a national hero. In fact, he began to emerge as an introspective and an compromising leader during the past decade or so.
In his ‘last political struggle of life,’ to cite his phrase, he displayed political prudence and diplomacy by establishing and nurturing ties with previously sworn enemies, such as the ultra-violent Maoists and the oft-conspiring royal family members, as well as his skeptical friends in the international community.
However complicated his political and diplomatic relations with others as mentioned above, Koirala asserts in the book that they were merely his ‘simple convictions.’ And if we judge them from what he said during his last struggle for democracy in 2006, we would be fairly convinced that he, in fact, has simple convictions – the conviction that the 21st century is not going to be a playground for autocratic rulers like king Gyanendra, that the king will have no business being anything other than a constitutional monarch, that democracy is the answer to the country’s problems, that the Maoists are misguided rebels who need to be brought into open politics by means of a revived parliament, and that peace is the priority of the moment for the people and the nation.
Koirala says in the book that he realized that guns and violence would never solve the problem. So he resolved that the Maoist problem could only be addressed through dialogue. He became convinced of the need to defend democracy from the guns of both the Maoists and the king so there would be no need for future generations to fight for democracy like he had to. This was the decisive struggle of his life.
It was Koirala’s own critical decision to develop ties with the then underground Communist Party of Nepal -Maoist (CPN-M) at a time when the latter was senselessly killing and kidnapping people, including party workers of Koirala’s own Nepali Congress as well as his associates. The aging Koirala single-handedly took all the responsibility of negotiating with the Maoists and he did it on the basis of what he calls his rock-solid but ‘simple convictions.’
It may not have been easy for the country’s longest serving Prime Minister (i.e., Korala), to convince the rest of the other political parties and their leaders that the dissolved parliament should be revived. His simple conviction— his ability to persist on his resolutions— might not have been that simple to others. But eventually his wisdom paid off because his detractors finally saw the validity of his conviction under the circumstances and the king also had to yield to the popular will.
And that is the essence of “Simple Convictions: My Struggle for Peace and Democracy,” published recently.
The book is in fact a compilation of his 24 speeches and statements delivered during the period between October 2002 and March 2006. It also includes the 6-point and the 12-point understandings reached between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the CPN-M. The book subtly emphasizes Koirala’s departure from conventional diplomacy and the practice of Corleone diplomacy.
And that was the diplomacy that was felt but not foretold by many Nepalis.
The introduction to the 117-page book is written by Kanak Mani Dixit, a noted journalist . Dixit writes that during the period covered by the pronouncements of Girija Prasad Koirala contained in this volume, Koirala evolved as a national figure, beyond being leader of the Nepali Congress party.
The extempore speeches from Nepali are translated into English by Devendra Dhungana. Although the readers may find many redundancies in terms of content, oral speeches by nature are like that. Also the theme of the speeches also reflect the discourse of a particular time, which again can be repetitive.
In his conviction, Koirala, the youngest brother of Nepal’s noted political thinker of the century, BP Koirala, demonstrates his capacity to pull together with others despite differences and to serve as glue holding diverse views together on the road map from the struggle for democracy to the interim constitution to the constituent assembly (CA).
One of his recent assertions-- nowhere in the world have kings returned after their exit-- may become a reality or not after CA elections or the possible establishment of a republican Nepal, but as long as Koirala continues to feel the pulse of the nation rightly and adheres to his democratic stance, he may also emerge as a noted Statesman of Nepal.
Yet another daunting challenge before Koirala is to read what is inside the mind of Prachanda, the ambitious president of the CPN-M. It is time now to be cautious as to whether Prachanda's ‘aim of becoming the president of Nepal in five years’ is guided by rightful political choices or by vested interest in total political powers or his desire to return to violence.
Ultimately, a compilation of speeches does not necessary cover the entire gamut of a person’s political attitudes and values. One can only hope that Koirala will some day write his memoirs to help readers to more authentically and thoroughly understand not only his newfound convictions but also the motivations behind them. And given that the peace process still hangs in balance and there is much more work to be done and more rebels to be wooed or befriended (particularly in the Terai), it is also important to note that perhaps it is too early to assess the long-term impact of Koirala’s convictions.
Krishna Sharma is staff writer of Nepal Monitor.
Posted by Editor on July 13, 2007 10:20 PM