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Framing of Nationalism in Nepal's Radical Communist Movement: The India Factor

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  • November 29, 2013
    Fellows' Seminar
    Open to all Members; others pl. contact Conference Cell
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chairperson: Brig Rumel Dahiya, SM (Retd)
    External Discussants: Ambassador Deb Mukherji and Ms Akashnya Shah
    Internal Discussants: Dr Anand Kumar and Dr Anshuman Behera

    Mr Post Bhadur Basnet, SAARC Visiting Fellow from Nepal presented his paper titled “Framing of Nationalism in Nepal’s Radical Communist Movement: The Indian Factor” on 29 November 2013.

    The paper argues that the Maoists used “negative nationalism”, based on anti-Indian sentiments, as one of the key “revolutionary” strategies during the insurgency. The same band of nationalism continues to feature in the radical communist discourse, though it seems to have lost much of its appeal among the masses during the course of democratic politics in which the Maoists willingly participated since 2005.

    The genesis of anti-Indianism goes back to the days of the formation of Nepali state. The 1950 treaty, which aimed to bring Nepal under the security sphere of India that possibly checked the import of communism to Nepal from China, has been a major irritant for the communists. India’s security concern requires an India-friendly regime in Nepal and thus India is seen to be meddling in the internal affairs of the country and favouring some actors over the others, which is viewed as external interference in Nepal’s internal politics and leads to anti-India sentiments amongst the Nepalese people. Moreover, “not-to-be-an-Indian” is one of the key features in the identity formation process in Nepal. All these features collectively offered a fertile ground to the political actors to manufacture and exploit anti–India sentiments to their benefit over the years.

    During the monarchy period, the king was successful in sustaining his regime by instigating anti-Indianism and gathering the support of the communists. Once the relationship between the monarchy and the communists was broken, there was a regime change in Nepal. With the monarchy gone, the paper argues, the role of nationalism for political mobilisation is no longer effective.

    The Maoists after 2006 have realised that the anti-India card does not work in the changed global, regional and domestic political matirx. The mainstream faction of the Maoist party led by Prachanda has removed India from its hit-list, and started talking about the internal nationalism (ethnic federalism and development). However, the radical faction in the Maoist Party led by Kiran Baidya continues to talk about external intervention and take an anti-Indian line while framing its version of Nepalese nationalism. The presenter argued that while the line of “externalised nationalism” may have lost its glamour, the Maoist plan for consolidating ‘internal nationalism’ through emphasis on ethnic nationalism has pushed the Nepali state into a state of wilderness.

    The presenter provides the following recommendations which according to him can remove the prevailing anti-India sentiments in Nepal:

    • India should pay attention to dissemination of information regarding its approach to Nepal. In this regard, Indian Embassy should extend its network with journalists.
    • Indian investment in Nepal should increase. Other than in the hydro power sector, India should invest in agriculture in the plains and mid-hills and in the capacity-building of security forces.
    • India should recognise and analyse the reasons for the spread of anti-India sentiments in Nepal. There are frequent complaints about India micro-managing Nepalese politics. India should address this issue.
    • India should try to build contacts with all the political actors and should not be seen as favouring some actors over others. While playing its role to build political consensus in matters concerning its security it should take care not to isolate any party and keep a low profile.
    • There should be proper coordination between Ministry of External affairs and intelligence agencies in their approach to Nepal.

    Comments of the discussants

    The discussants have made the following observations about the paper:

    • The paper talked about hill-based nationalism rather than Nepali nationalism.
    • Nationalism has been used in the paper as a synonym of anti-Indianism.
    • The paper gives an impression that China is interested to play its own political game in Nepal. However, it was argued by the discussants that it was the Nepalese who wanted to play the China card. China is quite pragmatic in its dealings with Nepal.

    • To justify the title, a separate section on India factor should be incorporated in the paper.
    • The paper is detailed and timely. However to make it more up-to-date it should accommodate the analysis on the latest Constituent Assembly (CA) election results.

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