Empires Love Monarchy

By N. Gunasekaran

In contrast to their stated policy of promoting democracy, Bushies favored continuing the autocratic regime in Nepal. The world's "greatest democracy" supported the ruthless monarchy while doing lip-service to the idea of democratic Nepal. To promote US corporatist interests in South Asia, this Himalayan nation is strategically important.

Last year, the king of Nepal declared a state of emergency and placed then-Prime Minister Deuba and the leaders of political parties under house arrest. Authorizing himself with powers of preventive detention, he withdrew all constitutional rights, like freedom of speech, assembly and free press. He justified his actions based on the inability of the Deuba government to end the decade-long Maoist insurgency.

But April 24, a mass upsurge brought the democratic politicians to the helm of affairs, clipping the powers of King Gyanendra. Now, the country is in transition from absolute monarchy to representative democracy. A bilateral ceasefire is in place and dialogue with Maoists is going on. So, the chances for ending the destructive insurgency have increased. The Parliament, disbanded four years ago, was reinstated with an interim government headed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Its task is to organize a constituent assembly to author a new constitution. At one stroke, the people's movement achieved both democracy and peace.

Meanwhile, the "Bush doctrine" that legitimizes interference with the internal affairs of other states was operational. US diplomats tried to protect the king and his army. In February, James F. Moriarty, US Ambassador to Nepal, stated that the US wanted "reconciliation and compromise" between monarchy and parliamentary parties and any other arrangement was unacceptable to the US. He arrogantly dictated how the domestic politicians should behave. He asked the political parties to "keep an open mind and accept a hand, if offered by the king.'' Earlier, he had called "for the palace and the legitimate political parties to unite in a common democratic front against the violent Maoist insurgency, as a way to achieve peace in Nepal.''

US Assistant Secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher had been in touch with Pyar Jung Thapa, the chief of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). He justified his action, saying that he wanted "to check with the army and see, first of all, that they were supporting the political process, that they were supporting the civilian leaders in Nepal, and second of all talk to them about how they saw their job in the days ahead, and how, when a civilian leadership wanted us to, we could support them in the future." Who authorized him to meet the army chief and indulge in assessing the army's role in the political process of a sovereign country? If he is really interested in the establishment of democracy in Nepal, why did he not ask the monarchy to ensure the submission of the RNA to the civilian control, instead of having direct meeting with the army chief?

In spite of such interferences, the ruling Seven Party Alliance and Maoists continue the political process. They have arrived at a 12-point agreement and the biggest insurgent group is expected to give up armed struggle, demobilize and join mainstream politics. If the reformed Maoists align with Nepal's mainstream left, then Nepal would go the leftist way. Fearing these consequences, the US wants the Maoists to be excluded from the ongoing political process. Bush administration, while continuing its killing mission in Iraq, shed crocodile tears over the victims of Maoists in Nepal.

In this impoverished nation of 27 million, the poor cannot get pure drinking water and sanitation. For this very reason, at least 15,000 children below age 5 die every year due to diarrhea. Economic woes pushed the country to the brink of collapse. The present new phase of politics is the ray of hope.

The important tasks before the political community are mainly the creation of a new constitution that would guarantee economic and social rights for the common Nepalese and the firm establishment of a genuinely inclusive democratic system. The question of controlling the army is also important. For more than five decades, the royal army was instrumental in repressing the democratic aspirations of the people.

The unity of democratic forces will definitely solve these problems. The Nepalese, the heroes of the greatest mass upsurge in South Asia in recent times, made history by establishing democracy in their country. They are capable of choosing their own destiny. So, Uncle Sam has no business in their internal affairs.

N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.

From The Progressive Populist, July 15, 2006

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