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Nepal Maoist top guns at odds over position on India
Publication Date : 05-02-2013
As representatives at the General Convention start discussions on the political document presented by Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, senior Maoist leaders are at loggerheads over the party’s position on "national independence," a terminology used to describe how the party views India.
In an interview with the Post, Party Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha on Monday said the convention will amend Dahal’s document and give continuity to the party’s standing policy against "foreign intervention."
Finance Minister and Standing Committee member Barsha Man Pun, however, termed Shrestha’s position as ‘blind nationalism’ that cannot safeguard national interests. In the next few days, Dahal will throw his weight around to find a meeting point between contending viewpoints on India, a task not always easy in a party where the rank and file was raised on strong anti-India rhetoric.Shrestha said he has given up plans to register a dissenting opinion after Dahal promised to incorporate concerns about national sovereignty in his political document.
“The chairman has requested me not to register a dissenting opinion and has assured me that a separate meeting of the party’s central body would be held within six months to determine the party’s position on India and review the controversial BIPPA agreement,” Shrestha said.
The Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (Bippa) was signed by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in New Delhi in 2011, but it has come under sharp criticism from a section of the party, including leaders of the breakaway Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.
Shrestha wants the chairman’s political document to clearly state that the Bhattarai-led government’s decision to sign the agreement with India was a wrong one. He has publicly criticised Prime Minister Bhattarai for “hastily” signing the deal despite Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s suggestions that it could be signed at a suitable time proposed by the Nepali side.
Shrestha has also expressed reservations over Dahal’s assessment that economic prosperity through generation of capital will strengthen the country, which will then strengthen national independence further. Dahal’s document has avoided terminologies like “Indian expansionism” and has remained silent on “Indian interference in Nepal’s affairs.”
“Our relationship with China is problem-free. However, we need to review our relationship with India on the basis of equality,” said Shrestha. “The party needs to focus on scrapping unequal treaties with India by proposing new ones and put an end to the presence of foreign (Indian) troops in Kalapani.”
Kalapani is a tri-junction in Darchula district in north-west Nepal and on the border of Pithoragarh district of India.
The foreign minister said Nepali leaders should stop engaging “officials of spy agencies of any foreign country” on its domestic political issues. “All such exchanges should only be with the political leadership of neighbouring countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, the party’s standing committee member Barsha Man Pun objected to Shrestha’s views, arguing that the foreign policy goals tend to shift with the changes in the party’s roles. “Now our party is in government, and as such, we cannot stick to the same old methods and rhetoric that we resorted to during the time of war on issues related to safeguarding national independence,” he told the Post.
Adopting a pragmatic approach, he argued: “We should be patient and change the nature of the movement to achieve our goals. We should be economically independent to safeguard national interests. Blind nationalism doesn’t work.”
Meanwhile, the Maoist party has said it will correct Dahal’s document that ‘wrongly’ mentions that Nepal’s international boundary will be ‘corrected’ through a national referendum.
The political document presented in the closed session on Sunday said the border dispute was an agenda of long-term importance and that it should be settled through a referendum after ‘extensive discussions’ among the people.
Experts have criticised the suggestion, saying that such a sensitive issue should be resolved through government-to-government negotiations with neighbouring countries, and not through a referendum. “We have a clear knowledge of Nepal’s international boundaries, hence there is no need to go for a referendum. Due correction will be made in the chairman’s document,” Shrestha said.