ON THE RAMPAGE?
are asked to believe that Crown Prince Diprenda, forbidden
to marry the woman of his choice by the willful Queen,
went berserk and slaughtered his entire family. According
eyewitness account, he killed not only his mother
and father but a whole array of aunts, uncles, brothers,
10 others in all, by spraying them with submachine fire.
According to this semi-official version, a young man formerly
described as "a model student," "intensely
loyal to his father," and even "gentle,"
was suddenly transformed into "Dippy"
love-crazed patricide, who massacred the entire Nepalese
royal family – except for Prince Paras, the son of the
newly-installed King Gyanendra. It is just the kind of
unrealistic, drippy love story made-to-order for the West,
but to say that the Nepalese man-in-the-street is skeptical
would be a definite understatement: they just don't believe
it. There were riots
in the streets, as protesters accused the government
(and the newly-crowned King) of being behind the murders,
in conjunction with India and the US, while the pro-India
faction (grouped around the ruling Nepali Congress Party)
hinted darkly that Pakistan was behind the murder. In
any case, the people of Nepal don't believe anything their
government is telling them – and I, for one, don't blame
tall tale being cooked up by what remains of Nepal's royal
family is perhaps the single most dubious cover story
ever concocted: and, after that "tragic accident" statement
by the new King, their credibility is about on a par with
O. J. Simpson's. But before we go any farther down this
particular rabbit-hole – a tunnel that has more twists
and turns than the Maze of the Minotaur – it is useful
to step back and ask: aside from the tabloid flavor of
the whole thing, why should anyone care about what
happens in Nepal, anyway? This tiny kingdom stashed away
in the Himalayas is no Shangri-la: its 33 million inhabitants
are the poorest in Asia, with the average national yearly
income below that even of poverty-stricken Bangladesh.
If you're into monasteries, mysticism, and mountains,
Nepal is the place for you, but otherwise it would appear
to be of limited interest – that is, unless your name
secretary of defense Rumsfeld, you'll remember, is the
author of the
new Asia-centric thrust of US foreign policy, a much-heralded
military and diplomatic realignment that will put China
squarely in America's gun sights. The idea is to "contain"
China much like the US contained the Soviet Union during
the last cold war. By letting Japan re-arm, tilting toward
India in the ongoing Indo-Pakistani dispute, and playing
the Russian card by reaching an accord with President
Putin at the upcoming summit, US policymakers hope to
erect a new Great Wall around the Chinese. In this context,
Nepal takes on great importance as potentially the first
theater in which Act One of a new cold war drama is acted
out. Tucked in between Indian and China, and long the
center of political intrigue and violence in the region,
Nepal is a flashpoint in the escalating conflict between
the US and China that may have already gone off.
UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS"
is a kind of high-altitude Casablanca,
swarming with spies, counterspies, insurgents, and provocateurs.
Times opines that "Most are from neighbouring
countries, notably from India and Pakistan whose RAW (Research
and Analysis Wing) and ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence)
agencies respectively are engaged in a perennial game
of one-upmanship." Most, but not all: for Nepal is also
a hotbed of Tibet's nationalist insurgency, and home to
a large number of refugees who provide a fertile recruiting
ground for the clandestine movement. When the
Karmapa Lama, or "Boy Lama," a top Buddhist religious
figure, defected and sought refuge in India, he escaped
through Nepal. On the Western side of the ledger, the
British, who once dominated the country, retain their
interest here, and the Americans – wherever they go –
are always a force to be reckoned with. The Chinese, for
their part, are not only concerned about the Tibetan resistance,
but also quite nervous about the Maoist insurgency that
has taken over anywhere from 7 to 40 provinces – depending
on whom you believe – 5 years after announcing the start
of their "people's war." For irony of ironies!
Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN[M]), which launched the
insurgency, is no friend of the current Chinese government.
a long interview with some of his American co-thinkers,
Prachanda," the Great Helmsman of the CPN(M), declares:
"My main thrust is that I hate revisionism. I seriously
hate revisionism. And I never compromise with revisionism.
I fought and fought again with revisionism. And the party's
correct line is based on the process of fighting revisionism.
I hate revisionism. I seriously hate revisionism." In
Maoist jargon, the "revisionists" are the late Deng Xiaoping
and his followers, currently in power in Beijing, who
abandoned the Cultural Revolution for the "Four
Modernizations" and the opening to the West. "Right
now," says Prachanda, "subjectively, the proletarian forces
are weak – after Mao's death and the counter-revolution
in China. Nepal is a small country, we are a small party
– but we have a big perspective. Our People's War may
be a spark, a spark for a prairie fire."
is one fire the Chinese would rather put out before it
starts. The Chinese maximum leader, Deng, rose to power
on a slogan that just about sums up the light-years that
separated him from the Maoist "Cultural Revolution": "To
get rich is glorious!" As China gets ready to shut
down state-run industries, and sheds the hard outer shell
of state socialism that has dragged it down and prevented
development, the last thing the government wants is a
revival of ultra-leftist lunacy. And make no mistake about
it: Comrade Prachanda really really does hate "revisionism,"
i.e. the Chinese, as he makes clear to his American fan
are carrying out People's War under the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
Therefore we think it has played a very significant and
important role among the Indian revolutionary masses and
in the ideological debate in the Indian communist movement.
It has also helped the RIM [Revolutionary Internationalist
Movement, a coalition of sympathizing parties in the US,
Western Europe, and elsewhere] very much in exposing international
revisionism, modern revisionism, revisionism in China
and Russian revisionism. In Nepal there is a very big
revisionist party and much revisionist influence. And
the People's War has played a very big role in exposing
Nepal, the main opposition party is the United
Marxist Leninists (UML), who won a large number of
votes in the last election and were once, briefly, the
ruling party: this is the "very big revisionist party"
Comrade Prachanda refers to. In 1995, with the UML in
power under Prime Minister Man
Mohan Adhikary, Nepal demanded the right to revise
a treaty with India that forbids importation of arms from
China. "It is the right of every country to import arms
which are cheaper," declared Adhikary, who also said he
would seek stronger ties with Tibet during a visit to
Beijing. The government soon fell, however, due to disunity
in the ranks. In any case, the last time Nepal tried to
buy from China, in 1988, it triggered a direct confrontation
between New Delhi and Katmandu: India
imposed a trade embargo that lasted until mid-1990
and crippled the Nepalese economy. This led to a popular
movement against the absolute monarchy, and the institution
of democratic elections, which were won by the pro-India
Nepali Congress Party. The country has ricocheted between
the ruling pro-India Congress party, the UML, and nationalist
groups associated with the monarchy ever since then, in
a series of violent upsurges – of which Diprendra's Katmandu
rampage may be the latest installment.
May, Birendra had just returned from a visit to China
– and, with the government at a virtual standstill, rumors
were rife that he would follow the example of his
father, suspend parliamentary democracy, and rule by decree.
The pro-India Congress party was under severe attack in
the Parliament, and opposition deputies got into a knock-down
drag-out fist-fight with government supporters as they
demanded the Prime Minister's resignation. The government,
according to the opposition, was completely paralyzed
by the Maoist insurrection. So far only the police had
been involved in the fight against the guerrillas, because
the army is commanded directly by the King, whereas Parliament
controls the cops – and, at least up until the day of
his death, the King had refused to crack down. The crisis
was headed for a catalytic conclusion, but no one imagined
it would be this catastrophic. . . .
– OR PRO-NEPAL?
addled report by Stratfor speculates that the new
King is pro-Maoist – and, impossibly, a tool of
the "revisionist" Chinese government – the arrest of pro-Maoist
journalists by the new regime probably presages a change
of the Royal Palace's hands-off policy on the part of
King Gyanendra. Time magazine also chimes in, declaring
that Gyanendra will tilt toward China: but this merely
means, it turns out, that he will implement the same policy
of national independence pursued by his predecessors,
playing off New Delhi against Beijing – and hoping to
create some space for his tiny nation to survive intact.
the new cold war atmosphere generated by Washington and
its journalistic amen-corner, one is either "pro-China"
or "anti-China" – with nothing in between. Yet, in between
two giants is precisely where Nepal has always been, in
spite of India's best efforts to treat it as a protectorate.
As long as there is a King in Katmandu this balancing
act is likely to continue. Time bibbles on about
the late King Birendra's "instinctive pro-India" stance,
but this description fails to take into account the Indian
embargo against Nepal that occurred during Birendra's
reign: did New Delhi close off most border crossings and
stop virtually all trade because they thought the King
was too "pro-Indian"?
inconvenient fact for our Time correspondent is
that the rioting crowds now demonstrating their grief
in the streets are shouting "death to India" – they blame
India, not China, for the de facto palace coup.
They are calling for the head of the pro-India Prime Minister,
and accusing his government of complicity in the murder.
Of course, getting rid of the King and establishing a
republic has always been the ostensible goal of the "democratic"
movement, led by the Congress party, as well as the Communists.
This would be the prelude to a de facto merger
with India, or, at least, the Bhutanization of Nepal (the
neighboring nation of Bhutan, once completely independent,
is now an Indian protectorate. Even smaller Sikkim, also
once an independent nation, was absorbed outright.)
are several problems with the "Romeo & Juliet" story
coming out of Katmandu, starting with speculation that
Diprendra, whom we are told turned his gun on himself
after massacring the others, was
shot in the back. There is supposedly some Nepalese
"tradition" that demanded the cremation of the King's
body before sunset on the day of his death, so we'll never
know exactly what happened. There are also conflicting
reports about the reality of Diprenda's mother's opposition
to his marriage plans: some say that both families had
already approved the match. There is also the story
being circulated by the surviving wing of the royal family
that Prince Paras, who reportedly killed
a popular singer while driving drunk and had someone
else take the fall for it, acted completely out of character
and played the role of the hero, diverting the love-maddened
Diprendra long enough so some could escape. Curiouser
and curiouser . . .
FOR THE KING
more curious is an article in the Nepalese daily, Kantipur,
by a leading member of the CPN(M), which makes
the dead King a posthumous defender of "liberalism"
(this in spite of the CPN(M)'s longstanding vehement opposition
to the monarchy as an institution): the article implies
that he was knocked off because he was standing up to
India and the US – and, therefore, he had to go. While
the Commies' sudden appreciation for the King is a bit
much – one wonders how they justify this sudden conversion
to monarchism – there is a grain of truth in their analysis.
For the death of King Birendra was preceded not only by
rumors of a "big change" in policy, including a possible
coup, but also by a series of visits to and from China:
Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian visited
this year, the first Chinese military figure of his
rank to confer with his Nepalese counterpart, along
with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji: King Birendra also
made a trip to Beijing, his third. Could it be that
Birendra was killed because he was perceived as tilting
dangerously toward China?
minds want to know the answer to another question: Who
benefits from the destabilization of the Nepalese state,
and the impending success of the anti-China Maoist guerrilla
movement? Certainly not China. China's interest is in
promoting regional stability, and the electoral success
of the "Marxist-Leninist" parties denounced by the Maoists
as "revisionists" – and you can bet that, right now, alarm
bells are going off in Beijing.
Nepal is to be used as a base of operations for the destabilization
of China, then the success of the Maoist rebels – who
resemble the fanatical Sendero
Luminoso (Shining Path) of Peru in both their ideology
and their ferocity – is key. For this would turn the country
into a zone of subversion, from which Tibetan
separatists could operate freely. In April of this
Arshad Cheema, First Secretary at the Pakistan Embassy
in Katmandu, was caught with a large cache of high energy
RDX explosives in his apartment: he was detained, and
then expelled from the country. The Taliban
in Afghanistan has long preached that the liberation of
their Uighur brothers is a holy obligation: could
this arms cache have been intended for them – or the Maoists?
Whomever was the intended recipient of such a gift, one
thing is clear: the domestic players in Nepal's power
game all have foreign backers. As to which one of them
– if any – was behind the gruesome death of King Birendra
and the massacre of his family, we must wait and see how
this operatic melodrama plays out. Meanwhile, of one fact
we can be certain: while the events of the past week in
Nepal have indeed been "tragic," as King Gyanendra put
it, it was certainly no "accident."