Excerpt from New Book: Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal
Strategic Considerations in Nepal
Revolutionary Worker #1262, December 19, 2004
POST-SEPTEMBER 11 AND THE GEOPOLITICAL STAKES
Colin Powell’s visit to Kathmandu came
four months after September 11 and two months after King Gyanendra
declared a State of Emergency. This was the first high-level
diplomatic trip by a US official to Nepal in 30 years and
signaled mounting concern, necessity, and willingness by the
US to provide not only political but also military support
to crush the People’s War.
The US doesn’t have lots of investments
or sweatshops in Nepal and there aren’t any significant
oilfields in this small Himalayan country. So what’s
behind this high-level concern? Why is the US providing the
Nepalese army with millions of dollars, thousands of weapons,
and military advisers and trainers? Why has the US, as a July
1, 2003 article in the Kathmandu Post revealed, been
"quietly securing close military and political ties with Nepal"?
Since September 11, the US "war against terrorism"
and the aims and ambitions of the US crusade to attain unrivaled
world hegemony have been setting the terms for much of international
relations, including how the US (and other powers) look at
their necessity and freedom to intervene in Nepal.
As part of the US quest for world domination,
the "war on terrorism" serves as an all-purpose umbrella under
which numerous interventions are being justified. The political
and ideological program of the Maoists in Nepal clearly has
nothing in common with the reactionary politics and religious
fundamentalism of groups like al-Qaeda. But this hasn’t
stopped the US from using the pretext of "combating terror"
to justify military action against any and all insurgencies
which threaten U.S. interests—including genuine revolutions
aimed at overthrowing oppressive governments.
The US, Britain, and other imperialist powers
have provided the Nepalese regime with political and military
support exactly because they know that a Maoist victory would
reverberate throughout the Indian subcontinent and the world.
This is a region of extreme instability where a Maoist "regime
change" in Nepal could interact in unpredictable ways with
the hostility between Pakistan and India, the conflict in
Kashmir, relations between India and China, and other guerrilla
insurgencies in the region, especially those in India.
The often antagonistic relationship between
India and China is certainly a factor in this developing scenario.
Nepal is strategically situated between the Tibetan region
of China and the northern border of India. Because of this,
both of these major powers view Nepal as a kind of "buffer,"
over which each has jockeyed for influence and power as a
way of challenging and defending against the other.
India would be seriously threatened by a
government in Kathmandu run by Maoists (who have already stated
that one of the key goals of their revolution is to end Indian
domination). And the New Delhi government worries that China
would try to take advantage of any kind of upheaval in Nepal
to strengthen its hand against India and in the whole region.
The Maoists in Nepal denounce the current
Chinese regime for overthrowing and dismantling socialism
after Mao’s death. The Chinese government has made clear
that it supports the efforts to crush the insurgency, but
China would be extremely concerned if India invaded Nepal
to prevent the Maoists from seizing power. This would upset
the long-standing and fragile balance of power on the China/India
border, where serious warfare has broken out before and possibly
provoke renewed hostility between these two major powers.
In terms of the US and its geostrategic stakes
in Nepal, the question is: Can the US in its quest to achieve
unprecedented global hegemony allow a successful Maoist guerrilla
war in Nepal?
In a radio interview at the end of 2003,
Michael Malinowski, the US ambassador to Nepal, revealed something
about how the US views this question.16
"It’s a troubled country. It’s
very disturbing. We’re concerned about it. One may ask
why does the United States care, it’s 8,000 miles away?
I would say there’s a number of reasons. One on the
ideological plane we want democracy to succeed. We don’t
want to see democracy fail. We don’t want to see democracy
fail by a group, a small group that is unwilling to contest
its ideas in the electoral process or the parliamentary process.
But instead have decided to go the way of the gun, use terrorism,
terrorist acts to get their will... There’s real reasons
why people have picked up the gun here. They’re impoverished.
There’s a lack of access to higher levers of education.
There’s corruption. There’s mismanagement. There’s
bad government. All of that. But again I would argue that
Maoism is not the way to solve that."
Later Malinowski spoke to the international
dimension of the US concerns, saying that he sees the need
for "A clear message from every outside nation or people who
care about Nepal—a clear message to the Maoists that
the world will not put up with this type of behavior and indiscriminate
use of terror."
Malinowski’s statements deliver both
a message and threat: this Maoist revolution is "not the solution’
and ’will not be tolerated."
While Malinowski tars the Maoists with the
"terrorist" brush, he can’t offer any real evidence
to justify the charge. In fact, he is forced to admit that
the Maoists have real support because of the oppressive conditions
in Nepal—and that this is the basis for the military
and political strength of the Maoists.
On one level, it seems almost counterintuitive
that an operative of the Bush administration would be conceding
that Maoist guerrillas have a base among the people and that
poverty, deep inequalities, and a corrupt and bad government
are fueling the revolution. While Malinowski calls the Maoists
"terrorists" he cannot simply write them off as "terrorists"
and has to acknowledge that they are actually seen by millions
of people as a real alternative to the current order. Malinowski’s
arguments tell you something about the nature of this insurgency—that
this is not an uprising of isolated rebels, but a revolution
with mass, popular support that propounds a viable program
for how to run Nepal and is contending for power.
The US fears that a Maoist victory in Nepal
would, to use a phrase from Mao, "ignite a prairie fire."
Intelligence reports assessing the impact of the insurgency
in Nepal point to growing Maoist guerrilla warfare in India.17
And the Naxalbari area, where Maoist armed struggle began
in India in the 1960s, is located right across Nepal’s
In June 2002, at the request of nine Indian
states where Maoists are waging armed struggle—Andhra
Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra,
Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal - India created a special
police force to crack down on Maoist guerrillas.18
Official Indian sources have said that any negotiated deal
in Nepal that produces a government with "unreformed" revolutionary
Maoists sharing power would have serious security consequences
for India and its war against Indian Maoists.19
CAN THE REVOLUTION WIN?
The political and geographic connections
and interrelationships between the situation in Nepal and
India (and the whole region) also have huge implications for
and present real challenges to the Maoists if they do seize
power in Nepal.
Militarily, a new revolutionary government
would immediately face the problem of being surrounded by
unfriendly governments and the possibility of military invasion—by
India, UN "peacekeeping troops" or even the United States.
Economically, as an underdeveloped country
with a long history of dependency on India and other foreign
countries, and an almost complete lack of industry, the new
Nepal would immediately face enormous challenges in meeting
people’s basic needs and developing an economy that
does not create relations of foreign dependency and exploitation.
Politically, the Maoists would be attempting
to build a new socialist society surrounded by hostile states,
in a world where "communism has been declared dead," and in
which there are tremendous prejudices against socialist states
led by communist parties. During the Chinese revolution Mao
had to deal with what he called "bourgeois democrats becoming
capitalist roaders"— that is, those within the Communist
Party itself who united with the anti-feudal, democratic aims
of the revolution but then became proponents of building a
capitalist, not socialist, society. This would certainly be
a phenomenon in Nepal, the outlines of which can already been
seen in the outlook of various political parties that are
proponents of bourgeois democracy, not socialism, but who
could unite with the Maoists to oppose the monarchy.
Bob Avakian sheds valuable light on this
complex relationship between seizing power in one country
and promoting the advance of revolutions elsewhere. He says:
"Socialist countries have so far emerged
and for a certain historical period are very likely to emerge
one or a few at a time. So, in grand strategic terms socialist
countries and, more broadly, the international proletariat
and the international communist movement will be faced with
a situation where it is necessary to change the world alignment
of forces or face the prospect of socialist countries going
under after a certain point. This doesn’t mean there
is some sort of mechanical mathematical or arithmetic equation
where if you don’t get more and more of the world in
a given period of time, then the socialist country, or countries,
that exist at the time (if there are any socialist counties
right then) will inevitably go under. But there is a contradiction
when a socialist country is in a situation of being encircled;
and that also interacts with the internal contradictions within
the socialist society. And, at a certain point, if further
advances aren’t made in the proletarian revolution worldwide,
these things will turn to their opposites and the conditions
will become more favorable for capitalist restoration within
the socialist country. This doesn’t mean capitalist
restoration automatically kicks in after a certain point,
or that it will automatically occur at all. But it means that
things will begin to turn into their opposites and the conditions
for capitalist restoration will become more favorable. So,
in that dialectical materialist sense, it’s one way
or the other: make further advances and breakthroughs in the
world revolution or be thrown back, temporarily."20
Recognizing the greater regional and world
significance of the People’s War in Nepal also informs
the overall strategy of the CPN (Maoist)—in how it sees
the path to seizing power and in how it sees consolidating
state power. The Party leaders very consciously look at their
revolution as "part of the world revolution" and they look
at the success of a revolution in Nepal as providing both
an example and a "base area" for further Maoist revolutions.21
This has huge implications for the armed struggles being waged
by Maoists in India and in turn reacts back on the struggle
in Nepal. When I interviewed Prachanda he emphasized the importance
of the struggle in India to the success or failure of the
Nepalese revolution—pointing to the positive factor
of a reinforcing synergy between Nepalese Maoists living in
India, the political forces in India that would oppose intervention
in Nepal, and the overall progress of Maoist revolution in
The CPN (Maoist) emphasizes its "proletarian
internationalism" and has given this organizational expression
through its participation in the Revolutionary Internationalist
Movement (RIM), whose participants include Maoist parties
and organizations from around the world. The CPN (Maoist)
also makes no secret of the fact that it has fraternal relations
with Maoist organizations throughout the Indian subcontinent.
For example, in June 2001, the CPN (Maoist) helped form CCOMPOSA
(Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations
of South Asia), which is made up of ten parties, including
ones from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India. CCOMPOSA’s
stated purpose is to "unify and coordinate the activities
of the Maoist parties and organizations in South Asia to spread
protracted people’s war in the region." Maoist parties
in India have clearly been encouraged and emboldened by the
success of the Maoists in Nepal. A press statement announcing
the formation of CCOMPOSA emphasized how the struggle in Nepal
is "changing the political geography and revolutionary dynamics
of South Asia."23
All this underscores the strategic significance
and political importance of the Nepalese revolution—and
the fact that the US and other imperialist powers cannot (and
will not) ignore the real threat of a Maoist victory in Nepal.
This also poses critical questions if the revolution does
come to power in Nepal—what this could spark in neighboring
countries, how the US, UK, India, and other countries would
respond, and what kind of support would have to be built in
the world for a new Maoist government in Nepal to survive
the pressures and attacks of surrounding states and America’s
new imperial order. This would be a real challenge, not just
for the revolutionaries in Nepal but for all who stand against
injustice and oppression.
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