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How to fail Nepal

Suhas Chakma

Situations similar to the one in Nepal are familiar to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). Over 9,000 people have been killed, thousands have been displaced and hundreds of people have arrested since the start of the Maoists uprising in 1996. After the collapse of the ceasefire agreement on August 27, 2003, Nepal has descended into anarchy. King Gyanendra has been ruling "Democratic Nepal" with a proxy government of the royalist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party. After dismissing then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's Government in a virtual coup on October 4, 2002, King Gyanendra's regime has failed to deliver - its honeymoon with the Maoists was short-lived.

A draft resolution at the ongoing 60th session of the UNCHR by Switzerland and European Union on advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights to Nepal has raised a storm over a tea cup. The draft resolution urges Nepal to invite the office of the UNCHR to open an office to monitor violations of human rights and humanitarian laws both by the security forces and the Maoists; and strengthen capacity of Nepal's human rights mechanisms.

The Brahmins in Kathmandu and New Delhi consider the draft resolution as interference in sovereign Nepal's internal affairs. This despite that in the UN circle, technical cooperation assistance implying more aid is seen as reward for human rights violations. Often, when a country is consistently censured under agenda item 9 on country situations, it requests for technical cooperation to get off the hook.

Nepalese Foreign Minister Bhekh Bahadur Thapa met External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on his way to address the 60th session of CHR. After addressing the CHR on March 18, 2004, Foreign Minister Thapa has subsequently been lobbying in Brussels. In a further attempt to scuttle the draft resolution, on March 26, 2004, Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa revealed a 25-point commitment paper on human rights which is a sad commentary about Nepal's human rights record. Apart from its commitment to issue directives on Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, all rights are guaranteed under the Constitution of Nepal but the security forces have been violating these rights with impunity.

Those who arm Nepal (India, Belgium and US) and those who oppose international mediation (India) are pushing Nepal to the brink of collapse. While the issue of strengthening Nepal to depend itself against Maoists takeover is understandable, the question is whether Nepal could find a military solution to the Maoist problem. In a country where the main source of information are chief district officers and superintendent of police or the army spokesman, Col Deepak Gurung, the killings of civilians are often touted as the killings of the Maoists. The Maoists too have been responsible for widespread and severe violations of human rights, including murder, torture, mutilations, bombings, extortion, etc.

Nepal is in the middle of a full-scale civil war with half the country under the control of Maoists. Apart from Terai, the Nepalese Government's writ is restricted to the buildings housing the chief district officers or security camps. The edifice of state structure has collapsed in most parts of Nepal. As neither the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) nor both factions of the Nepali Congress (Deuba and Koirala factions) were sure of the outcome of the elections, then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had no alternative but to suggest formation of a national government.

The King known for his appetite for power dismissed Prime Minister Deuba on October 4, 2002. International community remained silent against the Royal coup in the name of countering the Maoists. After the dispensation of absolute rule in the last one and half years, the possibility of holding free and fair elections in Nepal remains a mirage. While the Maoists continue to rule half the country; the King rules the other half. The democrats have no role. The United States and India, which have been blindly supporting the administration in Kathmandu, have been doing irreparable damage to Nepal.

The outreach of the Maoists or their support base - coerced or spontaneous - is substantial across the country. Nepal simply does not have the resources to deal with the Maoists. Attempts by domestic interlocutors of Nepal to start the peace process have failed. It is essential New Delhi sees the value in allowing the UN Secretary General to explore the possibilities of a negotiated settlement rather than leading Nepal to virtual collapse. Unfortunately, the Swiss resolution does not even touch upon this issue. Yet, the resolution is being touted as interference in internal affairs.

Nepal and India must remember they have been consistently supporting the statement of the chairman of the UNCHR on the situation of human rights in Colombia, which faces the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. The High Commissioner of Human Rights maintains an office in Bogota pursuant to the Chairman's statement and Colombia's sovereignty has not been dented by its presence. The misplaced Cold War psyche is more suited to Indian diplomats and Kathmandu must not see everything through New Delhi's prism.

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