Prachanda talks of how his party made fundamental changes to its ideology
In August 2010, at the nadir of relations between India and Nepali Maoists, the former Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, went to Kathmandu as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy.
With the Maoists blaming India for blocking their ascent to power, Mr. Saran conveyed a clear message to Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’: “You can either be a revolutionary force with a coercive apparatus or a civilian party abiding by the discipline of multiparty democracy. Make a choice.”
Almost three years later, Mr. Prachanda — at a function chaired by his ‘old friend’ Mr. Saran in the Indian capital on Monday evening — declared that the party had made a choice in favour of ‘democracy’ and ‘progressive nationalism.’
The Maoist leader announced that his party, through a national congress in the southern town of Hetauda in February, made three fundamental changes to its ideology.
“One, we have accepted peaceful transition, peaceful multiparty democratic politics.” Mr. Prachanda referred to the integration and rehabilitation of the ‘Maoist armed cadres’ as proof, and pointed out, “My party has also given up its ruling mandate, to form a government led by the Chief Justice, to hold elections in a free, fair, and acceptable manner.”
The second shift was the ‘focus on economic prosperity and development’ as a party strategy. He thanked India for being Nepal’s biggest development partner, sought investment in a range of sectors, and said, “Economic development is essential for political stability, and a prosperous and developed Nepal will help address the security concerns of our neighbours.”
He also floated the idea of ‘trilateral cooperation’ between China, India and Nepal in hydropower and for the development of Lumbini. Mr. Prachanda was quick to add this was a ‘long-term vision,’ not meant to ‘undermine or replace’ bilateral relations between the countries.
And three, in a reference to apprehensions about the sporadic ‘anti-Indian’ rhetoric emanating from the Maoist leadership and its broader strategic vision, Mr. Prachanda said, “For the first time, we have criticised narrow nationalism, feudal nationalism and adopted progressive nationalism. We want good relations with India. Our relations must be the best example of bilateral ties in the rest of the world.” He added that on his visit to Beijing last week, where he met President Xi Jinping, the Chinese leadership too encouraged them to have good ties with India.
This, Mr. Prachanda said, was where they differed with the “dogmatic and sectarian” view of extremist colleagues like Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, who have split and continue to criticise Indian ‘expansionism’.
So why did he not make the choice earlier? In a meeting with National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon on Monday morning, Mr. Prachanda said that had he acted earlier, the “engine would have moved, but the bogies would have got left behind.”
“It took time because we were attempting something unique, and needed to get our cadre and machinery along. But now, the choice is made,” he told The Hindu.