India should reach out to all Nepalese parties, including Maoists: analysts

With the death of the former Nepalese Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, India should move away from engaging with personalities in Kathmandu and reach out to the entire spectrum of Nepal's political parties including the Maoists, feel former diplomats and strategic analysts.

“GP's death has definitely complicated the ongoing effort to ensure peace and stability in Nepal. But it must be said two factors undermined his potential for contributing to the process. The first was his health and the second his autocratic leadership style. However, he still had the ability to cajole and persuade other leaders and even the Maoists,” observed the former envoy to Nepal, K.V. Rajan.

“Girija Babu stood as a solid rock between the Maoists and Madhav Nepal's fragile and ragtag coalition government. His departure may precipitate a serious crisis of survival for this government and, in turn, also improve the prospect of a national coalition, headed most likely by the Maoists, to emerge. There are people and forces, both within and outside Nepal, which do not prefer this and may resist it but such a coalition will re-energise Nepal's otherwise derailed peace process and bring it to its logical conclusion,” noted strategic analyst S.D. Muni.

“Nepal is at a crucial juncture. GP's presence would have been crucial and helpful especially when the NC [Nepali Congress] has de facto split into several factions and there is the possibility of no one leader emerging to keep the party together,” Mr. Rajan said.

“It is sad that GP has passed on. But it opens up the possibility for the NC to take stock and find new leaders who are constantly not sat upon by GP. India committed the mistake of conducting personalised politics with the Nepalese leadership for the last 50 years. India will have to do fresh thinking of how to approach the new situation,'' said another former envoy. Though GP had a long association with the Indian political leadership, his domination of Nepalese politics ensured that India-Nepal interaction became personal. The middle rank of the NC found that GP was the greatest stumbling block towards a forward-looking and efficient NC, he added.

GP was the last great survivor of South Asian politics. He was also a great champion of Nepal's movement towards a democratic framework. “What this means for India can be easily inferred,” said another former Ambassador to Nepal, Deb Mukherjee.

Mr. Rajan felt New Delhi must now avoid the temptation of filling the vacuum by making or unmaking leaders. It must reach out to the Maoists and engage with all the political players.

“India can't be seen to be intrusive. It must encourage the move towards a Nepalese solution in which the Maoists are players. They must be given space and a sense of political accommodation. The Indian approach in the post-GP era must be much more discreet and not self-serving.”

Mr. Muni said ‘Girija Babu' had passed away at a time when Republican Nepal was in its infancy; still struggling with its unfinished peace process and challenge of constitution writing. Even with all the controversies surrounding his persona, politics and policies, Girija Babu stood as the tallest political leader of Nepal. His death marked the end of his party's dominance in the national politics and posed a formidable challenge to the Nepali Congress to keep itself united, he said.

According to him, the deep divisions in party leadership would unfold when the repeatedly postponed national convention is held and a new President elected. “Only a sincere resort to consensual politics and genuine encouragement to young and dynamic leadership to emerge can save the party from disintegration. This seems easier said than achieved under the prevailing circumstances,'' Mr. Muni said.

He said that between the extremities of royalists and the revolutionaries in Nepali politics, Girija Babu preserved the moderate middle ground. His absence would seriously erode this “social-democratic” terrain. It would certainly embolden the mutually hostile extremities to race for grabbing as much of political space, as rapidly as possible with threatening prospects of conflict, chaos and disorder. “Nepal needs to restore the lost political consensus of 2006 to save itself from anarchy and deluge. The best tribute to Girija Babu would be for the Republican forces to work for such a consensus,” he said.

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