Siddharth Varadarajan

Maoists now a normal, legitimate party: official

Maoist victory not the product of fear

India, Nepal entering uncharted territory

New Delhi: Seeking to dispel the impression that India was worried or shaken by the victory of the Maoists in Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections, senior officials said on Tuesday that the government not only accepted the electoral verdict in its northern neighbour but also welcomed it.

India’s policy towards Nepal in recent years had two broad aims, the officials said. The first was the strengthening of democracy and the second the ‘mainstreaming’ of the Maoists. “Now you can’t get more mainstream than forming the government,” the official, who briefed a small group of journalists on condition of anonymity, said. As for democracy, the elections had finally brought into place a structure with greater legitimacy than the outgoing parliament which was elected nine years ago, he added.

The official rejected the view that the Maoist victory was the product of ‘fear’ and said this explanation was something the ‘Kathmandu elite’ was putting out. “You do not get a 67 per cent turnout with fear. The electorate has spoken clearly.” India, he said, saw the elections as “a clear, solid vote for change, and, ultimately, this is also what we want.”

The Nepali people, he added, wanted a “clean break” from the past and this offers India an opportunity to also re-examine the bilateral relationship to see how it could be taken forward. At the same time, the official admitted the two countries were entering “uncharted territory.”

Asked about India’s comfort level with the Nepali Maoists, the official said continuous contacts had been maintained over the past two years. The Maoist leader, Prachanda, had himself acknowledged the positive role India had played in pushing the peace process, he said.

The elections had made it easier for India to work with them, he added, since the Maoists were now a “normal, legitimate party.” Denying India was a ‘status quoist’ power, the official said the “Old Nepal was not working for us either so why should we be attached to it?”

India, the official said, was also in favour of the U.S. withdrawing its designation of the Nepali Maoists as a terrorist organisation. But New Delhi has yet to take a view on how hard it should press Washington on this point. “This is going to be difficult for them,” the official said. “So far they have welcomed the election without saying who or what. I think they will sit and wait on this for some time.”

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