The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Prachanda’s little jaunt

It seems Prachanda wanted little to do with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s first visit to Nepal, choosing instead to hie himself and CPN(M)’s new foreign policy chief, Krishna Bahadur Mahara to Hong Kong.  His contributions to bringing normalcy to the new republic have been largely negligible.  On the occasions where he has made his presence felt, one was left with no doubt that the intent to bring stability in the nation was subservient to the desire to consolidate power and eliminate democratic due process.

However, while Prachanda may not be interested in dialog with India’s bureaucrats, there is dialog between him and Sitaram Yechury.  It’s no surprise then that Prachanda is able to arrive at very innovative election models for Nepal, including a demand for indirect elections of the President by the Parliament, and a unicameral legislature, with no opposition.

Despite the deadlock in Nepal, Sitaram Yechury’s involvement in political reconciliation, at the behest of New Delhi, is a step in wrong direction. The CPI(M) has done precious little in the areas of governance and social and economic upliftment.  They exist to stymie progress and satisfy their own inflated egos.  But once given the opportunity to lead, they fail, rather spectacularly. One only has to look at the state of affairs in West Bengal and Kerala — bastions of CPI(M) rule in India — and gauge the impact of the decades of their rule on their social and economic development.

And Yechury’s protégés behave no different in Nepal.  Prachanda’s response to PM Madhav Nepal’s recently concluded 34-point agreement with India on areas including trade imbalance, infrastructure, development and military aid, was to complain that the PM’s visit was “humiliating” because it lacked adequate press coverage from the Indian media!

To be sure, there are several issues that confront Nepal today — rehabilitation of the PLA within the armed forces, framing a constitutional framework by May 2010, linguistic reconciliation and quelling ethnic unrest in southern Nepal.  Today, the fate of the new republic is precariously perched; the challenges that confront it are significant, but by no means are they as insurmountable as depicted by Indian and international media.

With all its faults, the UML-led government has endured, quite inexplicably, and no one is more shocked about this than Prachanda.  Unhappy about his self-inflicted irrelevance to the policital process (especially given CPN(M)’s popular support), he has wasted no opportunity to try and bring the government down, even threatening a third installment of the Jana Andolan (People’s Movement) to achieve his goals.

If the UML government continues to hold fort, CPN(M)’s disruptive position will inevitably soften, allowing for a possible “face-saving” compromise on core divergent issues confronting the State.  The modalities of the compromise can be effectively worked out if the CPN(M) is convinced of the relative durability of the government and the futility in trying to lead a united front with several individually insignificant, conflicting opposition members. For now, India’s primary focus today should be to assist the government to hold fort.  Political reconciliation will come naturally when the futility of CPN(M)’s shenanigans is effectively demonstrated.

Filed under: Communist Party of India (Marxist), Foreign Policy, India, World, , , , , , , , , , ,

Where do we go from here?

The people of India have spoken.  A clear mandate for the UPA government has been given.  While this blogger doesn’t consider the verdict to be optimal (considering UPA’s unforgivable lapses in security and foreign affairs), the decisiveness of the victory is pleasing because it allows a less fractious Central government to go about its business.  The mandate against the BJP is very clear — the people don’t want any part of their divisive politics.  A campaign that was overshadowed by the venom spewing bigotry of Varun Gandhi was only bound for failure.  Uttar Pradesh has told Mayawati what it thinks of her self glorifying statues in Lucknow.   And Prakash Karat stands amidst the shattered pieces of his non-ideology.

Where does India go from here?  The Filter Coffee has repeatedly drawn attention to the dilapidated state of our local law enforcement forces, and national and border defense mechanisms.  They need addressing immediately.  When Chidambaram took over as Home Minister, he instituted a few changes, come cosmetic, some concrete.

The Congress must stop pretending that it is tied at the hip to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act and work with the Opposition to construct a meaningful anti-terror law for the nation.  Our local law enforcement agencies need money, equipment and training.  Our national forces face severe shortages in equipment, which can only be addressed by correcting India’s defense procurement mechanism.  The shackles need to be loosened from our intelligence agencies.

India faces two immediate threats with regard to terrorism, from the Maoists and Jihadi groups.  With regard to external Jihadi threats, there are some elements that India can control and some that it can’t.  However, the Maoist menace is well within India’s realm and decisive action is needed to eliminate this plague that has consumed a third of India.

On the foreign affairs side, the Subcontinent is on fire.  Sri Lanka has found itself an effective counterweight to India in China, and its dismissal of India’s pleas was the most telling aspect of this relationship as war against the LTTE drew to a close.  Similarly, India lost the plot in Nepal during the UPA administration and as tensions continue to rise between the army and the Chinese backed Maoist government, India has a great opportunity to play the honest broker and demonstrate to that nation that India wants peace and stability in Nepal.

The United States is blowing a sigh of relief that the month long elections in India are at an end.  Obama’s immediate concern is to get India to focus on the Af-Pak issue.  The repeated calls for India to reduce troop levels along the western border are as absurd as they are misplaced and the UPA would do well not to wilt under American pressure as they have so often done in the past.

With Pakistan, India must continue to use every tool at its disposal to pressure that country to dismantle not just “terror” infrastructure, but specifically the Punjabi-terror outfits that target India.  The Pakistanis must be pressed to ensure that those responsible for 26/11 are brought to justice.  Pakistan’s “investigation”, as farcical as it was, is now a casualty of all the attention to the existential threat that country faces today.  Above all, the UPA must impress upon Islamabad that for India to show any interest in rekindling the “peace process”, there needs to be very credible action from Pakistan on both dismantling terror infrastructure armed at India, and bringing to justice those that were responsible for 26/11.

The mandate for the Congress is conclusive.  Manmohan Singh can either show the country that he can act convincingly to address the challenges that face us, as he did in 1991, or he can falter and stumble from one embarrassing embroilment to another as he has done over the past five years.  The ball is in his court.  What’s it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

Filed under: 2009 Indian General Elections, Af-Pak, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, India, Politics in India, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,