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INDIA: Red Link With Nepal Fades

Analysis by Ranjit Devraj and Damakant Jayshi

NEW DELHI/KATHMANDU, Feb 19 2011 (IPS) - With the powerful Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) relinquishing control of its fighting arm, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Indian government, faced with its own Maoist insurgency, can breathe more easily.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu has accused the PLA of providing military training to Indian Maoists in camps set up in Nepal – a charge the UCPN (M) has refuted, terming it as Indian propaganda.

“It is true that there were joint-training programmes in the early 1990s and the porous border between the countries enabled Maoist cadres to slip in and out easily, but the relationship never moved to a strategic level,” says Nihar Nayak, an expert on the Maoist insurgency in South Asia at the New Delhi- based Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis.

Nayak believes that with the Nepal Maoists giving up control over the PLA, the chances of building up a “Red Corridor” from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh in southern India have become truly remote.

On Jan. 22 UCPN (M) chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, formally handed over control of 19,000 PLA fighters to a special committee which will decide their future – integration into the Nepal Army or rehabilitation.

Dahal’s action may put an end to the theory of Maoist revolution from “Pashupati-to-Tirupati” – a swathe of the sub-continent populated by impoverished people and home to two of the most well known symbols of feudal Hindu orthodoxy. The Pashupati temple in Kathmandu is closely connected with Nepal’s erstwhile monarchs, while Tirupati in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh ranks among the world’s richest shrines.

But, linkages between the Maoists in Nepal, who took advantage of mass poverty and alienation to topple an already discredited monarchy, and their counterparts in India’s large democracy, have remained confined to ideology and mutual sympathy.

According to Nayak, the fact that Nepali Maoist leaders have always been free to visit India was a clear sign that they were never suspected of being seriously involved with India’s Maoists – even after a series of massacres aimed at police forces.

In March 2007 Maoist cadres massacred 55 policemen in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh in what was the first of a series of attacks in the states of Orissa, Maharashtra and West Bengal which left 212 security personnel dead by mid-2010.

“The Indian government is aware of the implications that the success of left- wing extremism can have for its own insurgency,” Nayak told IPS. “From time to time the Indian embassy in Kathmandu has alerted Nepal’s home ministry of possibility of cross-border involvement, but no concrete evidence has turned up.”

Nepal is currently focused on writing its constitution since it is a means of bringing peace and reconciliation after hostilities that claimed some 14,000 lives, says Nayak. “The Nepalese Maoist leadership is pragmatic and will do nothing to disturb this process.”

Such pragmatism, which allowed the UCPN (M) to embrace multi-party democracy, has not been seen kindly by Indian Maoists who still swear by the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist goal of smashing the “old state”.

What particularly irked the Indian Maoists was UCPN (M) chairman Dahal’s suggestion to them – when he visited India in 2008 as prime minister – to follow his party’s path. Dahal appeared to be making a point by arriving at the head of a business delegation.

Mumaram Khanal, who quit the Maoist party in 2005 following differences with Dahal, said India’s Maoists feel that their counterparts in Nepal have betrayed the cause of revolution.

Khanal, who edits the leftist monthly ‘Dishabodh’, published in the Nepali language, referred to the “open letter” which the Indian communists sent to their Nepali comrades in July 2009 chastising them for taking a wrong path, and accusing Dahal of “opportunism”.

The letter accused Nepali Maoists of deviating from the principle of proletarian internationalism and adopting a policy of appeasement of imperialism.

Khanal points to the formation of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia in 2001 as a mark of the ambitious plans that never came to fruition.

Anand Swaroop Verma, an Indian journalist who has extensively covered the Maoist movement in India and Nepal, claims that the Indians were “prompted by the advice and achievements of the Nepalese Maoists.”

In an article published in the Nov. 2009 edition of the India’s ‘Frontline’ magazine, Verma said that the Indian Maoists copied PLA tactics in their attacks in the eastern Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.

As late as August 2010, The Nepali Maoists were reported to have trained about 50 Indian Maoists at a camp in Sainamaina in Rupandehi District which borders the Uttar Pradesh state of India.

“These allegations are baseless,” Ram Karki, a UCPN (M) politburo member told IPS. “We just have sympathy with Indian Maoists – as we have with those elsewhere.”

Another UCPN (M) leadersaid while Indian Maoists have visited camps in Nepal “there was no training involved at all”.

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