SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Between Illusion and Reality
With the issuing of the 12-point letter of understanding between the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M, or ‘the Maoists’) – and the agitating seven-party alliance, the conflict in Nepal has entered a dangerous period. This is recognized by all sides. Which way matters will swing is being portrayed as dependent upon decision-making in the palace, but of equal moment is what few seem inclined to discuss: the Maoists’ ‘real game’.
The leader of the legal (Parliamentarian) Marxists, Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) General Secretary, Madhab Kumar Nepal, the public face of the agreement for the political parties, has put forth his belief that the Maoists have "developed a new maturity" in concluding that they are unable to complete their "capture of state power through the barrel of the gun." Conseqeuntly, they are willing to do this peacefully, which means "if the Maoists resort to arms again, those in power will have to take the blame."
This would hardly seem a stable platform for bargaining with the Palace, particularly given Madhab’s astonishing rider: "If the well-equipped Shah of Iran was uprooted by unarmed people, there is no reason why it can’t happen in Nepal." Why the monarch would be even slightly interested in holding a discussion based upon such terms, apparently, is because the most important thing is ‘peace’.
Waving this flag, the political parties have, indeed, stormed back onto centre stage, making a bargain which is altruistic, Machiavellian, or simply suicidal, depending on how the cards fall. However this may be, their long-running battle with the palace has caused them to play ‘peace’ as the hand that will gain them both power and breathing room from their mortal foes, the Maoists. There is no ‘peace’, goes the stated logic, because there is no ‘democracy’; and there is no ‘democracy’ because ‘the Palace’ insists upon violence. That this is historical falsification of the first order would be apparent to anyone who has even notional familiarity with the political history of Nepal.
There is insurgency in Nepal due to shortcomings of the system that evolved during the democratic era. Those most responsible are the same individuals who have cut the present deal with the Maoists – not just the same parties but the same individuals. That this well-documented reality could somehow be blamed upon the Palace was a position that emerged in vibrant form only with the ‘Royal Massacre’ that replaced the previous monarch, Birendra, with his less-popular brother, Gyanendra. The latter’s missteps have served to elevate the parties to the position they now hold as advocates of a ‘democracy’ they never practiced, either in power or within their own ranks.
In reality, it is the nature of ‘democracy’ that has been the issue all along in the present struggle. For the Maoists, the choice has never been between ‘absolute democracy’ and ‘autocratic monarchy’, the terms used in the 12-point agreement. It has been between parliamentary democracy and ‘people’s democracy’. The former is portrayed as a Western concept. The latter is certainly also a Western concept, but in Nepal it is portrayed as ‘Maoist’. (The very Western origin of Maoist ideological beliefs is regularly on display at the CPN-M’s public gatherings, where place of honour is occupied by the pantheon of ‘white gods plus one’ – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao).
What ‘absolute democracy’ means for the Maoists, operationally, is the ability to knock from the battlefield their only tangible obstacle, the monarchy. What it means strategically is the ability to move beyond the gun to the ballot at this particular juncture in the struggle. It is what the Sandinistas did so adroitly, moving rapidly within ‘democracy’ to solidify what they had been after all along – people’s democracy. Apologists go to some lengths to avoid discussing this aim, but it is the concrete manifestation of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. It turned out so badly for the Chinese that the Maoism espoused by the CPN-M is now completely rejected, alive only in South Asia and isolated pockets of Western anarchism.
That the Maoists have no intention of abandoning their strategic goal was made clear to cadres in the recent CPN-M leadership meetings in Rolpa. Whether they operationally will go the route of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) in Ulster, actually decommissioning their arms, remains to be seen. There are too many unknowns, not least the nature of the Maoists’ links with the newly formed Communist Party of India-Maoist, CPI-Maoist, created through a merging of the two principal Maoist insurgencies in India, and aggressively committed to violence as the only route to political power and social justice. In their statements, the two Maoisms have stated clearly that peaceful means are useful only so long as they facilitate the violent end.
Ironically, an important role in the emerging Maoist-UML alliance (with the remaining six parties figuring in as necessary) apparently has been played by members of the Indian ‘legal Left’, a catch-all term for those Marxists who participate in parliamentary democracy while disclaiming its ultimate legitimacy – the same position taken by the UML in Nepal. One the one hand, Indian Left participation offers some grounds for optimism, since the legal Left does not engage in insurgency (which is not the same thing as eschewing violence, something PIRA has demonstrated well in the Catholic ghettos of Ulster). On the other hand, it is also grounds for profound disquiet, since the ‘terms of reference’, as reflected in the 12-point agreement, are vague and contingent upon the surrender of the present Nepali Royal Government. This only heightens Nepali nationalist suspicions that what is being set in motion is a ‘Sikkim solution’.
In fact, prisoners taken by the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) and documents captured clearly state that the present Maoist course is ‘tactical’, that the CPN-M will not compromise its ultimate goals: political power and ‘people’s democracy’. Even a ‘peaceful’ solution, then, depends upon the monarch and RNA being willing to accept a transition as witnessed in Cambodia under UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority), with the tremendous difference being the position of the monarchy. In Cambodia, the monarch became constitutional, but the 12-point agreement mentions only ‘absolute democracy’ (which means a departure of the monarchy, not just the monarch). This is not a minor discrepancy, and the manner in which the 12-point agreement appears to claim there is nothing for Gyanendra save exile, guarantees that it will not be considered seriously.
All eyes seem glued to the palace to see the next move. It is not hard to discern. In a situation where the political parties have committed themselves to obstruction, the Royal thinking should go, political forces must be allowed an outlet in new political parties. This is easier said than done. The scheduling of local and national elections is a first step; ensuring their success is the second; providing local security for the winners is the third. Absent local security, it will all be a paper drill.
If, as seems likely, the conflict continues, counterinsurgency will proceed by using the local elections to restore local connections to the Centre. Restoration of local democracy must occur behind a security shield and be the means for proper governance. Proper governance must include restoration of local democratic decision-making, micro-development, and local security. In this campaign, the political parties have adamantly refused to participate, seeing it as but a thinly disguised means to restore the previous and reviled panchayat system.
That the Government’s approach should be considered controversial demonstrates the degree to which polarization and mistrust have poisoned the Nepali polity. Thus the Maoists have emerged as advocates of ‘peace’, and ‘negotiations’ are held up – not least by elements within the foreign presence in Nepal – as an alternative to waging counterinsurgency. In reality, as stated directly in the RNA’s campaign plan, the goal is that counterinsurgency restores legitimate Government writ in such fashion and to such extent that the Maoists ultimately agree to reincorporation within the political system. The constant saw that ‘there is no military solution’ is just a demand for inaction. In reality, negotiations are always on the table but must be used as part of an overall approach to the conflict.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that the Maoists accept the common understanding of ‘negotiations’. To the contrary, evidence supports a conclusion that the point of the current ceasefire is to further the armed struggle. Maoist exhortations to combatants continue to state that the old-order can only be addressed with violence. Fellow-travelers, continues the Party line, will be accepted as long as they are useful, but they will not have a meaningful role in the shaping and execution of ‘New Democracy’. Nevertheless, it is felt by the Party that the political parties can play an important role, "with all forces against the autocratic monarchy centralizing [focusing] their assault against the autocratic monarchy from their respective positions, thereby creating a nationwide storm of democratic protest."
Absent the ‘nonviolent’ delivery of operational victory, however, plans have been laid and are being implemented for the resumption of the Maoist military assault within the overall strategy for the seizure of power. The ‘nationwide storm’ only has worth so long as it delivers by ‘political means’ that which can only be gained at greater cost through violent means. If this is the strategy, operational intent will include demonstrations in urban areas and attacks in rural areas to force the Government to fight on two fronts. The RNA is aware of this to some extent, but it is unclear how much is being done to prepare.
There are two pressing Government failures that have contributed to its present situation:
This is not in India’s best interests, keenly aware as it is that it has a growing Maoist problem on its hands within its own borders. The joint statements and activities of the Nepalese and Indian Maoists, together with an upsurge of activities on the ground in India, has led to the Center becoming much more energized in its approach to the lackluster State anti-militant campaigns.
It may be noted in passing that most analysts feel that India is central to any solution in Nepal. The notion that a Nepali relationship with China is an alternative to one with India is not viable. China is not willing to extend itself in any manner that can substantially assist in the present counterinsurgency, whereas India wants to help. It is simply being mired in the same domestic processes that are hampering Nepal itself.
Further, local security is indispensable. There is no way to proceed in its absence. As has been discussed time and again, the precise form of local security must be determined – it need not even be armed capacity. But it must be the capacity to inform and/or resist, pending reinforcement by the security forces.
These, it bears observation, have improved, led by improvement in the quality of RNA junior and middle grade officers. In many ways, in fact, the senior service, the RNA, is not the same force it was several years ago. Tactical and operational improvement, however, can make no headway in the absence of a strategy for victory.
This highlights the heart of the matter: there still is no articulation of ‘why we fight’, much less a comprehensive state (national) plan for counterinsurgency. There is an RNA plan, and this does bring along elements of the state at times, but there is no designated command authority that can bring together all facets of state power – much less the actual application of those assets. This cannot be the job of the monarch.
Democracy is the issue – upon that there is agreement. Regrettably, none of the contenders in the present struggle have demonstrated convincing commitment to a reality that moves beyond the word. Since the 12-point agreement is not ‘the answer’, either, the prospects – absent what would be (for Nepali politicians) an uncharacteristic willingness to move beyond generalities to specifics – are for a resumption of violence at the end of the present extension of ceasefire.
If there was a sense that an unstable equilibrium had somehow been achieved in Sri Lanka, and that this would survive the change of Government, this complacence has certainly been undermined by the harsh posturing on both sides in just over two weeks since the election results brought the hardline President Mahinda Rajapaksa to power. As has been customary over a number of years, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Chief, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, in military fatigues, delivered his "Heroes' Day" speech on November 27, 2005. His speech was laced with the usual anti-Sinhala-Buddhist rhetoric and Tamil nationalistic exhortation, but it had an added sting, as Prabhakaran defined a new deadline for the peace process:
While it is certainly unsettling, the ultimatum is not without precedent. In his 2004 "Heroes’ Day" speech, Prabhakaran had voiced a similar threat:
The 2004 threat of return to war was, however, diluted and forgotten when the Tsunami struck LTTE stronghold areas on December 24 and, according to unconfirmed reports, destroyed a significant proportion of their cadres and arsenal.
The intervening year, however, has seen significant and unsettling developments that heighten risks of recidivism in the country. Since the Tsunami, the island nation and the LTTE have grappled with reconstruction and rehabilitation woes; however, the country has also witnessed a spike in violence in 2005. According to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, 232 persons had been killed in 2005 (till November 30), including 123 civilians, 36 security force personnel and 73 terrorists. 2004 saw a total of 109 deaths (33 civilians, 7 security force personnel and 69 terrorists).
The districts of Amparai, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnurawa have been the worst affected by this escalation, accounting for as many as 174 of the 232 deaths. The split in the LTTE in March 2004, with the eastern faction led by 'Colonel' Karuna charting its own course, contributed overwhelmingly to this sudden spurt in deaths in the region, though it is believed that only several hundred Karuna cadres are actively engaged in taking on their erstwhile brothers-in-arms in the Eastern districts of Batticaloa, Amparai and Polonnaruwa. Since April 9, 2004, when the LTTE launched attacks against the forward positions of ‘Colonel’ Karuna near the Verugal River in Batticaloa District, there have been close to 51 incidents of violence involving the two factions, leading to the death of 54 LTTE and 64 Karuna cadres.
Among these are a number of crucial leadership losses inflicted on the LTTE, prominent among which were the killings of its Eastern Political wing leader, Kaushalyan, his deputy Nedimaran and Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru, the former Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament for the Amparai District, in an ambush at Poonani in Batticaloa District on February 7, 2005. There have also been unsuccessful, though psychologically and physically damaging, attempts on the LTTE senior leadership: on February 28, 2005, Kuveni, the head of the LTTE’s ‘Political Division (Women)’ for Batticaloa-Amparai, and two of her colleagues, Akanila and Sasimathy, were shot at and wounded in Thambattai; on June 26, LTTE’s Amparai district 'political head', Kuyilinpan and 40 cadres escaped a landmine explosion at Welikanda. In the latest attack on November 14, the Karuna faction scored a ‘success’, eliminating the LTTE's Amparai District ‘military commander’, Suresh, in the Akkaraipattu area.
Never faced with such retaliation from his own ilk, Prabhakaran complained bitterly that a "subversive war has been unleashed with the aim of weakening our liberation organisation and to undermine our struggle." However, a closer look at recent events highlights the fact that the LTTE, apart from targeting many ground-level functionaries of its rival Tamil parties and the Karuna faction, has also been indulging in a systematic campaign of liquidation, targeting persons whose work is believed to have harmed the LTTE. Some of the most prominent among recent assassinations in this chain include:
The LTTE has also focused its machinery continuously on efforts at military consolidation, embracing arms procurement, recruitment – including child recruitment – and fund-raising. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), as of 31 July 2005, had documented 5,081 cases of underage recruitment by the LTTE, since the signing of the cease-fire agreement in 2003. Further, the mobilisation of resources has not just been limited to the island territory but has extended into nations like Great Britain, Australia, Canada, France and Switzerland, where there is a significant Tamil Diaspora. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in November 2005, members of Toronto’s large Tamil community had been asked to make an immediate cash contribution of $2,500 each, with the warning that those who did not contribute would not be allowed to travel in the LTTE-controlled parts of Sri Lanka when they returned for visits. In its December 2, 2005, issue, Le Figaro also reported that the LTTE had collected an estimated $ 120 million in a sophisticated racket targeting France’s Tamil Diaspora. Quoting French intelligence officials, Le Figaro added that some 1,000 LTTE cadres enforce the collection of ‘revolutionary tax’ among the 70,000-strong community.
Similar reports of fundraising have been received from Australia where, on November 23, 2005, Federal Police officials arrested several LTTE agents in Melbourne for fund-raising and money laundering activities. Among those who were taken into custody were Thillai Jeyakumar, the head of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) and Sivaraj Jathevan, editor of the Eelam Murasi, the bi-monthly mouthpiece published in France but circulated in Australia.
Within this context, and given the polarized politics of Sri Lanka, though Prabhakaran has put an year-end deadline for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to deliver a "reasonable political framework" for resolution of the protracted ethnic war, it remains highly improbable that the Sinhala-Buddhist regime would be able to conjure up a solution in this period. It would, in fact, need a miracle, to prevail upon the two extremes to abandon their respective ‘high ground’ and arrive at a compromise – an eventuality that remains unlikely, considering the position held by President Rajapaksa and his backers, and by the LTTE leadership. Indeed, President Rajapaksa, in his Policy Statement at the Opening of the new session of Parliament on November 25, 2005, sought to impose new conditionalities on the LTTE under a revised Ceasefire Agreement that would "ensure the protection of human rights, prevent recruitment of children for war, safeguard national security….. (and the) Creation of a Government infrastructure that will safeguard Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unitary nature of the state" and replace "concepts of traditional homelands and self-determination" with that of the "freedom to exercise all the rights enshrined in the Constitution"; concepts that would inevitably clash with LTTE’s core demands of ‘self-government, self-determination and national liberation’.
In a statement that has further vitiated the already gloomy atmosphere in the country, the Janathā Vimukthi Peramuna’s (JVP, the main ‘Left’ party in Parliament) leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe, stated on November 24 that, "Finding a solution to the ethnic crisis on the basis of a unitary state was the key component of the agreement (between the JVP and the President’s party). The JVP was also opposed to Norway’s facilitation. Therefore our party would not change from its position agreed upon in the agreement reached with the President." Compounding uncertainties, the Constitutional Affairs Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara, reacting to the LTTE deadline, declared, "We don’t get excited by these deadlines… You can’t do these things in a hurry. You can’t do it in one night."
The resumption of open war does not, of course, appear to be imminent despite the posturing. Neither the LTTE nor the Government has managed to secure a decisive advantage over the past years – despite continuous efforts to weaken the ‘enemy’, and both parties would be inclined to continue with the covert war till a such a decisive superiority has been secured. Third party intervention and the focus of international organizations, as well as the substantial dependence of both the LTTE and the Government on the generosity of international donors, make war far too costly and hazardous. The European Union (EU) declaration of September 26, 2005, to check and curb illegal or undesirable activities (including issues of funding and propaganda) of the LTTE, its related organisations and known individual supporters, will be a reminder to Prabhakaran of international concerns. It is consequently likely that the LTTE, while continuing to formally adhere to the ceasefire and speak in favour of peace, would continue to maintain a threshold level of violence, systematically targeting Karuna cadres as well as senior security officials, and to use the garb of peace to snuff out any form of anti-LTTE Tamil opposition. It is crucial, consequently, that the international community refuses to turn a blind eye to the clandestine war in Sri Lanka in the name of a false and fragile peace.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 28- December 4, 2005
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Nine persons killed in suicide attacks in Chittagong and Gazipur: Nine people, including two lawyers and a police constable, were killed and 78 people sustained injuries in two suicide bomb attacks by suspected Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) cadres in the Chittagong and Gazipur court premises on November 29, 2005. In the first incident, a JMB suicide cadre blew himself up near a police check-post at the entrance to the Chittagong court and in a similar incident, another suicide cadre detonated explosives in a crowd of lawyers and their clients at the Gazipur bar association building. The suicide bomber involved in the Gazipur incident was killed, while the one involved in Chittagong, identified as Abul Bashar, was seriously injured. Two notes found with Bashar termed the attack a preliminary warning to the forces working to ensure security of judges and announced that the jihad would continue until "an Islamic welfare state is established".The Daily Star, November 30, 2005.
192 northeast militant camps in Bangladesh, says Border Security Force: On November 28, 2005, the Border Security Force Inspector General of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland Frontier, A.K. Ghosh, said that 192 camps of various militant outfits of India’s North East existed in Bangladesh. "Some of the old camps were removed and some new camps have come up. Earlier, the number (of camps) was 205, now it is 192," he said. "These camps existed in Mymensingh, Sherpur, Rangamati, Molavi Bazaar districts and Chittagong Hill Tracts," he added. The Indian Express, November 28, 2005.
DHD cadres set 379 houses on fire in Assam: On December 3, 2005, suspected Dima Halim Daogah (DHD) cadres set ablaze 379 houses in six villages of Mohendijua and Lunhnit areas in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam. A group of 50 to 70 heavily armed DHD cadres attacked the villages under Manja police station and opened indiscriminate fire forcing the villagers to flee. Subsequently, the abandoned houses were set on fire. The Sentinel, December 4, 2005.
570 persons killed in Maoist violence till October 2005: The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Sriprakash Jaiswal, in a written reply in Parliament on November 29, 2005, stated that, in the first 10 months of 2005, 1,353 Maoist-related incidents were reported in which 570 civilians and police personnel were killed. Property worth Rupees 566.25 million was also lost in the violence, Jaiswal added. Andhra Pradesh topped the list with 448 incidents, in which 163 civilians and 15 police personnel were killed. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Maharashtra with 317, 271, 161 and 76 incidents, respectively, were the other States that witnessed increased Maoist violence. Indo-Asian News Service, November 29, 2005.
Fall in terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, says Home Minister: Home Minister Shivraj Patil said on November 28, 2005, that though the number of infiltrators into the country has gone down, infiltration continues in a calibrated manner, with terrorist organisations in Kashmir being "funded from the other side of the border". But there is a fall in terrorist violence in 2005, giving room for increased tourist flow, he informed the Parliament. Informing that the overall level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir had been perceptibly lower in 2005, Patil said terrorist incidents were fewer by 22 per cent during the first ten months of the current year as compared to the corresponding period in 2004. "Till October 2005, 219 terrorists are estimated to have infiltrated, which is a decline of 55 per cent over 2004," he said in a statement placed on the table of both the Houses of the Parliament. As a result of reduction in terrorist violence, the number of tourists visiting the Kashmir Valley had increased to 533,211 in 2005 as against 303,109 in 2004. Referring to the sudden spurt in violence, including blasts using car-bombs, suicide attacks and killing of a few political leaders in October and November, the Home Minister said terrorists struck in October when the entire Government machinery was engaged in providing succor to the earthquake victims. The attacks during November 14-16 were to make their presence felt during the political transition in the State, he added. Daily Excelsior, November 29, 2005.
Maoists extends unilateral cease-fire by one month: The Maoist insurgents extended their unilateral cease-fire for a month from midnight December 2, 2005, when the three-month-long truce declared on September 3 would have expired. Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda said in a statement that they decided on an extension taking seriously the demand of national and international democratic forces and after assessing the entire political scenario in the country. "We believe the decision will help us push forward with the movement for peace and democracy and give a new momentum to the process of seeking a solution to the problem through constituent assembly elections," he said. The Himalayan Times, December 3, 2005.
Senior Al Qaeda ‘commander’ of Syrian origin killed in Waziristan: A senior Al Qaeda ‘commander’ of Syrian origin was reportedly killed in a missile attack in North Waziristan on December 1, 2005. Al Qaeda ‘operational commander’ Hamza Rabia alias Nawab was among five persons killed in the missile attack on a mud-house in Asoray village, to the east of North Waziristan's regional headquarters, Miranshah. Hamza had escaped a similar attack at his location in Mosaki on November 5 that had left eight people dead, including his wife and children. Dawn, December 3, 2005.
EU designates Hizb-ul-Mujahideen as terrorist group: The European Union has added Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), a Pakistan-based outfit, to its list of terrorist organisations.The EU's decision would mean restrictive anti-terror measures will be applied to it, including a freeze on its funds, assets and economic resources. The EU list was drawn up in 2001, following the September 11 attacks, and is revised regularly. Jang, December 1, 2005.
President Rajapaksa invites LTTE for peace talks: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 28, 2005, invited the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for peace talks and promised to maintain the country's cease-fire agreement. He said, "We can resume work immediately on reviewing the operation of the Ceasefire… I reaffirm my Government’s commitment to continue the Ceasefire. I hope the LTTE will heed the call of the people in Sri Lanka and the international community by fully complying with the Ceasefire, especially those provisions relating to observance of human rights, such as refraining from the recruitment of child soldiers, political killings, abductions, and other illegal activities." Daily News, November 29, 2005.
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