Follow @southasiaanalys

NEPAL: People's War or Terrorism?

Paper No. 530                        08.10.2002


by B. Raman

This article is to be read in continuation of my earlier article of April 18, 2002, titled "Nepal, Maoists, India & China"  available at .

On September 16, 2002, parts of  Nepal observed a  "general shutdown" in response to a call of  the United Revolutionary People's Council of the Maoists  under the slogan: "Mount Unified Resistance against the Royal Military Dictatorship!"  Ever since King Gyanendra ascended the Nepalese throne more than a year ago, the Maoists of Nepal have been projecting his rule and the induction of the Army to fight against the Maoists as the beginning of  "royal military dictatorship".  As if to prove them right, on October 4, 2002, King Gyanendra dismissed  the Government of Sher Bahadur  Deuba on grounds of ineptitude after it had recommended the postponement of the general elections due to its inability to maintain law and order in the face of the continuing Maoist offensive and temporarily  assumed executive powers till a new interim Government could be formed.

2.  Inept, the Government of Deuba was.  So are the other political formations of Nepal.  So is the King. So are the Nepal Army and Intelligence.  So are the Governments of India, the USA and the UK in their analysis of what has been happening in Nepal.  Since the proclamation of the Emergency and the induction of the Army into the counter-insurgency operations last year, there has been a strict censorship in Nepal and the external world has had access  only to the information originating from official sources.

3. If this information was to be believed, the Maoists were receiving a drubbing from the Army, their morale and motivation were consequently low, the rest of the world, with India, the USA and the UK in the lead,were rushing to the help of the regime and the final victory over the Maoists was round the corner. But, this is not so.  The Nepalese Police and Army have been receiving a drubbing from the Maoists, whose morale and motivation continue to be unaffected so far.

4. What has been happening in Nepal once again illustrates the dangers of painting all anti-Government armed movements as "terrorist movements", suppressing them ruthlessly without attempting to understand the ideological motivation of the movements and assessing the success of the counter-insurgency offensive in terms of highly misleading body counts.

5. To have treated the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, which is projected by the Maoists and seen by sizable sections of the Nepalese people  as "People's War", as a brutal terrorist movement no different from the Al Qaeda movement of Osama bin Laden was the height of folly not only  of the ruling dispensation in Kathmandu, but also of the external powers which have gone to the aid of Nepal.

6. The Maoist insurgency in Nepal, which is not only anti-establishment, but also anti-India, was born out of ideological considerations arising from poverty, misery, illiteracy, social injustice, lack of genuine democracy and perceptions of Indian hegemony.  It poses a threat to India's strategic interests and calls for a response worked out on the basis of a lucid analysis of India's national interests.  What do India's national interests demand?

* That the underlying causes of the ideological divide be addressed by the ruling dispensation in Kathmandu.

* That there is more and not less democracy in Nepal.

* That the people of Nepal view the Government of India as pro-people.

* That the perceptions of Indian hegemony be removed through appropriate action.

* That the Government of India help the Government of Nepal in its counter-insurgency operations in a discreet manner without over-reaction and without associating ourselves with the US and the UK in this matter.

7. Instead of adopting an independent response based on our national interests, the Government of India seems to have given an impression to the ideologically alienated sections of the Nepalese people that its approach is no different from that of the Bush Administration in the US and the British Government. The Bush administration bears a major share of the responsibility for projecting the Maoist insurgency in Nepal as great an evil as the Al Qaeda in the rest of the world.  By closely identifying itself with the US and British approach to the problem and by seemingly surrendering initiative and leadership in a vital region for India to the US, the Government of India has done great harm to India's national interests.  There is a  worrisome reluctance to clearly articulate our views and assessment lest they be seen as in divergence with those of the US.  There is an urgent need for correctives in our policy.


8.  In their efforts to counter what they view as the attempts of India, the USA and the UK to thwart a "people's revolution" in Nepal, the Maoists have adopted a two-pronged approach:

* Solidarity with other Maoist/Marxist armed struggles, particularly in India and other countries of South Asia, in the hope of thereby keeping the Indian security forces preoccupied with counter-insurgency operations in their own territory.

* Winning ideological adherents from amongst the serving and retired Gurkha soldiers associated with the Indian and British Armies.

9. This approach, if successful, would have security implications for India.  Our response has to be carefully worked out. 


(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: )