Royal Nepalese Army And
The imperialist Agency In Nepal
By Pratyush Chandra
12 May, 2006
After King Mahendra (Gyanendra's
father) and his Royal Nepalese Army (RNA), overthrew his government
in 1960, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Nepal BP
Koirala asked himself in his jail diary: "Is the democratic system
in Nepal compatible with the preponderance of the Nepalese Army?"
After five decades of the democracy movement in Nepal, this question
still haunts the Nepalis. Mesmerised by the royal proximity, Nepali
democrats have time and again lapsed into amnesia, comfortably and willingly.
But by one or another way the question has found expression and has
been answered negatively in the popular upsurges and daily struggles
of the downtrodden.
As Nepal's foremost revolutionary
leader Prachanda stated, just after the royal coup in February 2005,
"Ultimately, the so-called royal proclamation of February 1 has
not only exposed the irrelevance of reformism in the Nepalese politics,
but also shattered the collective lethargy of the parliamentary political
politics.". Although the reinstatement of the old parliament once
again poses the danger of the relapse of the "collective lethargy",
the politically charged Nepali masses are ever watchful of the parliamentarist
deviations. Along with the issue of forming the Constituent Assembly,
the question of controlling the RNA is going to be one of the decisive
(and divisive) elements in the course of the Nepali democratic revolution.
This army has been the major
force behind enforcing the betrayal of the democratic aspirations of
the Nepali people for more than five decades. Nevertheless, as Marxist-Maoist
leader Baburam Bhattarai rightly notes, "Any ordinary student of
military science would know, the victory or defeat of a particular army
ultimately depends more on its social class base and the political goal."
And, "the feudal reactionary nature of the royal army and its complete
hegemonisation by the ruling Shah-Rana families may be gauged from the
fact that of the thirty commander-in-chiefs since 1835, twenty-six belonged
to the ruling Shah-Ranas and four to their close courtiers, Thapa-Basnets.
Hence, there should be no doubt, at least to the progressive and modern-minded,
that the current fight in Nepal is précised for ending this age-old
feudal tyranny and to usher in a real democracy suited to the 21st century."
The RNA has been the major
"saboteur", "with the prompting of some foreign powers"
(whom we are all familiar with) in every peace talk in Nepal. Its time-tested
principal method of sabotage is senseless massacres of the civilians
in the name of defending its soldiers against the revolutionaries while
the peace process is going on. In 2003, "the most serious and provocative
incident was the massacre of nineteen unarmed political activists by
the RNA in Doramba (Eastern Nepal) on the very day of start of third
round of talks on August 17". Again, a few days back on April 29,
on the eve of GP Koirala's swearing in ceremony as a result of the mass
upsurge that we saw recently, "Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) launched
an aerial attack on a peaceful mass meet called by the CPN (Maoist)…
An RNA chopper rained bullets on the mass meet organised in the jungle
adjoining a human settlement, where around 10,000 civilians were gathered
for the program".
The RNA is definitely a major
concern, as it gets more and more desperate about its own future with
the debilitating royalty. International powers that have been arming
the reactionary RNA are already having meetings with its chief and other
officials, enquiring about their Will.
The recent visit of US Assistant
Secretary for South Asia, Richard Boucher is a pointer in this regard.
He did not meet with the beleaguered monarch, rather chose to remain
satisfied with his direct meeting with the RNA chief Pyar Jung Thapa.
On April 3, in a press conference
after the meeting, Boucher was asked whether he thinks "the Royal
Nepalese Army is going to be one of the decision makers in future instead
Boucher's reply was, "I
don't think I quite used the word decision maker, but I said something
like that. I think that the army is going to have a very important role
to play. The army has to help defend the nation; it has to help defend
the nation against threats. They also have to be able to implement the
ceasefire, and carry it out. So I wanted to check with the army and
see, first of all, that they were supporting the political process,
that they were supporting the civilian leaders in Nepal, and second
of all talk to them about how they saw their job in the days ahead,
and how, when a civilian leadership wanted us to, we could support them
in the future."
What a mode of professing
a civilian control over the RNA! A US official makes an official visit
to find the will of the Army chief directly, whether he supports the
political process or not, instead of asking the government to ensure
the submission of the RNA to the civilian control.
However this incident is
not at all surprising, since US Ambassador James Moriarty's chief job
after the 12-point agreement between the parliamentary forces and the
Maoists last year has been to defend the RNA's existence in every significant
statement. He has been trying hard to mobilise the moderate and wavering
democrats and former prime minsiters, like GP Koirala and Sher Bahadur
Deuba who were the main exponents of using the RNA to crush People's
War till recently. Replicating Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty - a
Supervillain or the "Napoleon of Crime", the US Ambassador
time and again has been tying to make the democrats, who lack Moriarty's
"common sense", understand the virtue of not weakening the
RNA, which he calls, in one of his nauseating self-proclaimed "provocative"
speeches, "the parties' one logical source of defense", despite
the well-known fact that it has never respected the self-styled democratic
If we can learn something
from the US's history of imperialist intervention and of nurturing military
juntas, we can at least be sure of the US's desperation in Nepal to
preclude the Nicaragua-type situation, where the revolutionaries disbanded
Somoza's army, and even after the Sandinistas' defeat in 1990, the Sandinista
Army remained as the popular national army and the prime vehicle of
democratisation (notwithstanding a considerable dilution of the army's
revolutionary character). As an ex-Nicaraguan Army chief Joaquín
Cuadra Lacayo said in the year 2000: "Despite everything the Sandinista
revolution eventually led to free elections and democracy, and...the
Sandinista People's Army became the National Army of Nicaragua. For
the first time in the history of Latin America, an army that was born
as a guerrilla force and matured as part of a government became an army
for the nation without political overtones." In spite of the fact
that the ruling elite of Nicaragua has reversed the major gains of the
Sandinista Revolution, and the military is completely integrated with
the State, the popular revolutionary past of the Army officials and
Sandino's portraits in military headquarters and offices still haunt
the US and the local elites. An obvious question for the global hegemony
today is: where will the army be once the new radicalism that is gripping
Latin America affects Nicaragua? Obviously, the Nicaraguan arrangement
can never keep paranoiac imperialists at ease. Therefore ensuring a
premature disarming of the Maoists, without crushing the R(oyalty) of
the RNA, is the prime game plan of the international hegemonies and
their local cahoots in Nepal.
Only such design will ensure
the demobilisation of the revolutionary intent of Nepal's downtrodden
that has been heightened during the decade-long People's War, politically
rejuvenating every section of the society. The imperialist network fears
that this rise of the red scourge in this supposed "backwater"
of global capitalism will blow away the mirage of the new Asian "miracles"
in the region, who have been long fishing their booty in these same
"backwaters". With the struggle of democratisation at every
level succeeding in Nepal, and the possibility of an open mobilisation,
by the "Maoism in the 21st century", of the proletarians,
semi-proletarians and poor peasantry, there is a danger that the class
conflict will spread throughout the region, providing "plenty of
recruits for Maoist armies and other forms of resistance to global capitalism",
as Alex Callinicos puts it.