Indian pundits wanted to divide and destroy Nepal's Maoists, US cable

Indian pundits wanted to divide and destroy Nepal’s Maoists
     B. NEW DELHI 2220 
     C. NEW DELHI 1426 
Classified By: A/DCM Geoff Pyatt, for Reasons 1.4 (B, D) 
1.  (C) Summary: Delhi-based Nepal-watchers are split in 
their diagnosis of the strength of the competing factions in 
Nepal, and on their prescriptions for an end to the country's 
political crisis.  The GOI decision to release non-lethal 
military assistance to the RNA and press reports of Indian 
contacts with the Nepalese Maoists have sparked widespread 
complaints that India has no coherent Nepal policy.  Local 
pundits and Nepal experts recommend options ranging from full 
support of the King for military operations against the 
Maoists to sanctions on Nepal to force the Palace to 
negotiate with the political parties and Maoists.  However, 
the GOI has for now continued its course between the two 
extremes, giving cautious backing to the King but pressing 
him on democracy, and seeking to avoid any daylight with the 
US.  The GOI's immediate focus is to encourage the King and 
parties to negotiate.  End Summary. 
2.  (C) Recent discussions with New Delhi-based Nepal experts 
reveal no consensus on the best way to resolve the impasse 
among the Palace, the parties and the Maoists in Nepal. 
However, they broadly assert that Indian policy has been 
lackluster and directionless, criticizing the apparent shifts 
of position manifested in the initial GOI condemnation of the 
"royal coup," the subsequent decision to resume non-lethal 
military assistance, and media reports of GOI contacts with 
the Maoists. 
Indian Policy Debates 
3.  (C) The divergent views among Nepal-watchers here on the 
prospects for a compromise between the King and the parties, 
the strength of the different actors, and the willingness of 
the King to accept true democracy are mirrored by indecision 
within the GOI.  The UPA government initially staked out a 
pro-democracy position, following its identification of 
democracy promotion (refs B and C) as a key element of Indian 
foreign policy.  Since then, however, conflicting factions of 
government and society have pulled Indian policy in 
alternating directions. 
4.  (C) The swift GOI condemnation of the Palace's moves 
earned praise from its Left Front governing partners, who see 
ideological brethren in the Marxist and Maoist groups in 
Nepal opposing the King.  These parties, buttressed by human 
rights NGOs and democracy activists in India, see the King as 
a reactionary despot who should be opposed at all costs, and 
support the political parties as the defenders of democracy 
and human rights in Nepal.  This perspective is shared by an 
influential circle of national security hawks, including 
former Deputy NSA Satish Chandra, who sees the Nepalese 
monarchy as a doomed enterprise and argues that India should 
pave the way for a republican Nepal.  On May 31, Chandra told 
Poloff that by appearing to back the King, India and the US 
were picking the losing side, as the monarchy was an 
"anachronism" that would eventually disappear.  Siding with 
the King now would cause the US and India to lose the 
opportunity to influence the course of events in 
post-monarchy Nepal. 
5.  (C) In contrast, most of the Indian security 
establishment sees the Nepalese Maoists as actual or 
potential collaborators with India's naxalite insurgents, and 
Hindutdva-based political parties proclaim an affinity to the 
world's only Hindu monarch.  These factions have emphasized 
India's historically close relations with the Nepalese 
monarchy and the danger of the Nepalese Maoists forming a 
"revolutionary zone" from Nepal through central India to 
argue for backing the monarchy to the hilt.  This internal 
and external pressure has convinced the GOI to begrudgingly 
accept the need to deal with the King, particularly in 
security assistance to repel the Maoists.  Squeezed between 
these extremes is the Foreign Ministry, which shares our twin 
objectives (no Maoist victory and return to democracy), 
values the policy partnership with the US, and is trying to 
navigate between competing Indian interest groups. 
Support the King Now, But Later... 
6.  (C) Former Ambassador to Nepal KV Rajan reflected broader 
sentiment among many Nepal experts when he commented to 
Poloff recently that GOI policy toward the King has been 
"backwards."  Instead of cutting off military supplies and 
demanding democracy, the present requirement is for stronger 
support for the King against the Maoists, he argued. 
Conversely, the GOI's constant reiteration that 
constitutional monarchy is one of the "twin pillars" of 
government in Nepal in the future is also misguided: the GOI 
should back the King now but be ready to "help him depart the 
scene" once the present crisis is over.  In contrast, he 
said, the USG approach better recognized the real threat 
posed by the Maoists. 
7.  (C) Rajan outlined the elements of his ideal path for 
Nepal's future (which he admitted was optimistic): 
    1  -- Strong military action to take the fight to the Maoists; 
    2 -- Split in the Maoist leadership and subsequent faltering of the insurgency; 
    3  -- New leadership in the political parties with better credibility and stronger commitment to good governance; 
    4-- The King's realization that he cannot hold back demands for democratic reform forever. 
8.  (C) With these steps, he argued, revitalized political 
parties will gradually win concessions from the Palace on 
democratic reforms.  Rajan felt that with this view of 
Nepal's future, the time was ripe for informal consultations 
with Nepalese elites on the structure of a future democratic 
government in Nepal. 
King as Usurper 
9.  (C) Dissenting from this optimism, MG (ret) Ashok Mehta 
and Lt Gen (ret) Dipanker Banerjee recently gave more gloomy 
assessments of Nepal's future.  Mehta told Poloff on May 20 
that his contacts in Kathmandu have heard rumors that the 
King was planning to appoint Surya Bada Thapa as a new Prime 
Minister, but that Thapa had declined to accept the post 
without guarantees of freedom of action in his office.  The 
King's unwillingness to grant this assurance was indicative 
of his determination to keep all power, Mehta said.  In a May 
24 meeting, Banerjee agreed that the King fundamentally 
opposed democracy or infringements on his power, and that all 
of his moves since February 1 have only been "tactics" aimed 
at preserving his governing role. 
10.  (C) Banerjee also dismissed the willingness of the 
current party leaders to compromise with the King.  They will 
not change their character "even if they realize that they're 
playing into the Palace's hands," he said.  What has changed 
in the past month, he stated, was India's willingness to 
accommodate the intransigent positions of the King and the 
parties.  The GOI wants democracy, but it wants law and order 
even more, and is willing to settle for minimal guarantees of 
essential freedoms.  However, this gives the King an 
opportunity to "play at granting freedoms" while not giving 
in on any restoration of democratic government, Banerjee 
11.  (C) Rajan noted that the King "has a point" when 
complaining about the parties' corruption, and the parties 
lack credibility in Nepal as a result.  It is therefore 
incumbent on India to "support a new generation" of party 
leaders, Rajan said, adding that as they displace the current 
leaders, the King will have no excuse for not engaging the 
parties on political reforms.  Rajan was optimistic that if 
the King is able to beat back the existential threat from the 
insurgency he will feel more secure, and thus more open to 
talk of democracy.  Even if he was not so inclined, Rajan 
added, once the immediate danger of a Maoist takeover has 
faded, the pressure for democratic reform would be 
overwhelming, and India would then be free to apply pressure 
to the King to accept the change. 
Maoist Strength? 
12.  (C) Rajan argued that India needs give the King more 
leeway to make progress against the Maoists.  Aggressive 
military action combined with Maoist disarray following the 
public split between leaders Prachanda and Bhattarai could 
dismantle the Maoist insurgency as a threat to Nepal's 
government.  Rajan asserted that the King, if he had not 
caused it, was working to exacerbate the internal strife in 
the insurgency through Maoist agents "on his payroll."  Under 
no circumstances, argued Rajan, should the Maoists be given 
quarter, unless as individuals they renounce the movement. 
He strongly condemned proposals to include the Maoists in a 
democratic government, and urged the GOI and USG to help the 
King pressure the Maoists militarily as a way of persuading 
individuals to give up the insurgency. 
13.  (SBU) In contrast, Mehta dismissed the notion that the 
split in the Maoist leadership had undermined their 
capabilities.  He noted that the movement had survived thus 
far without major dissension and internal struggles, and 
predicted that Prachanda's personal following was sufficient 
to guarantee a cohesive party in the near future, despite the 
disagreements with Bhattarai. 
14.  (C) Although Mehta and Banerjee agreed that the Maoists 
were unable to pose a military threat to the RNA, they warned 
that the RNA could be weakened by political events and Maoist 
tactics.  Mehta speculated that in the current impasse 
between the parties and the King, the parties will engage in 
escalating protests, and that the King will be forced to 
deploy an increasing number of RNA troops in the Kathmandu 
valley to quell political agitation.  This reduction in the 
available troop strength could lead to Maoist victories 
outside of Kathmandu.  Mehta stated that the Maoists were 
intimidating RNA soldiers' families, demanding that the 
soldier quit or face reprisals.  In the face of the extortion 
and threats, and forced to fight their own countrymen, the 
RNA was losing 200 soldiers each month, Mehta asserted.  He 
worried that Maoist pressure tactics, if continued, could 
convince entire RNA units to desert, undermining morale 
throughout the army. 
GOI Position on Maoists Questioned 
15.  (SBU) Media reports that Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai 
had met Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary 
Prakash Karat under the auspices of Indian intelligence 
services in late May stoked a new round of public debates in 
New Delhi.  While the Nepalese Palace and its Indian 
supporters have condemned any GOI involvement as a betrayal 
of India's decision to support the King against the Maoists, 
other commentators see engagement with the Maoists as a 
positive step.  Mehta remarked that he has long encouraged 
his GOI contacts to maintain a liaison to the Maoists, to 
hold open a pathway for them to join in a political process 
after renouncing violence.  Going farther, a May 27 Times of 
India editorial called on the GOI to encourage the Maoists to 
participate in a democracy in Nepal, arguing that Nepalese 
"democracy will cure Maoism" even as Indian democracy has 
drawn parties with revolutionary rhetoric into the political 
mainstream.  Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor of South 
Asian Studies SD Muni likewise applauded this outreach to the 
Maoists, welcoming it as a restoration of balance in India's 
approach to the Nepal issue. 
16.  (SBU) However, the revelation of a GOI role in 
chaperoning a wanted Maoist around New Delhi also elicited 
criticism that government branches are working at cross 
purposes.  In an effort to end the controversy, the MEA 
spokesman stated on May 26 that the GOI still considers the 
Maoists as a terrorist organization, but did not explicitly 
repudiate the possibility that Bhattarai had visited New 
Delhi.  On May 31, Muni told guests at a lunch for a visiting 
HIRC staff member that the apparent shifts of policy on 
military assistance for the RNA and the Bhattarai visit to 
New Delhi showed that the collaboration among the US, UK and 
India was "in tatters."  (Note: Muni's disparagement of US 
policy was influenced in part by a mistaken media report of 
Ambassador Moriarty's remarks in Kathmandu as described in 
ref A.  End note.) 
GOI on Political Solution 
17.  (C) Under Secretary (Nepal) Manu Mahawar repeated MEA's 
condemnation of the Maoists to Poloff on May 31, but agreed 
that ultimately the insurgency must be resolved politically, 
as the RNA does not have the capacity to force a military 
defeat on the Maoists.  Mahawar said that the GOI is urging 
the parties to unite and engage the King in negotiations for 
a compromise on democratic government, and hopes that the 
announcement of non-lethal military supplies to the RNA would 
be an incentive for the Palace.  However, he admitted that 
India had not yet seen the steps toward democracy that the 
King had promised to PM Manmohan Singh in Jakarta in April. 
18.  (C) Mahawar reviewed the GOI's desired roadmap for a 
reconciliation between the Palace and political parties, 
leading to a joint approach to talks with the Maoists. 
Indian efforts were now aimed at encouraging the King and 
parties to come together, Mahawar said.  He added that the 
King and the parties have separate contacts with the Maoists, 
but that no mediation among the groups would be possible 
until the Maoists renounce violence and the fundamental power 
struggle between the King and parties was resolved.  The King 
was unwilling to part with power, but he "can't continue" on 
this path indefinitely, observed Mahawar, as the Nepalese 
economy suffers from uncertainty, strikes and blockades, and 
donors and businesses leave Nepal. 
Political Options 
19.  (C) Ambassador Rajan suggested that the US, India and 
the UK, along with providing more support to the King to 
suppress the Maoist insurgency, should create a "Tier 2" 
contact group to begin formulating plans for the future of 
Nepal.  As governments could be constrained politically in 
making public proposals, Rajan suggested a non-governmental 
group that could talk to the "twenty or thirty people in 
Nepal who count" to start formulating proposals for the role 
of the monarchy in a future government.  This must be done in 
a low-key way to influence the right people, but not make the 
King feel insecure, he stressed. 
20.  (C) In contrast, Gen. Mehta believed that strong 
pressure from the US, UK and India could persuade the King in 
the near future to accept a political compromise with the 
parties, leading to a national government that the Maoists 
would accept as a negotiating partner, eventually bringing 
the Maoists into the political system as a peaceful movement. 
 In order to achieve this, our three governments should agree 
at the Foreign Minister level to demand that the King 
reinstate a democratic government or face sanctions, and be 
ready to follow through on the threat.  Former DNSA Chandra 
commented that the Palace was vulnerable to an Indian 
blockade of fuel supplies, and suggested that India use this 
lever to force the King to negotiate with both the parties 
and the Maoists. 
21.  (C) As the GOI recalibrates its approach to the 
monarchy, the political parties and the Maoists, the need for 
coordination between the US and India is even more urgent. 
It works to our advantage that the GOI continues to place a 
very high priority on close coordination with the US, and the 
avoidance of any perceived daylight between Washington and 
New Delhi.  The apparent espousal of divergent policies by 
different branches of the GOI undermines both the Indian 
message to the political entities in Nepal, and the unified 
front portrayed by the US, UK and India.  While Nepal 
watchers here disagree on the optimal policy, they all agree 
that a more clearly articulated position by the US, UK and 
India would strengthen efforts to resolve the impasse in 

(From Wikileaks, released on Aug 30, 2011)

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