In its recently published commentary, “Growing accumulation of tensions and escalation of Maoist violence in Nepal”, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) comments on a string of bomb blasts on the 26th of May in three separate locations that shook the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, resulting in four people killed and more than seven injured. The following day the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) claimed responsibility for the Sunday bomb blasts and launched a nationwide strike against the killing of one of its members by the police force, which happened on 22 May.
EFSAS in its commentary further describes that the 26 May incident was not an isolated case; on the contrary, it actually highlighted the growing accumulation of tensions and escalation of violence on behalf of dissident groups in the small Himalayan country. Therefore, EFSAS analyses the current scenario which inevitably poses the question, where one should draw the line between genuine political struggle and terrorism, when a particular group is resorting to unrestricted warfare while using violence and intimidation in order to achieve its ideological goals.
EFSAS in addition explains how Nepal acts as a buffer zone between two Asian powerhouses and long-term rivals, namely India and China, and any brewing instability will inevitably bring about various implications for both New Delhi and Beijing. India is itself affected on its territory by growing Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, which intends to overthrow the Indian government through ‘People's War’. Thus, any support to Indian Maoist groups provided by Nepalese Maoists, alongside with anti-India activities in Nepal, particularly those backed up by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, appear as issues of grave concern for India.
India fears that not only Pakistan’s ISI has been using Nepal as a strategic terrain for conducting its anti-India operations, but as Brahma Chellaney, an Indian author, public intellectual and analyst of international geostrategic trends has further forewarned, “the Maoists' dreamland, China, is pulling Nepal into its orbit”.
Although during the Nepalese Civil War, China provided ammunitions and weapons to the Nepal government to crush the Maoist insurgency and was treating the Nepalese Maoists as anti-government rebels, once they became accommodated in the government and appeared as the single largest ruling party in 2008, China “rediscovered their ideological linkages” and started supporting them.
Through critically analysing this paradigm shift, what becomes visible is that Chinese involvement with the Nepalese Maoists appears to be based on pragmatism and opportunism, and less on any political or ideological basis. This is also clear from the Chinese strategic objectives in Nepal, which fall in line with Beijing’s desire to establish its New Silk Road, alongside with securing its presence in Tibet. China’s exploitation of the Buddhist religion and its attempts in crafting a new Nepali national identity, portray how the country is using religion as a diplomatic tool for economic enrichment, and is further establishing and fortifying its influence in the Himalayan country.
EFSAS concludes in its commentary that despite the bulk of Maoists joining the political mainstream after renouncing arms, the conditions in Nepal have not changed much. Thirteen years after the end of the Civil War, the possibility of another armed uprising carried out by dissident Maoist groups should not be discounted. In addition, considering China’s growing economic, political and cultural influence in the country, there is also no guarantee that the new breed of leaders of any such potential uprising would be concerned about Nepal’s "self-respect and sovereignty", and at the same time, be able to eschew Beijing’s offers.