India has played a significant and influential role in Nepali politics and society related to all the major events of the post-conflict era.
In 2005, after a decade long violent conflict (1996-2006), the seven party alliance (SPA) led by the Nepali Congress and the CPN Maoist agreed to stop the violence and join forces against absolute monarchy in the 12 point agreement made in New Delhi. Maoist leader Prachanda had spent significant time in India, along with other senior leaders including Mohan Baidya who spent years in an Indian prison during the conflict. India itself has meanwhile been facing threats from Indian Maoists in various states. Due to the perceived implications for India, security and foreign policy goals, India wished to play a major role in the transformation of the Nepali Maoist Party through disarmament, and to continue to serve as a mediator to influence Nepali politics. The Indian establishment influenced the 12-point agreement to support the SPA alliance movement as well as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was signed later in 2006. In the years that have followed, India has become a dominant influence over Nepali politics on a broad range of issues, including the Interim constitution, the constituent assembly elections, the infamous Katuwal scandal (Rukumangat Katuwal, then Chief of Nepal Army who opposed the elected government decision and lobbied against Maoist primeminister Puspakamal Dahal (Prachand))
and PM Prichard’s resignation which followed it, disputes with UNMIN and OHCHR’s exit, dissolution of the PLA cantonments to that of the first Constituent Assembly, appointment of then Supreme court chief justice Khilraj Regmi and the second CA election, disputes over the constitution process and the recent promulgation of the controversial document and formation of a post-constitution government.
Indian intervention on Nepal internal issues and micromanagement as well as their interest to control Nepali parties on their hand as a big brother, India has oppressed citizens of the border areas, and captured Nepali land at 65 border points in the southern plains. India never respected its land locked neighbor’s rights or the dignity of citizens of the border regions throughout history. There is a big question of national sovereignty.
The Indian establishment has been intervening through security institutions, bureaucrats and political parties. During the conflict the Indian army provided modern arms and equipment to then Royal Nepal Army to fight the Maoist rebellion. Even Indian human rights activists raised concerns over protecting innocent lives and condemned arms supply to the Nepali government. India never respected human rights values or humanitarian support to the oppressed and marginalized.
At the end of conflict, India facilitated discussions between the state and rebel parties, paving a way forward, and forgetting the historic violence, without raising issues of accountability - over human rights violations committed by both the Nepali state and the Maoist PLA. Rather than respecting human rights principles and the right to justice, India welcomed the Maoist supreme commander in Delhi and provided technical support. India never raised its voice in favor of the victims of human rights violations, but opposed the role of UNMIN, lobbied for the exit of OHCHR whose conflict report published in 2012 they opposed, and supported alleged perpetrators from both state and Maoist forces.
In Nepal, there are continuous human rights violations, citizens and rights activists have been killed during the peace process from the first Madhesh movement to the infamous Gaur (city in the southern plain close to the indian border)
incident where 28 Maoist activists were killed during the first CA election campaign. Most recently, more than 50 citizens have been killed mostly by the security forces in protests against the constitution, and violations continue. The Nepal government has withdrawn hundreds of criminal cases from the courts, refusing to implement the Supreme Court rulings, the National Human Rights Commissions’ recommendations, or the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Committee. India never questioned the ignoring of issues of accountability. During the first review of the UPR process in 2011, Nepali civil society and rights activists lobbied at the regional level and in global forums to create pressure on the Government for accountability. Neither at regional level in SAARC forums nor at global forums such as the UPR process, did India mention citizens’ rights to truth, justice, reparation and to see the prosecution of criminals. Nepal’s development partners such as Germany, Denmark, UK, Switzerland, Finland, and France made recommendations to Nepal for human rights based approach to peace and reconstruction as a part of their support to the peace process.
Surprisingly, India’s made a strong statement during the recent UPR session in Geneva this year (Nov 2015) making a number of recommendations to Nepal:
- Consolidate the constitution building and democratization process by accommodating all sections of Nepalese society to enable broad-based ownership and participation;
- Ensure the independence and financial autonomy of the National Human Rights Commission; and
- Ensure the effective functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and full implementation of its recommendations, including prosecution of those responsible for violations.
India’s recommendations have arisen in the course of the post-constitution protest where the Madhes is in revolt; India-Nepal diplomacy is in crisis and the people of Nepal face significant daily challenges due to the ongoing blockade. India has specifically questioned the new constitution, targeting alleged perpetrators to make them accountable through the TRC process. If India is really serious about supporting the thousands of victims of human rights abuses through an independent national human rights commission and a strong TRC, this would be a welcome step to promoting human rights and in Nepal and in the region. It will also serve to support victims of human rights violations in Indian states such as Gujarat and Kashmir, as well as in the North-East, and in other South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. If India really wishes to make a global commitment to human rights values, such steps can help promote the rule of law, democratic process, constitutional rights, social justice and sustainable peace in the region. The Indian authorities could of course start at home, and begin to address the long history of violations which continue in various parts of India.
In its recommendations during the UPR, India neglected to raise the issue of the disappeared and the disappearance law in Nepal. Thousands of citizens have been forcibly disappeared in both Nepal and in India, where there is no missing law or credible search mechanism. The majority of disappearance cases in Nepal were caused by the security forces, to which India has supplied weapons and training, as well as political support to the Nepali governments responsible. India’s statement is discriminatory and did not mention the Commission on Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons and the prosecution of those responsible, a serious humanitarian issue in both Nepal and India.
Can India now change its tune, after decades of complicity in such crimes, and finally play a role in criminalizing enforced disappearance, labeling it a crime against humanity? Can Nepal commit to punish the criminals and ratify the convention on enforced disappearance? If India’s recent engagement with the issue of justice for war time violations in Nepal is sincere and not just a political gimmick, then the our powerful neighbor can play an important in promoting human rights and democracy, strengthening accountability, responsibility and democratic values throughout the region.