Manipal, India — Nepal would never have come to be led by Maoists were it not for the help that the rebels got from India. For decades, Maoist guerrillas took refuge in India’s eastern states of West Bengal and Bihar, given sanctuary by an indulgent Indian administration.
Later, the Maoists’ numerous contacts within the Indian security establishment ensured New Delhi’s help in emasculating Nepal’s monarchy – according to courtiers within Kathmandu’s Narayanhiti Palace, because the Nepali king and Sonia Gandhi disliked each other – and subsequently nudged the Nepali Congress into joining a government led by the guerrilla fighters.
Since then things have shifted. China has characteristically reversed its earlier policy of backing the monarchy, and has become the most significant international backer of Nepal's version of the Peoples Liberation Army. This is causing increasing disquiet in India, which – foolishly – has an open border with Nepal.
Now the Maoists seem set to increase their grip on the country by replacing the head of Nepal's military with a stooge of their own. Army Chief Rukmangud Katawal has thus far resisted both threats and inducements to infuse a flood of guerrilla fighters into what is still a professional fighting force. Should he be replaced, the odds are that the Nepali army – the only effective barrier between the Maoists and dictatorial control – will succumb to their pressures.
Interestingly, it is the pro-China – and therefore pro-Pakistan, given the alliance between these two neighbors of India – groups within Nepal's political establishment that are backing the dismissal of Katawal. Because their own coalition partners oppose the move, the Maoists are looking to jettison them and form an alliance with the opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).