Revolutionary Worker #1179, December 15, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
November 2001, the Nepalese government declared a State of Emergency and for the first time mobilized the Royal Nepalese Army against the People's War in Nepal. This was a huge challenge for the people's army, which had grown and developed since the beginning of the insurgency in 1996, but up to that point had only confronted the police. The RNA hoped to quickly crush the Maoist insurgency. But in the last year, the People's Liberation Army has been able to carry out successful raids on the RNA, exhibiting news levels of organization and skill.
The PLA is now at the level of fighting in brigades (of several hundred soldiers). The reactionary government has been driven out of and has virtually no presence in most of the countryside. And in a country of 23 million people, 10 million people now live in areas under new revolutionary power.
On October 4, King Gyanendra removed Prime Minister Deuba, seized power, dissolved the entire Council of Ministers and appointed a new pro-monarchy Prime Minister. This was a stark indication of how the success of the People's War has deepened divisions among Nepal's rulers over how to defeat the insurgency. But one thing Nepal's ruling class agrees on is the need for foreign military aid.
Over the last year, the Nepalese government has waged a huge campaign to get international aid in the name of "fighting terrorism." These efforts are directly related to increasing the strength and military capability of the RNA. The RNA recently recruited 5,000 soldiers and plans to recruit another 5,000--to take its strength to 60,000. And the RNA has repeatedly said it needs more high-tech arms, equipment, and helicopters. After a recent successful raid by the PLA on a district headquarters in the West, an RNA helicopter was damaged by rebel fire and an RNA source complained, "We quietly had to witness thousands of rebels fleeing out of Sandhikharka after the attack from the air. Whenever we tried to fire on them by lowering the height, the rebels fired and we had to gain height to keep out of their range."
U.S. Guns to Nepal
Over the last year, the U.S. has gotten more directly involved in the counter- revolution in Nepal. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. military advisors visited Nepal and Prime Minister Deuba was invited for a talk with Bush at the White House. The U.S. has not put the Maoists in Nepal on its official list of "terrorists." But many high-level U.S. officials continue to refer to the Maoists in Nepal as "terrorists" and the U.S. government has justified aid to Nepal as part of the global "war on terrorism."
Christina Rocca, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs said, "The Maoists have shown themselves to be a ruthless enemy by their tactics in the field and through terrorist attacks against both government targets and innocent civilians." In September Bush wrote a letter to Prime Minister Deuba, saying, "The American people thank you and the people of Nepal for your valuable contributions to the campaign to free the world of terrorism."
The People's War in Nepal is a genuine war of liberation with widespread support among the people and has nothing in common with groups like al-Qaida. But this fact has not stopped the U.S. from trying to fabricate some kind of comparison.
A proposal by Bush for $20 million in economic and military aid to Nepal says, "We currently do not have direct evidence of an al-Qaida presence in Nepal, but weak governance has already proved inviting to terrorists, criminals and intelligence services from surrounding countries...continued instability in Nepal could create the conditions in which terrorists easily could establish operations, especially in remote areas in the far west of the country. In addition, Nepal has a substantial Muslim minority, located primarily along the Indian border. The combination of proximity, rugged terrain and a distracted government could well afford conditions that the al-Qaida would find favorable in its search for safe havens."
This is yet another example of how for the U.S., terrorism is "whatever we say it is"-- that any group that stands in the way of U.S. interests can be labeled terrorist and targeted with the preemptive logic of "what might happen, what they could do, what they might do," etc.
The U.S. has also tried to present its aid to Nepal as economic and non-lethal. But Bush's proposal makes clear that U.S. aid to Nepal is aimed at boosting the RNA's military capability. The proposal says, "The RNA cannot engage the Maoists effectively if it cannot get in the fight. Many of the Maoist attacks have occurred in areas where the nearest paved road is several days' march away, but that are readily accessible by helicopter. The $20 million in supplemental FMF [Foreign Military Financing] would be used both to purchase equipment and to lease helicopters that will permit the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) to rapidly deploy its forces to counter Maoist attacks. Equipment includes body armor, night vision devices and communications gear..."
The U.S. Congress has not yet approved this $20 million proposal. But this has not stopped the U.S. from going ahead with military aid to Nepal. The Kathmandu Post recently reported that the RNA is in the process of equipping all of its personnel with U.S.-made M-16 rifles--and that it already received an initial 5,000 rifles in August. According to Kathmandu Post sources, this deal had been worked out during Deuba's visit with Bush.
American Embassy officials in Nepal have confirmed that the U.S. government is supplying Nepal with arms and revealed that U.S. military assistance will also include training of the RNA. The Embassy said the U.S. plans to provide Nepal with $17 million in military assistance in the coming year.
Aid from Other Reactionary Governments
A number of other reactionary governments around the world have also responded to the Nepalese government's plea for military aid.
The United Kingdom. The RNA is getting two helicopters from the UK, which has actively organized other foreign military aid for Nepal.
In June the UK hosted an international meeting, which included the U.S., Russia, China, India, Australia and several European countries, to discuss helping Nepal defeat the Maoists. UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, in Kathmandu for a follow-up meeting, told the press, "The clear message of my visit is this: that the Maoists will not be allowed to win here in Nepal." O'Brien added that Nepal would be getting military hardware "in accordance with our view that terrorists must get the message that international community will not allow them to take over Nepal."
In August, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair submitted a plan to parliament to give Nepal two Russian- built military helicopters. The military expenditure was hidden in a document under the "global conflict prevention pool"--which revealed that UK military assistance "will comprise two Mi- 17 support helicopters, explosive ordinance disposal equipment, logistical equipment, communications equipment and equipment in support of the military intelligence support group which the UK are assisting the Royal Nepalese Army in setting up."
China. Nepal's King Gyanendra visited China in July and the Chinese government made clear its support for Nepal's "fight against terrorism."
The RNA recently received a shipment of state-of-the-art communication equipment from China. The Chinese Embassy said this was part of "regular cooperation" between the RNA and the Chinese government and that similar military assistance would be coming in future.
Russia. The Nepalese government had arranged to purchase two Russian-built combat helicopters from an Australia-based arms supplier. These Mi-24 helicopters are considered among the best attack helicopters built by Russia and were used by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. When the new pro-Monarchist Chand government said it could not afford the helicopters, the Russian Ambassador to Nepal reiterated his country's commitment to support the Nepalese government as part of the "campaign against terrorism in the world" and offered Nepal helicopters at a "reasonable price."
In September the Belgium government announced it was selling 5,500 machine guns to Nepal. The Green Party protested the decision, citing a collective pledge of many European and western countries not to sell arms to countries where "such delivery is likely to strengthen conflicts within or outside the country." A senior cabinet minister in the coalition government resigned in protest and the delivery of the weapons has been temporarily delayed.
In November, the RNA purchased an air-truck from a Poland-based aircraft manufacturer. The brand new STOL (short take and landing) aircraft was delivered to Nepal by the American Air Force. The RNA is also expecting to get two helicopters from Ukraine before the end of the year.
India, which has long dominated Nepal economically and politically, has been a major supplier of military hardware to the reactionary Nepalese government. Shortly after the RNA was mobilized to fight the People's War in November 2002, India sent two Cheetah helicopters, machine guns and ammunition to Nepal and it has continued to reiterate its political and military support for Nepal's efforts to crush the Maoist insurgency.
The U.S. and all the other countries delivering military aid to the reactionary Nepalese government want to crush a popular insurgency that is giving hope to millions of desperately poor peasants. These developments highlight the importance of an international struggle to expose, oppose and stop the increasing efforts to crush the People's War in Nepal.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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