- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Baburam Bhattarai, ideological head and No. 2 leader of the Maoist rebels in Nepal, recently surfaced in public for the first time in seven years to lead the Maoist negotiating team at talks last Sunday with the government in Katmandu. This was his first live interview with a foreign reporter, Washington Times special correspondent Campbell Spencer of Australia.Q: The cease-fire came as a surprise to most people in Nepal, following some of the bloodiest incidents in the seven-year insurgency. What were the key factors for agreeing to a truce?A: We had reached a position where the two armed powers in the state had reached a strategic balance, so we agreed to explore a solution to the situation through dialogue. The time was right to move to the next phase and complete the revolution and bring about a lasting change for the people of Nepal. It was the people’s will that we entered into talks with the crisis-ridden old regime.Q: You have indicated recently that the sensitive geopolitical environment was a key factor in agreeing to hold talks with the government.A: We are very aware of the current geopolitical environment. Our country is sandwiched between the two superstates of our region [India and China], and we must maintain very balanced relations with them both. We cannot tilt on one side or the other.Now there is a third power, the United States, led by Mr. George Bush, who thinks the whole world belongs to him. He can do anything he likes as no rule applies to him. He is intervening everywhere. So if he intervenes here, that will bring in other parties, and if all these people muddle in our affairs, they will create a big messQ: Dev Gurung, a member of your negotiating team, has said Maoist leaders believed the United States was sizing up Nepal after it finished with Afghanistan.A: The United States is embarking on an imperialistic crusade. As I said before, Mr. George Bush is intervening everywhere, and it is our duty to protect our national sovereignty from any intervention by an outside force.Q: Critics say you are just aiming for a soft landing into mainstream politics, and the political parties charge that this is why you have rushed into negotiating directly with the king.A: No, this is not true. We have moved to the next phase of the revolution — the political struggle. There will be substantial changes, the people’s voice will be heard and we are confident that this will happen. We will not return to the status quo, that I can assure you. …Q: Recent comments from State Department officials indicate that they do not wish to see the Maoists prevail, as Nepal would be turned into an absolute communist regime that would be overtly hostile to American interests, and this would destabilize the wider region.A: This is quite unfortunate. We are a small, backward country. We must maintain good relations with everybody. In today’s world, we cannot hope to be self-sustained, so we must have good relations with everyone, including the United States.Politically, we are bringing about a democratic revolution, so they shouldn’t be threatened or overly suspicious that we are forcefully implementing some communist project. … We read that one American official tried to link us with [the late Cambodian communist strongman] Pol Pot. We are not Pol Pot, we have had no relations with Pol Pot, and only those foreign powers themselves had relations with Pol Pot.They are trying to stretch things too far by saying we are like the Khmer Rouge. We are our own party, we follow Prachanda Path, which has taken the science of Marxism and adapted it to the concrete realities of Nepal.Ideology is at one level, this is the long term. But at the practical, immediate level, the political level, we are not talking of imposing a communistic agenda. A country like ours, a backward country where there has been no true democratic revolution, we are in a precapitalist era. As a movement, we are trying to complete the capitalist revolution.We are talking of creating multiparty democracy, rule of law, army under the control of the elected representatives, and a constitution made by the people’s representatives in the constitutional assembly — these are not communist slogans, these are democratic slogans which were practiced in the American Revolution.I think people are confused by the fact that it has fallen to the communists to complete the democratic revolution in Nepal. Our political agenda is not communism but democratic revolution, but ideologically we are guided by Marxism.The West is having problems understanding between the short-term and long-term goals of our movement.Q: Do you believe that Nepal poses a special challenge to the West as, in the words of one commentator, yours is the most successful communist movement since the death of communism?A: It is quite difficult for people in the West to digest — how come after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the communists are raising their heads again?As long as there are divisions, as long as there is inequality there is bound to be struggle — what we call class struggle. The class struggle may be slower at times, it may appeared to have died down, but it hasn’t died down. As long as there is inequality and oppression, the struggle goes on.The basic ideology of Marx and Engels, further developed by Lenin, Mao and other revolutionaries, remains valid but there have been problems with implementing this ideology very mechanistically, very dogmatically in other countries … and this has led to the collapse of the socialist project. This doesn’t mean the struggle has ended, it has taken on new forms. …I think that the problem with the whole communist movement is that they have not been able to galvanize this regiment of people who want change the system. In the case of Nepal, we have very practically been able to lead the regiment of people along a very systematic political program.

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