The deepening disagreements between former Maoists rebels and the government of Nepal have reached a new low as claims of the former rebels training Indian Maoists in Nepal made headlines in recent weeks.
In a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Indian government expressed concerns about the alleged military training of the Indian rebels, known as the Naxalites. Indian officials have claimed that there is evidence – although none has been made public yet -- that the Nepali Maoists have been providing robust military and ideological training to the Naxalites.
The letter, which has since been leaked to the Nepali media, says that two commanders of the Nepali rebel group signed a clandestine agreement with three senior Indian Maoist leaders to provide military training to the Indian rebels. Last week, Nepal's leading newspaper, The Kathmandu Post, reported that according to the letter written by the Indian ambassador to Nepal, some 200 Naxalites from India have taken part in training provided by Nepali Maoists in several districts in the southern plains, including Nawalparasi, Dang, Udaypur and Makwanpur -- all of which were Maoist hubs during the decade-long insurgency.
Indian officials also have alleged that Nepali Maoists have agreed to send more trainers to the bordering Indian state of Bihar to conduct training camps for a larger number of Naxalites.
The Naxalites, who have strong support from the tribal groups and farmers in rural India, have been fighting the state and central government in India since 1967. Today, the insurgency has spread to 20 of the 29 states in India – a problem that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the single greatest internal security challenge.
In Kathmandu, senior Maoist leaders have vehemently denied any wrongdoing and say that the accusations are a conspiracy to put them in a bad light. Nepal's Maoist chairman Prachanda said that the Maoists would never compromise on the issue of national sovereignty and would never allow outsiders to use Nepali land for military training.
Another senior leader, Barshaman Pun, has dragged the Nepali army into the fray by accusing the national institution of preparing a false report alleging that Nepali Maoists were training the Indian Naxalites, and handing it over to the government. The Nepal army has called this a baseless accusation, and has raised objections with a committee that has the mandate of decide the future of the Maoists' guerrilla forces.
All this comes amid an already critical political deadlock as Nepal has failed to elect a new prime minister after 16 rounds of polling.
Tensions between the Maoists and the army might dampen progress on the lingering issue of integrating some 20,000 former rebels into the army. Nepal's four-year old peace process and an interim constitution that is set to expire in six months are in limbo, as both the Maoists and the government have failed to agree on how to rehabilitate the thousands of Maoists who fought against the national army during the insurgency.
Senior political leaders from the ruling party have said the Maoists have floated a positive proposal with regard to integrating their combatants. In their proposal, they agreed to a month-long timeline to bring the Maoist combatants under the government-formed Special Committee, regroup the combatants, disband the paramilitary structure of the Young Communist League and resolve the row over property seized by the Maoists -- all of which have been key demands of the major political parties.
As the interim constitution sets to expire, all eyes are now on the Maoists to see if they will put their proposals into practice.