Nepal Today

Saturday, July 6, 2013



Kayhmandu, 6 July: Pankaj Dilip, an American of Indian origin, was
arrested at TIA for illegally attempting to fly to Hong Kong with $20,000
in cash.
The money should have been sent through banking channel, according to law.
Kathmandu, 6 July: The Chinese, as usual, have left it to us to decipher what Beijing and we achieved through State Councillor Yang Jiechi’s recent two-day visit. Still, as the affable and gracious visitor, Yang needed to sum up things, Maila Bake writes in Nepali Netbook..
Thus were born new platitudes such as: “China-Nepal ties have entered a new phase” and “From dear friend to excellent partner”. These assertions, Maila Baje feels, are as banal and as cryptic as anything else that is coming out of Beijing vis-à-vis the outside world, as the new communist leadership settles deep inside its Zhongnanhai redoubt.
During his visit, to be sure, Yang extended generous economic cooperation, supported Nepal’s quest to hold elections, and dangled the promise of much prosperity in the future. But he offered no ‘red meat’ that in the past has won China much Nepali admiration at relatively no cost.
Contrast that with the remarks had Yang made during his visit as foreign minister in 2008. He pledged China’s help to Nepal in its effort to strengthen its sovereignty and independence. Furthermore, he envisaged bilateral relations based on ‘real equality’ so that it could become a ‘role model’ for relationships between big and small countries.
Then, Nepal had just elected a constituent assembly and, having abolished the monarchy, was on the giddy road to writing a republican constitution. Now, Yang expressed hope that elections would be the best way for Nepal to strengthen itself.
Something must have happened in the intervening years to bolster China’s confidence in Nepalis’ ability to sort things out themselves. And surely, that something did not happen inside Nepal, because China’s Tibet ‘headache’ – in Beijing’s own estimation – has not receded in these years.
The hardline geopolitical rhetoric China espoused vis-à-vis Nepal then – during Yang’s 2008 visit and manifesting in the expressions of successive Chinese visitors to ambassadors in Nepal – was emblematic of Beijing’s overall international public posture during those ‘years of assertiveness’. The period between 2008 and 2010 witnessed a sharpening of Chinese rhetoric, political disagreements and confrontations bilaterally and multilaterally. Nepal was merely a front where China felt it could flex its political and diplomatic muscles against India.
For our purposes, it remains immaterial whether that harshness came from assertive Chinese nationalism, domestic imperatives in the run-up to the feverish – and we now know highly contentious – leadership transition in a regime facing rising domestic social unrest, hubris over the western financial crisis, or a combination of whatever.
What is important for us is that Chinese commitments are to be viewed for what they are: another nation’s undertaking that it has constructed in its national interest and which it can freely recast in keeping with those interests.
Yang arrived in Kathmandu last week at a time when the new leadership in Beijing is busy recalibrating its international distinctiveness in accordance with the evolving dynamics. Specifically, for our purposes, China needs to keep India away from both an Asia-oriented United States and an increasingly regionally assertive Japan as far as those dynamics could potentially harm China.
Should events evolve differently and Nepal reverts to figuring more openly in China’s public pronouncements on regional strategy, we should not careful not to lose our poise. In an ideal world, Nepal would long to prosper amid growing interactions between the two great Asian civilizations and economic powerhouses. The enrichment powers farther west and east could bring to this engagement is, theoretically, immense. Alas, such utopianism thrives only in the leftist-liberal mindset.
Amid the volatility of the international system, countries like Nepal must be constantly on the defensive, not because of some innate national inferiority complex but because of the realism imposed by the attributes of our existence.
The Chinese, Indians, Americans, Europeans, Japanese, or anyone else for that matter can take turns and accuse us of playing one power or group off against another. They can be forgiven, especially since they are part of the currents we are constantly adjusting to.
We falter when we somehow start feeling we have to apologize for what has become our basic strategy for survival. Thus, we are left twisting ourselves into pretzels trying to figure out what Yang might have meant when he said this or did that…
Kathmandu, 6 July:: While flipping through a stack of old clippings the other day, this author’s eyes caught a line in the February 1996 issue of READER’S DIGEST quoting Sam Rayburn, “Any jackass can kick a barn down but it takes a carpenter to build it.”
Indeed, destruction is easier than the task of construction. The past seven years in Nepal have most tellingly underlined it. Power brokers and profiteers vainly try to fool others by characteristically putting the blame on “the transition.” To invoke an adage, a bad carpenter blames his tools. This is a very appropriate description of the state of affairs in Nepal, Trikal Vastavik writes in People’s Review..
Those at the helm of the state affairs in an unrestrained manner for so many years have failed on every front. The statements and demands pouring in from all directions and sections of society are expressions of disappointment and disgust with the four-party syndicate reconfirm this day in and day out.
The leaders of the four-party syndicate, who boast of having brought about epoch-making political events, claim “big international support to what we have “accomplished.” Ironically and most visibly, it is on the foreign policy front that Nepal’s prestige has suffered a drastic setback. Nepal does not figure anywhere close to the prestige it enjoyed previously.
The sad part is that the syndicate does not know where to begin, how to begin and when to begin. With the intellectual community highly polarized on party lines, charlatans emerging as civil society “leaders” and fifth columnists operating as analysts and experts, the country’s foreign policy has not received the required vitality.
On foreign policy front, the panchayat decades were the most remarkable followed by the 1990-2002 period. The loktantra years have been the worst and history will unsparingly condemn today’s power-wielders who have made a laughing stock of themselves of allowing foreign forces take the driver’s seat in directing our policies in the name of “we Nepalis.”
Look at the foreign envoys, heads of foreign missions and INGOs who have found their voice and presence in Nepal far out of proportion to what they have in other countries in South Asia and other democracies. This is the main reason why there has hardly been any high level exchange of visits with foreign countries since 2006.
British Queen Elizabeth’s paid a state visit to Nepal shortly after King Mahendra dissolved parliament and dismissed B.P. Koirala government in December in 1960 on charges of incompetence and failure to maintain law and order, among other things. The British queen’s visit was a big boost for her Nepali host who was criticized, and mildly, only by India. In fact, she paid a second state visit, when the partyless panchayat marked its silver jubilee celebrations during King Birendra’s reign.
King Mahendra also paid state visits to many Western capitals, including Britain and the United States. He visited the US for the first time in 1959 when Dwight Eisenhower was the American president and again during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, that is, both as a constitutional monarch and as executive monarch.
After his accession to the throne in 1972, King Birendra received many foreign heads of state and government from Asia, Europe and the Americas, including major European capitals, Britain and the US. This all happened when multiparty system was yet to be restored.
King Birendra’s 1975 proposal that Nepal be declared a Zone of Peace was endorsed by 116 countries, including all South Asian countries, except Bhutan and India. All the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, except the Soviet Union with which New Delhi had signed a 20-year agreement just days before Indian troops attacked the then East Pakistan, also supported the proposal which was based on the principles of panchasheel.
The Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) deliberately scrapped the peace zone proposal. Their idea was to appease New Delhi which had extended the economic blockade it imposed on Nepal for the latter refusal to sign a treaty that would have placed on par with Bhutan as protectorate whose defense and foreign policies were to be on the basis of the Indian government’s advice.
The political parties that were given the front row during the basically foreign-inspired 2003-4 movement for political changes willingly became puppets playing the notations scripted by their patrons. They neither developed any foreign policy agenda nor the courage to give continuity to the policies tried and tested over the decades. They wilted even before not so seen forces took over.
The conventional course for the syndicate, or, to borrow the description made so succinctly by another columnist in PEOPLE’S REVIEW, the Gang of Four, has been to relentlessly rap the past, recklessly promise the future the heavens, and shamelessly hem and haw over the present to sidestep popular issues raised at the grassroots level.
Leftist groups during the 1950s and the near 30 years of the panchayat years spoke vehemently against the “unequal” 1950 treaty with India. Baburam Bhattarai, as a result, drafted the Maoist party’s 40-point demand, a quarter of which was aimed at New Delhi, just before his party went underground to launch “People’s War” while Bhattarai and his boss Pushpa Kamal Dahal lived in the security of the Indian intelligence agencies at the outskirts of the Indian capital for more than eight years.
In 1995, when he was the Deputy Prime Minister holding the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Madhav Kumar Nepal, during his official visit to New Delhi, raised the issue of revising the 1950 treaty. This was the first time that such an idea had been officially broached.
A couple of months later, Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikary reiterated the same at the highest level. However, neither Madhav Kumar Nepal nor his party CPN (UML) has ever raised the issue after that. The long silence over the briefest of candid spell has blunted whatever edge seemed to have been promised.
Diplomacy is the art of discretion and decisiveness, depending upon a context and long-term interests of a nation. But decisions by governments in Nepal have viewed ambassadorships to foreign capitals as an almshouse for retired people or hangars-on. Foreign missions and INGOs in Kathmandu have felt the pulse rate of Nepali politicians, that is, what keeps it low or high; and what prevents it from stopping altogether.
Loktantrik Nepal’s president, Ram Baran Yadav, has not been invited to Western or other important capitals even after “sweeping and dramatic political changes” that the Gang of Four leaders so often speak of.  Not even the four communist premiers who preceded Khil Raj Regmi at the head of the government. Why? The answer is simple and obvious: Bankruptcy of ideas and determination in the rulers who wield power arbitrarily and incompetently.


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