Pages

Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama's Asia trip and its repercussion

Yuba Nath Lamsal
United States President Barak Obama recently wrapped up his ten-day maiden Asia trip which has been dubbed as an image boosting initiative back home. Although Obama returned with high note of success in pursuing America's interest in Asia and bringing some jobs back home, the outcome is not as enthusiastic as it had earlier been expected. Obama's whirlwind visit of four Asian giants namely India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea came at a time when his popularity in America was in the lowest ebb. This was also reflected in the recently held mid-term elections in which Obama's Democratic Party lost to rival Republicans in both Senate (upper chamber of Congress) and House of Representatives (lower chamber). The election was a big blow to President Obama's reforms and other policies he promised during the election last year.
There are a number of reasons for dwindling popularity of President Obama and his party. Firstly, Obama has not met with his promises made to the people during the election. The second but most important reason is the economy stupid. The US has suffered the worst economic recession in its history. Americans are increasingly worried about the growing job loss which has rendered millions Americans unemployed. Although the economic analysts have predicted recovery of American economy beginning next year, the statistics and other indicators as of now have not at all shown any promising scenario in near future. Disturbed by gloomy economic preference that would have direct bearing on his presidency and his party's political fate, President Obama planned a marketing trip to Asian economic powers with the hope of creating jobs in America and stimulating US economy.
While he struck some deals with India which are expected to create some 50,000 jobs in America and push US exports, it has raised some serious issues related to security in South Asia. Obama's choice of India as the first country of his Asia trip and his remarks he made in New Delhi have sent some jitters to India's neighbors both in South Asia and beyond. India is a regional bully and its neighbors are always skeptical about India's long-term security strategy. Not only in South Asia, India's blue-water navy has been a matter of security concern for China, Myanmar, Thailand and other East Asian countries.
Obama's hobnobbing with India is also in contradiction with the US national security strategy. One of the four key objectives of the American national security strategy is "to ensure security of the United States, its citizens and US allies and partners". The recent policy shift in South Asia is in sharp contrast to this fundamental concept and component of the US national security strategy. While the rest of South Asia remained true friends of the United States during the Cold War, India joined the club of America's enemy states—the Soviet Bloc. When the United States was fighting tooth and nail to contain Soviet misadventure, India openly and wholeheartedly backed the Soviet intervention everywhere in the world including Vietnam and Afghanistan. Worse still, New Delhi signed a long-term strategic and military alliance with the Soviet Union which was clearly targeted against the security of the United States and its allies and also the values America pursued. In contrast, all other South Asian countries strongly opposed the Soviet adventure and intervention in other countries including Cambodia and Afghanistan.
Quite opposite to what India did during the Cold War, Pakistan has remained ally of the United States since the 1950s. They stood shoulder to shoulder in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union’s brutal occupation of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan war, Pakistan played the role of a front country which ultimately forced the Soviet troops to pullout. If Pakistan had not helped the United States, the security counter of South Asia would have been quite different. In other words, South Asia's map would not have been as it is today. The Soviet-India strategy was to gobble up the entire South Asia and promote pan Indianism in South Asia, which would not have been in the interest of South Asian countries as well as the United States and its western allies.
After 9/11 attack, the United States launched a war on terror and its first target was Taliban regime in Afghanistan as it provided shelter for Al Queda and its mastermind Osma bin Laden. Even now America is fighting a war on terror in Afghanistan. Washington is clear that this war cannot be won without the support of Pakistan and Islamabad has been providing every possible support in the US fight on terror. Despite tremendous pressure not to support the United States in the fight against Islamic fundamentalists, Pakistan has been helping the United States and is determined to wipe out terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism both in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.
However, in return, Pakistan has got a slap on its face from the United States as Washington has signed a strategic partnership with India. This US policy shift in South Asia that attaches greater importance to alliance with India in the cost of Pakistan and other South Asian countries would prove to be America's security blunder in future. As a result, Washington may lose goodwill of other South Asian countries as well as some countries in East Asia and the Muslim world. The more and closer alliance the United States forges with India, the more it would alienate and antagonize the Muslim world. Alliance with India is often taken as an attempt to isolative Pakistan to which Muslim world attaches greater importance.
Pakistan has felt that the US-India security partnership has directly threatened Pakistan's security. Pakistan's worries are genuine as India is its biggest and the only external security threat. Pakistan had already fought three wars with India. Moreover, New Delhi has been building its military power both conventional and nuclear, which has been a cause of security concern for the entire South Asia. The economic and strategic alliance that the United States has formed with India only emboldens New Delhi to further pursue its hawkish and expansionist attitude in South Asia, which is not in the interest of the region as well the world. It would also mean that the United States has endorsed India's highhandedness in the region.
It should be noted here with high prominence that all South Asian countries have problems with India and they are facing strategic, cultural and economic threat from India. These smaller countries had been hopeful that Washington would come to their rescue in case there was any kind of intervention and attack from India. However, their hopes have now been dashed because of the alliance between India and United States. This has not only caused security concerns to South Asian countries but also has raised America's credibility in the region.
The alliance with India is against the values that the United States pursues and the world order it seeks. The US national security strategy has clearly spelled out that the United States respects the universal values both at home and abroad, which include peace, justice, human rights and political pluralism. Similarly, America seeks to build a just international order under its leadership that promotes peace, security and opportunity in the world. Although India boasts to be the largest democracy, free will, freedom of expression and peaceful and dignified life are a mirage in some parts of India and to certain section of the people. Muslims constitute more than 15 per cent population in India but they are treated as second grade citizens. Similar case is with other several ethnic people and minorities. A case in point is Kashmir, which, in fact, is boiling. Kashmiri people are fighting for their right to self determination. But India has kept Kashmir under its control at gun point. Several other ethnic communities and poor and downtrodden people are fighting a decisive struggle against the elitist system in many other states of India. But Indian government is dealing with the peaceful protests and struggle with brutal military force. This is evident that India does not qualify to be America's ally and the United States would regret in the long-run. Smaller countries in the region including Nepal are now skeptical by the growing hobnobbing between the United States and India. This shows that Obama administration is not sensitive to the concerns and worries of smaller South Asian countries. India is the stumbling block for peace in South Asia. The United States had been expected that it would play a key role in establishing sustainable peace in South Asia by using its influence to persuade India to abandon the hawkish and bullish policy in the region. Kashmir is a flashpoint of conflict in South Asia and its resolution has not been possible by India's refusal to implement the United Nations resolution that seeks impartial plebiscite in Kashmir. Obama's trip to India is, therefore, a disaster in terms of security and just order in South Asia.
His trip to East Asia, too, has not yielded desired results. The purpose with which Obama visited East Asia mainly Japan and South Korea was also defeated. Obama wanted to sign a free trade deal with South Korea but failed to take Seoul into confidence. Also the American President failed to convince the G-20 members mainly the Asian countries to back US stance on China's currency policy. Instead, the Asian economies sided with China and backed Beijing's stance on its currency policy.
On the surface, Obama's trip appears to be guided by economic interest. But security was the prime objective. The countries President Obama chose to visit has given an impression that the trip was aimed at forging an alliance against China economically and strategically and also encircling Beijing. China's spectacular economic rise accompanied by its push to develop its image as a soft power in the world has concerned and worried the United States more than any other country. China's growing clout in the international arena has already challenged American supremacy in the world. It is, therefore, the United States has now vigorously pursuing the policy to contain Beijing economically and strategically. The recent Asia visit of the American President should also be viewed against this backdrop. Although the trip was viewed as an image boosting trip, it has rather dampened the US image in the world arena in general and South Asia in particular which may reflect in US public opinion in future.

Growing US interest in South Asia

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The global power equilibrium has changed completely. The situation that existed after World War II is nowhere to be seen in the 21st century. The post-war period saw a completely new international order in which the dominance and influence of the United Kingdom declined. Until the war, the United Kingdom was a colonial power throughout the world. But the colonies that were the main source of economic might of the United Kingdom got independence from British rule one after another, which reduced the UK to the status of an ordinary European power. Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as two superpowers, which dominated the world almost until the end of the last century.
Cold peace
The post-war period was marked by an ugly Cold War. The superpower rivalry over the domination of the world created a sense of tension and division in the world that gave a different shape to international politics and international order. However, this situation, too, did not last long and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cold War is now a matter of history, and a new situation has emerged, which some people call a ‘dawn of Cold Peace’. This has completely changed the security and strategic matters of the world.
With the end of the Cold War, the world has turned unipolar with the United States remaining the sole superpower. The end of the Cold War has brought about drastic change in the security landscape, in which Asia stands more prominently. The emergence of China and India as new economic powers has brought the world’s attention on Asia. The recent visit of US President Barrak Obama to Asia amply reflects the new and changed international strategic scenario and increased American interests in Asia.
South East Asia and the Middle East had always figured in American foreign policy because of their economic strength, strategic value and America’s deep engagement in the region. America has had strong economic and security stakes in South East Asia for a long time. After World War II, several countries in the region, including Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and even Thailand, depended heavily on the United States for their security.
These countries were forced to come under the American security umbrella because of growing threats from Russian adventurism in the region. Japan and South Korea were particularly dependent on the United States than the other countries. The United States, thus, needed to honour its security commitments in the region and guarantee freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean, South China and Indian Ocean.
So far as the Middle East is concerned, US interest is guided by oil and the security of Israel. Fundamentally, the basics of US interest in the region have not changed but have only increased in many ways. Terrorism has been a greater concern and challenge in protecting its oil interest in the Middle East. Its engagement in the Middle East is to guarantee regular oil supply, security of Israel and other militarily weak countries of the region and contain Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. The significance of US engagement in the region was particularly recognised and valued after Iraq invaded Kuwait in the early 1990s. Had the US not come to the rescue of Kuwait, Iraq would have gobbled up the tiny oil rich country, and Saddam Hussain would have unleashed terror in the entire Middle East.
South Asia was a neglected region for the United States and other global powers until recently. The 1080s decade remained a flashpoint of superpower rivalry in South Asia, but that was limited to Afghanistan following the Soviet Union’s intervention and military presence there. After the Soviet Union withdrew its army from Afghanistan, the United States considered its mission accomplished, and Washington virtually abandoned South Asia.
The United States focussed more on the other regions, including the oil-rich Middle East which is volatile from the political and security point of view. Moreover, the disintegration of the Soviet Union created many energy rich states in Central Asia which figured in the foreign policy and strategic interest of the United States.
However, this situation lived short as Afghanistan and the entire South Asia turned extremely volatile. Given the power vacuum in Afghanistan, Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban, emerged and captured power in Kabul which not only enforced Islamic rule, restricting fundamental rights and freedom of the people but also turned Afghanistan into a safe haven for terrorists, including Al Qaeda. US eyes were opened wide only after terrorists attacked targets in New York and Washington, which brought Americans back to South Asia again. Since then, the United States has shown greater interest in South Asia than ever before, which can be substantiated by the choice of South Asia as the first leg of the US president’s 10-day Asia trip.
South Asia is getting more prominence in American foreign and security policy. This so for a number of reasons. The issues that concern the United States in South Asia are nuclear proliferation, the Kashmir dispute, democracy and human rights, economic liberalisation and development, and environment. The United States wants to play its role in resolving these issues so that South Asia can remain a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous region. The key tools to promoting these American goals are policy dialogue, arms and technology export policies, development assistance, increased trade in the region, including free access to the regional markets for American goods.
Both strategic and economic interests are at work so far as American interests and engagement in South Asia are concerned. As America is fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan, Washington knows that it cannot win the war without the support of South Asian partners, in general, and Pakistan, in particular. Strategically, the United States values Pakistan more than any other country in South Asia whereas India figures prominently in its economic interest because of India’s huge market and its economy.
Be it in India, Indonesia, Japan or South Korea, Obama’s message during the entire visit to the region was focussed on the economy and only economy. In India, he agreed on a deal to bring Indian investment to the USA and pushed for more market access for American exports to India. Despite repeated requests from India, Obama refrained from making any kind of remarks that might annoy and antagonise Pakistan and other neighbours of India. Even on the Kashmir issue, Obama was quite cautious and emphasised on a peaceful settlement. In Indonesia, too, he talked about the economy. In Seoul, his focus was on the free trade agreement with South Korea whereas US-China currency-related matters figured more prominently in Tokyo.
The US president’s visit was, thus, solely guided by economic interest aimed at marketing the United States in Asia and creating jobs back in America so that the dwindling popularity of President Obama and his Democratic Party could be revived. Had the visit been guided by strategic interests, Obama would certainly have started the trip from Pakistan, as was the case with all previous presidents visiting South Asia.
Bridge
The United States seems to have changed its priorities and policies in South Asia. Washington has learnt the price of neglecting South Asia in the past. It seems that the United States wants to have increased engagements both strategically and economically, which could benefit all South Asians including smaller countries like Nepal. As Nepal’s strategic location can be used as a bridge between not only India and China but also between South Asia and South East Asia, Nepal should learn to seek benefits from the increased US engagement in South Asia, both strategically and economically.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kashmir: A sore in South Asia

By Yuba Nath Lamsal
In a talk programme a fortnight ago, Pakistani Ambassador to Nepal Syed Abrar Hussain raised some pertinent issues related to peace in South Asia, of which he dealt with Kashmir issue in more detail clearly explaining how Kashmir is under siege. According to Ambassador Hussain, the legitimate freedom struggle to exercise the right to self determination of Kashmiri people is suppressed by force resulting in brutal violations of human rights by over 7,00,000 Indian troops deployed in Kashmir.
It is true that Kashmir is a case of worst human rights violations in the world's history after Hitler's holocaust. Even Indians are now fed up with the central government's policy of suppression in Kashmir and have started coming up openly in favor of Kashmiri people's peaceful struggle. An acclaimed Indian writer and winner of several international prestigious awards Arundhati Roy has recently joined this bandwagon and said that Kashmir has never been a part of India. Roy's views triggered flak and wrath from the Indian establishment and some rightist elements that not only made scathing remarks against her but also raided her house aiming at physical attack on her. However, Indian media, which professes to be the defender of individual's freedom of expression, instead, collaborated with the establishment and rightists.
To put Roy's own words, which were published in the India's Outlook magazine in July 2009, Kashmir war had till then claimed almost 70,000 lives. She said "tens of thousands have been tortured, several thousands have disappeared, women have been raped and many thousands widowed". She continues saying "half a million Indian troops patrol the Kashmir Valley, making it the most militarized zone in the world".
It was the scenario the Indian writer portrayed in 2009. Since then it has already been more than one year. But the situation has not calmed. Instead it has further deteriorated and the number of casualties and other atrocities by the Indian troops has gone up sharply making it to almost 94,000 in the period of 20 years, perhaps the largest number of people killed by the state in a non-violent struggle. Ambassador Hussain citing Kashmir Media Service claimed that 93,471 people have been killed during the last 20 years including 6,975 custodial killings. He said 118,424 civilians have been arrested 9962 women molested or gang raped. He further added that only in the last three months, more than 100 innocent civilians have been killed in peaceful protests.
Both of these accounts tell the tale of worst humanitarian and human rights crisis in Kashmir created and perpetrated by India which claims to be the largest democracy in the world. India has proclaimed a war against innocent civilians in Kashmir and resorted to brutal killings. This is a war between the heavily armed and fully equipped Indian troops and unarmed civilians who are waging a non-violent struggle for their right to self-determination. India has deployed almost 7,00,000 armed troops in Kashmir making it roughly one soldier for each 15 Kashmiris.
Despite repressive measures applied by India, Kashmiri freedom fighters have not abandoned their struggle. India has dubbed the Kashmiri movement as an act of terrorism. The act of terrorism is, of course, condemnable anywhere in the world. There might be infiltration into the Kashmiri movement but basically the Kashmiri struggle is political and non-violent aimed at achieving the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people that was agreed upon by India long ago.
Kashmir issue has remained as a bone of contention between India and Pakistan right after India annexed it in 1948. The issue was taken to the United Nations in which it was also accepted it as an issue related to the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir. The United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions to resolve the Kashmir problem in accordance with the will of the Kashmiri people. The UN resolution adopted on August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949 call for a plebiscite to be held in a free, fair and impartial manner under the supervision of the United Nations, which became a part and parecel of the international instruments. Accordingly, the United Nations appointed administrative officer for Kashmir to conduct the plebiscite aimed at resolving the issue once and for all. India, too, had agreed to the UN sponsored plebiscite but later backed out, which is a case of defiance of international rule and instruments. However, Pakistan is still committed to the UN resolution and has been demanding the implementation of the international instrument in its letter and spirit.
India has dubbed this issue as an internal law and order problem. If it was the internal problem, why India, in the first place, agreed for a fair plebiscite to decide whether Kashmiri people want to remain within the Indian Union or join Pakistan or opt for an independent nation? The plebiscite is a democratic way to allow the people to decide their own destiny of which the largest democracy should never be afraid of. If India, at all, believes in genuine democracy as it claims to be, it has to abide by the international instruments as well as will of the people. By defying UN resolution on plebiscite, India is showing the world as an example of the largest 'demonocracy' but not democracy. For the last 62 years, India has kept on defying the UN resolutions, which should be taken as a case for an international sanction and action.
Kashmir is being kept under Indian control at gun point, which is a shame in 21st century marked by democracy, open society, free will and human rights. But Kashmiri people are forced to remain under medieval dictatorship that India has imposed for more than six decades. Whether Kashmir remains within India or joins Pakistan or remains as an independent nation, it is not a matter of concern for us. What concerns the conscious global citizens like us is that people of Kashmir should be allowed to decide their destiny and their right to live peaceful life without fear and intimidation. This rights needs to be guaranteed.
Kashmir has been the flashpoint of conflict not only in South Asia but also in the world. Three wars have already been fought between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Kashmir has not only been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan but is a source of conflict in the entire South Asia. As India is trying to keep Kashmir by applying brutal force, it has and may give rise to terrorism, which may not be in the interest of the entire South Asia as well as the world at large.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that was created 25 years ago to promote regional cooperation in South Asia has not been able to make any headway simply because of the bilateral conflict. Although SAARC Charter has explicitly prohibited the bilateral issues to be raised in the SAARC forum, the regional body has been hostage to the conflict and mutual suspicion especially between India and Pakistan. So as long the Kashmir dispute was not amicably resolved, SAARC cannot be effective and regional cooperation may not be meaningful. But the resolution of Kashmir issue is has not been possible due to the haughty and arrogant attitude of India despite the global call for resolving it democratically. India must understand that Kashmir issue is political problem which cannot be resolved militarily. Political problem must be addressed politically. The Kashmir issue has afflicted India, too. New Delhi has to spend billions and billions of rupees for military operation to keep Kashmir under its control on the one hand, India's image has been badly tarnished in the world as a worst human rights violator, on the other. The best way, therefore, should be for all including India to let the people of Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination through impartial plebiscite and decide their own destiny.
So far as Nepal's position vis-a-vis Kashmir is concerned, it has remained neutral and refrained to make any remarks on this issue. Nepal always believes in the policy of non-interference in other's internal affairs and expects reciprocity from others. It adheres to the non-alignment, which espouses five principles of peaceful co-existence that include non-interference in other internal affairs, respect for other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression against anyone, equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence. As a member and strong supporter of the United Nations, Nepal always believes that the decisions and resolutions adopted by the United Nations must be respected and implemented in their letter and spirit, which implies that India must respect the UN resolution of the plebiscite to resolve the Kashmir problem. As India continues to defy the international instruments and decision, the international community including the South Asian countries, too, neeeds to exert pressure to bring New Delhi to terms so that the Kashmir issue is settled once and for all based on the United Nations decisions. This would alone ensure peace and stability in South Asia.

Nepal Parties’ Capability Questioned

By Yuba Nath Lamsal

Even a layman in Nepal is starting to ask if the Constituent Assembly will ever write the new constitution. This is because the political parties that were entrusted with the job do not possess the capability and interest in writing the constitution and steering the country out of the crisis facing it.
The parties and leaders still claim that they can accomplish the job. But the people are not prepared to believe them and are almost certain that the parties are neither going to write the constitution nor conclude the peace process. The rhetoric that the party leaders are making is just to confuse and mislead the people and the international community.
Public opinion
During the four-year journey since the peace process began, people have come to realise that the parties are not trustworthy because what they say is not meant to be accomplished. Public opinion about the political parties is so poor that the parties and leaders have simply lost credibility in the eyes of the people.
There is marked inconsistency between what the leaders say and what they do. This had been exactly the case prior to Jana Angolan II. The people saw the parties as being power hungry, corrupt and undependable, no different from the old corrupt monarchists. The Maoist insurgency was born and grew out of this situation and cashed in on the people’s apathy towards the multi-party political system and the party leaders.
King Gyanendra also tried to take advantage of this poor state of politics and dwindling credibility of the political parties. Despite their apathy towards the leaders, the people, however, refused to accept the king’s dictatorship. The people had not forgotten the bitter taste of the kings who posed as the biggest obstacle in the institutionalisation of democracy in Nepal.
The people were not willing to accept the king’s dictatorship as an alternative to democracy and the political parties. When King Gyanendra imposed his absolute rule thereby restricting the people’s rights and political activities, the people, therefore, again rose against the authoritarian regime - not as an endorsement of the parties’ misconduct but as a struggle for their own rights and freedom.
Even after the declaration of the republic, the leaders have not learnt lessons nor have they changed their behaviour. The leaders never tell the truth and the people must guess the implied meaning of their remarks. The people will believe the leaders only when their words are translated into action, which is not often the case with us.
When the leaders can’t even given the country a new government even after four months, what can the people possibly expect of them? How then can the people trust them to write and promulgate the new constitution in the next six months? Moreover, the parties have demonstrated their inability and incompetence by failing to write the constitution in two years - the period the interim constitution had initially mandated.
After failing to write the constitution in two years, they agreed to extend the life of the Constituent Assembly. The parties and their leaders have serious differences on different agendas but were able to demonstrate unprecedented unity in extending the tenure of the Constituent Assembly, through which they shamelessly have been able to secure their perks and benefits. This shows where their focus and concentration lie.
More shameful is the situation that has occurred after the extension of the Constituent Assembly. It has been more than six months since the life of the Constituent Assembly was extended. But the political parties have virtually done nothing so far as writing the constitution is concerned. They have failed to agree on several matters whereas they have not even touched some contentious issues.
Although a high-level task force comprising the top leaders of the parties in Parliament was constituted, the main issues have so far not been taken up. The most controversial and contentious ones are the federal model and management of the Maoist army. Although the parties and leaders claim to be committed to accomplishing the historic job entrusted them by the party through the Constituent Assembly election, they have reconciled themselves to the fact that the new constitution cannot be written in time.
The constitution cannot be written because the parties are not going to give up their respective stances on several issues. The Maoists, who have joined peaceful politics after a decade-long insurgency, are not going to abandon their agenda. The Constituent Assembly is, of course, the original idea and the agenda of the Maoists.
In the beginning, the other parties had opposed the Constituent Assembly but agreed on the Maoist agenda as they were compelled to forge an alliance with the ex-rebels to topple the king’s regime. The Maoists, thus, would not accept a constitution that did not match their agenda. In the same vein, the other parties would not accept a constitution that contains the Maoist agenda.
Similarly, the federal model is the main bone of contention. The Madhesi parties are demanding a one Madhes state, which is not acceptable to the other parties, whereas the Madhesi parties are not likely to accept anything short. This will be the main hurdle in writing the new constitution. All the parties know these problems and must make compromises on certain issues if the constitution is to be written. But making compromises means losing popular support, which the parties are unwilling to accept. Thus, their political future is safe if they can stop the constitution-writing process. There has been more or less consensus among the major political parties not to write the constitution.
This shows that the constitution will certainly not be written by the Constituent Assembly. As a result, the political uncertainty may linger on for sometime to come. This situation may lead to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and ultimately compel the president to be active and take some action, which would be unfortunate for the country.
Democracy would be the first casualty, and it would set a bad precedent for Nepali politics in the future, too. In such an eventuality, the country may return to the old days of conflict. But a conscious and cautious approach with full consultation and cooperation among the major political parties can avert such a crisis. But the way the parties are moving and behaving do not make us optimistic.
Foreign meddling
It looks as though the parties have lost their decision-making capability. The parties are having to look for external advice for anything and everything, which has invited external meddling in Nepal’s internal matters. Seeking solutions in foreign land is by no means a healthy trend. This has been felt more particularly after Girija Prasad Koirala’s demise. Until Koirala was alive, he had somehow managed to resist external meddling and pressures, and Nepal was capable of managing its own affairs to a large extent.
There had been enormous pressure from external forces not to align with the Maoists but to reconcile with the monarchy. However, Koirala resisted the external pressure, and he not only initiated the peace process but also directed the movement against the monarchy. It was under Koirala’s leadership that the peace process moved steadily ahead until the Constituent Assembly election. However, after the Constituent Assembly election, the process has got delayed. This is partly because the political leaders do not have a vision and are unable to take decisions in steering the country out of the crisis.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nepal, Bangladesh can share much

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Nepal and Bangladesh are neighbours and close friends that can share many things and cooperate with one another on various fronts. Nepal and Bangladesh possess many commonalities and also have similar experiences in nation building which can be shared by both the countries for their survival and development.
Bangladesh is a new country created only 38 years ago following a mass revolt guided by Bengali nationalism. It used to be called East Pakistan until 1971 when Bangladesh was established as an independent and sovereign country. During the British engineered partition of Indian sub-continent on religious basis, the present Bangladesh was made a part of Pakistan simply because it had overwhelming Muslim majority. But the voice for the separate Bangladesh was raised even during the time of partition. A group of individuals had rejected the ‘two-nation theory’ on the basis of which Hindustan and Pakistan were created out of the British administered united India. Some Bangladeshis had demanded more than two nations and creation of separate Bangladesh instead of being the part of Pakistan. The Bengali nationalism was so strong that they kept their flame of movement for their independent state alive which came into fruition in 1971.
Led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, who is revered as Bangabandhu (father of the nation), Bangladesh got independence. After the liberation succeeded to establish Bangladesh as an independent country, Seikh Mujib became the first prime minister of Bangladesh, who vowed to create democratic, secular and socialist Bangladesh. The constitution visualized parliamentary form of democracy on Westminster model based on four cardinal principles: secularism, socialism, democracy and Bengali nationalism. However, these principles were later dumped into the waste container when Mujib’s government was overthrown in a military coup in 1975. Since then, Bangladesh underwent political turbulences. The secular, democratic and socialist concepts were rejected by the military regimes.
In its 38 years of history, Bangladesh has remained under martial law most of the time. Only recently, democracy has been restored in Bangladesh and Awami League headed by Seikh Hasina Wajed, daughter of Bangabandhu Seikh Mujib, is in power winning a landslide victory in the parliamentary election held last year. The overwhelming victory of Hasina’s Awami League party is a testament that the ethos and ideology of liberation struggle still remain deep-rooted in the mind and hearts of Bangladeshi voters. The Awami League played a pivotal role in the Bangladesh liberation war and is linked it with the spirit of struggle and liberation. Prime Minister Hasina has vowed to revive the 1972 constitution and make Bangladesh a true democratic and secular country. She might face severe obstacle from the fundamentalist elements that have been patronized by some political parties in her efforts to turn Bangladesh into a secular country. However, she appears determined to do what she has promised.
Although Bangladesh is a new nation, its survival strategy and struggle for development have been quite identical to those of Nepal. Bangladesh got independence because of the determined people and their struggle for their own distinct identity. Neighbouring India had provided moral and material support to the agitating Bangladeshis in their liberation war. But its support was not guided with the intention of helping the Bangladeshis but motivated by its strategy to split and weaken its arch rival Pakistan. The vested interest of India could be seen right after the liberation of Bangladesh as New Delhi sought the dividend from the newly created Bangladesh in the form control over Bangladesh in governance, economy, security and foreign policy, which has been the main source of irritation in the bilateral relations between these two countries. India initially thought that newly created Bangladesh would be its closest ally in South Asia because of its role in the liberation war. However, India’s own policy annoyed Bangladesh and has kept itself away from Indian influence. Now India is the main external security threat to Bangladesh and its entire security strategy is to counter Indian hegemony.
Although Bangladesh is a new state compared to Nepal, it carries a long and rich history and culture. The survival strategy and security perspective of Bangladesh are so distinct and unique that Nepal has much to learn. As a small country surrounded on three sides by India, Bangladesh has several unresolved issues with India including the border dispute in some points, sharing of waters from rivers that flow down from Himalayas of Nepal to the Bay of Bengal via India. As a lower riparian state, Bangladesh has always been exploited by upper riparian India in sharing of water of these rivers. The main source of friction is the issue related to Farakka dam, which was built by India on Ganges almost close to the point where the river is to enter Bangladesh border. By building Farakka dam, India has diverted water substantially reducing the flow of water in the river that flows to Bangladesh. This has already caused negative impact on environment, economy, industry and agriculture in Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh has raised this issue in bilateral, regional and international forums, India has turned a deaf ear towards the plea and demand of the Bangladesh. India is exploiting Bangladesh in the share of water raising the rights of upper riparian country whereas it has taken just the opposite stance while dealing with Nepal on water sharing. With Nepal, India champions the cause of lower riparian state and tries to exploit Nepal. Therein lies a clear double standard and duplicity of India in relation with its neighbours. Bangladesh has sought for the involvement of Nepal in dealing with water of the Himalayan rivers in South Asia, which has been rejected by India. The other dangerous plan India has mooted is its river linking project. If it at all comes into operation, Bangladesh would be further hit and the entire Bangladesh would be in crisis of water.
This is a common problem for both Nepal and Bangladesh, as Nepal also faces problems in dealing with water resources with India. India has built several dams on several rivers close to border with Nepal without informing the Nepal government in a similar way Farakka dam was constructed on Ganges close to border with Bangladesh. This has already created serious problems of flooding and inundation in Nepal sides. While India constructed Farakka dam to divert water to India during dry season, it has constructed dams on rivers along the borders with Nepal to block the flood water.
These problems can be dealt only when Nepal and Bangladesh work together and cooperate with one another. Close cooperation and exchange of experiences would be helpful for both the countries in their fight against social and economic malaises and security related issues. Nepal and Bangladesh are small, poor and the least developed countries. Poverty has been the single biggest challenge that these countries are faced with. Almost half and in some cases more than the half of the population in both the countries are poor. In Bangladesh 47 per cent people are poor and 37 per cent are below poverty line whose earning is less than a dollar a day. Similarly, Nepal also has more than half of the population under poverty, although official statistics claim that poverty has come down to below 30 per cent. Both Nepal and Bangladesh have accorded top priority to attack poverty. However, the results are not quite inspiring and satisfactory. As the issues and constraints are identical, Nepal and Bangladesh can share their experiences and benefit in the campaign for eradication of poverty.
In the regional and international levels too, these two countries share commonalities. Both Nepal and Bangladesh are members of the United Nations, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Bimstec and the non-aligned movement. Nepal and Bangladesh cherish similar values and principles in the international forums. Adherence to the United Nations Charter and ideals of non-aligned movement that includes five principle of peaceful co-existence are the bases of their foreign policy.
It was Bangladesh that mooted the idea of SAARC during the reign of late President Ziaur Rahman with the objective of creating a regional forum where South Asian countries could discuss issues and share experiences to tackle the burgeoning social, economic and environmental problems collectively. Nepal instantly backed this idea followed by other South Asian countries which made the creation of SAARC possible despite initial reservation and hesitation of India. New Delhi had dubbed the idea of the SAARC as an attempt of ganging against India by the smaller South Asian countries.
Nepal has attached importance to the friendly relationship with Bangladesh. In the same way, Bangladesh has always been cooperative and friendly with Nepal. As close and friendly neighbors, the two countries have forged a relationship of mutual respect and trust, equality and cooperation. The relations between Nepal and Bangladesh had been good right from the creation of Bangladesh. However, Nepal's relations with Bangladesh improved particularly after 1975. Nepal and Bangladesh have several agreements relating to trade, transit, civil aviation, and technical cooperation.
Nepal and Bangladesh have greater potentials for cooperation in many fields. These areas have to be explored for the mutual benefit of both the countries. However, little efforts have been made towards this end. The bilateral trade is one important area that has a big potential. Bangladesh has also agreed to provide its port to be used by Nepal. But it has not been of great use despite goodwill and generosity of Bangladesh towards Nepal. It is because of the lack of free transit facilities. Nepal and Bangladesh have sought with India a few kilometers of road access from Nepal to Bangladesh. But India has not allowed the access which has hindered Nepal-Bangladesh bilateral trade.
Nepal and Bangladesh do not share common border. Yet they consider one another as close friends and friends in need. The bilateral relations between these two countries are characterized by mutual trust, goodwill and cooperation, which need to be further strengthened in the years to come.

China’s goodwill for Nepal’s stability

Yuba Nath Lamsal
A 21-member Chinese delegation paid a six-day goodwill visit to Nepal. The delegation was led by He Young, secretary of the Communist Party of China, which met and exchanged views on various matters with leaders and officials of Nepal that included President Dr Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and leaders of different political parties. This is the first high-level delegation from China since Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji visited Nepal in 2001. He Young holds the status of deputy prime minister.
The Chinese delegation came here not on its own but at the invitation of the Nepal’s three major political parties namely the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or UCPN-Maoist. This is a testimony that the government of China and the Communist Party of China attach greater importance to friendly, cordial and cooperative relations with Nepal and Nepal’s political parties.
At a time when Nepal is passing through a difficult time, Chinese goodwill could be supportive and helpful in resolving Nepal’s political deadlock. China always wants political stability, peace and prosperity in Nepal, which Beijing has made it clear in various occasions and forums. The assistance of China has been without any string attached. The relationship between Nepal and China are also characterized by goodwill and mutual cooperation. The very bases of Nepal-China relations are the five principles of peaceful co-existence, which are also the cardinal principles of non-aligned movement.
The high-level Chinese delegation was in Kathmandu to express solidarity with the Nepalese people and Nepalese political parties in their endeavors for peace, stability and development. Unlike India and other countries, China has demonstrated highly diplomatic and friendly posture with Nepal. China has been able to give a strong message that Beijing is always there to help Nepal and Nepali people whenever it is needed.
The Chinese delegation gave a strong message that would not tolerate any kind of external interference in Nepal. This warning has come at a time when some external forces including our southern neighbour India and western countries are poking nose and trying to intervene in Nepal’s internal affairs. “ China believes that Nepal and Nepali political parties are capable enough to solve their problems by themselves and any kind of external pressure and intervention would not be tolerated by China” said the delegation chief during the meeting with the Nepali leaders and officials. China respects Nepal’s sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity and it expects reciprocity from other countries, as well. In Nepal’s case, China has been consistent on its stance, which can be clear from the remarks of the chief of the delegation. The Chief of the Chinese delegation said, “China does not interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs and we expect that other countries, too, do the same in Nepal.” This is a strong and clear message and warning against any kind of interference from any quarters in the international affairs of Nepal.
This is the first time that Beijing has come up with such strong worded views on Nepal’s political affairs. In the past China tried to keep away from making any remarks on Nepal’s and other neighbour’s internal politics. Recently, there has been a shift in China's foreign policy. Being the closest neighbour that shares common border, Beijing’s interest can well be understood in Nepal. China’s interest in Nepal is guided by its own security concerns and Nepal stability and development. China’s increased security concern in Nepal is because of some anti-China activities that take place on various occasions in the name of ‘Free Tibet’. Tibet is the indisputably a part of China but some western powers as well as India often instigate some miscreants and hoodlums to destabilize China. Although Nepal has adopted ‘One China policy’ and vowed not to allow its territory to be used for any activities that harm the interest and security of China, some criminals are using Nepal’s territory against China. Such activities increase at the time of political instability and transition in Nepal. This is the subject of major concern for China. Beijing, therefore, wants a stable and strong government in Nepal so that it can firmly act and check the anti-China activities. China always believes that deciding the type of political system and government is the sovereign right of the Nepali people. However, the external meddling and interference that have been so visible in Nepal at present especially on issues concerning the formation of the government and management of the Maoist combatants are also a matter of serious concern for China. The developments and events unfolding in its immediate neighbours are definitely a matter of serious concern for any country in the world and more so for a global power. China wants Nepali parties and people to decide independently on these issues. The ways some countries more particularly India are brazenly interfering in the internal affairs of Nepal , which is its next-door neighbour, should by no means be acceptable and tolerable for a global power like China. The high-level Chinese delegation and its views can clearly be summed up as Beijing’s increased interest in Nepal.
China has already emerged as the second largest economy in the world and it has realized its international obligation. With its growing economic might, China is trying to build its image in the international arena as a soft power. China has begun to feel its international obligation and accordingly started playing active role in the international affairs. However, China never applies coercive policy but internationally accepted norms of diplomacy to win support of and help others. This is the avowed policy of China.
As a global power, China’s interest is growing globally. Recently, its increased interest in South Asia can be seen more visibly. China has already developed strong partnership with South Asian countries on various sectors and is trying to further strengthen its economic relations and more areas of cooperation. China has friendly and very cordial relationship with all South Asian countries except India. But the relationship between Beijing and New Delhi is also improving and growing gradually. This is natural because China is a country which is located in South Asia as well as in East Asia. In this way, China can be an effective bridge between South Asia and East Asia. China has common land border with five (Nepal, India, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Pakistan) of the eight South Asian countries and maritime border with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Given this situation China’s priority to relations with Nepal is natural because Nepal is not only its neighbour but also a transit country from trade with other South Asian countries mainly India through land route.
All these circumstances are behind China’s concern in Nepal. Moreover, China was forced to show its serious concern in Nepal because of open and naked interference from some external forces. Some people have tended to compare the recent Chinese delegation with India’s Shyam Saran’s mission. But there is a marked difference between Indian and Chinese missions. Shyam Saran’s mission was unsolicited and aimed at interfering in Nepal’s affairs whereas Chinese delegation came at the invitation of Nepal’s three major political parties. Unlike Indian unilateral mission which often tried to impose its decision on Nepal’s parties, Chinese were quite diplomatic and they conveyed their message that Nepali parties were capable to solve their own problems and foreign advice was not needed.
It is the long-cherished principle and policy of the People’s Republic of China not to interfere in the internal matters of other countries, which has always been reflected in relationship with Nepal. China has already been offering constructive support for Nepal’s peace, stability and development. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China’s role in Nepal’s peace process is more meaningful and important. At a time when some elements are trying to spoil China’s relations with Nepal and Nepal’s political parties, the delegation has been able to dispel such apprehensions and create a new ground for more cooperative and cordial relations between the governments, political parties and peoples of Nepal and China. In this way, the visit of Chinese delegation is successful on the part of China and also fruitful and beneficial for Nepal as well. The visit of Chinese delegation has served as a strong message to other countries that any attempt to interfere and create instability in Nepal would not be tolerated by its northern neighbour and Beijing is always willing to come for rescue if there is any kind of threat to Nepal’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. This gesture is guided by friendly and neighbourly spirit of China towards Nepal.

Saran’s mission: A continuity of Indian design in Nepal

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Last week, Shyam Sharan came to Kathmandu acting as a special emissary of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the purported objective of further strengthening India’s long held desire to keep Nepali politics under its tight grip. During his stay in the Nepali capital, the former Indian foreign secretary held a flurry of meetings with leaders of different political parties in which Saran prescribed Indian agenda to heal the Nepali political ill. He conveyed the sermon of the Indian establishment to the Nepali parties and leaders to continue with the present ‘democratic (pro-Indian) alliance’. This makes it clear that Saran’s mission was to weaken Nepal’s nationalist forces and keep them out of power and give continuity to the government that is composed of ‘pro-Indian elements’. But it is yet to be seen how far the Indian prescription and design work in Nepali politics.
Some Indian mainstream media portrayed Saran’s visit to Kathmandu as a mission to mediate and bring the squabbling parties together in the wake of their failure to form a new government. Saran, too, confirmed this as he, speaking to the media right after he arrived in Kathmandu, said that he was here to facilitate Nepali parties to ‘forge national consensus so that Nepal’s peace process would be complete and successful’.
In practical sense, Saran’s visit was not aimed at facilitating the peace process in Nepal. The real intention of India is to ensure that the ‘pro-Indian coalition’ does not break. Most importantly, the Madhesi parties, which are the creation of India in general and Shyam Saran in particular, remain together so that India’s interests are best served in Nepal.
The unsolicited advice Sharan tried to impose on Nepali parties is a blatant interference in Nepal’s internal affairs. So far as the mediation, as some Indian media have reported, is concerned, mediation is normally takes place upon request from the two quarrelling parties. However, it is not understood how India got the mandate to mediate in Nepal’s politics as none of the parties, to our notice, had ever requested our southern neighbour to do so. Saran’s self-styled mission of mediation was, therefore, unwarranted, which the entire country and people should have opposed in a collective and united manner.
India has always tried to keep a tab on Nepali politics through conspiracy and coercive approach. The paramount objective of New Delhi’s diplomacy in Nepal has been to ensure that Nepali politics and the government do not go out of Indian influence and grip so that India’s strategic and security interest are well protected in Nepal. To ensure this, India applies all kinds of tactics and techniques—moral or immoral, legal or illegal and diplomatic or otherwise. The Indian design on Nepal was long spelled right after its Independence from Britsh raj which included bringing Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal under Indian union by 2015. India has already occupied Sikkim and has taken over Bhutan’s security and foreign affairs. Guided by this grand strategy of Sikkimization and Bhutanization, India’s Nepal’s policy is being formulated and executed.
The recent developments in Nepal have sent a message to Indian establishment that the politics in Nepal is slowly slipping out of India’s grip. This conclusion was reached following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal even without prior notice of India. India had expected that Mr Nepal, who was installed on the seat of prime minister with India’s assistance, would duly consult before taking such a decision as New Delhi was for the continuation of non-Maoist coalition comprising the Congress, UML and Madhesi parties’.
It is perceived in the diplomatic circle in New Delhi that India’s Nepal’s policy has failed after Rakesh Sood was sent to Kathmandu as ambassador. Sood’s style of acting and approach are not liked by many in Kathmandu even by ‘India friendly people’. Many India watchers comment that Sood behaves as though he is here as a ‘viceroy of British raj’ but not a diplomat. A Nepali diplomat is of the view that Sood’s ‘coercive and arrogant attitude’ has been counterproductive for India in Nepal, which must be reviewed and corrected by Indian establishment if Nepal-India relations are to be made friendlier, cordial and cooperative. Sood’s coercive approach was well validated by the threat on life of a lawmaker allegedly by an official of the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. Ram Kumar Sharma, who was elected to Constituent Assembly on Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party and later defected to the Maoist party, claimed that a senior and responsible official at the Indian Embassy issued a threat on his life for his defection. As Sood and Indian establishment were out to keep the non-Maoist alliance in power and marginalize the Maoists, lawmaker Sharma not only defected to the UCPN-Maoist but also played a crucial role in bringing some other Madhesi lawmakers into the Maoist fold. As a result, eleven lawmakers of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum defied party’s decision and voted for the Maoist chairman in the third round of election for prime minister. His move was seen as a direct threat to India’s design to keep the Maoists out of power. If Saran had not intervened, there would have been further fragmentation in the Madhesi parties and Prachanda would have been elected as prime minister in the fourth round of election.
The government of India hurried to send Sharan to Kathmandu with the realization that India’s grip in Nepal’s politics is slowly started fading, which could be well sensed following the split in the Madhesi parties on the issue as to which candidate they should support during the election for premiership. The floor crossing by some lawmakers of the Madhesi parties and voting in favour of Maoist candidate was a matter of serious concern for India. It was perceived as a failure of current Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood in keeping Madhesi parties under India’s control. If Madhesi parties went bizarre, India’s best bait in the entire game plan and its strategic perspective to keep Nepal under its grip would go out of hand.
After the signing of the 12-point agreement that brought the Maoists into the peaceful political mainstream, the South Block had expected that the only anti-Indian force would now be silenced and be in their side. It did not happen after the Maoists went to power following the Constituent Assembly election two years ago. This was more pronounced when the Maoists quit the government following the row with the president on the issue concerning the sacking of the army chief. The Maoists openly criticized India for interfering in Nepal’s politics and vowed to fight back. Since then the relationship between the Indian government and the Maoists has strained.
The Indian establishment looked for a suitable candidate who could handle the situation and make some damage control. Shyam Saran was chosen as the suitable candidate to do this job because of his past record and background. Sharan is familiar with the Nepali politics and political parties as he also served as the ambassador of Nepal. He played a key role in bringing the Maoists and parliamentary parties together to sign the 12-point agreement in New Delhi. Saran was, therefore, perceived to have better understanding with the Maoists as well. Similarly, it was Saran’s initiative to create Madhesi parties in Nepal and his role could be effective in uniting the Madhesi parties together once again.

Saran’s visit was, thus, aimed at keeping the non-Maoist forces together so that the Maoists are out of power. The first priority was to unite the Madhesi parties in which Saran’s mission has been successful. Now India has ensured that the Maoists would not be able to go to power unless they make significant shift in their policy towards India. Saran’s mission was neither to help consensus building nor complete the peace process but to ensure that politics in Nepal may not go out of New Delhi’s hand.

Nepal’s Foreign Policy In A Mess

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Some foreign policy pundits tend to believe that the best foreign policy is ‘no foreign policy’. People who subscribe to this theory are of the view that the rigid foreign policy often handicaps a country to act and manipulate in the particular situation when international diplomacy is in disarray. If a country does not have its set foreign policy, it can adjust its position in the given situation to promote its national interest.
Although this is not exactly the case, circumstances have it that Nepal appears to have subscribed to this view. Given the state of our diplomacy and national image in the international arena, it looks as if Nepal does not have its set foreign policy. Our officials in the Foreign Ministry always act on ad hoc basis and Nepal seems to have lacked its long-term goal and vision in the conduct of foreign policy and international diplomacy. As a result, Nepal’s image has been deteriorating in the international arena and our national interest has always come under attack.
The basis of foreign policy of any country is the national interest. International relationship is established and foreign policy is conducted with other countries taking into account the national interest at the top of all other agenda. Nepal has not been able to pursue its national interest with countries it has greater stakes. In every front of diplomacy—be it with its immediate neighbours or with other countries or regional and international forums— Nepal’s diplomatic incompetence has been more than visible. Even a small country like Bhutan has outmaneuvered Nepal in the diplomatic tricks on issue concerning refugee repatriation. The refugee issue has remained unresolved for about two decades in which Nepal has utterly failed.
Foreign policy is the extension of country’s domestic policy. But Nepal’s domestic policy and politics are not moving smoothly and are often marked by uncertainty. Its fallout has also been reflected in the foreign policy front. Every time when Nepal is in internal political trouble, external forces often play and meddle in our internal affairs. More visible is our southern neighbour that tries to keep the politics of Nepal under its grip by hook or by crook. Unfortunately, our political parties and leaders often dance to the tune of foreigners that has invited external intervention in our internal affairs.
In other countries, political parties, despite their differences in ideology, programmes and policies, get united when it comes to foreign policy and security issues. Nepal’s political parties are far apart on every issue including foreign policy. They define national interest to suit their own personal and partisan interest. The tendency of our leaders to approach the foreigners and seek their support for their personal and partisan interest is the main cause of external interference in our affairs. Ambassadors of some powerful countries can meet with our prime minister and politicians at any time of their choice and advise ‘to do or not to do certain things’. Worse still, there are instances that our leaders and politicians visit foreign embassies to meet the ambassadors and seek their help in our domestic affairs which cannot be greater shame than this for our national dignity.
The oscillation and vacillation in our foreign policy has cost heavily in our national image abroad. When the government changes foreign policy priorities also change. This has been so in the absence of a long-term vision and specific goal in foreign policy. When Nepal was created more than 240 years ago, our security and foreign policy had been to defend its border and territories, which continued till the Sugauli Treaty was signed. The Sugauli Treaty put Nepal’s expansionist mission to an end. As a result, Nepal not only lost a sizable portion of its territories but also lost its independence in conducting its foreign policy. Some of the provisions of the Sugauli Treaty required Nepal to consult with the British rulers in India prior to having any kind of relations with other countries. This limited Nepal’s foreign policy options.
Prithivi Naryan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal, is considered the father of Nepal’s foreign policy as he set some guidelines for Nepal’s foreign policy. The concept of non-alignment and policy of equidistance or equi-proximity was first mooted by Prithivi Narayan Shah as he asked to maintain good and friendly relationship with both the northern and southern neighbours with utmost caution. In theory, this concept has still remained in place but our foreign policy is India-centric in practice as Nepal is India-locked more than the land-locked. The rulers that came to power after the Sugauli Treaty thought that their interests would be best served under the protection and patronage of British colonial rulers in India. The policy of Nepal’s rulers—be it Ranas or Shah kings—had been to please the British India, which was dubbed as Nepal’s foreign policy until 1951 prior to the establishment of multi-party political system. The 1951 political change, indeed, brought about different dimensions to Nepal’s political outlook and other spheres of affairs. However, the foreign policy of Nepal did not significantly change as it continued to remain under India’s security ambit.
When India attained independence from British raj, it had been expected that independent and democratic India would depart from the British colonial policies in all fronts including foreign and security policy. But the democratic India continued its colonial legacy vis-a-vis its policy towards small neighbours including Nepal. Soon after it attained independence, democratic India hastened to reach a bilateral treaty in 1950 with the dictatorial regime of Nepal that had been counting its days in the wake of popular movement for democracy. the 1950 Treaty that was signed between democratic India and dictatorial Rana regime sought to further tighten New Delhi’s grip over Nepal virtually turning Nepal into India’s satellite state infringing its sovereignty. Several provisions of the 1950 Treaty are objectionable, which need to be reviewed and changed.
India centric foreign policy continued to remain in place until Nepal formally decided to establish diplomatic relations with its northern neighbour China in 1955. Prime Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya not only established diplomatic relationship with China but also took several bold decisions to reduce Indian influence and hegemony in Nepal. But the real momentum in diversifying Nepal’s foreign policy began with the rise of king Mahendra in power. Although discredited politically as he trampled democracy and imposed authoritarian system, King Mahendra’s role is, indeed, exemplary, in pursuing Nepal’s independent foreign policy and establishing Nepal’s image as an independent and sovereign country in the international arena, to the dismay of our southern neighbour. Nepal not only got membership of the United Nations but also played important role in founding the Non-Aligned Movement. It was during this period when Nepal widely diversified Nepal’s foreign relations and established diplomatic ties with several other countries in the world. King Birendra continued this policy and even went one step forward by declaring Nepal a ‘Zone of Peace’, which was supported and recognized by more than one hundred countries in the world including China and two superpowers. This was an important achievement in Nepal’s foreign policy. Unfortunately, the ‘Zone of Peace’ concept was dropped after political change in 1990 ostensibly under pressure from New Delhi.
With the restoration of multi-party system in 1990, Nepal foreign policy also took ‘U’ turn and again entered into the old concept of India centric policy. The elected government that came to power after the general election in 1991 declared that the basis of Nepal’s foreign policy would be democracy and human rights. Democracy and human rights are the basis of governance but cannot be the basis All the governments that came to power following the 1990 political change often subscribed to theory and policy that our southern neighbour preferred, which continues even today in the republican era. Our political parties and governments appear to be more concerned with the interest of foreigners than our own. Be it border encroachment, 1950 Treaty, the Mahakali Treaty or other issues including sharing of water resources, some of the leaders openly champion the cause of India more than the cause of Nepal and Nepalese people. Here lies the fundamental flaws, which have put the conduct of Nepal’s foreign and security policy in a mess.

Nepal’s bid for UNGA chair

Yuba Nath Lamsal

It is the turn of Asian continent to get the chair of the United Nations General Assembly for the year 2011. Nepal has staked a claim for the chair of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for which Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has already started lobbying for Nepal’s candidate. Some other countries including Qatar are also eying the prestigious post of the world body.
The chair of the UNGA, which is the top most position of the UN system, rotates among different geographical regions of the world that include Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin or Caribbean region and West Europe. In Asian’s quota, Bangladesh, Malaysia, South Korea and Bahrain had got the opportunity to chair the UNGA in the past.
Nepal has proposed Kulchandra Gautam, a former assistant under secretary general of the United Nations, for the coveted chair of the UN General Assembly. The caretaker prime minister, in a bid to garner support for Gautam’s candidacy in the UN, has already met ambassadors of some Asian countries based in Kathmandu and sought the cooperation from their respective countries.
As a Nepali, one ought to support Gautam’s candidacy because it is the first time that Nepal has claimed for the UNGA chair. However, Gautam’s chances to be elected to the prestigious job appear to be very slim. Firstly, Gautam does not possess high profile background required for such a high-level and prestigious diplomatic position. He is just a former employee of the UN system, who rose to the level of assistant under secretary general, which, in the UN hierarchy, is not a senior post but a medium level one. Being a former medium level employee of the UN system alone is not a qualification to get into such a high profile and prestigious job.
The way Gautam’s name was picked and proposed, it looks as though he is Prime Minister Nepal’s personal candidate but not of the country. Prime Minister Nepal personally picked him without consulting the constituents of the coalition government. The government should have held due consultation with all parties on the matter so that there would have been a national consensus on Gautam candidacy. That would have made Gautam’s candidacy stronger. Even Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were in dark when the decision on this matter was taken.
When the candidacy for UNGA chair was first mooted, the Nepali Congress had informally proposed its central leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat. However, some differences occurred among the coalition partners in general and between the foreign minister and the Prime Minister in particular about Dr Mahat’s candidacy. Moreover, Dr Mahat himself was not interested as he was not sure of his victory for the post because oil-rich Qatar, which has more diplomatic maneuvering and influence in the international arena, has already claimed it on Middle-East quota. All Gulf and Muslim countries are likely to back Qatar’s bid. Still Mahat could have been better candidate as he, who served as the finance and foreign minister as well as the chairperson of the National Planning Commission, has more political clout and credentials. Gautam lacks that credential and clout. He was not even holding any formal position in Nepal when his candidacy was proposed. Knowing, perhaps, this, the caretaker Prime Minister hurriedly announced Gautam as his foreign affairs advisor, which was done just to give him an official credentials. His name was proposed by the caretaker prime minister who had already resigned, which is the weakest point for Gautam’s candidacy. The decision of the caretaker government may not necessarily be endorsed by the new government. This decision should either have been taken before the prime minister had resigned or waited till the new government is formed.
It would, of course, be a matter of prestige and honour for Nepal, if Gautam gets elected to the prestigious UN post. Every Nepali citizen would be proud to see a fellow Nepali to be on the top job of the UN system. However, the government’s hasty decision has made Gautam’s candidacy weaker right at the beginning. At the same time, the questions are being raised from some quarters about the justification of Gautam’s candidacy for the UN chair. People are asking and will ask in future what contribution he has made for Nepal and why he should be chosen as Nepal’s candidate for the UN job. What had he done for Nepal when he was in the United Nations system? Now he has spoken of having more representation of Nepal in the UN bureaucracy. What he did when he was in the position of doing a lot during his service in the UN system. These are the questions that need to be answered either by the government or Gautam himself to the satisfaction of the people.
Gautam holds good degrees from the United States universities. He was selected as a Fulbright scholar to study in the United States universities. He was chosen as a Fulbright scholar on condition that he would return and serve in Nepal after completing his degrees in the United States. But he did not comply with his own pledge but joined the United Nations service. This speaks of his dishonesty. In the list of Nepali Fulbright fellows, his name figures as the ones ‘whose whereabouts is not known’. This may also make his chance weaker.
Moreover, Gautam spent almost 30 years, best of his life, serving the UN and doing virtually nothing for Nepal. After retirement from the UN service, he has, now, sought even more plump and prestigious job on Nepal’s quota, which can by no means be justified. There are some qualified diplomats, former ambassadors and ministers who have worked for Nepal throughout their life. They could be better and more justified candidates for the post of the chair of the UN General Assembly.
Given this background, it may be not possible for Gautam to be chosen for the coveted post. Firstly, Gautam‘s background may not be sound to claim the chairperson of the UNGA. As a former medium level employee may not be well received and appreciated by the Asian countries. More than that Nepal’s diplomatic maneuvering is weak compared to its competitor. In recent years, Nepal’s image has been badly tarnished in the international arena because of the political instability at home and diplomatic incompetence abroad. Given the political instability, uncertainty and conflict, Nepal is being dubbed in the international arena as one of the failed states in the world. This is the making of Nepal’s political parties. This is also likely to weaken the position of Nepal in its bid for UNGA chair.
The ongoing row with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is yet another case that has dampened the image and credibility of Nepal in the international community. The government and the ruling parties trying to send the UNMIN packing as the UN Mission’s performance did not suit their partisan interest. The UN mission came to Nepal not on its own choice but at the formal invitation of the government of Nepal and political parties to monitor the Constituent Assembly election, peace process and the management of the arms and armies of the Nepal Army and the Maoist combatants. Now only half of the mission has been accomplished. The main job of the management of the arms and armies remains unresolved. The tripartite agreement between the UN, Nepal Government and the UCPN-Maoist has outlined the mandate and jurisdiction of the UNMIN, according to which it has been functioning in Nepal. After completing its mission, the UNMIN would automatically go away. But it depends upon the political parties. If political parties act swiftly and agree on early management of arms and armies of the Maoist combatants, the issue would be resolved early, which would pave the way for UNMIN’s departure from Nepal. But the government and the ruling parties are making a big hue and cry in public against the UNMIN and are demanding UNMIN’s early exit from Nepal. But they have failed to follow the due procedures. If the government and parties, at all, want UNMIN to go away, they must write to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council. The UNMIN would go back only when the Security Council calls it back. What the government and the ruling parties are saying and doing is against the accepted norms and rules of international diplomacy, which is yet another example of diplomatic naiveté of Nepal. Moreover, the government is just one constituent of the three parties that signed the tripartite agreement. The rest two parties are the UNMIN itself and the Maoists. Since the Maoists are not in favour of UNMIN’s premature exit, the decision of the government alone would not be binding for the UNMIN. This row with the United Nation regarding its mission in Nepal is likely to cost heavily for Nepal in the election for UNGA chair. If Nepal wants its candidate to be elected, it has to immediately end its row with the UN Mission in Nepal and create a better and more credible image in the United Nations and in the international arena as a whole.

Nepal’s Foreign Policy In A Mess

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Some foreign policy pundits tend to believe that the best foreign policy is ‘no foreign policy’. People who subscribe to this theory are of the view that the rigid foreign policy often handicaps a country to act and manipulate in the particular situation when international diplomacy is in disarray. If a country does not have its set foreign policy, it can adjust its position in the given situation to promote its national interest.
Although this is not exactly the case, circumstances have it that Nepal appears to have subscribed to this view. Given the state of our diplomacy and national image in the international arena, it looks as if Nepal does not have its set foreign policy. Our officials in the Foreign Ministry always act on ad hoc basis and Nepal seems to have lacked its long-term goal and vision in the conduct of foreign policy and international diplomacy. As a result, Nepal’s image has been deteriorating in the international arena and our national interest has always come under attack.
The basis of foreign policy of any country is the national interest. International relationship is established and foreign policy is conducted with other countries taking into account the national interest at the top of all other agenda. Nepal has not been able to pursue its national interest with countries it has greater stakes. In every front of diplomacy—be it with its immediate neighbours or with other countries or regional and international forums— Nepal’s diplomatic incompetence has been more than visible. Even a small country like Bhutan has outmaneuvered Nepal in the diplomatic tricks on issue concerning refugee repatriation. The refugee issue has remained unresolved for about two decades in which Nepal has utterly failed.
Foreign policy is the extension of country’s domestic policy. But Nepal’s domestic policy and politics are not moving smoothly and are often marked by uncertainty. Its fallout has also been reflected in the foreign policy front. Every time when Nepal is in internal political trouble, external forces often play and meddle in our internal affairs. More visible is our southern neighbour that tries to keep the politics of Nepal under its grip by hook or by crook. Unfortunately, our political parties and leaders often dance to the tune of foreigners that has invited external intervention in our internal affairs.
In other countries, political parties, despite their differences in ideology, programmes and policies, get united when it comes to foreign policy and security issues. Nepal’s political parties are far apart on every issue including foreign policy. They define national interest to suit their own personal and partisan interest. The tendency of our leaders to approach the foreigners and seek their support for their personal and partisan interest is the main cause of external interference in our affairs. Ambassadors of some powerful countries can meet with our prime minister and politicians at any time of their choice and advise ‘to do or not to do certain things’. Worse still, there are instances that our leaders and politicians visit foreign embassies to meet the ambassadors and seek their help in our domestic affairs which cannot be greater shame than this for our national dignity.
The oscillation and vacillation in our foreign policy has cost heavily in our national image abroad. When the government changes foreign policy priorities also change. This has been so in the absence of a long-term vision and specific goal in foreign policy. When Nepal was created more than 240 years ago, our security and foreign policy had been to defend its border and territories, which continued till the Sugauli Treaty was signed. The Sugauli Treaty put Nepal’s expansionist mission to an end. As a result, Nepal not only lost a sizable portion of its territories but also lost its independence in conducting its foreign policy. Some of the provisions of the Sugauli Treaty required Nepal to consult with the British rulers in India prior to having any kind of relations with other countries. This limited Nepal’s foreign policy options.
Prithivi Naryan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal, is considered the father of Nepal’s foreign policy as he set some guidelines for Nepal’s foreign policy. The concept of non-alignment and policy of equidistance or equi-proximity was first mooted by Prithivi Narayan Shah as he asked to maintain good and friendly relationship with both the northern and southern neighbours with utmost caution. In theory, this concept has still remained in place but our foreign policy is India-centric in practice as Nepal is India-locked more than the land-locked. The rulers that came to power after the Sugauli Treaty thought that their interests would be best served under the protection and patronage of British colonial rulers in India. The policy of Nepal’s rulers—be it Ranas or Shah kings—had been to please the British India, which was dubbed as Nepal’s foreign policy until 1951 prior to the establishment of multi-party political system. The 1951 political change, indeed, brought about different dimensions to Nepal’s political outlook and other spheres of affairs. However, the foreign policy of Nepal did not significantly change as it continued to remain under India’s security ambit.
When India attained independence from British raj, it had been expected that independent and democratic India would depart from the British colonial policies in all fronts including foreign and security policy. But the democratic India continued its colonial legacy vis-a-vis its policy towards small neighbours including Nepal. Soon after it attained independence, democratic India hastened to reach a bilateral treaty in 1950 with the dictatorial regime of Nepal that had been counting its days in the wake of popular movement for democracy. the 1950 Treaty that was signed between democratic India and dictatorial Rana regime sought to further tighten New Delhi’s grip over Nepal virtually turning Nepal into India’s satellite state infringing its sovereignty. Several provisions of the 1950 Treaty are objectionable, which need to be reviewed and changed.
India centric foreign policy continued to remain in place until Nepal formally decided to establish diplomatic relations with its northern neighbour China in 1955. Prime Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya not only established diplomatic relationship with China but also took several bold decisions to reduce Indian influence and hegemony in Nepal. But the real momentum in diversifying Nepal’s foreign policy began with the rise of king Mahendra in power. Although discredited politically as he trampled democracy and imposed authoritarian system, King Mahendra’s role is, indeed, exemplary, in pursuing Nepal’s independent foreign policy and establishing Nepal’s image as an independent and sovereign country in the international arena, to the dismay of our southern neighbour. Nepal not only got membership of the United Nations but also played important role in founding the Non-Aligned Movement. It was during this period when Nepal widely diversified Nepal’s foreign relations and established diplomatic ties with several other countries in the world. King Birendra continued this policy and even went one step forward by declaring Nepal a ‘Zone of Peace’, which was supported and recognized by more than one hundred countries in the world including China and two superpowers. This was an important achievement in Nepal’s foreign policy. Unfortunately, the ‘Zone of Peace’ concept was dropped after political change in 1990 ostensibly under pressure from New Delhi.
With the restoration of multi-party system in 1990, Nepal foreign policy also took ‘U’ turn and again entered into the old concept of India centric policy. The elected government that came to power after the general election in 1991 declared that the basis of Nepal’s foreign policy would be democracy and human rights. Democracy and human rights are the basis of governance but cannot be the basis All the governments that came to power following the 1990 political change often subscribed to theory and policy that our southern neighbour preferred, which continues even today in the republican era. Our political parties and governments appear to be more concerned with the interest of foreigners than our own. Be it border encroachment, 1950 Treaty, the Mahakali Treaty or other issues including sharing of water resources, some of the leaders openly champion the cause of India more than the cause of Nepal and Nepalese people. Here lies the fundamental flaws, which have put the conduct of Nepal’s foreign and security policy in a mess.

South Asia mired in mutual suspicion

Yuba Nath Lamsal
South Asia as a region is often looked upon by the world in a negative light. South Asia is touted as a region of poor and backward people, which is often conflict ridden and hotbed of terrorism. Such a remark may appear to be quite disparaging. But this is true, to a large extent, which can be substantiated by facts and figures. South Asia is home to the largest number of poor people in the world. Perhaps, one third population of the world’s poorest people live in South Asia. It is backward as its development level is only better than sub-Saharan Africa. The intrinsic conflict within a state and between states is worse than anywhere in the world. The level of animosity is so high that the clouds of war always hover in South Asian sky. No country in the region is in a position to fully trust the other. Every country suspects the other and there is hardly any harmony in relationship among them. Communal distrust and conflict are also high in the region. Communal riots are regular phenomenon in India. It is mostly between Hindus and Muslims. Sri Lanka, too, saw a worst war that was waged on communal basis. The Hindu Tamils fought for a separate state for decades but the government dominated by Buddhist Sinhala population crushed the separatist movement of Tamils. However, the animosity between the two ethnic communities has not been fully put to an end. The divide between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils is deep. Pakistan is an Islamic country with more than 80 per cent people belonging to different Islamic sects. The Hindus are in minority, who sometimes suffer harassment and attack in the hand of Muslim fundamentalists, although the policy of the government allows minorities to observe their religious activities without hindrances. Similar is the case with Bangladesh and Maldives. Bangladesh has overwhelming majority of Muslim population. Sometimes Bangladesh government adopts prejudiced policy against religious minorities. But the situation is beginning to change especially after the Awami League government headed by Sheikh Hasina was formed. Bangladesh was created in 1971 as a liberal and secular country despite overwhelming majority of Muslims. Sheikh Mujiber Rahaman, who is called in Bangladesh as the ‘Bangabandhu’ (Friend of Bangladesh) was assassinated along with his family members by fundamentalists for his liberal and secular policy. With Awami League back in power with overwhelming majority, the demand for reviving the old secular constitution, to which Sheikh Hasina has responded positively.
Maldives is an Islamic country which was under dictatorship. But it is slowly opening after last year’s general election in which a liberal minded president came to power. Bhutan is the only dictatorship in the SAARC. Bhutan boasts to have preserved its Buddhist culture and religion. Bhutan has adopted the worst ethnic cleansing policy in South Asia by already evicting the Nepali speaking Hindu population out of the country. More than 1,25,000 Nepali speaking Hindus, who constitute one-fourth of the total population of Bhutan, have been forcibly driven out of the country. It is not only the Nepali-speaking Hindus but the native Ngalung people have also been forced to go on exile or serve severe jail term for demanding political freedom in Bhutan. In the name of preserving Buddhist culture, Bhutan is preserving dictatorship with strong protection and patronage of India. Buddhism is a democratic and peaceful religion but Bhutan has ridiculed Buddhism by denying democracy and rights to the people and using violent force to suppress democratic movement. India claims to be the world’s largest democracy and champion of democratic values in the world. But New Delhi has patronized monarchical dictatorship and its ethnic cleansing policy in its own backyard.
So far as Nepal is concerned, it is undergoing a phenomenal change and political transformation. After a decade long violent insurgency, a peace process is underway that has given a nugget of hope for peace, prosperity and stability. However, the peace process is damn slow triggering speculations that the undergoing political process is reaching a stage of slow death. If the ongoing peace process gets derailed, Nepal is likely to return to the old days of violence and civil war. Nepal’s political parties’ inaction and narrow views are fundamentally responsible behind this situation. But foreign meddling—to be specific Indian interference— has also equally contributed to creating political volatility in Nepal.
In recent years, this region has earned the reputation of a breeding ground for terrorism. As a result, the focus of international war on terror has been shifted to South Asia. Afghanistan is the birth place of Taleban Islamic fundamentalists that provided base for Al Queda, a deadly international terrorist organization. Al Queda is behind most deadly attacks on several key interests of the Western countries in general and the United States of America in particular. The US –led multi-national forces are waging a war on terror in Afghanistan. Although some success has been achieved, the complete victory over terrorists in Afghanistan is still elusive. Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to the region.
Despite having historical, social and cultural affinity, the relationship between the countries in the region is marked by mistrust and suspicion. The clash of interests, differing security perception and false notion of cultural superiority have fueled conflict and wars in the region. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars over Kashmir, which has, in a way or the other, afflicted the entire. Even a layperson understands that peace in South Asia is not possible unless Kashmir issue is resolved. Yet the issue has not yet been addressed amicably. Kashmir continues to remain a disputed territory. Every day, people are being killed, tortured and harassed by Indian troops and also by militants. While India and Pakistan are fighting a proxy war in Kashmir, people are caught in the crossfire. The tension has prolonged in Kashmir for more than six decades because India refused to abide by an agreement reached between India and Pakistan to hold plebiscite to decide the fate of Kashmir. The United Nation Security Council, too, adopted the resolution backing the plebiscite and calling for its early implementation. But this has never materialized because of India’s unwillingness to conduct plebiscite, which is not only a violation of international treaty but also a disregard to the United Nations.
The menace of terrorism in Afghanistan has spilled over to Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan is fighting battle in two fronts. In the first place, Islamabad is hard bent on wiping out terrorism being perpetrated by Islamic militants while it is an ally of international war on terror in Afghanistan. Despite protests from different sectors, Pakistan has been cooperating with the US-led multi-national force in its bid to defeat and wipe out terrorism. Pakistan is, thus, a target of Islamic militants because of its support in international war on terror.
India, too, is fighting tooth and nail in various fronts. There are more than a dozen insurgent groups that have waged war against Indian establishment. Some are fighting against centralized system and policy of the central and state governments while others are fighting for separate state within the Indian union. Some groups have even waged war demanding disintegration from Indian union. The insurgents groups include Nagas, Bodos, Mizos, Ulfas, Gorkhas, Sikhs and the Maoists to name a few. Mizos, Bodos, Ulfas and Gorkhas are demanding separate autonomous states within the Indian union where Nagas and Sikhs want to be separate from Indian union. Sikh movement was completely crushed by applying brutal force. But Sikh community still carries a deep-rooted animosity and hatred towards Indian government, which can surface and flare up anytime in future. The Naga insurgency, although weakened slightly, is still active.
The case of the Maoist communists in India is different. They are fighting neither for a separate province not for disintegration of India. They want to liberate Indian people from the exploitative feudal social, political and economic structure for which they want to overthrow the present parliamentary system and establish a communist state. The influence of the Maoists is expanding slowly. Out of 622 districts throughout India, the Maoists have influence in over 224 districts. That means almost 40 per cent population of India is under the Maoist influence. Similarly, the Indian establishment treats Muslims as second grade citizens. Muslims constitute almost 15 per cent of India’s total population. If the population of Muslims, Mizos, Nagas, Gorkhas, Ulfas, Bodos and the Maoist supporters are put together, it constitutes more than 60 per cent population of India. This means Indian establishment has alienated more than 60 per cent people that include the Maoists, Muslims, Nagas, Mizos, Ulfas, Sikhs, Bodos and Gorkhas alike.
This is the scenario of South Asia. The animosity and lack of harmonious and cooperative relations among the countries of South Asia has contributed to further worsening the situation. These negative features have eclipsed the positive sides. Some countries in the region especially the bigger ones have the tendency of treating the smaller states as junior partners, which is the main reason for causing mistrust and suspicion. This has served as the main roadblock towards confidence building and fostering cooperative relations in a true spirit of genuine neighborliness. Despite all these pessimistic views, South Asia, indeed, possesses some positive characteristics which, if properly harnessed and utilized, the region can be turned into a prosperous zone. It would do well if South Asian countries identity the positive features and make best use of theirs for the common good of the people in the region.

Nepal benefits from China's prosperity

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Viewed from historic perspective, Nepal-China relations can be traced back to prehistoric and pre-civilization period. The legend says that the Kathmandu Valley was once a big lake full of water with no human settlement. A Chinese saint from upper Tibetan plateau, Manjushree, came to what is now called Nepal. Manjushree drained the water out of the lake by making an outlet in Chovar, south western part of the Valley, and also started human settlement. This settlement quickly grew and expanded far and wide to become a nation called Nepal. This is how contacts and cooperation between the people of Nepal and China began and grew.
Nepali civilization and Nepali nation germinated and grew with support from China. It can, thus, be said that China's contribution is so valued that Nepal's relations with China is incomparable to bilateral relations with any other country in the world. Right from the birth of Nepali civilization, the relations between these two Asian neighbours has been cordial, cooperative and friendly. China is an ancient civilization with the written history of more than 4000 years, perhaps older than any civilization in Asia. China is believed to be the oldest civilization in continuity for more than five millennia. The Chinese civilization stood as a leading civilization in the world for centuries—the period known as the world's first renaissance in the field of science and culture. China was a vibrant civilization when the rest of the world especially Europe and America was in primitive stage. In a way, China is the cradle of world civilization.
China at present is world's most populous nation with over 1.3 billion people and area-wise the fourth largest country after Russia, Canada, and the United States with total land area of 270,550 square kilometers. Already rich in art and culture with its glorious history, China has re-emerged as a global power. China is world's second largest economy, thanks to opening up and economic reforms initiated some 30 years ago by visionary leader Deng Xiao Ping. But China's modernization began right from the 1949 when People's Republic of China was established through a revolution. The Communist Party of China together with the People's Liberation Army under the leadership of Mao Zedong laid the foundation of modern China. Standing on the high raised podium in the Tiananmen Square amidst a cheering crowds of hundreds of thousands triumphant communist revolutionaries, Chairman Mao declared on October, 1949 the victory of Chinese revolution and said that modern China had stood up.
With its economic miracles, China has been able to portray its increased financial strength which is marked by significant improvement in the livelihood of its people. Dubbed as a 'leap from subsistence to moderate prosperity', China's ability to lift hundreds of millions people from abject poverty has been hailed by international community as a model for the developing countries in their campaign for poverty eradication and development. In a recent meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that China’s success in reducing poverty could serve as an example for many other countries in the world. But Premier Wen Jiabao made it clear that China, despite making significant stride in raising the living condition of the hundreds of million people, is still struggling hard to make poverty a history.
As Chinese economy roared back in leaps and bounds, the People's Republic of China has started playing a leading role in the international arena. Guided by its international obligation, China is portraying itself in the world as a global soft power. China is, thus, no longer an inward-looking country but an active player in the global affairs. China's economic growth has been accompanied by the expansion of its cultural and diplomatic influence throughout the world. The rise of China as a soft power and its enhanced role in the global affairs would definitely have a long-term positive role in reshaping the international order and balance of power.
However, Beijing's foreign policy, unlike some powerful countries, is not coercive but guided by mutual cooperation, trust and goodwill. China has always refrained itself from interfering in other's internal affairs but has tried to be partner in development. Despite being the world's second largest economy, China considers itself as the members of the developing countries. Its priority is, there, on strengthening and deepening relationship and cooperation with the developing countries. For decades, China has tried to be a genuine partner of the developing countries. Be it in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe or South Africa, China's focus was on mutual cooperation. Beijing's policy has been aptly reflected in the speech of Premier Wen in the address to the UN General Assembly last week. In his address to the UN General Assembly, Premier Wen made China's foreign policy in general and policy towards the developing countries in particular by saying, " We will intensify cooperation with fellow developing countries, and support their greater say in international affairs. We will remain forever a good partner and brother of developing countries.” This demonstrates how much importance China attaches to the relationship and mutual cooperation with the developing countries.
So far as Nepal-China relations are concerned, they are marked by goodwill, cooperation and mutual trust. China is almost 50 times larger than Nepal in terms of size and 93 times bigger in terms of population. As a northern neighbour China considers Nepal as an important partner in various fronts and has treated accordingly. China's interest in Nepal was not guided by security, strategic, political and economic standpoint but by goodwill and responsibility of being a close neighbour.
The relations between Nepal and China are age-old as old as Nepal's civilization. Nepal's civilization was established with the help of the Chinese, which symbolizes the Chinese interest and cooperation right from the prehistoric period, perhaps older than Nepal's relations with any other country in the world. The contact at the popular level continued although the relationship between the two countries at the official level started only in the fifth century. The first official relations and cooperation began during the rule of Lichhivi dynasty in Nepal. During the T'ang dynasty's rule in China, Lichhivi king Narendra Dev provided military assistance to the Chinese to fight against an Indian king. This was a historic event in Nepal-China relations and cooperation. Since this time, Chinese rulers always regarded Nepal as an important and valued neighbour whereas Nepal also treated the Chinese rulers with high respect. The contacts between the two countries at the official level were maintained by the exchanges of political missions. Different dynasties rose and fell in China and Nepal, too, saw rise and fall of different dynastic regimes. But the relations between Nepal and China have remained cordial and cooperative marked by mutual trust throughout the history.
Buddhism is the fundamental link between Nepal and China. When Nepali Princess, daughter of another Lichhivi king Amsuvarma, got married with a Tibetan ruler, Nepal-China relations entered into another phase. Bhrikuti not only became a strong thread for close and cooperative relations between the two countries but also introduced Buddhism in China, which spread so fast that later Buddhism was adopted as a national religion in China. Several Buddhist monks and scholars visited China where they provided significant input on Buddhist philosophical study and knowledge. Buddhism is, therefore, Nepal's important contribution to China.
Yet another cornerstone in Nepal-China relation was the contribution of Arniko or Balbahu, a Nepali artist. Arniko built some structure in pagoda architectural style and made it popular in China. Arniko's art highly impressed the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan.
Although contacts between Nepal and China in the official level saw some ups and downs in different interval of time with the change of regimes and dynasties both in Nepal and China, contacts in the people's level continued unchanged. During the Malla period in Nepal, the trade with Tibet was vibrant and Nepal was the main supplier of currency and other essentials to Tibetan part of China. For Nepal too, trade with Tibet was a profitable venture from which Nepalese economy benefited and prospered.
The unification of Nepal was a historic necessity of Nepal which also had a positive impact on Nepal-China relations. The unified Nepal accorded priority to relations with China with especial focus on trade with Tibet. In the later years, the trade and currency issues triggered wars between Nepal and Tibet which was resolved with Chinese intervention and mediation. However, slackness appeared in the bilateral relations between Nepal and China in the official following the rise of British colonial rule in India. After the Anglo-Nepal war, the Sugauli Treaty brought Nepal closer with British-India slowly keeping away from China. Nepali rulers did not want to annoy the British imperial power and adopted the policy of protecting their rule and also defending Nepal's territory with blessing from British. At the same time, the central authority in China had been weakened due to internal conflict, opium war and foreign intervention. As a result, relations with Nepal became low priority for China. This situation continued until 1949.
In 1949, People's Republic of China was established whereas Nepal also entered into a new era of democracy in 1951 through a popular revolution. The modern China shook off all its past hangovers of feudal period and entered into a new era in its foreign policy formulation. Nepal again became a priority country of China. Nepal's strategic location and long history of bilateral relations were some of the key factors that put Nepal as a priority country of Beijing's foreign policy. After the political change in 1951, Nepal also departed from Rana's isolationist policy in the conduct of foreign policy. The changed situation led Nepal and China to formally re-establish the diplomatic relationship in 1955.
Since then Nepal and China have been true friend and genuine neighbours that understand one another's sensitivity and act accordingly. China has been a true partner of Nepal's development and stability. China has not only been providing development assistance to Nepal but is also seriously concerned with Nepal's sovereignty and its stability. Beijing has been a counterbalance for Nepal as close relations with China has been helpful in protecting Nepal's sovereignty that often came under threat from southern neighbour. Had China not been there, Nepal's fate would have been like that of Sikkim long ago. For this, Nepalese must be thankful to China. The remarks made categorically by the chief of the Chinese high-level delegation headed by He Young, who visited Nepal recently, is an example of how Beijing attaches greater importance to Nepal. He Young had categorically said that China would never tolerate external interference in Nepal.
China is rising now as a global power and its economic might has made China more assertive in the international arena as well. Nepal is backyard of China and any events and development unfolding in Nepal definitely concern Beijing. Since China has a long common border with Nepal, instability in Nepal would have impact on its own security as well. Moreover, some elements instigated by some western powers and India often try to create disturbance in Tibet using Nepal's territory. Although Nepal has vowed not to allow its soil to be used against China, the anti-China activities have not been totally checked. This speaks of the double standard of some political parties and officials of Nepal. Nepal has
Nepal must understand China's sensitivity. If Nepal works closely with Beijing, it can benefit a lot for our economic transformation. Once backward and impoverished state, Tibet is now moving fast to prosperity and development. China has already connected Tibet with high-speed railway which has changed the face of Tibet and condition of Tibetan people. China is extending the rail-way to Shigatse in next four years and probably close to the border with Nepal later. These are the positive things, which can be used for Nepal in its development and also for the reduction of heavy dependence on the south. There are more areas of cooperation between these two neighbours which must be explored and implemented. The onus lies more on Nepal to extract benefit from China's prosperity.