Friday, December 30, 2011

Nepal In Perpetual Transition

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Nepal is currently passing through a thorny road of prolonged and painful transition. Transition is always painful everywhere in the world as it is marked by instability, uncertainty, chaotic situation and weak law and order often jeopardizing the rule of law. Out of the state of instability and chaos, certain unscrupulous and criminal elements often try to take benefit to serve their vested interests. This is the experience of all countries in the world that faced or are facing transition.

The case of Nepal is a little different. Nepal has experienced protracted and perpetual transition that has been in the process of political trials and errors for more than six decades. Nepal is being used as a political laboratory to test different models of governments and systems. But none has so far worked to suit the interests of the people of Nepal. In a period of a decade or so, we experiment different models of governments and system. We have made trial of different regimes of different colours and creeds. We have experimented dynastic rules, monarchical system and republican democracy. We tested unitary primitive system and a limited decentralized set up in the past. We have already made pledges to opt for federal state structure to ensure a genuine self-rule of the people. The process of federalism is already underway, which would be formalized after a new constitution is promulgated. There are still debates and disputes on the modality and number of federalism. But, given the commitment of the mainstream political parties, there will be no going back again to unitary system. Federalism will be yet another experiment in the history of Nepal’s political governance.

Nepal remained a primitive feudal structure unable to be a nation state for a long time. The concept of nation state emerged only after Nepal came close to contact with the rest of the world. Even during the Rana period, the concept of nation state had still not been developed in Nepal. In the beginning Nepal was a unit of military warriors in the campaign of expanding its territory. Its expansionist spree came to a grinding halt with head-on collision with the British imperial power that had already gobbled up almost entire South Asia except Nepal.

Despite losing a sizable territory to British colonial power in India, Nepal was able to maintain only limited independence. After the Sugauli Treaty in which Nepal lost not only a sizable territory but also it’s independent posture, to a certain degree. With the establishment of British mission in Kathmandu, British colonial power in India started meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs. In practice, Nepal was reduced to a semi-colonial status. The practice of foreign interference began with the arrival of British mission in Kathmandu which indulged in hatching conspiracy in political circle and propping up one faction against the other in the royal court of Nepal. The rise of Ranas and their family oligarchy was the result of the British conspiracy and tendency of Nepali knights and nobles to give in to foreign powers for their petty and personal benefits. Ranas compromised sovereignty and national independence to ensure their hold on power which continued until 1951 when the popular movement overthrew the oligarchic regime and ushered in a democratic regime.

The 1951 political change brought about a new era of open and competitive political environment in Nepal. But, at the same time, it ushered in an era of instability. The period of one full decade saw the height of instability which continued until monarchy took over and imposed absolute power dismantling and disbanding all democratic system and institutions. Despite some upheavals and resistance of the people at different interval of time, Panchayat survived for almost three decades which is relatively more stable period since the 1951 political change. The stability under Panchayat regime was not the spontaneous one but forcibly maintained with iron hands of the absolute monarch and its lackeys.

All the regimes and changes that were brought about in Nepal were experiments behind which foreign hands in collaboration with domestic reactionaries are suspected. Even during the Rana period, conspiracy was the name of the game. In this conspiracy, members of Rana clans were used by the British mission in Kathmandu. Even after the 1951 political change until today, conspiracy and foreign meddling are always behind the change of regimes and system. External meddling has been the fundamental problem of Nepal.

In this sense, Nepal always remained in transition. We tested and experimented limited democracy doled out by the monarchy in 1951 and again a one-party dictatorial regime under monarchy which was called the Panchayat system. With the overthrow of the absolute monarchy of Panchayat, we also experimented multi-party system with more power to the people virtually rendering the monarchy to the status of titular head. We have now made a rupture from the past and transformed Nepal from monolithic unitary system to federal structure. We have bid adieu to the 240 years old feudal monarchy and declared Nepal as a republican state. For the first time in the history of Nepal, an ordinary Nepali citizen was elected as the head of the state— the post was earlier reserved for a particular clan. We have powerful prime minister with all executive powers at his hands. This is, without any shade of doubt, a historic change and great achievement of the people.

We have arrived at this juncture following a long but tough and tumultuous journey. We traversed many transitions and rocky political roads. Even now the goal that we fought throughout history is yet to be achieved. Our goal is stable and vibrant democracy—a genuine democracy that makes the people real masters. We experienced and overcame many transitions and have arrived at this point of history that we Nepalese people are in the process of determining the final course of our journey. The task is difficult but this is a must to ensure our better and brighter future.

This transition from the old feudal and monarchical structure to democratic and republican set up is a new experience in Nepal. The republican set up is yet to be formally institutionalized. As the entire country is in transition, the political parties, too, are finding it a bit difficult in managing themselves and adjusting their activities. All parties are in internal imbroglio with ugly factional fighting. People in the top echelon of party structure and organization are creating their own cliques and factions within the party. There are several parties within a party. Factions are getting stronger whereas parties are dying. This is not the case of any particular party but a common phenomenon of all. The bigger the party, the worse is the factional fighting. All factions are pulling up their sleeves to have upper hand in the organizational structure and leadership. This is because the parties, too, are in transition.

Parties had different political orientation in the past and they are finding it difficult to adjust in the present changed situation. Republican set up and federalism are definitely a new system as the parties and people were accustomed to monarchical and unitary system for 240 years since Nepal was created a unified state. Major political parties, whether wholeheartedly or out of expediency, have welcomed the new scenario and trying to adjust themselves in it. There are some fringe parties which are crying foul to pull the pendulum back to the old monarchical days. There are some other forces that want republic but oppose federalism. The overwhelming majority is for a federal and republican system. Even on the issue of political system major parties are divided. The Congress, CPN-UML, Madhesis and other fringe parties want the continuation of the Western model of capitalist democracy whereas the UCPN-Maoist—the largest party in Constituent Assembly is pushing for ‘ people’s democracy’—something akin to the system that was established in China in post 1949 Revolution. In other words, the Maoists want one-party communist rule in Nepal, which may not be possible in Nepal in the present situation. In China, communist regime was established through a protracted revolution. In Nepal, the Maoists have already suspended armed insurgency and they are in the process of determining the political system and its structure through negotiation and compromise. The communist state cannot be established through compromise. If the Maoists want a communist state, they will have to raise arms and fight guerilla war again. But the Maoists are not in the mood of going back to jungle and fight a guerilla war. Thus, communist state which Maoists want does not seem plausible. What is possible at present is the Western type of capitalist democracy with some modifications and adjustment. The constitution we are writing will be a document of compromise given the present power equation. Thus, parties will have to make compromise on the model of governments which is likely to be a mixed type of system with fundamental elements of western liberal democracy with some socialist economic programmes. In other words, the parties will have to agree on a socialist democracy that would guarantee people’s civil and political rights and also the ‘rights to life’. This is the only way to end the perpetual transition in Nepal.

Is reunification of Korea is possible?

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Irrespective of ideology, the survival strategy of North Korea, as it is also known as Democratic People\'s Republic of Korea or DPRK, is a lesson to be learnt by smaller countries in the world especially Nepal which is in the sandwiched position between Asia\'s two giants. North Korea has survived with dignity and stood firmly in the community of the nations despite hostile attitude of some of its neighbours and sanction from the Western countries. North Korea is a country which has been an example how unity of the people and strength of its own can keep foreign interference at bay and maintain national independence, unity and territorial integrity intact. Countries like Nepal have much more to learn from the DPRK which is smaller than Nepal in terms of size and population but much more powerful in terms of economic and military size.
Global attention has always been focused on North Korea not because of its economy and physical size but because of its military and nuclear capability. North Korea is the only nuclear power in East Asia after China. The Western world especially the United States which has pitched Pyongyang as a rogue state because North Korea has refused to give in to the Western pressure but stood on its own strength. It has continued to defy the external pressure of any manifestation.
Any development unfolds and incident takes place in North Korea has, thus, its wider implication and incite global reaction. North Korea is always in the headlines of the newspapers in the world. Be it the change of leadership or demise of any top leader or its domestic, military or foreign policy, they all create global ripples. Now global attention is focused on unfolding developments in North Korea more than ever before especially after the sudden demise of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Kim died of heart attack while travelling to countryside in a public train on December 17, 2011. The entire world in general and the United States and its allies in the Pacific namely South Korea and Japan in particularly were curious to know who would succeed Kim Jong Il and what would be the policy and strategy of the new leadership.
This is a testament of the fact that North Korea is a power to reckon with as this small but militarily strong country possesses nuclear power and if not properly and delicately handled the world may witness a catastrophe. Similar opinions and reactions had also been expressed 17 years ago when Kim Jong Il took over power after the demise of his father Kim Il Sung. When King Il Sung passed away, there had been many speculations about the fate of the North Korea\'s communist regime. Some western pundits and analysts had predicted that Pyongyang\'s communist regime would collapse in a few months as there would be leadership struggle to be followed by military coup.
But nothing as such happened and transfer of power went on smoothly. The Western predictions are all based on assumptions and guess work. No one knows what exactly is the position inside North Korea especially the relationship between the government and the people. Although North Korea faced series of natural disaster like famine and flood, which definitely cased hardship to the regime as well as the people, the government successfully tackled them and navigated the country forward wisely.
Their presumptions and predictions are their mere wishful thinking. The western countries especially the United States is not happy with the existence of a communist regime in a tiny country despite the failure and collapse of communist and socialist regimes in the world. The United States has, therefore, adopted the policy to force and facilitate the collapse of the North Korean communist regime. This attitude of the Western world compelled Pyongyang to go nuclear and it has now become a nuclear power. The nuclear weapons of the North Korea are partly the consequence of hostility of the Western countries. Had the Western World taken the policy of engaging Pyongyang right from the beginning and had they not tried to corner DPRK by various means including economic and diplomatic sanctions, North Korea might not have developed nuclear weapons but would have concentrated more on social and economic prosperity of its people. The United Stated and its allies mainly South Korea fear that North Korea may unleash war against the US and Seoul. However, even a layman can understand that a small country and weak country like North Korea can never risk by provoking and antagonizing the world\'s only super power. The United States is so powerful in military capability that North Korea can never imagine to attacks any of the US interests or South Korea, which is being protected by the United States. Pyongyang knows well that war provocation with the United States would invite its destruction. Thus, its military and nuclear capabilities are meant not for attack against any of its adversaries but to self-defence and deterrence.
After the demise of Kin Jong Il, similar predictions are being made as they were done 17 years ago when Kim Il Sung died. Now Kim Jong Il\'s third and youngest son Kim Jong Un has already been groomed as a successor of his father and he has already been entrusted with the key responsibility which ultimately may land him on the position of top executive of North Korea. As Kim Jong Un is young of 28 years old with virtually little experience in governance, the world is getting worried over the chances of mishandling of its the nuclear weapons and military force. However, the chances of military adventure against any other neighouring countries are very slim given the internal political and social situation and international scenario.
Despite efforts to extract every bit of information from whatever means possible, the world knows very little or nothing about North Korea\'s inside development except the ones that are aired and broadcast in the North Korean media. Thus, whatever is written or aired in the western media is only guess work. North Korea is the country about which only a very few outsiders know except some Chinese Korea experts. The mantle of leadership of this tiny but powerful country has already been transferred to a relatively young King Jong Un. He is definitely inexperienced but the old guards have already reposed their trust and allegiance to young Kim for the continuation of policies of two late Kims-Kim Ill Sung and Kim Jong Il- and stability of the country. At a time when external forces are out to destabilize North Korea, strong and unified leadership is a must and North Koreans have demonstrated it. Kim Jong Un\'s selection as heir to his father seems to be a dynastic rule but in reality this is not dynastic or family rule. This was necessitated because of the objective conditions both at home and abroad. Although there is a little chance to deviate from the old policies, the new North Korean leader may opt for some innovative changes and reforms to be introduced in the country. Educated in Switzerland, he may definitely have some reformative and innovative ideas to open up his country to the outside world and introduce some reforms both in politics and economy. This is a good opportunity for the United States and South Korea to engage Pyongyang and work together for the greater peace in the Korean Peninsula. The United States regards the North as \'an axis of evil\', which means Washington seeks to destroy North Korea. However, all out antagonism would prove to be disaster for peace and stability in the region. China is an import actor of the region which has fully backed North Korean regime and any kind of hostility with Pyongyang would mean to antagonize Beijing, which no power in the world would risk in the present global power equation. North Korea is as important to China as Canada and Mexico are to the United States. China\'s role is, thus, crucial in dealing with issues relating to Korean Peninsula. The Korean peninsula is the most heavily militarized area in the world because North Korea is in itself a military power whereas United States has its military base in South Korea. Any kind of military provocation in Korean peninsula would destabilize the entire East Asia, which would have serious implication on global security as well as trade.
Handling with Korean peninsula requires delicate approach. The two Koreas which had bitter past are now coming closer and trying to cooperate with one another. This is a good beginning and positive indication for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula. Once unified country, Korea was divided by external powers into two Koreas-North and South. When Korea was divided, many families and relatives were separated. Now Koreans are desirous of reunification of the two Koreas and create once again a unified Korea. Peace, stability and reunification are the main agenda of Korean Peninsula. Leaders of both Koreas have now realized the feelings of their people are talking one another for peace, cooperation and reunification under the \'sunshine policy\'. Now the external forces should facilitate Korean reunification. The Korean reunification is, perhaps, key priority of North Korea, and the new leadership is expected to further carry of Korean reunification. The world wants Korea to be reunified once again and we may see a reunified Korea in our life time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A White Revolution Begins From West Terai

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Imagine how the white revolution is in the offing, slowly, in Nepal. That, too, from young entrepreneurs, who would otherwise evade farming and look for greener pastures. The Lumbini Agro-Products Pvt. Ltd. is here with a dream and vision of white (milk) revolution.

Commercial dairy farming is something that has recently made its way to Nepal. Although dairy farming has been in practice in Nepal for centuries, it used to be a family business meant only for domestic consumption. Now change is in the air and it has come to the agro sector, too.

The rapid urbanization and massive migration of people from rural areas to urban centers in search of better opportunities has its impact on dairy farming, too. With high-speed urbanization, the arable land in and around the urban areas has sharply augmented the demand of dairy products in Nepal. The traditional approach of dairy farming can no longer meet the growing demand of milk and meat giving rise to new and innovative approach for more and better production.

Despite being an agricultural country with over two-thirds of the Nepalese people involved in farming, food insecurity is getting more acute in Nepal every year leaving tens of thousands of people starved, hungry and malnourished. What can be a greater irony than this? Worse still, people who are in the helms of affair have not yet awaken and are least bothered.

The other side is more ironic. Farming in Nepal, as it seems, is not a preferred vocation but people are in the farming business under compulsion because they simply have no better alternative. If given alternative, Nepali farmers are willing to switch over to other vocations. However, the choices are limited in Nepal and they are compelled to toil on the farms growing crops, rearing cattle and feeding the people.

It is estimated that Nepal is short of over 400,000 liters of milk daily, which is being met by imports. Billions of rupees are siphoned out of the country for importing milk or other dairy-based products every year. Nepal has potentials to be self-reliant on dairy products, if the potentials are fully harnessed, which would also save billions of rupees from going out of the country annually. Commercial development of dairy farming is, therefore, a must if Nepal has to fully tap this potential and become self-reliant on dairy products.

However, efforts are not adequate, on the part of the government. The government established its own Dairy Development Corporation decades ago in order to make the country self-reliant on milk and milk-based products. But the country still faces shortage of milk and milk-based products. The growing demand of dairy products, especially milk, has recently started attracting farmers as well as entrepreneurs to invest in this sector in a commercial way. A wonderful and exemplary initiative has recently been taken by a group of farmers under the leadership of young entrepreneur Sashi Poudel in Rupandehi district of south-western Nepal.

Poudel formed a group of friends and like-minded people, who are interested in doing something innovative in the field of agriculture. This group came up with the idea of investing in livestock sector. The group created and duly registered a company called the Lumbini Agro-Product (LAP) Pvt. Ltd. and practically started work, which has already become a model project for many farmers and entrepreneurs alike to follow. This is a way forward in turning Nepal self-reliant on dairy products and livestock. Presumed to be the largest private cattle (cow and buffaloes) farm in Nepal, LAP aims to become a model hybrid cow breeding center not only in Nepal but also in the entire South Asian region. "If things go as we have planned, we will be able not only to meet the demand of hybrid cows in the country but export milk cows to South Asia," Poudel avers with confidence. The firm has already produced over 50 hybrid calves.

Located at Tikuligarh-3 of Rupandehi district, about 350 kilometers south-west of Kathmandu, the LAP has an ambitious plan of developing the firm as a multi-purpose industry. Already producing over 1,000 liters of milk daily from 300 Holstein and jersey cows and over a dozen hybrid buffaloes, LAP is currently supplying milk to a dairy firm in Chitwan. However, it has a plan to establish its own dairy firm for which it has a target of producing at least 3,000 liters of milk daily. LAP is soon going to add additional 300 hybrid cows so that the firm can function in full capacity, says Poudel, the principal promoter of LAP and the brain behind the entire project. Apart from the dairy firm and hybrid cow birthing center, LAP has a plan of developing an energy plant to generate one megawatt electricity from the dung and urine of the cows and buffaloes. The work on energy production has already been initiated in collaboration with the Center for Energy Studies of the Institute of Engineering, Pulchock, according to Poudel.

Established last year, the farm currently has several partners who are working day and night to realize their dream of a model cattle farm. "If our work goes as per the plan, we would be able not only to supply hybrid cows to Nepali farmers but also export improved breed of dairy cows to other countries like India," Poudel said.

Nepal does not have sufficient number of hybrid cows. If one wants to start a dairy firm, he/she has to import milk cows from other countries, either from India illegally or from Europe, Australia or New Zealand. Importing hybrid cows from Europe, Australia and New Zealand is relatively costlier. Moreover, the imported cows may not be at ease in our climatic condition. Bringing them from India is also difficult as the government of India has banned the export of live milk cow. The best way is to produce hybrid cows in our own country which would be suitable in our climatic condition, said he. "My initiative is to make Nepal self-reliant in milk and milk-related," young entrepreneur Poudel said in a brief interaction.

LAP has purchased a huge plot of land and already invested almost 100 million rupees. Everything is mechanized on the farm. Machine does the works ranging from grass sowing to cutting and from preparing fodder to milking. Thirty people are already employed—some full time and a few on part time basis. A veterinary doctor works full time treating the cows and calves.

The LAP has been a place of attraction for school children, tourists and researchers alike. It has introduced the entry fees for those who want to visit and a person provides information to visitor wishing to learn. Though meager, the ticket system has also been a source of revenue. The LAP has hinted at the possibility of popularizing agro-tourism in Nepal, which is already popular in several other countries in Asia, Europe and America.

According to Poudel, Nepal’s prosperity depends on the development of agriculture. "If we can properly harness our agricultural, hydro-power and tourism potentials, Nepal could be one of the prosperous countries not only in South Asia but also in the entire continent," he said. "This hunched me to initiate this project."

Poudel himself was born in a farmer’s family. But the cultivation his parents did and taught was not for commercial purpose but a subsistence one for the survival of the family. Agriculture was and still is not a profitable venture but is practiced under compulsion. This is mainly in the absence of commercialization and industrialization of agriculture. Although farm communities feed the society and the country, they are hardly praised and appreciated. As the famous saying goes: ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ most young people opt for other vocations even when they are born in a peasant family and possess inborn skill in farming. Poudel, too, had never imagined of starting a dairy farm but always dreamt of being a doctor, an engineer or a pilot during his school days. However, destiny ultimately brought him where he is now—back to his family vocation. But Poudel has started the vocation not in traditional fashion, as his parents did, but in a commercial manner. "I am a son of farmer and I love farming," Poudel said.

Perhaps recognizing his noble initiative, the LAP was honoured with ‘Best National Entrepreneurship Award’ on the occasion of the United Nations World Food Day. Encouraged by the recognition by individuals, organizations and the government, Poudel is working out to expand it to other parts of the country. What Poudel has started is definitely a wonderful venture which may be followed by people nationwide and make the country self-reliant in agro-products in general and dairy products in particular. At a time when the country is facing acute shortage of food, hunger and malnutrition, such an initiative would definitely make a positive impact on Nepal’s bid for self-reliance and agricultural development for which people like Sashi Poudel are role models, undeniably.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wen’s visit cancellation: Nepal’s diplomatic debacle

Yuba Nath Lamsal

In the world of diplomacy, maturity, etiquette and sensitivity play vital role. The conduct of diplomacy is a delicate matter that needs high degree of sophistication and maturity. Diplomacy is not politics but an art of articulation and negotiation which requires high degree of sensitivity, maturity and sophistication. In other words, diplomacy is a battle to be fought without weapons and soldiers but with the art of convincing others. The words, tone and body language have their own meaning and carry especial message in the conduct of diplomacy. Even a slight mistake in the selection of words and use of tone and body language give negative message in diplomacy which would be costly for countries or individuals that are assigned to conduct diplomacy. In the absence maturity and sensitivity, countries and diplomats fail to achieve the goal they seek to achieve. This is what has exactly happened in Nepal in the wake of postponement of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Premier Wen was supposed to pay a state visit to Nepal from December 20 to December 22, 2011. However, the visit was abruptly postponed barely a week prior to Wen was to touch down the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport. For practical purpose, the visit was virtually cancelled and Chinese Premier is less likely to come to Nepal in near future possibly as long as the current coalition government remains in office.

In public, the Chinese side has attributed the postponement of the visit to China’s own internal situation. But the cancellation of the visit is entirely due to Nepal’s diplomatic childishness. Nepal is definitely capable of providing foolproof security to foreign dignitaries which it had done during the visit of many high-level foreign guests. Many top level foreign dignitaries like presidents and prime ministers of several important countries including China and India in which Nepali security agencies in which there was no lapse of security arrangement. Nepali security agencies are professionally par excellence and are fully capable of providing all kinds of security for high-level dignitaries. Despite this, China was not assured of foolproof security during Wen’s visit. This is not because of capability of the security agencies but because of irresponsible and undiplomatic behavior of some politicians and people in power. There were series of cases and events that have made China susceptible which ultimately led to cancellation of such a highly important visit. Firstly, it was high degree of diplomatic immaturity, on the part of the Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai himself and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha. Dr Bhattarai announced Wen’s visit when the two countries were still working out the details and dates of the visit. It is the long-held tradition to announce the high-level visits by both the countries simultaneously only after the details including the itinerary and dates are finalized. But Prime Minister Dr Bhattarai seemed to be unaware of the basic minimum principle of diplomacy but announced casually the dates when the nitty-gritty of the visits was still being discussed. This was also not appropriate from security point of view as well. Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who also holds the portfolio of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was hastened to announce the Chinese aid package that Nepal and China were supposed to sign during Wen’s visit even before they had been finalized. Deputy Prime Minister Shrestha who was in Beijing for a discussion with Chinese officials to work out Wen’s visit and agreements to be signed between the two countries disclosed everything in Hong Kong in an interview to a Nepali daily before he arrived Nepal. This was high degree of diplomatic immaturity on the part of the senior member of the cabinet that too holding the portfolio of foreign ministry.

So far as Chinese assistance to Nepal is concerned, China is very liberal and generous to assist Nepal’s development endeavors. This is mainly because of Beijing’s good neighbourhood policy to assist immediate neighbours at the optimum level and also the especial priority Beijing has attached to relations with Nepal. Nepal is a country China has attached greater importance which would have been reflected in the aid package that was likely to be signed during Premier Wen’s visit. By forcing Beijing to cancel the visit, Nepal has lost an opportunity to win China’s trust and benefit from its generosity.

China’s principal concern in China is Tibet and Beijing wants strong assurance from Nepal government that no activities are permitted in Nepal that is likely to harm China’s interest and more particularly Tibet’s security. However, activities and attitude of some senior ministers gave Beijing the impression that Nepal has paid only lip service to China’s core concern and sensitivity. China was not even assured of Nepal’s government’s capability of ensuring foolproof security during Wen’s visit let alone China’s own security.

Some external forces were not happy with Premier Wen’s proposed visit and they were all out to sabotage the trip. Even some cabinet ministers and their parties became part to the design to sabotage Wen’s trip to Nepal. Nepal’s southern neighbour—India—perceives China as its security threat and considers Nepal as its domain of influence. India is in the wrong perception that China’s presence and role in Nepal would reduce India’s influence and domination. This is New Delhi’s flawed and false notion. In fact, Nepal is an independent country and not a domain of influence of any other country. Also China is not security threat to any other country in the world, which Beijing has time and again made public. China has not appetite for other’s territories and also does not want to get involved in other’s internal matters. So far as Nepal is concerned, China always wants good and friendly relations with Nepal and suggests Nepal to have similar relations with all other countries including India. What New Delhi thinks about Nepal’s relations and cooperation with China is the reflection of its inferiority complex in the international diplomacy.

But New Delhi takes China as its competitor in regional affairs. In fact, China is not India’s competitor. If China is, at all, competitor, it is with the United States not others. China is not competitor but contributor to development in South Asia. But India thinks otherwise and suspect China in everything including its relations with Nepal. New Delhi, thus, acted in collusion with some western powers to sabotage Wen’s visit in which some constituent s of the present Bhattarai-led coalition government became party to this sinister design. Although Prime Minister Bhattarai may have certain India-tilt because of his long stay in New Delhi in course of his pursuing higher education, his intention should not be questioned. He was enthusiastically waiting for the opportunity to receive the Chinese Premier. He wanted the Chinese Premier to visit Nepal at the earliest to dispel the misconception about his India-tilt and maintain perfect balance between China and India. But coalition partners of his own cabinet and ministers became party to the design which led to cancellation of Wen’s visit to Nepal.

His coalition partners mainly the Madhesi parties appeared less comfortable with the Chinese Premier’s visit to Nepal because of their attitude to please their New Delhi’s masters. Soon after the dates for the Chinese Premier were announced, although unilaterally by the Nepalese side, and Wen’s visit was almost confirmed, some ministers belonging to Madhesi parties publicly threatened to pull out from the coalition government. When the fate of the Prime Minister Dr Bhattarai was uncertain, it was natural for Beijing to rethink about the visit. The threat of withdrawing from the government was motivated by the design to sabotage Premier Wen’s visit at the behest of New Delhi.

India does not want friendly relations between Nepal and China. China’s presence and role in Nepal would definitely reduce India’s highhanded role and interference in Nepal. At any cost, New Delhi wanted to ensure that Wen’s visit may not take place at the present situation of Nepal, for which India used Madhesi parties. It is not long ago that Maoist chairman, when he was Prime Minister, had to face accusation from New Delhi and their henchmen in Nepal of playing China card. The accusation came from New Delhi when Prachanda went to Beijing to attend the inauguration ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games as his first leg of foreign trip, which annoyed New Delhi. India wants any new Nepal’s Prime Minister to make a pilgrimage to New Delhi before embarking on any foreign trip. But Prachanda tried to break the previous tradition and chose to go to China on his first foreign trip after he became the Prime Minister. This created friction between Prachanda and New Delhi that ultimately compelled Prachanda to quit from premiership in an India-engineered Katwal issue. Katwal issue was just a pretext but it was the struggle between New Delhi’s design to keep Nepal under its domain of influence and Maoist bid to come out of Indian domination.

One accepts it or not, the present government is responsible for the cancellation of Chinese Premier Wen’s visit. It is an unfortunate incident for Nepal because there was a comprehensive package of aid that Beijing was to announce during Wen’s visit. China has stated that the visit had to be postponed because of China’s internal situation. But this is just China’s diplomatic overture not to embarrass Nepal. China has the tradition of making the annual calendar of activities of its top level dignitaries like the President and Prime Minister. The visit of high level personality is cancelled only when there is a state of emergency, big natural calamity and political upheaval. No such situation exists in China and everything is going on smoothly. Thus, the visit was cancelled not because of China’s internal circumstances but because of Nepal’s own insensitivity and lack of diplomatic maturity.

The cancellation of Chinese Premier’s visit is a big diplomatic debacle of Nepal and will have a far reaching repercussion in Nepal’s diplomatic image and credibility in the international arena. China is a great friend of Nepal and friend in need. One accepts it or not, we are losing our credibility in the international arena due to such acts of diplomatic immaturity and tendency of some parties and politicians to work at others’ behest instead of working independently for the greater interest of the Nepal and the Nepalese people.

Class interests keep politics hostage

Yuba Nath Lamsal

The political process began five years ago with the objective of establishing durable peace in the country. The process is progressing but at a snail’s pace. The 12-point agreement between the insurgent Maoists and the alliance of the seven parliamentary parties was the basis for the joint struggle against the monarchy. The united front of the Maoists and the seven-party alliance spearheaded the 2006 movement, Jana Andolan II, which was able to reinstate the dissolved parliament and form a government comprising democratic and progressive forces.

The immediate objective of 12-point agreement was achieved with the restoration of the parliament and formation of a multi-party government.

But the long-term goal of the 12-point government was to establish sustainable peace in the country by ending the decade-long insurgency. The goal of the Maoists and their people’s war was to establish a ‘people’s republican democracy’ with power in the hands of the proletariat.

Given the power equation and objective situation of the country, the Maoists calculated that total victory was not possible, and they thought of attacking one principal enemy with tactical collaboration with the lesser harmful enemies. Feudalism and its patron monarchy were what the Maoists saw as the principal enemy. In the famous Chunbang (Rolpa) meeting, the Maoist changed tactics to achieve their strategy of establishing ‘people’s republican democracy’ for which they decided to collaborate with the parliamentary parties.

The 12-point agreement had three principal agendas, which included election to a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution, abolition of the monarchy and establishment of multi-party democracy. The Constituent Assembly election and republican set up were Maoist agendas whereas the multi-party system was the agenda of the Nepali Congress. In other words, the 12-point agreement was a ‘give and take’ compromise mainly between the Maoists and the Nepali Congress while the other parties had no choice but to rally behind these two principal political forces of the country.

The 12-point agreement was further developed and concretised in the form of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which outlined the details of the activities and their timeline to conclude the already initiated political process.

The hitch and hiccups surfaced immediately after the first agenda of the 12-point agreement was accomplished, i.e., reinstatement of the parliament. Once it was reinstated and an all-party government formed, headed by Congress leader late GP Koirala, the seven parliamentary parties seemed a little bit reluctant to pursue the other two agendas and speed up the already started political and peace process.

This was because the Nepali Congress and other parliamentary parties thought that their agenda was accomplished and dubbed the republican set up and CA election as Maoist agenda.

The Nepali Congress had always believed that constitutional monarchy and multi-party system were the two fundamental pillars of democracy in Nepal. The Congress was not much enthusiastic about the abolition of the monarchy. But the Congress agreed to the republican set up under pressure from the Maoists. Other parliamentary parties, too, shared the views of the Congress. The CPN-UML was once a republican party, but it changed its stance in 1990 and accepted constitutional monarchy.

Although they do not accept this in public, all parliamentary parties including the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML did not want the abolition of the monarchy in the beginning. But time had changed, and so had the people’s thinking and demand. The very agenda of Jana Andolan II was the abolition of the monarchy, for which the people overwhelmingly went to the streets. Despite a slight hitch and delay, the republican set up was finally implemented, but it was left to be decided by the Constituent Assembly. This shows the parties’ hesitation to implement the republican agenda. Had the Maoists not emerged as the largest force in the Constituent Assembly, this agenda might not have been implemented.

The election to the Constituent Assembly was the third agenda of the parties that was agreed upon both in the 12-point agreement as well as in the CPA. There were hitches in the implementation of this agenda as well. As a result, the date of the Constituent Assembly election was rescheduled thrice. The Nepali Congress was behind the first postponement of the CA election while the Maoists were responsible for the second deferral.

The CA election was postponed twice because the parties did not find the situation favourable for them. Despite the delay, the election was finally held, in which the Maoists emerged as the single largest force while the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML trailed a distant second and third respectively. The election results came as a shock to all the parties and more to the Congress and the CPN-UML.

Even the Maoists had not expected such favourable results. The election result showed overwhelming popular support for the agenda of the Jana Andolan II, especially for the republican set up.

The republican agenda was finally implemented by the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. But the very purpose for which the CA election was held has not been achieved even in more than four years. The one and only objective of the Constituent Assembly is to write a new constitution which would institutionalise the agendas and achievements of Jana Andolan II. But the parties are at loggerheads, delaying the constitution-writing process.

The delay in writing the constitution is not a mere coincidence, but a deliberate attempt of the parties. Different parties have different views on different issues, and they are not in any mood to make compromises on certain issues. In the first place, the parties are less likely to give the country a new constitution in the next five months because they are not willing to accept any provision that may be contradictory to their basic political and ideological principles. Even if the parties arrive at a certain compromise and conclusion, which is very unlikely, it is even more unlikely that all the people would accept it.

The ethnic communities have their own agenda - that of ethnicity-based federal states. The Madhesis are demanding a single Madhes state with the guarantee of the right to self-determination. Brahmins, Kshetris and dalits, who together constitute 43 per cent of Nepal’s population (Brahmins 13 %, Kshetris 17 % and dalits 13%), are against ethnicity-based federal states. The Maithili speaking population is pushing for a separate Mithila state on the basis of language basis.

The parties are aware of this situation and want to avoid public resentment. They also know that the constitution is not likely to guarantee the agendas of all the parties. Thus they are more likely to shelve the constitution-writing process even further.

They have already opened up the Pandora’s Box in the name of federalism. Now it has become difficult for the parties to manage this issue. They did not visualise this situation in the beginning and promised everything to everyone. The parties have aroused the people’s expectations high, but these aspirations can in no way be met.

The constitution is not a solution to all the problems but a codified document of the basic principles for governance. Thus, the constitution is not likely to address the concerns of all the people, which may create further tension in the future. The parties, thus, want to prolong the transition.

The other fundamental factor behind this hitch is the class interest of the parties and politicians. In Nepal, many changes have taken place since the Himalayan Republic became a nation state. Some changes are big and epoch-making while many are minor and cosmetic. All changes have had their own impact and consequences in Nepal’s political and other spheres. But one thing is true that despite the changes, the behaviour and style of those in power have never changed.

In all the regimes and systems, only one class of people remained in power, namely, the Brahmins and Kshetris. All these rulers belong to the same class and have similar political and cultural orientation, although they have association with different political groups and pursue different ideologies. This is one but the most important factor that has had a great impact on Nepal’s politics.

Despite some systemic changes, there has not been real change in the life of the people. The ongoing political process, too, is not likely to break the monopoly of a particular class on political power. Unless power is shifted from the hands of the feudal and petty bourgeoisies to the people, Nepal’s problem cannot be resolved and conflict is likely to afflict the society.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nepal IN US South Asia Policy

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Recently, Ambassador Scott H DeLisi of the United States of America made some revealing remarks on Washington’s Nepal policy. In an interview to a Nepali national daily, Ambassador DeLisi said that the United States looks at Nepal as an independent member of the South Asian region and treats accordingly. According to DeLisi, despite Nepal being surrounded by two giants—China and India, it should adopt foreign policy taking into account the fact that the world is bigger than China and India.

There are mainly two messages in Ambassador DeLisi’s note. The first message is that Washington Nepal’s policy and priority remain unchanged despite its change of priority in South Asia. Secondly, it wants Nepal to come out of the tradition of India or China centric foreign policy but conduct its international relations in a broader and global perspective.

Any comments and remarks made by ambassadors of international powers like the United States has its impact and Ambassador DeLisi’s remarks have definitely sent ripples in the diplomatic circle in Kathmandu as well as in the region. His remarks came at a time when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Nepal had been planned and Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, too, is supposed to visit to Nepal in near future. Thus these remarks have special significance and meaning especially at time when big powers are making newer adjustments and alignment in the world including South Asia. As the only superpower, the United States, too, is reshaping and readjusting its foreign policy and international relations to cope with the newer challenges that have come up in the post Cold War era. Its direct has been more visible in South Asia than in other parts of the world.

As a part of readjusting its foreign policy and strategic priorities as a whole, some changes are seen in US South Asia policy. The change in US South Asia policy and priorities has made Nepal’s foreign policy interlocutors and analysts a little bit apprehensive. Nepalis are worried because the overall change in South Asia policy would also bring about change in the US Nepal policy. There is a valid ground in the anxiety of the Nepalese foreign policy pundits because Nepal is a part of South Asian region and if the US South Asia policy changes, it will definitely have impact on Nepal-US relations. However, Ambassador DeLisi’s views have come as an assurance that there would be no change in US Nepal policy. This is a matter of big solace for Nepal.

With the end of the Cold War, the international balance of power has changed. This is more visible in South Asia. The nemeses of the Cold War era have become allies whereas trusted allies of the past have turned into foes. Take example of relationship between China and Russia and between India and the United States. During the Cold War era, China and Russia had bitter relations. With the advancement of Soviet Union in East and South Asia, China perceived greater threat from Moscow than any other countries, which compelled the United States and China to cooperate on issues pertaining to international security, economic sectors and trade. The United States needed China’s cooperation to tame the rising Soviet influence and aggressiveness in the world especially in Asia. Beijing, too, felt necessity of US role in Asia to keep Soviets at bay.

Pakistan, a common friend of both the United States and China in Asia, played the intermediary role to bring China and the United States closer. It was Pakistan’s role that facilitated the historic visit of US president Richard Nixon and meeting with Mao Zedong. The role Pakistan played was highly valued by Washington and Beijing and their relations with Pakistan remained excellent throughout the Cold War. The cooperation between Washington and Beijing paid well, the benefit of which both the countries are reaping.

International situation suddenly changed soon after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and collapse of Soviet Union. The changed international situation also brought about change in the US policy in South Asia. After the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Washington thought that its mission in South Asia was over and reduced its presence and engagement in South Asia. Until 1989 when Soviet troops were present in Afghanistan, the United States and Pakistan had excellent relations and they perfectly cooperated with one another. Washington and Islamabad were allies and had been strategic partners. Similarly, India and Soviet Union had signed strategic and military agreements and they also shared similar views on certain international issues and cooperate done another. However, it suddenly changed after the collapse of Soviet Union that also marked the end of the Cold War.

With Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, America, too, drastically reduced its engagement in South Asia which created a power vacuum in Afghanistan. Out of this power vacuum, fundamentalist Taliban dramatically emerged that ultimately captured power and imposed an Islamic theocratic regime, undercutting democratic values and human rights. The rise of Taliban also gave rise to newer kind of problems in South Asia that posed greater challenge and threat to international security. Taliban regime in Kabul not only terrorized their own people but also provided safe haven to terrorist network— Al Queda which used Afghanistan as a birthing center of terrorists and launching pad for terrorist attacks in the United States and other Western countries. This is partly making of the United States. Had the United States continued its strong presence in South Asia, the situation in Afghanistan would not have been as bad and chaotic as it is today.

Rise of Taliban in Afghanistan is, thus, attributed to the reduced US presence in the region. This is a failure of US South Asia policy, the price of which the United States and the world are paying in Afghanistan at present. The US role is as desirable today as it was in 70s and 80s decade. Now the US priority in South Asia has shifted from strategic interest to economic interest. Economic interest is to do more with the market than with the strategic value. India’s huge market and its economic potentials lured the United States and brought New Delhi and Washington closer. The economic relations brought these two countries so close that they have ultimately become strategic partner, which made Pakistan a little bit scary and started distancing itself from Washington. This US policy change has already created friction in the relations between the United States and Pakistan which are more visible in recent months.

With the United States slowly leaning towards India, analysts had even suspected that Washington may look at other South Asian countries through the prism of New Delhi. However, Ambassador DeLisi’s remarks have at least cleared this doubt as far as Nepal is concerned. As a country between Asia’s two rising powers, Nepal’s strategic value has not diminished but further grown, which Washington has clearly understood. China and India had definitely rivalry and animosity in the past. They once fought war over border dispute. But that is history now. Although the border dispute is yet to be resolved, India and Pakistan have kept the dispute aside and focused on other areas of mutual benefit and cooperation. Beijing and New Delhi are cooperating more than competing in recent years. They share similar views and values on many international forum and issues. Their volume of bilateral trade is growing fast. As a result, Nepal is being developed as an important bridge between China and India, which has boosted Nepal’s strategic value more than ever before.

So far as US Nepal policy is concerned, Washington has some principal policy objectives in Nepal, which include Nepal’s independence and territorial integrity; peace and stability, democracy, poverty alleviation and religious freedom. Survival is the principal strategy of Nepal, which is the basis of foreign policy of Nepal throughout its history, which the concern of the United States, too. The United States wants Nepal to always remain independent, sovereign, peaceful, prosperous and democratic. Nepal and Nepali people, too, see the United States as an international power that would come to its rescue if its sovereignty and territorial integrity come under threat.

The United States has its stake in the world including South Asia. It has both strategic and economic interests. There is growing feeling in South Asian in recent years that economic interest might have replaced the strategic interest in South Asia. If this is at all true, it would be a yet another big mistake on the part of the United States. The economic interest would give more focus on big countries with big market. This would give rise to threat to smaller countries in South Asia. For a world power like the United States, it would be a mistake to look at South Asia only from the perspective of economic interests. South Asia needs political stability, peace and security guarantee for which Washington’s role could be instrumental. Against this background, the Ambassador DeLisi’s remarks have assured South Asian countries including Nepal that the United States has not deviated from its earlier independent policy with individual South Asian countries including Nepal and would continue to play its meaningful role for peace, security and stability of the region.