Saturday, January 15, 2011
India's foreign policy in general and South Asia policy in particular is based on Kautilya's theory. Kautilya's treatise of diplomacy and war emphasizes on acquiring influence by use of force—both soft and hard power. Kautilya's so-called Mandala theory of foreign policy states: 'the immediate neighbours are considered as enemies, but any state on the other side of a neighboring state is regarded as an ally, or, the enemy of my enemy is my friend'.
Kautilya believed that diplomacy was just another weapon used in the prolonged warfare that was always either occurring or being planned for, which the modern India has followed in letter and spirit when it comes to the relationship with its neighbours. Some foreign policy critics have gone one step ahead to term India's neighbourhood policy as being guided by colonial mentality. The 'use of force', 'divide and rule' policy and the 'doctrine of laps' that British rulers had applied to take control over South Asia are also the bases of modern and independent India's foreign policy especially with its smaller and weaker neighbours.
Indian policy with its small neighbours has always been hawkish and hegemonic. As a result, India's relationship with all neighbours is characterized by suspicion and fear. Indian policy is more hawkish and hegemonic after the end of the cold war. During the cold war, there was a balance of power in South Asia as the United States had allied with Pakistan, which had helped in keeping tab on Indian's hegemonic design. The end of the Cold War saw a marked shift in America's South Asia policy. The United States guided by economic interests and objective of containing China tilted its policy towards India. America started looking at things in South Asia through Indian eyes. India has taken the American policy shift as an endorsement of its hegemonic policy in South Asia, which has made New Delhi more hawkish whereas small South Asian countries have felt vulnerable from security point of view. Encouraged by US alliance, New Delhi has adopted the modus operandi against smaller and weaker neighbours in exactly the identical way the United States did on Afghanistan and Iraq prior to attack on these countries.
New Delhi fought wars with China and Pakistan. China is, too, powerful, for India to meddle in. It has been effortful in destabilizing and weakening Pakistan so that India would be the only power in South Asia. India and Pakistan are virtually on red alert. Bangladesh was created out of Pakistan with support from India. But India and Bangladesh, too, are not in friendly terms and there are many issues that have strained the relations of these two nations. Sri Lanka is also not happy with India as its long ethnic conflict that virtually devastated the island nation had link with Indian conspiracy.
Nepal is the worst victim of New Delhi's hegemonic and expansionist policy. India's long-held design is to bring Nepal under its security ambit. New Delhi's long-term security goal is to bring Nepal and Bhutan under its control, which was clearly spelled out in India's security and foreign policy. According to India's foreign policy and security doctrine prepared soon after independence in 1947, New Delhi planned to bring Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim into Indian union by 2015. It succeeded to invade and annex Sikkim in 1975 through a well orchestrated political drama. New Delhi has also controlled Bhutan's security and foreign policy virtually rendering the Himalayan kingdom into India's protectorate. Nepal is the India's next target. India is trying to bring Nepal under its security and political ambit through coercive method and conspiracy. The present meddling in Nepal's affairs is a glaring instance of India's strategy.
South Asia is the priority zone of India's foreign policy in which Nepal is on the top bill. In Nepal, India's three strategies are at work simultaneously. The first is the Fiji process under which India is heavily encouraging Indian nationals to settle in Nepal and seek Nepali citizenship as early as possible so that within a few years people of Indian origin would outnumber the original Nepali people. This process is concentrated more in Terai. The second strategy is the process of Bhutanization through which India wants to control Nepal's security and foreign policy. For this, India has exerted pressure and used various tactics to make Nepal accept India's suzerainty. The third strategy is to annex Nepal by trick or force as it did in Sikkim in 1975.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Hawaii: A piece of paradise. The Aloha land where spring never ends. These are a few beautiful descriptions I had ever read and heard about Hawaii.
This made me really tempted to see and visit Hawaii. The dream finally came true last December.
Seeing is beiliving. And seeing Hawaii with own eyes, I felt that appearances are sometimes deceptive. It can be so if you plan to visit Hawaii based on travel brochure. The pictures in the travel brochures usually look more bautiful than reality. However, the case of Hawaii is different. Hawaii, in fact, is prettier than picture.
Situated in the North Pacific 2396 miles south west of San Fransisco, Hawaii is a chain of islands, which makes up 50th state of the United States of America. Honolulu is the state capital and heart of Hawaii.
“Aloha”, says any Hawaian you come across. Aloha is the word to greet in native Hawaian language. Hawaii is, thus, called the “Aloha Land”.
It was late December morning I landed on Honolulu International Airport. I had expected chilly and foggy morning as America is colder in winter. To my astonishment, blue sky and balmy weather welcome the visitors in Honolulu. The warm and sparkling sunshine and gentle breezees helped free me from jet lag that I had suffered from more than 40 hours journey from Kathmandu.
At the airport was my Nepali friend Khem Sharma, who was waiting to give me a ride to the hotel. Sharma works for the state government of Hawaii as a computer consultant. We then headed towards Sheraton Princes Kaiulani.
The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is located at the heart of world’s famous Waikiki beach, that captures the beauty, depth and warmth of Hawaii. The 24 hour pleasant breeze, native bloossoms and swaying palm trees and smiling Hawaian girls with their native Polenesian attire present the true definition of Aloha.
The nights are lively and colourful. Restaurants and bars are always crowded with customers enjoying best Pacific Rim and Japanese cuisine as well as flavours of Hawaii.Young visitors throng discotheques and night clubs to enjoy the fresh and best bounty of the Honolulu.
The jewel-bright Waikiki Beach is too tempting and dazzling with the sunlight bouncing off the sand and blue waters. From young, teenagers to honeymoon makers relax in romance and enjoy the sunbath on the sun-splashed Pacific sand. The daring surfers glide across the high tides and learn the language of waves.
As sun slowly hides into the horizon, darkness dawns. The ambience of Waikiki turns into more lively and colourful. In the afternoon native Hawaian troupe present the Polenesian culture, where singers sing Aloha songs and young ladies with banana leaves wrapped on the waist dance on the beach. Lying on their bathing towels and mats, the spell-bound tourists listen and watch the musical programme. With darkness deepening, police and hookers play hide and seek game on the beach.
Close by is the Diamond Head that promises breathtaking view juxtaposing the horizon. The next was the Polenesian Cultural Centre. Off the mainland of Honolulu, situated the Centre, where you can wine, dine and entertain in a true Polenesian culture. Kabi Neupane, a Nepali working in the University of Hawaii, said, “ you must write it when you go back home as it is the nerve-centre of Hawaian culture”.
Hawaians are proud of their indigenous culture and have kept it alive. “ Our culture has been robbed but we are struggling to keep it intact”, said Pauihi Kenamihaha, a tour guide.
Polenesian created an independent Kingdom as early as 300 AD. The prosporous Kingdom and its balmy climate attracted many immigrants especially from Europe, East Asia and mainland America. Hawaii was declared a republic in 1984. It was annexed to the United States of America in 1898..
Others major attractions are the Hawai Volcanoes, Haleakala National Parks and Honolulu Academy of Arts and Pearl Harbour.
The journey was great and wonderful. Though small in size, Hawaii offeres much to the tourists, whose appetite to sail one island to another chasing dreams of paradise never dies down.
Turin was the last leg of my sojourn in Italy. Turin was a beautiful resort city of Italy surrounded by mountains like Kathmandu and Pokhara. It is an attraction for many tourists from Europe simply because it offers an opportunity to see the Alps in general and Mount Blanc in particular from a close range. The Alps is a great mountain range system of Europe. The word Alps was borrowed from the Latin language, which means 'white and high'. Mount Blanc that stands proudly between France and Italy is the highest peak in the Alps range. We arrived in Turin by a bus from Bologna traversing Italy 's vast landscape mostly the rural areas. The countryside, which we passed en route to Turin was serene and green. Though rural in nature, all urban facilities were available there. The only thing that was missing was the crowd of people and vehicles, smokes, pollution and hectic life. The land was vast and all cultivated. There were patches of houses in between. Every house was connected with a blacktopped road, telephone lines, electricity and other facilities. There were schools, hospitals and community centers. Even a single house in an isolated mountain slope has access to all facilities.The development activities we observed thus make us realise that the leaders of western countries keep the promises they once make with the people. Unlike in the Third World countries, the governments there serve the people instead of ruling them. "We have paid tax for this and the government must do it,"said an Italian colleague who was sitting next to me.A picture of my countryside suddenly flashed into my mind. There is no road, no electricity, no telephone and hospital. People have to walk hours to make a telephone call. Many people die due to lack of health care facilities. Even if there is a road linking villages, it is never blacktopped. Opportunities are scarce in the rural areas and people migrate to urban centers for employment and other opportunities. With little income, they can hardly afford for decent living in the cities. As a result, they live in slums and sub-human condition. There is no comparison at all between Nepal's village and that of Italy. The rural people in Nepal are a neglected lot denied of modern facilities. It looks as though the modern facilities are the exclusive right of the urban elite.Turin is beautiful town like Kathmandu valley surrounded by hills. People are co-operative. It is often called the city of slow food. Most people here respect food and give more importance to food. They oppose the fast food culture unlike in other western countries.Giovani, a doctor by profession, said, "Food is life and we must give time and patience to prepare food and eat?. "The fast food culture has not only harmed our health but is also slowly destroying our culture and tradition."To some extent, his views are acceptable and appreciable. Food is a part of culture and civilisation. Once it is done away with, it would slowly lead the culture to extinction. Europeans are now realising it and a new renaissance has emerged for the revival of tradition, culture and way of life. They are reviving and protecting their traditional food habit.They have felt that the growing MCDonaldisation is posing a threat to food culture throughout the world. Perhaps the same notion and concept might have inspired Professor Caro Patrini of Italy to initiate the global Slow Food movement to preserve and promote traditional food, food culture and bio-diversity.Most of the participants from across the world wanted to see the mountains. But my interest was more to see the city and find out human behaviour in Turin. With me were Cheng from Singapore and John from Mozabique. Cheng, though a journalist by profession, also wanted to explore some business possibilities. Cheng always called me Mr Nepal instead of calling me by my name. Cheng once asked me about the prospect of bird farming in Nepal.John was a jolly and carefree man. They were friendlier with me than other people. John once said, "Mr Lamsal, let us go out this evening and screw up some hookers in Turin."I was little taken aback by his words. But I did not react.But he kept on coaxing me to go with him. Finally, I had to politely and indirectly refuse. Sitting in the lobby close to the front desk of the Hotel Italia, John went closer to a lady in the front desk who was in her early twenties and said, "If you do not take it offended I would like to ask one thing.?"Sure?, the lady said."Can we find some girls to spend a night?"John asked.I was little frightened with John's question. I thought she would get angry or react in unfriendly manner. But she took it so coolly and answered every thing without hesitation."It is possible.?"Can I bring her to hotel room??"You can but you have to pay 50 dollars additional room charge and deposit her ID with us.?"What about the charge for the girl??"You can deal with her?."Normally, how much do they charge for one night??"For the whole night, I think, they charge about 100 to 150 dollars. But I am not sure as I do not deal with these stuffs.?"Who does that??"The other colleague knows well and he will be on duty in a couple of hours.?I was feeling a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable with their conversation. But for John and the lady, it was normal. Later I asked John why he was so crazy for girls. He simply said it was normal in their culture."Look I have ten girl friends back home and also a wife and so what if I spend a night with a girl here,"he said.I was at all uninterested in this stuff not because I feared God or disease but the cost involved. For a Nepali, saving each dollar was also a part of the purpose of the trip. Spending 150 dollars would be a lot for me, which I could not afford. So I was totally not interested with this idea. But I do not know if John had gone further as I moved out of hotel the same evening.
Time travels faster than anything. Even after almost half a decade, the trip to historic Italian town of Bologna keeps on coming to my memory. It was a great moment for me as the trip offered me an opportunity to see a classic town of Italy?a cradle of European civilisation. For a Nepali travelling abroad is a rare chance and gifted opportunity. An average Nepali with meagre income can hardly afford to travel abroad. It must be a sponsored trip. But I am an exception when it comes to travelling. I am not fond of travelling for long. A week is enough. After a week, I start getting homesick. But I was excited during my trip to Bologna, a city where famous European University?Bologna University?is located. Turin (Italian call it Torino) is a resort town and major attraction for the European tourists. I was invited by Slow Food International, a movement aiming to revive the traditional food culture and conserve environment in its natural form. The world conference the Slow Food convenes in every two year in which five people across the world are awarded with 20,000 euros each for the recognition of their best contribution for the conservation of bio-diversity, food culture and traditional agriculture production. I was a member of the jury to select the winners of the award. Every thing was planned. Tickets had been purchased by the organizer and sent to me and hotel booked. What I had to do was just to pack and move.The route was Kathmandu-Mumbai by Royal Nepal Airlines (now renamed Nepal Airlines) and Mumbai-Milan-Bologna by Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier. The journey began with excitement but it soon metamorphosed into ordeal right from I entered the Tribuvan International Airport. Mine was a connecting flight? from Mumbai to Milan to Bologna. I had three hours transit in Mumbai. However, the flight to Mumbai got delayed by two hours. It was a shock to as I began to worry that I might miss the plane in Mumbai. The delay in Kathmandu could disturb my entire schedule. I was left with no alternative but proceed with what was available. So I lined up for check in. In the counter was a lady who flashed a professional smile. I told her to tag my baggage directly to Bologna. But the woman paid no heed and tagged my baggage to Mumbai only. The sheer nonsense and irresponsible behavour of the RA staff caused an added trouble to me in Mumbai. As I reached Mumbai, passengers had already started boarding the flight to Milan. Only 15 minutes were left. I thought I missed the baggage and I would never get them as they were tagged to Mumbai and I would be in Italy. However, the Alitalia staff were so cooperative that they could somehow manage to get the baggage transferred. I must appreciate Alitalia and Mumbai airport officials for this prompt cooperation, which I could have hardly got in Kathmandu Airport. The Alitalia aircraft was a huge jumbo jet. Most passengers were white Europeans. A few were Indians and I was the only Nepali. For the first time, when I arrived at the Milan (Italians say Milano) Airport, I came to know that English is not the global language with which you communicate freely with everyone. In the huge Alitalia jetliner everybody was speaking Italian. Next to me was an Italian lady, who was returning home, Rome, from a weeklong India trip. I asked if she could speak English. "A little,"she said. According to her, Italians do not speak English and some do not understand at all. Instead of English, Spanish and French would do better in Italy. When I landed in the Milan airport, I realised the lady was very true to say so. When I asked some about the way to transit lounge in English, he replied, "I don't speak English."Perhaps he had a dynastic enmity with the English language. Then I encountered with another embarrassment in the immigration counter. Looking at my face and passport minutely, an official asked if I had sufficient money to live in Italy for a month. I said I was on sponsored trip to attend an international conference and all my expenses were borne by the organisers. I looked for the letter of invitation, which elaborated every thing. Unfortunately, I could not produce it as I had missed it somewhere. The official got more suspicious and asked to show the money sufficient for one-month stay in Italy. I handed over the money?2000 US dollars I was carrying? to him, which he counted one by one. Only then I was allowed to get through the counter. I felt humiliated but went ahead with as I had a little time to spare to catch the connecting flight to Bologna. The next ordeal began in Bologna Airport. My baggage did not arrive. I waited in the belt until every one in my flight went away. Every thing was in the baggage. If luggage was lost, I would not have clothes to change and the one I was wearing had already been dirty during 48-hour plus flight. I went to the Alitalia office and lodged the complaint with details of my baggage. They assured that they would trace the baggage and deliver it to my hotel. These formalities consumed more than two hours.It was Sunday, an off day. As I did not come out for long, the organisers, who had come to the airport to receive me had already gone thinking that I missed the flight. The only alternative I was left with was to take a cab to reach The University Hotel. Cabbies spoke in Italian but he immediately knew that I was not an Italian and I did not speak Italian. He started speaking in broken English. "Where?"he asked. "Hotel University?, I replied. "Ok, ok,"he said nodding and started rolling with the cab.Upon reaching the hotel, I asked the driver to take US dollar but he refused. " No dollar in Italy, only lire,"he said.He demanded lire 30,000. Euro had not been introduced till then. "I have no lire,"I said.He gestured me to go inside the hotel and change lire and I followed his instruction obediently like a schoolboy does. It was 15 dollars. The hotel was nice?an old fashioned building. I was satisfied with the facilities available in the hotel. But I was greatly worried about my language. I was tired and slept. I was awakened by the buzz of telephone. It was the receptionist informing me about the arrival of the luggage. "Mr. Lamsal, your baggage has arrived but it is in the customs office in the airport due to some legal complications and you yourself have to go to the airport to collect it?. I have been harassed one after another. At times, I thought I made a mistake to accept the invitation to visit Italy. But I thought I had to overcome the hurdles with courage and wit. I went to the airport to collect the baggage. Upon arrival at the customs office in the airport, I was informed that I was carrying illegal stuff because of which the baggage could not be released. It was a Khukuri (a traditional knife) I had bought in Kathmandu to give to a friend as a gift. In fact, a friend of mine had asked me to bring the Gurkha Khukuri. The customs officials confiscated the Khukuri and handed over the baggage to me. I heaved a great sigh of relief and set out for the hotel.
It was a fascination and thrilling to land on the ancient city of learning. It is Bologna, where I would stay for a week. Despite the bitter experience in Milan, Bologna gave me a different impression—love and hospitality.Bologna is famous as a cultural town not only in Italy but also across Europe. Bolognese are proud of their cultural essence and superiority?a rare asset. It is the center of learning during the Ottoman and Roman Empires and later the land of cultural renaissance in Europe. The Bologna University is one of oldest not only in Europe but also in the world.I arrived at Bologna with a preconceived notion that all Italians are rude and rough especially with the people from Asia and Africa. The humiliating incident in the Milan airport was always haunting me. But Bolognaise people were different from the rest of the Italians. They were simple and wonderful, less commercial and more hospitable. A small but fabulous city, Bologna welcomes visitors with humility. Unlike other big European cities like London, Berlin, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome and Milan, Bologna offers something especial to visitors. It has the least crimes and perfect security.The customs officials had told me earlier that no fatal weapons were allowed to take in by the foreigners without permission from police. They had confiscated my classic khukuri at the airport. "This is the way to keep the city safe,"said a police officer justifying confiscation of khukuri. "It is not the confiscation but keeping it safe and you can take it with you back while returning home,"the official had said.The incident in the airport had made me suspicious about the Italian people. It didn't take long time to dispel this impression left in my mind. Even when I took a cab at the airport for the hotel, I was suspicious. Even in the taxi, I constantly watched the driver if he would try to do any mischief. But he took me to the hotel safe.After a brief sleep and relax in the hotel, I decided to go round the city and have a look at city landscape. In the reception there was a Morocco-born young gentleman who spoke English fluently with Italian accent."Bon shera"he greeted me in Italian. (Bon shera in Italy stands for good afternoon in English)As I didn't understand Italian, I didn't reply, which he could easily guess and started communicating in English. "What can I do for you, gentleman?"he asked when I was looking at him curiously.In fact, I wanted to ask geography, roads and traffic system of the city so that it would make my attempt to explore the city easier. Prior to this, I wanted to make a call back home and inform that I reached the destination safe. "I want to call back home and then I want to explore the city.?I could make a call from the hotel room. But calling from the hotel is terribly expensive. The costs of international calls, laundry and hard drinks would go to my personal bill as the organisers were supposed to pay only for accommodation, food, internal telephone calls and transportation. The man was very honest, who said, "You can call from the hotel but I would suggest to do so from the public booths that is much cheaper,"he said."You go to the tabakari (tobacco shop) just another side of the road and buy a card of ten thousands lire, which is equivalent to five US dollars? I followed his advice. He also gave me a city map, with which I travelled the city. As I was not perfect in map reading, I often got confused with the lanes, roads and blocks. It was again partly because of language barrier.I walked freely and carelessly in the streets and narrow lanes built some 200 years ago. At one point I got lost. I could take a taxi but I didn't want because I wanted to explore more about the city. I asked a couple of people but they didn't understand English. Finally, a young lad helped me. The lad who helped me resembled Indian star batsman Sacchin Tendulkar. The language is a medium for friendship and intimacy. The language barrier creates misunderstanding and suspicion that ultimately leads to animosity and hatred. When asked the young lad about the lane and way to my hotel, he said something in Italian language, which sounded different to me. I thought this guy was a cheat and he wanted to swindle me. I walked away from him but the boy followed me until I reached the lane that goes straight to my hotel. I became more suspicious. At the end, he showed with gesture how to reach the hotel. Now I remembered that he had told me the name of lanes through which I should have followed but I thought otherwise. Later I regretted for suspecting the innocent boy who wanted to help me.The next day was the conference. The venue was close to the hotel?not even five minutes walk. I reached half-an hour earlier so that registration and other formalities would be completed in time. When I introduced myself as a delegate from Nepal, it appeared as if everyone had known me before. The co-ordinator of the event was Barbara Carara with whom I had communicated several times through emails. The other persons, whose names I knew before were Stefano Sardo, Percalo and Nicola Ferraro. Stefano was responsible for the publications and programmes, Percalo for the travel arrangement, Nicola for the finance control. All of them assembled around me as though I were a celebrity.The conference began with hundreds of food producers, writers, researchers, gastronomy experts, scientists, environmentalists and journalists from across the world. There were representatives from almost all countries of the world. The gathering was dubbed as the United Nations of gastronomy.The man behind the movement was Carlo Patrini, a professor and columnist in the Italian magazine on gastronomy. The philosophy behind the Slow Food is to promote sustainable food production and conservation of biodiversity, which our forefathers had always cherished and promoted throughout history.My other job was to vote for the best five people to honour with the Slow Food Award, dedicated to meritorious projects in defense of biodiversity and the world agro-industrial heritage. Each winner received 20,000 euros and the prize was announced and presented in the University of Bologna.The winners of Slow Food Award 2000 were Nancy Jones of Mauritania, Veli G?f Turkey, Jesus Garzeyde of Spain, Maria Mikhailovna Girenko of Russia and Raul Manuel Antonio of Mexico.The next part of the programme was a trip to Bologna's historical and cultural sites and farming community. I was really fascinated to the cultural richness and hospitable people of Bologna. Despite the heavy collateral damage by the bombing during the Second World War, the historical sites and monuments have been renovated exactly in the same manner they had been originally built. The rampant of medieval castles, buildings, cathedrals and fortifications have stood proudly as the witnesses of its rich history and culture, for which the UNESCO has listed Bologna as the city of culture and music. Every square and corner of the city possess statues and murals of ancient rulers, war veterans and great personalities of different occupations that exhibit stunning reminiscence of its glorious history and civilisation.
From global viewpoint, South Asia is seen as a region of perpetual conflict. It is mainly due to tension between India and Pakistan. These nations have already fought three wars and were nearly at war following the attacks in Indian parliament in December 2001. The danger of another war between these two South Asian nuclear powers is always looming large.
Peace still seems a distant possibility in South Asia mainly between India and Pakistan. The appeal for war seems stronger than the appeal for peace in both neighbours leaving the entire South Asian region in vulnerability.
However, situation is changing slowly. These two archrivals are, now, coming closer and engaging themselves in constructive dialogue, which has, in deed, raised a new hope for peace in the region. This is definitely going to be matter of great satisfaction for the citizens of South Asia.
India and Pakistan have started the composite dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues that had remained pending for years. A bilateral meeting at the official level was held on February 16-18 in Islamabad in which both nations finalized the modalities and time frame for further talks. More importantly, they agreed to continue discussion to translate the atmosphere of mistrust into the environment of confidence and cooperation. The environment and mood with which the delegates concluded their meetings have created greater optimism for peace and stability in the region.
Although there is no breakthrough in the talks, meeting in itself has a big and positive message for regional peace as two nations are holding talks first time after seven long year of bitter cold war. Lasting peace is not possible without building trust and confidence between the conflicting parties. New Delhi and Islamabad have well realized it. The Islamabad parley is definitely a resolute beginning in the process of confidence building, cooperation and peace in the nuclear fragile South Asia.
India and Pakistan have many complicated issues waiting to be resolved, which include security, terrorism, drug control and economic cooperation. The central to all problems is the issue of Kashmir, which has been flash point of conflict between these two nations. And without the resolution of Kashmir issue, peace, security and mutual suspicion would hardly erode. Thus, they agreed to talk on Kashmir and arms control with greater priority, for which modalities and time frame have been agreed upon.
Given the complex nature of the relations and issues between these two nations, just one-sitting talks won’t resolve all the pending issues. Several rounds of talks and negotiations at various levels are, of course, necessary to arrive at a concrete and constructive decision and conclusion.
Only five weeks prior to the Islamabad meeting, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Parvez Mushraff, during the 12th SAARC Summit, had made commitment for initiating a composite dialogue between the two nations. The recent talks are the product of the commitment made by these leaders. This shows that both the nations are now flexible, serious and open for ending their long disputes and suspicion to give way to peace, cooperation and mutual trust.
This situation did not evolve all of a sudden. There have been several serious efforts at official and non-governmental levels were made at different times to build confidence among the nations of South Asia in general and India and Pakistan in particular. The role of civil society is more crucial in creating this environment of goodwill and understanding. These efforts have finally paid and the peace process has taken off.
Among such efforts are the initiatives taken by South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) in bringing the two nations closer and creating and environment of dialogue needs to be mentioned here with prominence. SAFMA, a network of the journalists and media people from all South Asian countries, has made a number of initiatives in brining the people of South Asia closer and foster a new vista of cooperation in the region. Besides organizing annual regional conference and national conferences of all countries, it has time and again organized exchanges and meetings of leading personalities of the region. The meeting of parliamentarians from India and Pakistan some months ago was, in deed, a ground work to initiate the dialogue at the popular level and exert pressure from the civil society on both the governments to push ahead the peace process.
The SAARC was created some 17 years ago with a vision to promote greater cooperation among the nations of South Asia. But the SAARC has been a hostage of the conflict and rivalry mainly between India and Pakistan. Lately the SAARC summits have not been held as per scheduled let alone other areas of cooperation.
The region, whish has world’s one-fifth population, languishes in poverty, mistrust, conflict and backwardness. There are about 104 billion absolute poor people in this region alone. Other economic and social indicators are also poor only next to sub-Saharan region.
Against this dismal scenario, SAARC must be strengthened in order to expand areas of cooperation, eradicate poverty and make optimum utlisation of resources and capabilities the region posses for the greater benefit of the people. The 12th SAARC has, in deed, made some important headway towards achieving its goal. The most important achievement is the adoption of the SAARC Social Charter and giving go ahead to the SAFTA.
Principally, all member states are desirous in strengthening SAARC, fostering understanding and good will and expanding cooperation in the region. But these commitments need to be translated into action by each and every nation in letter and spirit. The world is watching South Asia with curiosity. South Asia has immense potentials. But the need of hour is the commitment, cooperation and common approach from all members of the region. Now SAARC has grown from vision to reality. The future of the South Asia lies on the success of SAARC. Given the new developments, the future appears promising. The India-Pakistan détente is a new beginning not only for resolving their own issues but fostering peace and cooperation in the region s a whole. This process needs to keep going.
Politicians, planners, policymakers, development workers and other stakeholders from the South Asian countries are converging in Kathmandu to discuss the progress made on their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and developing a roadmap to eradicate extreme poverty. This regional conclave, being organised by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank, is an opportunity for all the South Asian nations to share their knowledge and experiences on how best to ensure the minimum basic needs of the people. PovertySouth Asia is home to a fifth of the world's human resource - the main driving force of development if properly mobilised. The region has tremendous natural resources - from the mighty Himalaya to the vast expanse of the ocean. The Himalaya and the Hind Kush are the sources of the world's great rivers that have served as the lifeblood to more than a billion people in the region and elsewhere. The world's best fertile land lies in the Gangetic plain. This region has the most pleasant climatic conditions, although they vary depending upon the altitude, which is rare in other parts of the world. South Asia is the cradle of great civilisations. Unlike Europe, this region was never devastated by great wars.Despite these tremendous potentials and resources, South Asia is one of the poorest and most backward regions in the world. South Asia is home to half of the world's poor people. More than half a billion people are absolutely poor, illiterate and have no access to potable water, education and health care. These unfortunate South Asians have been deprived of adequate food, clothes, proper housing facilities and access to economic and social opportunities. They are secluded and alienated from the mainstream of development.In this era of human rights, the deprivation of the basic needs for survival is a denial of one's right to life, which is the most fundamental right of the people. The number of poor in South Asia is growing every year although huge funds are set aside for poverty eradication. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established almost 15 years ago with the objective and vision of tapping all available potentials, expediting cooperation and ridding the region of massive poverty and backwardness. However, things have not changed in the way they should have. We, the people of South Asia, continue to be the poorest of the poor. The reasons are manifold. First, we, South Asians, have not been able to change our mindset. We are entangled with lesser important issues. We are divided bitterly on the grounds of religion, language, caste and creed. This has given rise to distrust, communalism, fundamentalism, which have gobbled up development and sharply divided the societies and people. The entire region has been badly bruised by this menace of communalism and fundamentalism. Development and people's issues have been pushed back. Unless we can change our mindset, we will not make headway in any sector.The region is now plagued by the violent conflict - be it the hinterland of Nepal or in Jammu and Kashmir of India or in Jafna of Sri Lanka. Resources are being diverted for security purposes and dealing with the inter-country or inner country conflicts. When the security budget is increased, the development expenditure automatically goes down, resulting in low level of development. Thus, the condition of the poor and downtrodden people continues to be pathetic and substandard. As the problems of all the South Asian countries are identical, the solution can also be found collectively. We must fight poverty, disease and backwardness through coordination and collaboration. Although faced by numerous problems and resource crunch, South Asian nations have been struggling hard to achieve the minimum human conditions of the people by 2015 as called by the United Nations Millennium Summit. Given the lacklustre performance, none of the South Asian nation would be able to achieve the millennium development goals within the stipulated timeframe. However, sincere efforts are underway, and a new beginning has been made to work together in the front of delivering services to the people and raising their conditions.Some nations have made significant progress in some areas. Sri Lanka is a role model for the success in the literacy drive and education. Nepal's progress on reducing child mortality is encouraging. Bangladesh's rural credit scheme has been a model in the poor Third Word countries for economically empowering the absolute poor people in the rural areas and making them financially self-reliant. Other countries of the region can learn and benefit from India's democratic stability, economic growth and progress in the field of information technology, which can be an important tool in alleviating poverty. Pakistan has had rich experience and achievement in certain areas. Resources are the key to achieving these development goals. But resources alone are not sufficient. Several other factors play a crucial role in accelerating the development process. Development is a process, which cannot be measured in term of mere statistics. Moreover, the statistics are at times not reliable as they are manipulated to suit the interest of the ruling elite.Political commitment, peace, good governance, corruption control, transparency, democratic accountability, clarity in policy and programmes and security are other important requisites, without which the development process cannot be expedited in the desired manner. These elements, unfortunately, hardly exist in the region. As a result, none of the South Asian nations are on the right tract in achieving these goals. So far as Nepal is concerned, it is lagging behind on all social and economic fronts. Poverty alleviation is the single most priority, and all other programmes have been linked with poverty alleviation. Given the track record so far, Nepal is nowhere to achieving the MDG goals by 2015. There is, of course, a reason for this poor performance. The decade-long violent conflict seriously hindered the process of development, especially in the hinterland. ResponsibilityBut we cannot escape from our responsibility by blaming the conflict for the slow progress on the MDGs. Lack of commitment and strong will to pursue the development programmes and inability to set priorities in line with the commitment made in the UN Millennium Summit are a bigger stumbling block. The parties in power lack clarity in polices and programmes and a common approach, priority and vision for development. Similarly, a strong and credible mechanism for monitoring the progress and performances on the MDGs is also lacking. The regional meeting is, thus, expected to develop a clear roadmap for alleviating poverty, meeting the MDGs, creating an effective mechanism for monitoring and nudging the governments on their commitments.
THE South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Charter Day was observed by all its member states with a flurry of activities to commemorate the day when it was formally announced by signing the Charter of the regional body in Dhaka 21 years ago. The founding fathers of the SAARC visualized a prosperous South Asia through collective efforts and cooperation. However, the pace with which SAARC is moving ahead is so slow that it has not been able to achieve its much vaunted goal of fostering meaningful cooperation for the prosperity and progress of the one-fifth of humanity living in this region.SlowThe twenty-one years are not short a period to build an organization and get into work. In the twenty-one years of journey, other regional blocks like ASEAN and European Union had advanced quite a lot. But the SAARC has been entangled and preoccupied so much with the bilateral issues of the two powerful rivals of the region that the process has hardly moved ahead in the practical sense in accordance with its objectives. It has been sometimes difficult for the leaders of the region even to shake hands and share a common podium every year, despite the requirement by the SAARC Charter to hold summit meeting annually. Only thirteen SAARC summits have been held in the period of 21 years.The primary goal of the establishment of the SAARC is to eradicate mass poverty and accelerating the pace of development in the region through mutual cooperation. As a region beset with inter-state conflict and mutual suspicion, the initiative to foster mutual cooperation and understanding is definitely an appreciable job as prosperity of the nations depends not on confrontation in the present inter-dependent world. But these nations are more preoccupied with their own internal problems. Each nation has different strategic, economic, international approach and priorities, which may not, necessarily, be compatible with the regional approach. The only concrete work the SAARC has, so far, done is in the area of free trade. But due to nation-centric approach, the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) has still not come into full operation in the real sense. Although ratified by all the members, the SAFTA has hit the road block due to self-centric attitude of some of the member states. As a result, the intra-regional trade in South Asia is minimal, which is less than four per cent of the total international trade. There are so many barriers on all fronts in SAARC region. These barriers are getting tighter despite the mounting demands from different sectors for easing them. Even the movement of people from one country to others except between Nepal and India has been very difficult. On building a single South Asian community, we must learn lessons from other regional groups. The European Union has already introduced one-currency, one visa regime and free movement of people and free trade among the member countries. South Asia can follow this model. SAARC can begin this process by introducing visa-free regime for the people of the region so that it would facilitate free movement, exchange of ideas and views and promotion of people-to-people relations and contact.Poverty has been the chronic problem of the region and poverty alleviation is the central challenge of the SARRC region. South Asia is the region of heavy concentration of the poorest people in the world. The SAARC has also aimed at eradicating poverty and meeting basic needs of the people. For this purpose, 2005-2015 has been declared as the SAARC Decade of Poverty Alleviation. Accordingly, Poverty Alleviation Fund and 'SAARC Development Fund' have been set up to work for poverty alleviation and raising the living standard of the people. SAARC plan of action for poverty alleviation has also been formulated and adopted and necessary directives have also been given to the Secretariat to implement the plans and initiate projects on poverty alleviation and other social and economic issues. However, SAARC has achieved no concrete results except publishing glossy reports on the poverty alleviation front.Poverty is not merely an economic connotation. Economic growth alone does not ensure eradication of poverty. Poverty is the by-product of other factors like low economic growth, social injustice, cultural discrimination, communal conflict, ethnic disparity, gender discrimination, failure to respect human rights and lack of democratic stability. These issues must be simultaneously addressed to eradicate poverty and achieve high standard of living of its peoples.Looking at each issue, South Asia has lagged far behind compared to other regions except sub-Saharan region of Africa. Massive poverty, huge gender gap and discrimination, poor status of health and education, rising human rights violation and conflict, growing number of AIDS/HIV cases, widening gap between the rich and the poor, low level of development and high population growth, mass unemployment, food insecurity, dependence on import for meeting energy demands, huge trade deficit, heavy spending on security and less in social sectors, communal tension are some of the characteristics of South Asia. These are the common issues which have inflicted the entire South Asian region. This requires collective and regional approach to attack these social, economic and cultural ills. In line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal, the SAARC has also adopted its regional goal to be met by the next five year so that SAARC nations could achieve the global standard of living. South Asia has tremendous potentials in terms of natural and human resources. These potentials need to be duly harnessed in order to transform South Asia into a rich and prosperous region in the world. The global experience has shown that development and progress can be achieved more by cooperation among the nations than competition and confrontation. South Asia has to replicate this notion practically and work closely for the larger interest of the people making the past rivalry and enmity a page from history. Action NeededThese developments are indicative of the fact that there is no dearth of commitments and vision in fighting social and economic evils which South Asia has been confronting. What is needed now is the stronger commitment to practically implement these visions, dreams and plans. Also several efforts have been made by the civil society including journalists in brining together the peoples of South Asia and working collectively for the common cause of the region. It would be appreciable if the SAARC duly recognizes the initiatives of the civil society and put their suggestions into practice.
IF the reports in some vernacular papers are, at all, true, a group of priests, recently, knocked the doors of administration and human rights groups seeking justice against exploitation. Their grudges were, in deed, genuine as they complained that priests were underpaid. According to reports, these religious performers, in one of the incident in the district, were paid only eleven rupees as “dakshina” at the end of seven-long days of religious performances (saptah), which, they say, is exploitation of their labour.
Had they worked in other sectors of the economy, they must have earned at least seven hundreds in a week. By any standard, the pay is, no doubt, a meager.
This is the age of democracy and human rights. The dignity of labour has been recognized and respected everywhere in the present day world. Due wages must be paid to the workers, if they are hired to do certain jobs.
Of course, the priests, too, have human rights. The mere eleven rupees for the work of seven days is meager and far less. If calculated on daily basis, their daily wages amount to less than two rupees, which, in dollar terms, is not even three cents.
Gone are the days when verses of Bhagbat Gita used to guide the priests. The religious performances are the services to the God and such works have no monetary values. Moreover, Hindu philosophy was guided by the notion—do your duty without expecting any rewards.
In the present capitalist world, work without pay is unimaginable. Thus, workers, of any sorts, must be paid on the basis of the nature of job and performances. Priests are no exception.
However, one thing remains unanswered what really their wages are. The government has fixed monthly salary for the civil servants, teachers, employees of corporations based on their post and positions. Similarly, labourers, too, have their fixed wages according to their categories like unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled workers. Should the priests, too, be categorized based on their qualifications and experiences and wages fixed accordingly? If done so, there would be unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled categories of priests. This arrangement would not only protect the priests from the exploitation and discrimination but also ease the problem of the clients. The possible row between the priests and the clients would come to an end permanently. Moreover, it would facilitate the people to seek the priests of suitable category as per the capacity of their purse and the type of religious function.
It is the season of protests in Nepal. Political parties, students and teachers have already taken to the streets with their own set of demands. Contractors refused to file tenders and petroleum sellers closed their pumps for a couple of days in a mark of protest. Whether their demands are justified or not, they have exercised the right to protest. These are self-centric days. Who cares the woes of the commoners? Not even the priests. Who knows one day priests would also refuse to work and come out to the streets for their demands of due wages. The idea is, of course, not bad. They, too, have the right to apply pressure tactics for the own interest.
History - in every century,records an act that lives forevermore.We'll recall - as in to line we fall,the thing that happened on Hawaii's shore.
Let's REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR -As we go to meet the foe -Let's REMEMBER PEARL HARBORAs we did the Alamo.
We will always remember -how they died for liberty,Let's REMEMBER PEARL HARBORand go on to victory
Immediately after the Japanese attack in Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, Don Reid wrote this patriotic song. The song “Remember Pearl Harbour” became instant hit with the American people. The song based on the theme of “ March with spirit” was played in every radio station and sung in every family, social and religious function in America during the wartime. Historians say this song filled patriotic sentiment in the mind of American citizens, and united the entire people, who were previously divided over the issue of US involvement in the war, rallied together in the war against Japan and the Axis of Alliance.
Hitler declared war by invading neighbouring Poland on September 1, 1939. Nazi Germany continued its assault in Europe and took European nations under its control one after another. Mussolini’s fascist Italy joined hand with Germany. Imperial Japan entered into the coalition with Germany and Italy forming the Axis of Alliance. The Alliance recognized the supremacy of Germany and Italy in Europe and supremacy of Japan in Asia.
The continued military onslaught of Germany, Italy and Japan destroyed the foundation of international law and posed a serious threat to international security and balance of power. Britain and Russia together with some other nations then created an Allied force to fight and defeat the Axis power. However, the Allied power was not able to stop the Hitler’s continued military advancement in Europe and Japanese invasion in Asia and the Pacific.
Despite outbreak of 2nd World War, America had maintained strict neutrality under its Neutrality Act 1937. The attack of Japanese navy in Pearl Harbour of Hawaii dragged America into the World War II.
The surprise attack by the 353 Japanese aircraft without formal declaration of war caused an enormous loss to US military post the Pacific Ocean. America lost more than 2350 personnel in the attack. Over 100 ships of the U.S. Navy were present that morning, consisting of battleships, destroyers, cruisers and various support ships and fighter aircraft and bombers. However, only a few U.S. fighters struggled into the air against the invaders. They were unable to rebuff the surprise and massive air raid of the Japanese.
In the attack, 21 battle ships and 323 fighter aircraft were either totally destroyed or damaged. Japanese lost only 64 people, five ships and 29 aircraft.
The heaviest loss is the USS Arizona, one of the largest battleships stationed in the Pearl Harbour. The USS Arizona could not resist attack by1760-pound armor piercing bomb. In a less than nine minutes of the attack, USS Arizona exploded and totally sank in the serene water of the Pacific Ocean with all 1177 crews on board.
Americans still remember the Pearl Harbour as the day of infamy. President Dwight Eisenhower, who helped achieve Allied victory in the World War II, ordered to build the USS Arizona Memorial to commemorate the ship and all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbour attack. Alfred Preis, an architect, designed the 184-feet Memorial structure spanning the mid-portion of the sunken ship that consists of three main sections including the entrance, assembly rooms and central area meant for ceremonies and general observation. The construction was completed in 1961. The names of all those killed on the Arizona are engraved on the marble wall.
Historians say that the USS Arizona memorial symbolizes the initial defeat and ultimate victory of America in the World War II. Like Don Reid’s song “ Remember Pearl Harbour”, the USS Arizona Memorial stands as the symbol American patriotism and sacrifice for the defence of the great nation and its people.
Now the USS Arizona Memorial is magnet to many Americans and also others who visit Hawaii. Pearl Harbour possesses live history. USS Arizona shows the brutal scar of World War II and reminds the day of infamy ever occurred on the American soil in the 20th century.
Even one year after, the United States of America has not yet been fully recovered from the pain and shock of the terrorist attack. The ruthless attack on World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed more than 3000 people and caused an untold misery in the history of the United States and the world, which American people would never forget.
The terrorist attack further solidified the unity of American people. It not only developed a sense of unity among the people of America but also united the wolrd in the fight against terrorism.
Now the feeling of patriotism among American people has been more than ever since the World War II. Many American youth, who were hesitant earlier, are eager to join US Army with the patriotic sense of defending America and fighting against US enemies—at present the international terrorism perpetrated by Al Queda and its allies. Unlike Korean and Vietnam war, the 9-11 incident brought all American people together. The tragedy might have broken the heart of American people but not the spirit. The feeling of “united we stand” has been so strong in America than anytime in the history.
Moreover, 9-11 incident provided an opportunity to the US government to reshape its foreign and strategic policy. The US governemnt has already crafted a new security strategy around the world, which has obtained wide support from the international community.
The American people and the governemnt often compare the 9-11 terrorist attacks with the attack of Japanese army in the Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, which brought the United States into World War II. The 9-11 attacks enraged America in the same depth and extent that the Pear Harbour attack had brought.
America responed and retaliated the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour so firmly and effectively that virtually ended the Wolrd War II. The United States dropped nuclear bombs in Hirosima and Nagasaki, following which Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces.
After the September 11 attack, America has focused all its might on defeating international terrorism wherever and in whatever forms it is. The United States led and took the initiative in the war against terrorism, whereas all other countries supported and followed. There has been a significant success in the war against terrorism.
The United States and Allied forces have contininued operation against Al Qaeda brand of terrorism. Afghanistan used to be a hub of Al Queda operation. Following the US attack, Afghanistan has now been freed from the Taliban. Civilian government and democracy have been restored there.
Al Queda is the network of the radical terrorists. It has the network all over the world and it is operating in affiliation with other terrorist groups across the globe. America is now determined to crush and destroy all these terrorist groups and their operation across the world. In this fight against terrorism, America and allied forces have been expanding their operation to Middle East and Africa where terrorists are being slowly reorganised after being driven away from Afghanistan.As a result, the terrorist network of Al queda and its operation has been weakened. However, the threat of terrorist attack has not completely subsided.
Busg Administration has declared that the war against global terrorism would not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. America unleashed war not only against terrorist groups but also nations that have been providing aid and safe heaven to terrorism.
US President George Bush declared some nations as “axis of evils”, which are believed to have provided support to terrorists and terrorist groups. Now present Iraqi regime appears to be in the frontline in providing assistance to Al Queda terrorists. After the US-led attack in Afghanistan, Al Queda terrorists are now believed to have been hiding in Iraq and some other “axis of evils”.
On the top of the terrorist hit list is America because terrorists are against democracy, free society and human rights. Terrorism, thus, is a great threat to world peace, democracy and human rights.
Terrorists have threatened civilised life everywhere in the world. As US President has said “either you are with us or with the terrorists”, it is very urgent to fight and defeat international terrorism in a more effective, collective and coordinated way. Not only are those who are involved in terrorists acts but those who support and provide safe heaven to them are also terrorists. All these networks and forces need to be destroyed so that the world may not have to suffer from terrorist menance in the future.
United States has adopted multi-pronged strategy to curb and crush global terrorism. It is dirrectly hitting terrorists and their organisations all over the world. At the same time it has been stepping up its campaign and actions action aganst those who support terrorists.
The United States and international community have already launched campaign against terrorist financing that have channeled money to Al Queda group of Osma bin Laden and his brand of terrorism.
In the campaign against terrorism, US government has banned some organisations and charity groups, who have link and provide monetary support to terrorist especially Al Queda. Their bank accounts and assets have been frozen around the world. This was necessary in order to weaken and destroy terrorist network and their operation around the world.
The Al Queda, main culprit in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is definitely weak and down ever since the United States and its allies launched a hunt in Afghanistan and elsewhere. However, it is still not totally out. US and western intillegince have often warned the possible terrorist attack in some American and western interests across the world.
Osma bin Laden, the leader of the Al Queda, who masterminded the 9-11 attack, is yet to be captured, although there are speculations that he could be dead during US operation in Afghanistan. The hunt for bin Laden and his associates continues throughout the world.
It has been recognised that failure to effectively respond and defeat the 9-11 attack would be an invitation to terrorist menance everywhere and elsewhere in the world. If United States, the mightiest nation in the world, falls prey to terrorism, no other country in the world can be safe. Thus, it is urgent to eliminate all forms of terrorism in the world for the safety and prosperity of the entire humanity.
THE security concept is as old as human civilization. The notion of nation-state emerged out of the collective security of the people in the certain territories. Principally all human beings are equal, but not practically. Each and every individual is different physically, mentally, intellectually and psychologically. The heterogonous behavour and nature of the mankind created competition—sometimes healthy and more often fierce.
In the unhealthy competition and rivalry, the early people developed a mechanism to protect the less strong section of the humanity, which was later called the State. The state comprised of certain territory, people living in that territory, a ruler with authority to govern.
The ruler formulated a set of “dos” and “don’t dos”, which were later called rules or laws, and developed a mechanism and organizational structure to facilitate the rulers. Territories were important for the people to forage food. The early concept of governance was to defend the territory and people from alien invasion. Thus, defending territories was defending people. For this purpose, a team of young, strong and determined people was created, which now is known as military. In return, people agreed to pay back the state in the form of tax in cash or kind.
The state is, thus, an agreement between the people and the ruler for the security of the people. This is how the security concept developed. In the beginning, the society was more or less homogenous. In course of time, society slowly became heterogeneous, which created internal tension and rivalry. This necessitated the state to create another group that was called police to deal with the internal conflict.
However, the real threat perception was from the external elements. Thus, the security concept was more or less tied with the military security. However, in the modern and complicated world, the security concept has changed to cope with the changed in the international context. Modern security perception is based on social, economic and psychological security of the people. Military security is a part of overall security perception and strategy.
Nations are facing equal threats from both internal instability and external factors. The developing nations are more hit by internal problems that have posed more serious threat to their national security than the threat from the outside. Civil wars, ethnic and communal conflicts are taking an ugly turn in most nations in the Third World. These conflicts turn uglier when some politically motivated groups and terrorist gangs—both national and international, back and instigate the people, who are deprived, exploited, discriminated and secluded. These sinister gangs and groups instigate the frustrated mass and sow the seed of discontent, which, as the global experiences have shown, ultimately turns into a form of violence and conflict. It slowly grows into terrorism. That is the case everywhere in the world.
The present distribution of resources is unwise, unequal and unfair. Looking at the pattern of resource distribution, it appears that less than 15 per cent population consumes and controls the world’s 85 per cent resources, while 85 per cent people survive on 15 per cent resources. This gap is widening every year.
The economic globalisation and liberalization have done little good to developing countries. Rather it has further marginalised the poor nations and increased the number of absolute poor people in the world.
According to ILO, about three million people, more than half of world’s population, survive on less than two dollars a day. More than one billion people, 23 per cent of the developing world’s population, have to make their end met with the income of one dollar a day and even less.
An ILO report states that poverty is getting worse and uglier in many parts of the world. In 1990, number of people living in absolute poverty grew by 25 per cent in Sub-Saharan region of Africa. In Latin America and the Caribbean, poverty stricken population grew from 121 million to 132 million.
In North Africa and the Middle East, the number people living below poverty line rose from 50 million to nearly 70 million. In the East Europe and Central Asia, poverty grew by three fold.
South Asia has also not been able to make any significant gains in poverty eradication move. Poverty has remained stable in South Asia for the last one decade with over one billion people living at absolute poverty.
The globalisation of economies and economic liberalization has at all failed to reduce world’s poverty and address the burning problems the world is facing. In a way, these polices have further aggravated the problems. The rise in terrorism, civil war, conflicts, communalism and fundamentals, in a way, are the products of the present unjust world order and uneven distribution of resources. This has posed both national as well as international security problems.
This portrays very dismal picture in terms of human development. According to ILO Director General Juan Somavia, the best way to fight against poverty is creation of jobs. As the world is gearing up for full-fledged, liberalization and globalisation of economies, there also must be liberalization and globalisation in the labour market. Liberalisation is also needed in the movement of labour force and access to labour market all over the world. This would serve twin problems—labour shortage in the developed countries and unemployment problems in the developing countries. This requires international community’s pro-active role in pushing ahead with the agenda that developed nations relax their laws to ensure free movement of world’s labour force. However, the developed countries are making their laws more complex and stricter for foreigners, which is against the spirit of the globalisation. The concept of economic liberalization and globalisation, as champions of this notion are pursuing, appears that there should be no monopoly of any particular nation in the global resources. If that is the case, there also must not be restriction on global labour market. Globalisation should not only be on the resources and market for products of industrial nations and big economies.If modern concept of security is concerned, idle youth population and economic depression and discrimination, are more dangerous than the atomic bomb.
The recent remarks made by UNMIN’s Chief Karin Landgren in her briefing to the UN Security Council have caused a furor in Nepal. The UNMIN chief hinted at three possibilities in Nepal’s political landscape after UNMIN departs. The three possibilities that the UNMIN Chief forsees are an army coup, presidential rule or power seizure by the Maoists. These remarks have irked all the political forces and institutions including the president, the government, ruling parties and also the Maoists.
Landgren did not specifically mention these options. She said that there is a fear in the mind of the Nepali people about these three possibilities. By saying this, she wanted to amplify the significance and importance of UNMIN in Nepal. She also hinted that the people would be terrorised after UNMIN’s departure, which implies that UNMIN’s stay in Nepal was necessary.
Her conclusion may or may not turn out to be true. But one thing is certain that the peace process and other activities related to the peace process would definitely be affected in the absence of UNMIN. There can be no better or a more neutral force than the United Nations to oversee the activities related to the peace process.
UNMIN is not directly involved in Nepal’s peace process, but it has an indirect role in facilitating the peace process. Its role and mandate are to monitor the arms and armies of both the state and the Maoist party. The management of the armies and arms is a part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which must be resolved to complete and conclude the peace process. If the Maoist arms and armies can be managed in an amicable way, the peace process can be completed soon. The other issues are not that contentious and can be resolved in no time once the management of the Maoist army is taken care of.
The Maoist combatants live in seven different camps which are being monitored by UNMIN. Once UNMIN departs, the monitoring and supervision of the camps and combatants would have to be shouldered by some other body, which must be agreed upon by the parties. So far, the parties have not been able to agree on a body to monitor and supervise the Maoist combatants and weapons.
The departure of UNMIN is now certain, and the UN body would not be here from the beginning of next week. So the political parties must agree on a mechanism to oversee the Maoist combatants and their armies. If the mechanism to oversee the Maoist combatants is not agreed upon prior to the departure of UNMIN, the situation could be precarious, and the country may return to the old days of conflict.
The departure of UNMIN is being taken by different parties differently. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are not happy with the presence of UNMIN because it was not doing what the government and the ruling parties wanted. They had been objecting to the role and activities of UNMIN for the last two years and have been accusing the UN body of being a mouthpiece of the Maoists.
In the beginning, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML had openly defended UNMIN while the UCPN-Maoist had opposed it. Some Maoist leaders had even demanded an early departure of UNMIN in the past, accusing it of not being impartial. However, the situation and position of the parties changed after the change of leadership in UNMIN.
Ian Martin, who first headed UNMIN, had the habit of reacting quickly and immediately even on issues that were not under the jurisdiction of UNMIN. Martin was more critical of the Maoists, which was why he was criticised by them and praised by the other parties.
When Karin Landgren assumed the responsibility of UNMIN replacing Ian Martin, the situation took a new turn. Landgren maintained a relatively low profile in Nepal. Her style of functioning was not appreciated by the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. But the Maoists found her more favourable.
UNMIN, thus, fell into the trap of Nepal’s political imbroglio and became its victim. As a result, the UN mission is being aborted in Nepal before its objectives could be achieved. This has definitely hurt the image and credibility of UNMIN. The UN mission started its work in Nepal not on its own but upon the written request by the two conflicting parties - the government and the UCPN-Maoist.
Thus, the United Nations, Nepal Government and the UCPN-Maoist are the three parties which agreed to establish the UN mission in Nepal to monitor the management of the arms and armies. The UN mission thus acted within the jurisdiction provided by the tripartite agreement.
But the decision to curtail the UN mission was taken by the government unilaterally. The Maoists are still demanding the continuity of UNMIN until the issue concerning the management of the arms and armies is resolved and the peace process concluded.
This is, perhaps, the first time a UN mission has returned without achieving its goal. This decision will have a negative impact on Nepal’s peace process besides tarnishing the image of the United Nations. The pullout from its mission without accomplishing its mandated task would be taken as the UN’s failure. This incident would also impact Nepal’s relationship with the United Nations.
The United Nations has been involved in Nepal’s development activities for a long time and its contribution has definitely been positive and praiseworthy. The recent decision about UNMIN will certainly not affect the development activities being carried out by the United Nations. But the United Nations would definitely think many times should Nepal again request the UN to get involved in its peace and political process.
The government’s decision to send UNMIN back is definitely not a positive move. The way Nepal’s parties and the leaders were involved in slamming the United Nations has tarnished Nepal’s image and credibility in the international arena. Since the decision has already been taken for UNMIN’s departure, it cannot be withdrawn. But Nepal needs to work cautiously and vigorously to mend its relationship with the United Nation so that the world body will be willing to help Nepal in time of need in the future.
Yuba Nath Lamsal
Nepal is in history's worst political crisis. Taking advantage of the political deadlock, some external forces are directly and openly interfering in Nepal's internal affairs and dictating their terms on our political parties. The external interference in Nepal's internal affairs is more naked and blatant than ever before. The lack of decision-making capability of power-monger parties and politicians has paved the way for external meddling in Nepal. While the external forces are active in Nepal to control in its domestic politics and other affairs, the political parties and politicians are preoccupied in power struggle grossly compromising the national interest, national sovereignty and independence.
The tendency of the parties to seek support from the external forces to go to power has further aggravated the problem. Although the western countries including the United States are also interested in Nepal's domestic politics and they want the Nepali politics to move ahead in the way they wish, their activities are more sophisticated. However, the southern neighbour—India—has come more nakedly to interfere Nepal's domestic politics openly breaching basic diplomatic norms and values.
While the present political deadlock is the product of the game plan of the external forces, the prolonged political crisis has created a fertile ground for increased foreign meddling. The external forces have expressed their grave concerns over Nepal each and every turn of political event which in itself is interference in Nepal's domestic affairs. But the concern of the foreigners is more serious this time as they forces are playing their game plan in Nepal and accordingly trying to manipulate Nepal's internal politics. There are two types of countries that have expressed concern over Nepal's situation. Some countries are definitely concerned at Nepal peace, stability, democracy and national independence. But there are some countries that are concerned more in their own interest for which they want to manipulate Nepal's affairs.
It was not so until the Cold War was in existence, which had been marked by ugly superpower rivalry. The two superpowers namely the United States of America and the Soviet Union had their own priority zones like East Asia and the Middle East in Asia. After the end of the Cold War, the world became unipolar with a lone superpower—the United States of America. The international balance of power drastically changed and the center of power shifted to Asia with the rise of China. India, too, is rising economically, which may be reflected in its military position. China and India are both competing and cooperating on many fronts. But rivalry is more intense than the cooperation between China and India. Similarly, the rise of China both economically and militarily accompanied by its assertiveness in the global affairs has been taken by the United States as a threat to its global dominant position.
Nepal's location is strategically vital in the present global geo-political and geo-strategic scenario in general and regional power balance in particular. China is already a center of global power and India, too, is rising fast. The world is watching China and India closely. The developments and decisions in Beijing and New Delhi would certainly have greater impact on global affairs. China's rise has concerned the western world especially the United States of America more than any other countries in the world. The United States has adopted the policy of weakening and containing China so that the American dominant position in the global arena would continue to remain unchallenged. As a regional competitor, India, too, has joined the American bandwagon of containing China. The strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi is its glaring example.
Nepal is a country located between China and India, which is strategically very important in the present global scenario. The global as well as the regional powers are, henceforth, playing more actively in Nepal to have their stronger presence so that they can play up in the neighbouring countries especially in Tibet of China. Until the Cold War was in place, Nepal had not been taken so prominently by the global powers as they have done in the present context. The present protracted political crisis in Nepal has given more leeway for the external forces to be more active. The activities of external players are becoming more visible now than ever before. America's interest in Nepal could be to use the Himalayan republic as a base to weaken China and also to spy against India. Moreover, the Unites States wants Nepal a strong, stable and democratic country. Being the lone superpower, the United States obviously wants its strong presence in Nepal, too. However, the small South Asian countries are skeptical of the United States' new strategic move to look at South Asia through Indian eyes. South Asian countries are already victim of the India's hegemonic policy and Washington's tilt to India has further emboldened New Delhi, which would create a sense of fear and terror in South Asia. Nepal has felt more vulnerable due to US-India alliance as it would augment Indian interference in Nepal. The United States and India have common policy on China as both Washington and New Delhi want to contain and encircle China, for which Nepal is being used as one of the key destinations.
Nepal has, thus, been a playground of international powers. As other global and regional powers are playing against China through Nepal, China, too, may not always remain silent forever. So far, Chinese policy in Nepal is selfless and Beijing wants stability, prosperity and peace in Nepal. However, Beijing is also watching the developments in Nepal closely and it is helping Nepal as a genuine friend and neighbour. At the same time, China is seriously and cautiously watching activities being carried out in Nepal by foreign powers especially India and the United States. If China comes up vigorously to counter US-India design in Nepal, the situation could be dangerous and precarious. Can we imagine the situation in such an eventuality? Can Nepal afford to have such a situation?
Our leaders have not visualized this scenario. They have given free hand to external forces to meddle in Nepal's internal politics, which has created the present crisis in Nepal. If the external interference grows further, Nepal may turn into battle ground of international and regional powers. The parties and politicians need to properly and objectively comprehend this scenario and act accordingly to check foreign meddling and interference that is in its height at present. Unfortunately, the parties themselves are encouraging and inviting external interference and meddling in Nepal's political affairs for their partisan interests. The tendency of seeking New Delhi's support to go to power is on the rise which has also given rise to open interference of India. In the race of serving foreign powers and inviting their interference, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are in the forefront. These two parties are acting like agents of external forces and are advocating foreign interference. The regional Madhes-based parties are the creation of India to serve New Delhi's interest in Nepal and we cannot expect patriotic stance from them. In the present context, the UCPN-Maoist has condemned the foreign meddling in general and Indian interference in particular and has also vowed to fight against Indian expansionism. At present, the Maoists have exhibited patriotic stance. But it remains to be seen whether the Maoists' stance is genuinely guided by their patriotism or it is mere expediency to go to power. But the way India has directly and openly interfered in Nepal's politics to prevent the Maoists from going to power demonstrates the real contradiction between the Maoists and New Delhi.
The strategic location of Nepal is our national strength which can be properly utilized for the development of Nepal. Nepal's strategic value can be well validated by the rivalry of global and regional powers that are seeking their increased role in Nepal especially after the commencement of the peace process four years ago. The current political deadlock is the result of this rivalry emerged out of Nepal's increased strategic importance. However, the parties and politicians have failed to grasp this reality. Instead, the rulers in Nepal have turned our strategic strength into strategic vulnerability in exchange for power, position and perks. Nepal is not a buffer state between China and India. It is the bridge and link between the two rising economies and global powers—China and India. Given this strategic value, the United States, European powers and Russia are also interested to have their increased role in Nepal. Against this background, Nepal can extract maximum benefit for our national interest and development.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Nepal has seen many political experiments in the short span of time. This is more so after 1990 when the country saw multi-party political system. During this period, all types of governments and leaders were tested, most of whom failed to get good rating from the people. The interim government, one-party majority government, one-party minority government, coalition governments of different types were experimented but none could deliver the goods.
Democracy was the casualty of the parties’ failure. Even after the ten years of constitutional and democratic exercises, roots of democracy could not spread deep enough at the grassroots level. Institutions were not created and strengthened. Instead, heavy handedness of politicians in power and direct political interference weakened the system and institution. This was a major cause of failure of democracy in Nepal.
Election is an important aspect of democratic polity. It involves people in the political process and governance. In the 12 years of democratic exercises, three general elections and two local elections were held. But democracy continued to remain weak and fragile as it is today. The country is now without elected representatives both at the central as well as local level. It is the retreat of democracy, which is the making of political parties themselves.
Ironically, parties still do not seem to have realized their weaknesses, mistakes and failures. They are engaged more on blaming others than soul searching to trace exactly where they failed and what they needed to correct. It appears that although we have democracy, parties could not mould into democratic culture and practice.
Our parties seem to be more bureaucratic than democratic. Decisions are made at the central level, which is imposed at the lower levels. The decision making process has never been bottom-up. The top-down approach has often suppressed the democratic spirit and voice of the people.
When decisions are made at the center and voices at the lower and grassroots level are ignored, the power automatically concentrates at the center depriving the rank and file, which automatically diminishes their influence among the people. When voices of the cadres and lower level committees are not heard, let alone the voices and concerns of the people at the grassroots level. This is how the decisions, policies and programmes of the parties and government do not necessarily reflect the voices, needs and interests of the mass, which is a fundamental flaw in the functioning of our political parties. This has had a direct impact on the political system that we have seen today.
Although our parties claim to be democratic, the tendency is dictatorial. The criticism of the leadership is never tolerated. There are parties within a party and groups within a political group. The majority always suppresses the minority faction, which often leads to the split of the party. In many crucial issues, the minority group even does not know what is being discussed in the committee meetings. When it comes to fore for discussion, then only the minority faction comes to know the issue and gets adopted without comprehensive deliberations. That is the unique case in Nepal at present. In the 12 years of post 1990 era, all major parties split. It began with the Rastriya Prajatantra Party followed by CPN-UML, Nepali Congress and Nepal Sadbhavana Party. Since there is no common agenda in one party, how they can devise a common national strategy.
The very nature of Nepalese political parties is centralized and authoritarian. When a group of the party leadership itself does not have say in the decision making, it can be easily imagined how the voices of lower rank and file can be treated and heard. This creates revolt and criticism from both party cadres and the mass. Faced with the criticism and revolt, the leadership tends to be more aggressive and authoritarian and does not even hesitate to undermine the people’s fundamental rights.
The recent development in the Nepali Congress is its example. Differed on some issues, the Nepali Congress all of a sudden dissolved the elected leadership of the Nepal Students’ Union, the student wing of the party, without any valid reason and brought some henchmen in the leadership. Similarly, those who are critical of the party leadership are marginalized in all parties. This has plagued Nepal’s politics as well as political parties.
Power and position are every thing for leaders. They grab and cling to power by hook or by crook as it is the basis for their prestige and reputation, which they legitimize with the misuse of power, influence and money. Democracy, democratic values, nation, people, national issues and problem are secondary.
If we look at the retrospect, all parties have applied the same tactics to preserve their hold in power. Faced with mounting pressure and revolt both from within his own party and opposition, Girija Prasad Koirala, who was the Prime Minister, dissolved the House of Representatives and announced fresh election two years before the schedule. He could have averted the crisis by resigning from the post and handing over the premiership to some one else of his own party as the Nepali Congress was in majority. The political instability began right from this time. Thus, Koirala is the chiefly responsible for the current situation.
The mid-term election produced a hung parliament with no single party having sufficient seats in parliament to form its own majority government required by the constitution. CPN-UML emerged as the largest party in the parliament, which was then allowed to form its minority government. The CPN-UML also followed Koirala’s footprints by recommending for parliament dissolution to evade the censure motion that had already been registered in the parliament, which was later quashed by the Supreme Court. All other governments that came after repeated the same mistake only to continue their hold on power.
This is due to the lack of tolerance and democratic culture in the leadership. The formation of the central leadership is also not fully democratic, which is reflected in their decisions. No party elects all central committee members. Nepali Congress, which is the oldest party in the country, had the trend of electing only the president, who would nominate the entire members of the central committee. The CPN-UML is ahead of all parties in terms of exercising democratic practice in the election of the central committee. Right from the beginning, it has the practice of electing at least 75 per cent members of the central committee from among the representative of the national convention. The elected central committee nominates the rest 25 per cent members. The Nepali Congress started electing only half of the central committee members only from the last general convention. The president nominates other 50 per cent members. The same is the case with the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP).
To sum up, parties have not been able to fully adopt the democratic practice and culture in both principle and actions, which is the main cause distortion in our political landscape at present. Leaders are the pathfinders, who must demonstrate truly democratic culture and strong moral quality. Only then people follow them, which helps consolidate democracy and development in the country.
RECENTLY we have seen two positive developments in the communist movement in Nepal. Firstly, there has been a realization of unification in the communist movement. And the second is the talks between the government and Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) to end six-year old armed insurgency.
Let us first discuss the beginning and developments of Nepalese communist movement and the recent unity efforts. Nepal’s communist movement is the most fragmented one in the world. There are already more than a dozen communist parties in Nepal with different names. Each party is hostile to the other. Despite repeated call and speech of leftist leaders for unity, the communist movement kept on being fragmented. Split is more common than unity in Nepal’s communist movement.
Communist Party of Nepal was formed in 1949 as the youngest communist party in Asia. Late Pushpa Lal Shrestha took the initiative to form the communist party in Nepal and is, thus, regarded as the father of Nepal’s communist movement. The initial objective of the Communist Party of Nepal was to establish democracy in the country by overthrowing the century-old Rana family oligarchy and liberate people from all forms of exploitation and discrimination.
After the advent of democracy in 1951, differing views started surfacing in the communist party. This heightened when late King Mahendra trampled multi-party democracy, dissolved popularly elected parliament, banned all political parties and political activities and imposed partyless Panchayat system in the country. A faction led by Pushpa Lal opposed the Royal takeover and split the already small and yet to be fully organised communist party.
This break away group became the mainstream party as honest and genuine cadres, workers and supporters sided with the revolutionary faction. The other group was isolated from the people and later collapsed. Communist parties kept on disintegrating. Personality cult played bigger role in the split than the ideological differences. Leaders gave ideological colour to their personal differences. It continued until three years ago when CPN-UML, the main opposition party in parliament, split.
Some efforts were made in the past for the unification of communist movement in Nepal. But those efforts hardly materialized. Even if some groups merged into one, their unity lasted only for few months. A major development regarding the unity among communist parties took place in 1989, when seven communist parties formed United Left Front to launch mass movement against Panchayat regime along with the Nepali Congress. The honeymoon among the seven leftist groups ended immediately after the restoration of democracy. However, two largest groups—Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist)—merged in 1990 to form Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) or CPN-UML. This party emerged as the largest communist party in Nepal and mainstream of Nepal’s communist movement. Communists in Nepal always gave radical slogans—grabbing power through revolution and violence and total transformation of the society. Their slogans of equality, liberty and social justice had a great appeal among poor and downtrodden people, who are in majority in Nepal. Those who gave more radical slogans became stronger and more popular among the poor people.
Nepalese communists took part in the mass movement for the restoration of democracy in 1990. This heralded new chapter in Nepalese politics. It is the first time that Nepalese communists, who believed in violence to capture power, joined electoral politics and democratic mainstream. All leftist groups that were in existence in 1991 took part in general election and won more than 80 seats in 205-member House of Representatives, Lower House of parliament.
Regrouping and reorganization took place in the communist parties in three year’s period following the first general election in 1991. In this period a few leftist groups united and again split. CPN-UML continued to be the largest party. The United People’s Front/Nepal headed by Baburam Bhattarai was the open organization of the radical communists, which had won nine seats in parliament in the first general election. But it also broke into two groups—one headed by Babu Ram Bhattarai and the other by Niranjan Govinda Vaidya (now Lila Mani Pokhrel). The former condemned parliament and boycotted election, while the later continued to take part in the parliamentary process.
By that time Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was created and announced armed insurgency. Babu Ram Bhattarai-led United People’s Front merged with the Maoist party. Around that time, second general election was held. In the election, CPN-UML emerged single largest party in parliament winning 88 seats. Maoist party boycotted the election and position of other communist groups in parliament was reduced to nominal.
CPN-UML formed minority government but lasted only nine months followed by Nepali-Congress-RPP-NSP coalition government. In the four years of hung parliament following the second general election, the country witnessed ugly scenes in national politics. All major political forces in parliament including CPN-UML applied every means and methods to grab power and retain it. It was the ugly period in the 12 years’ history of Nepal’s parliamentary system.
At the same time, CPN-UML was divided. A faction led by Bam Dev Gautam broke away from the mother party citing ideological differences and formed CPN-ML, although power struggle was the key factor. The breakaway faction gave nationalist and radical slogans in order to attract diehard cadres and patriotic forces. But it failed miserably in the third general election, as it could not bag even a single seat in parliament. In the history of Nepalese communist movement, the break away faction always became the mainstream as it gave radical and revolutionary programmes. CPN-ML is the only exception as despite giving radical slogans it failed to have appeal on general mass.
Maoist insurgency continued to grow. Its popular slogans had an appeal among the poverty-stricken population of the country on the one hand, while misgovernance, failure to deliver goods on the part of government and political instability gave rise to Maoist insurgency on the other. It is the product of several other social, political, economic and cultural problems.
Now leftist parties are talking unity and a united front. Even Maoists seem to be interested in the united communist movement. The recent meeting of leaders of different communist parties including comrade Prachanda of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in Siligurhi of India is an indication that Maoists are eager to join the parliamentary process. The history of communist movement in Nepal has shown that communist party begins with extremism and ends with revisionism. All communist parties in Nepal were born with radical slogans and programmes but, with the passage of time, they slowly deviated from their initial revolutionary stance and came to parliamentary fold. An example of this is CPN-UML. It started with the revolutionary spirit influenced by Charu Mazumdar’s Naxalite movement of India. But later it realised serious flaws in it and switched into the parliamentary approach.
Similarly, Maoists have now started the process of dialogue with the government to end the insurgency. It is a road towards parliamentary politics. It may not be a surprise that one fine morning Maoists may abandon the armed revolution and join peaceful parliamentary politics because history repeats and they want to be another example.