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Friday, May 20, 2011

Deadline Missed Again

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The deadline set for the promulgation of the new constitution, which is just a week away, is going to be missed again. The Constituent Assembly (CA) is unlikely to accomplish its task within the May 28 deadline. This indicates the height of irresponsibility of our parties and an example of betrayal of the people, who had elected their representatives to write a new constitution in time.
It has been more than three years since the CA was formed through a popular election. Originally, as per the interim constitution, the term of the CA had been fixed for two years.
The interim constitution requires a two-third majority in Parliament to amend any provision of the constitution. Given the composition of the parliament, a two-third majority cannot be acquired without the cooperation of the three main parties, namely, the UCPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. In the saddle of power last year were the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Madhesi parties, while the largest party - CPN (Maoist) - was in the opposition.
The ruling parties had proposed for the extension of the CA, but the Maoists in the beginning maintained that they would not support it unless the prime minister of the coalition government stepped down. The stance of the Maoists created a deadlock. But a compromise was brokered at midnight, and the life of the Constituent Assembly was extended.
The Constituent Assembly has, however, failed to complete its fundamental job even within the extended period. Now a similar situation has arisen. Only the nature and composition of the government have changed. The Maoists and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum are in the government while the Nepali Congress and the rest of the Madhesi parties are in the opposition.
In the present context, the CPN-UML, Maoists and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) do not command a two-third majority required for the amendment of the constitution. Although the government has already registered a proposal for the extension of the Constituent Assembly, it does not have adequate majority to ensure its passage in Parliament. This requires the support of the Nepali Congress or all other fringe parties.
Given the mood of the parties, they are not prepared to easily support the government-sponsored proposal for the extension of the CA. They are currently bargaining for political benefits. The main opposition, the Nepali Congress, is against the unconditional extension of the CA. Its stated position is that there should be a guarantee that the peace process will conclude and that the present government should step down to facilitate the formation of a national unity government under the Congress leadership.
The Madhesi parties, except for the MJF and also some other fringe parties including the RPP and Jan Shakti Party, have joined the Congress bandwagon. Even CPN-UML is divided on this issue. A strong section of the CPN-UML has backed the Congress stance and demanded the exit of the Jhala Nath Khanal-led coalition government.
But no one has imagined the situation that would emerge should the CA fail to be extended. It is certain that a bigger political and constitutional crisis will emerge. A political vacuum would be created that would give rise to instability and uncertainty. In such an eventuality, three possibilities have been predicted. One is the takeover by the president and imposition of presidential rule. The second possibility is army rule. And the third one is the takeover by the Maoists with the help of its People’s Liberation Army living in the cantonments.
But none of the possibilities seem plausible. At this crucial juncture when the international community is closely watching the developments in Nepal, none of the aforementioned actors would risk taking over power in an undemocratic and forcible manner. So far as presidential rule is concerned, the ceremonial president is less likely to gamble his political career and popularity. Moreover, the president has in public dismissed such a rumor as being baseless and unfounded.
The army on its part has always kept itself away from politics and is accountable to the civilian government. More than that, the army is less likely to opt for army rule because of its past record. During the Maoist insurgency, the army failed to crush and defeat the Maoists. At a time when the Maoist combatants are still in the cantonments, the army would not risk losing its image and being labeled as a politically motivated institution. Should the army take over, revival of the civil war is a possibility.
Chances of the Maoists capturing power are also remote. The Maoists are in the process of transforming themselves into a peaceful force, and their immediate priorities are peace and the constitution, which have been reflected in the party’s political line adopted recently by the central committee meeting. The UCPN-Maoist would also not want to lose its status as the largest party. Moreover, the party is not sure of a success even if it went for a revolt to capture power.
If the life of the Constituent Assembly is not extended for a second time, the only option for the parties would be to go for a fresh election. The parties, however, are not confident that they will be able to retain their present position.
Despite the diverse arguments and positions on each and every issue, the parties have reached a tacit agreement and consensus on the issue of extending the life of the Constituent Assembly. Thus, the CA term will be extended at the last hour at midnight on May 28. Whatever the parties are now saying is just for public consumption.
Whether they extend the term of the CA on the basis of national consensus or by a majority vote, the question of legitimacy would be raised. Technically and constitutionally, the extension would be correct. But from the standpoint of popular legitimacy, it would be a mistake. The parties, leaders and candidates have failed in their duty to accomplish what they had promised to the people three years ago. It would be inappropriate to keep on extending the tenure of the CA time and again. So should the CA’s term be extended, it must be final, and a provision must be incorporated in the constitution banning further extension

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Documentation of Peace Process

Book Review (A Half Decade of Peace Process: (2005-2010): Its Challenges and Prospects

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Much has been written on Nepal’s ongoing peace process that started in late 2005 with the signing of the 12-point agreement between the insurgent CPN-Maoist (now UCPN-Maoist) and the seven party alliance (a loose network of parliamentary parties). The 12-point agreement was a watershed event in Nepal’s political history. This was the beginning of the peace process as well as the movement against Gyanendra’s political misadventure of taking over absolute power and attempt to marginalize the political parties thereby imposing a brutal and dictatorial reign. However, the documents related to this agreement and several others have not been in composite and compiled form as the book under review has done.
The book "A Half Decade of Peace Process (2005-2010): Its Challenges and Prospects" is a documentation of events that unfolded during the five years of the ongoing peace process and its impartial and fair analysis. The book contains all the events and incidents that took place right from the beginning of the peace process, its inherent causes, consequences and weaknesses. Divided into six parts, the book has dealt vividly with different aspects of the peace process and other issues directly linked with it. Different years from 2005 to 2010 have been named under different titles. The year 2005 has been called as the year of dilemma, whereas 2006 has been labeled as the year of historical upheavals and prospect of peace. The year 2007 has been dealt under the caption of ‘weakening peace process fascinates foxy foreigners’ whilst the year 2008 has been dubbed as the ‘year of hope for peace’. The years 2009 and 2010 have been dealt under the topics ‘ ‘peace undergoes more disarray’ and ‘reaffirming peace amidst gloom’ respectively.
Prem Kumari Pant is a long time journalist, who edits the English language weekly news journal Weekly Mirror, is the editor of the new book. Also the president of Nepal-China Society, Pant has already written and edited two books on Buddhism and Nepal’s foreign policy initiatives. The new book is her third book, which is more valuable than the other ones. This book has chronicled the events and provided information and analysis especially on issues concerning Nepal’s fledgling peace process. In the preface to the book, editor Pant has admitted that it is not her new creation but an ‘assortment of public documents, press reporting and analysis mostly covered in The Weekly Mirror.’ This is her frank and honest acknowledgement. According to her, the principal objective of the book is to enlighten the readers on the country’s contemporary politics. The editor is absolutely right as her efforts have really educated the readers about the peace and political process that began five years ago.
A cursory look at the book and its analysis gives a fair sense that the editor has made meticulous efforts in trying to be objective as far s possible. She is a journalist who has her own views and perception on certain national issues especially on matters of patriotism but she has tried not to impose her views. But, as a patriotic journalist and writer, who has been constantly and fearlessly using her pen power for national interest, her patriotic perspective is clearly visible in the book.
To sum up, the book is a documentation of historical events which is useful for researchers, academicians and others who want to explore the turn of events over the last five years of the peace process. Unlike other writers, who try to impose their perspective and analysis on the readers, she has been honest and fair enough to the readers as she has included all aspects in a purely impartial and independent manner. In this sense as well, this book is important. Ms Pant has left everything to readers to judge, analyze and evaluate the historical events and make their own conclusion.
After all history is a chronology of events and historians document without manipulating and distorting them. The editor of this book has done exactly that and done justice to the readers. Although Ms Pant is a journalist, her initiative to come up with this new book is no less a contribution than any historian in Nepal. For this, the editor of the book deserves appreciation. Thus, this is a book worth reading and collecting.

Parties, Power And Political Culture

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Nepal has seen many political experiments since the 1990 political change when the country saw the restoration of multi-party democracy. Especially in the last five years since the peace process began, we’ve seen different types of coalitions and equations being tested. They have included a Congress-led all-party government, Maoist-led majority government and the UML-led majority government.
Of all the governments, the one that was headed by Girija Prasad Koirala was the strongest and most broad-based. The parties in Parliament had either joined this government or extended their cooperation from outside. It is for this reason that this proved to be the longest serving coalition government after the peace process began. It also successfully completed the jobs it was entrusted with - promulgation of the interim constitution and holding the election to the Constituent Assembly.
Short-lived governments
However, all the governments that were formed after the Constituent Assembly election have been short-lived. The first government after the Constituent Assembly election was headed by Maoist Chairman Prachanda, which barely survived nine months. This coalition government comprising the Maoists, CPN-UML, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and some fringe parties collapsed in the wake of the Maoist government’s decision to sack the then army chief and appoint the second-in-command as the new army head. However, the president blocked the decision. Prachanda, thus, resigned on moral ground, opposing the activism of the ceremonial president and demanding civilian supremacy.
The issue of civilian supremacy was raised more loudly by the Maoists after Prachanda stepped down. The Maoists claimed that the president’s move was not in line with the spirit of parliamentary democracy. In countries where parliamentary democracy is being practised as in the United Kingdom and India, the head of state approves whatever the executive chief recommends and decides.
Currently the parliamentary system is at work in Nepal, too. The parliament elects the prime minister who is the executive chief of the country and is responsible and accountable to Parliament. The president is the head of state - constitutionally a ceremonial head - and the interim constitution has not provided any active political and decision-making role to the president. The prime minister is the executive head and his decision must prevail.
Prachanda could have survived as prime minister as he still commanded a majority in Parliament. The CPN-UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum had not withdrawn support to the Prachanda-led government. But he chose to resign on moral ground as his decision did not prevail.
After the fall of the Prachanda-led government, a new coalition was created. The Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Madhesi parties joined hands in forming a non-Maoist government headed by UML senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. However, the Maoists refused to recognise this government and continued with their protests both in Parliament and in the streets to fail the government. Despite the vehement protests of the Maoists, the Madhav Nepal-led coalition government survived more than 14 months. Ultimately, Prime Minister Madhav Nepal resigned under pressure not only from the Maoists but also from members of his own party - the CPN-UML.
Factional fighting in the CPN-UML played a crucial role in forcing Madhav Nepal to step down from the chair even though he enjoyed a comfortable majority in Parliament with the backing from the Nepali Congress and Madhesi parties. During the time of the formation of the government headed by Madhav Nepal, UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal had shown his utter displeasure. His discontentment was valid as it was morally not appropriate to form a government headed by someone who had lost the election from two constituencies. Khanal was directly elected by the people, and he was a strong aspirant and also legitimate candidate for the prime minister’s post. However, Madhav Nepal managed to become prime minister by manipulating the factional politics in the CPN-UML and the international situation to his advantage
There are three distinct groups in the CPN-UML - one led by Khanal and the other two by KP Oli and Madhav Nepal. The Oli and Nepal groups joined hands to form the non-Maoist government with support from the other parties, mainly the Nepali Congress and Madhesi parties. It was for this reason that Khanal was critical of the Congress-UML coalition, and he played a key role in pulling down the Nepal-led coalition government, which ultimately paved the way for the formation of the present UML-Maoist coalition government headed by Khanal.
Oli and Nepal are now firing salvos at Khanal and his government and have demanded his resignation openly, especially in the wake of the latest expansion of the cabinet in which the UCPN-Maoist was given the portfolio of the Home Ministry. Worse still, the Home Ministry portfolio has not only created controversy and conflict within the CPN-UML but has also stirred a hornet’s nest in the Maoist party.
The prime minister faces two challenges at present. One is to maintain a delicate balance within his own party and the other is related to taking the coalition partners along. As there are reports that efforts are already afoot from various quarters to topple this government and form a new one, the prime minister’s ability to handle these matters faces a crucial test.
Moreover, the deadline for promulgating the new constitution is drawing closer. If the constitution is not promulgated by May 28, which is just two weeks away, the Khanal government will face stiff opposition, and detractors from within his own party and other opposition parties may intensify their tirade against the coalition government.
The fundamental responsibility of writing the constitution, however, lies with the Constituent Assembly, and the role of the government is simply to facilitate the process. In the Constituent Assembly there are more than 25 parties, and all the parties must share the responsibility on the basis of their strength. However, the parties do not seem to be prepared to accept this reality.
The country, people and democracy have been the casualty of the parties’ inaction, inability, partisan agenda and power struggle. Even after so many years of democratic exercise, democracy and a democratic culture have not taken root in the country. Institutions have not been created and strengthened. Instead, the high handedness of the politicians in every sector and direct political interference have weakened the system and institution.
Show democratic culture
Ironically, the parties still do not seem to have realised their weaknesses, mistakes and failures. They are engaged more in the blame game than doing some soul searching to see where they have failed. Our parties seem to be more bureaucratic than democratic. It is high time the parties demonstrated a democratic culture and liberal attitude to accommodate the concerns and voices of all the people in the larger interest of the country and the people.

How Nepal can benefit from US-China partnership

Yuba Nath Lamsal
How Nepal can benefit from US-China partnershipYuba Nath LamsalFormer Chinese Premier Zhu Rongii once remarked, "US-China relations can never be wonderful but they really cannot collapse". Although he made these remarks more than a decade ago, they still hold true even today given the complicated yet intertwined nature of US-China relations. But things are moving much more ahead than Zhu's period as China's premiership that was between 1998 and 2003.The latest developments that have unfolded in the international arena are the pointer to the fact that the United States of America and China are getting closer and are in the process of building stronger partnership. Be it the exchanges of high-level visits or joint military exercises or trade and economic cooperation between these two countries, the indications are that Washington under Obama presidency has given additional priority to the relationship with Beijing and its cooperation in tackling several nagging issues that have afflicted the entire humanity. The days are gone for Washington to look to Europe to shape its foreign and other policies. Asia is now on the global spotlight that has changed the international way of thinking. It is mainly because of the rise of Asian countries in terms of economic growth and military strength accompanied by their growing international clout as well as their increased assertiveness. To be more specific, the spectacular rise of China has not only boosted Beijing's international clout but also drawn attention of all international powers to Asia in general and China in particular. The international powers are now keen to work and cooperate closely and in partnership with Beijing in various fronts.The recent strategic and economic dialogue between the United States and China that took place in Washington DC on May 9 and 10 is a symbolic instance of China's rising significance and role in the internal arena. This has reinforced the necessity of closer and stronger cooperation and partnership between the world's two largest economies for creating better and safer world. This was the third strategic and economic dialogue as a continuation of bilateral process initiated three years ago. The Strategic and Economic dialogue is a bilateral forum created in 1999 to discuss ways to work together and enhance the bilateral economic relationship and pragmatic cooperation between Washington and Beijing.At the end of the dialogue, an accord was signed to further facilitate bilateral cooperation on economic and military affairs between the world's two giants. Both Washington and Beijing have described the accord as a milestone in the bilateral relations between the two countries. After intense debate and painstaking negotiation on several nagging issues, the American and Chinese delegates finally reached a conclusion that the two countries had no alternative other than cooperating with one another in the present global context. Earlier in January, Chinese President Hu Jintao had visited the United States in which he held discussions with American leaders to facilitate a roadmap for US-China long-term strategic and economic partnership. The accord reached recently between the delegates of the two countries is the outcome of rapport President Hu's visit had built in Washington.The deal includes issues and arrangements for exchange of high level visits to enable both the countries to understand one another and explore more areas of mutual cooperation in various fields which is expected to usher in a new era in US-China relations and also a new opportunity for greater cooperation between the world's two largest economies.The Untied States and China have long been engaged in discussion and negotiation on bilateral, regional issues. Even during the cold War China and the United States cooperated one another on issues concerning international and regional security. Despite being a communist country, China stood firmly against hegemonic and expansionist policy that the erstwhile Soviet Union vigorously pursued that threatened security and independence of small, weaker and less developed countries in the world. In pursuit of protest against hegemonic policy of Soviet Union in East Asia and Afghanistan, Chinese and American policy matched which brought these two countries closer during the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War that has been marked by unipolar world, the relations between Beijing and Washington have continued to grow despite hiccups on certain issues. China and the US have differences on some areas but they have agreed to bury differences and cooperate on issues in which they have mutual understanding. China and the US are definitely competitors on many areas but at the same time they have expressed willingness to enhance mutual cooperation.The recent dialogue and accords are the testament of the fact that US and China, though competitors and rival on many counts, are willing to cooperate more than compete in areas ranging from economy to technology transfer and military exchange and cooperation. The new accord has sought to expand US access to Chinese market and Chinese access to American technology. Also in the military front, Washington and Beijing have agreed to exchange visits of top military officers and conduct joint exercises on different occasions.There are some passionate arguments on who needs whom the most. Some tend to believe that China needs America more than Washington needs Beijing. They argue that China is a developing economy requiring capital and technology and also market for its products for which United States is the center of attraction. America is the only superpower, largest economy, richest country capable to invest more in other countries and technologically most advanced country. If China has to sustain its economy and level of development, it must seek and get US support and cooperation. It is true to some extent but not as a whole. Until two decades ago, China was desperately needed American capital and technology but this situation no longer exists now.There is another school of thought that is equally strong and logical which advocates that it is the United States that needs China more than China needs the US in the present context. Until a decade ago, China was a poor and agrarian country with majority of its population living in absolute poverty and condition of backwardness. Now situation has undergone a sea change in China. Ever since China adopted economic reforms way back in 1978, China has achieved much higher economic growth and development attracting huge capital investment from various countries. Although there is a sizable American investment in China, American investment is smaller and less significant compared to that of other countries. In terms of volume and impact on Chinese economy, American investment ranks fifth. Much more investment has come from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and the people across the Strait of Taiwan. Now China has huge fund and Beijing, instead, has invested in the United States more than Americans have done in China. This is the point some China experts make their basis to substantiate the argument that United States needs China more than Beijing needs Washington.Now China has emerged as the second largest economy and it has managed to keep afloat its economy despite great recession the world is facing. The United States has not yet recovered from the economic slump and Washington is seeking China's help for reviving American economy. Similar is the case with America's trade with China. The US has a huge trade deficit with China and Washington wants to bring it to balance through increased exports to China. Only last year, China's trade surplus with the United States stood over 44 billion US dollars. China's rapidly growing trade surplus and foreign reserves and also the growing US fiscal and trade deficits are the cause of global concerns as these issues are likely to have serious impact on the world economy.To reverse this trend, Washington needs to work with China in more cooperative way. These are the conditions that have brought these two great nations closer and make them work together for the mutual benefit. The question as to who needs whom is not important at this point. The reality is that both Washington and Beijing need one another. And on the basis of this ground reality and need of the hour, these two countries are working together and helping one another despite some political rhetoric that leaders of both the countries make on certain occasions. Such rhetorical expressions are meant for public consumption not for practical purpose. The relations between these two countries are, thus, based on pragmatism that benefits the both.Viewed from international and regional perspective, this is, indeed, a milestone arrangement that would ensure stability and security in the world in general and Asia in particular. The United States has already signed a strategic partnership and also civil nuclear cooperation deal with India, which has made New Delhi's arch rival Pakistan susceptible and has also irked Beijing and smaller South Asian countries including Nepal. Against this backdrop, the new deal with Beijing would help soothe the tension in the region and make South Asian countries comfortable in terms of security.The world is now scrambling to take benefit from the stunning growth and development of China. Unfortunately, Nepal, despite being the closest neighbor, has not worked towards this direction. Nepal can benefit a lot if we are able to take China into confidence and convince Beijing that its small southern neighbor means what it says. Now Nepal has credibility problem so far as Nepal's relations and cooperation with China are concerned. Nepali parties and government seem to be less aware of the recent developments in the international arena and also the developments in China. As a result, Nepal's dependence on India is increasing heavily and New Delhi is trying to reap political and strategic benefit out of this situation. China is growing in lips and bound and the fruit of China's development has already reached Tibet, thereby, totally changing the face of Tibet and Tibetan people. If Nepal assures China that it would be a dependable partner, China may be willing to invest more in Nepal and help reduce Nepal's heavy dependence on southern neighbor. China is definitely seeking a dependable partner and wants Nepal to be a strong, peaceful and stable nation for which, Beijing is always willing to support materially and morally. Only thing Nepal needs to do is that is has to demonstrate its credibility and firmness in its foreign policy and dealing with the neighbors.

Bin Laden's death and its implication

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Bin Laden's death and its implicationYuba Nath LamsalAfter desperate hunt for more than a decade, the United States has finallycaptured and killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda mastermindwas killed on May 1, 2011 in a raid conducted by the US special force on ahuge mansion surrounded by think walls and barbed wire in Abbottabad ofPakistan, about 100 kilometers from capital Islamabad. While the UnitedStates, Western countries and their allies in other parts of the world havehailed bin Laden's killing as a milestone in the efforts to combat andcontain international terrorism, there are mixed reactions from the worldespecially on the conditions in which he was killed.Bin Laden got what he deserved because his crime against humanity isunpardonable. As the chief of the Al Qaeda, bin Laden had declared waragainst the United States but his war was not only aimed at America butagainst human civilization and entire humanity. He is responsible forkilling thousands of innocent people in terrorist attacks in the worldincluding the attacks in American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the WorldTrade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC, in London,Madrid, Bali and beyond. In New York attacks on September 11, 2001 alone,more than three thousand people had been killed.After bin Laden's Al-Qaida attacked in New York in September 2001, theUnited States declared war on terror with the objective of smashinginternational terrorist network and bring him to justice. The United Statesalong with other NATO members sent troops to Afghanistan to ' wipe out AlQaeda', Taleban and other terrorists and the western countries have attainedconsiderable success in their mission. However, complete victory in thiscounter-terrorism campaign is yet to be achieved.With the killing of Bin Laden, US president Barrack Obama has said ' justicehas been done'. But a question is being raised whether it was the objectiveof the America's war on terror and whether the war on terror has come to anend. In fact, it is not. Bin Laden was killed but it would have been betterif America had captured him alive and presented to the world so that US lawand the international laws would take due course to decide what should bedone to this man who has committed such a big crime against humanity.The demise of 50 year old Saudi born terrorist mastermind has generatedflurry of reactions and opinions worldwide. The western countries and theirallies are definitely joyful because their biggest enemy has beeneliminated. America has heaved a sigh of relief which can be wellunderstood. Washington had been desperate in the past because it was amatter of embarrassment for the only super power not to be able to catch aperson even in a period of decade since hunt for him started. However,others have expressed cautious and calculated reaction on this incident forvarious reasons.Bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. troops is being viewed from severalperspectives. The incident is likely to have multi-dimensional impact andrepercussion in war on terror, America's relations with Pakistan andAfghanistan, US policy on South Asia, the ongoing pro-democracy movements inthe Arab countries, perceptions of US power around the world, and also the2012 presidential election in the United States in which Obama is seekingreelection. Since bin Laden was killed in Pakistan territory, this incident,is likely to exacerbate an already strained and mistrustful relationshipbetween the United States and Pakistan. Although the United States andPakistan have been strategic partners and allies right from the Cold Warera, suspicions have crept into their relationship in recent days. For this,both Pakistan and the United States are responsible.The United States has lately claimed that Pakistan did not cooperatesincerely and wholeheartedly in the campaign to eliminate Al Qaeda and itssupporters, who may be hiding in and operating from some tribal areas ofPakistan. Some people have even suggested the United States to break off itsties with Pakistan. On the surface, these claims and accusations may appeargenuine. However, it would be unwise to draw any concrete conclusion on thebasis of a single incident. What we need to take into account is the factthat Pakistan has always been a front country in the war on terror since2001. Had Pakistan not cooperated with the United States in its mission inAfghanistan, Washington would be a total failure. What America and the NATOtroops have achieved so far in Afghanistan in their counter-terrorismcampaign, is partly due to Pakistan's cooperation. The credit of success,whatever it is, should partly go to Pakistan as well.Some analysts have even indicated that the United States may completelyabandon its partnership with Pakistan because its mission was accomplishedafter the death of bin Laden. It is this reason why Pakistan complains thatWashington is undependable partner. In fact, the problem started with theUnited States trying to bring in India into Afghanistan's issue. The UnitedStates, taking U-turn in its South Asia policy, wants India's involvement inAfghanistan to counter balance Pakistan. But India is reluctant to do so.New Delhi's reluctance is not because it is unwilling to take part incounter terrorism mission in Afghanistan but because India is well awarethat taking part in Afghan war would be risky that would have greater chanceof backlash at home. India is already involved in Afghanistan in the nameof assisting reconstruction in Afghanistan. Its aim is to instigateactivities to destabilize Pakistan from Afghanistan soil. India has alreadyopened consulate offices in some cities close to Afghanistan's border withPakistan where there is no India's interest other than incitinganti-Pakistan activities. Despite knowing this Afghanistan's Karzai regimehas given permission to do so in the expense of its neighbour's security.It would be a blunder, on the part of the United States, to bring India intoAfghanistan issue. India's involvement in Afghanistan would be to alienatePakistan that would be risky for the United States and other powers that arealready in Afghanistan. Without the assistance and cooperation of Pakistan,the war on terror in Afghanistan cannot be won. Perhaps, the world includingthe United States, too, is well aware of it. But it cannot be understood whythe western powers want to bring Indian into Afghanistan. Once India getsinvolved, the situation in Afghanistan would be complicated. India's rolehas never been to solve the problems in other countries and establish peace.But its role is always to mess up and fuel conflict and chaos. This can bewell substantiated by India's tract record. In the height of the Cold War,India was in the side of Soviet Union and openly and blatantly supportedSoviet invasion everywhere in the world including Afghanistan. However,Pakistan not only opposed Soviet Union's invasion and interference inAfghanistan but also actively provided moral and material assistance tothose fighting against the Soviet troops. Had Pakistan not wholeheartedlysupported, it would not have been possible to evict Soviet army fromAfghanistan so soon.Now situation might change in Afghanistan after bin Laden's death. With BinLaden's death, the Al Qaeda and its allies are definitely down but notcompletely out, which requires conscious and cautious approach to deal withthe new situation. The way India is trying to take advantage to malignPakistan from the new situation would be counterproductive in the war onterror. Pakistan itself is the victim of terrorism and it is waging adecisive war on terror. Islamabad has not been fully successful in defeatingand eliminating terrorism in its own territory. It is true that bin Ladenwas found and killed in Pakistan. But this does not provide any ground toblame Pakistan of being a safe haven for terrorists. One thing we must beclear that bin Laden would not have been tracked down unless Pakistan hadnot supported in this mission. There must be cooperation between Pakistanand US in tracking down bin Laden but it was kept secret because of itssensitivity and implication in Muslim Pakistan.In the new situation, the role of Pakistan has been more important than everbefore. Any kind of rupture in the US-Pakistan relationship and cooperationcould be detrimental not only for US and Pakistan but also for peace andstability in South Asia and for global peace and order. Against thisbackground, the US-Pakistan cooperation is expected to be stronger and moreresult-oriented in the final war on terror. Pakistan has been consistentenough in its stance and position viz-a-viz its foreign policy and war onterror. But the United States' policy seems to be wavering in the recentyears. The duel policy the United States has adopted in South Asia would becounterproductive to Washington in the long run because history has provedNew Delhi's problem of credibility and crisis of trust. The rest of SouthAsian countries have already felt a pinch of India's power and any kind ofalliance with big powers like the United States would further exacerbate thehegemonic policy of New Delhi which would be detrimental for the balance ofpower in South Asia and also beyond.

Friday, May 6, 2011

China's next targets: Shifting to quality

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The annual session of the National People\'s Congress (NPC), China\'s parliament, was held in Beijing\'s Great Hall of the Peoples on March 3-14. The NPC, the supreme political organ of the People\'s Republic of China, concluded its session adopting plethora of resolutions on current national, regional and global issues as well as China\'s vision for the next five years. It has adopted, among other key decisions, a new five-year plan that has aimed at maintaining sustainable economic development, hitting mass poverty on its roots, raising people\'s living standard, reducing income disparities, curbing inflation and building more meaningful and cooperative partnership with the global community. The 118-page blueprint for China\'s development for the next half decade was submitted to the National People\'s Congress for a debate and deliberation among 2979 deputies representing a cross section of the society and country\'s different regions. This five-year plan, which covers the period between 2011 and 2015, aims to shift the country from simply being a world\'s cheap labour market and manufacturer of economical items into a moderately prosperous society that ensures more qualitative change in the life of the Chinese people. Once this vision was put into practice and goal achieved as per the vision, China would no longer remain a country of cheap labour and cheap goods. It would be known in the world as a country of qualitative and most productive human resource with quality and branded products. That means China is now more focused on striving for a more varied economic structure with more equitable development and distribution system. Raising economic condition of the people has been a paramount concern of the Chinese government. It has, to a large extent, been successful in reducing poverty and maintaining a good rate of economic development for the last three decades ever since China adopted economic reforms way back in 1978, thanks largely to the vision and determination of China\'s late pragmatist leader Deng Xiao Ping. When China initiated reforms, it was a country of world\'s largest number of poor people. The leaders that came to power since 1978 have followed the course initiated by Deng and have made considerable progress in their march towards economic development. The economic reforms which China describes as socialist market economic policy, has done some miracles in transforming the country into a global economic and military power. The new five year plan that was just endorsed by the National People\'s Congress aims not only at giving continuity to its previous policies and consolidating them to improve the life of the Chinese people but also bringing some newer innovatives so that China would have different image in the global arena. Even the World Bank has hailed China\'s success in poverty alleviation and it has urged other least developed countries in the world to follow Chinese model of development in general and poverty alleviation scheme in particular. The new five year plan, which is better understood as the guideline for pushing China\'s economic growth target in a more moderate manner, mainly focuses on three major points. Firstly and also most fundamentally, China has shifted its priority to accelerating sustainable economic growth and ensuring higher quality. Now China\'s GDP is projected to rise at only 7 per cent a year, down from earlier two digit growth, because the government has shifted its priority from quantitative growth to qualitative growth. In the period of the last five year plan, Chinese economy had grown by 11.2 per cent annually. Despite a record GDP growth and economic miracle in the past, China was still confronted with mass poverty and low income of its people. Chinese leadership and authorities are worried about the growing income gap between the people living in cities and those living in the hinterland. Now the China wants to narrow this income gap and inequality to ensure more equitable society with moderate income and dignified life. The goal of China for the next five year is to emerge as a country with moderate income enabling its people to live a dignified life. With its increased economic strength, Beijing wants to have better clout both at home and abroad. For this, China plans to invest more on infrastructure building both in rural and urban areas as well as creating more income generating activities in the villages. Under this scheme, the People\'s Republic of China plans to build at least ten million low cost houses in the rural areas so that the people in the hinterland would have better housing facilities. Secondly, the plan strengthens efforts to adjust China\'s energy usage and protect the environment. Some of the specific targets include: reducing the energy intensity of the economy by 16 per cent, increasing the share of energy from non-fossil-fuel sources to 11 per cent, and reducing the carbon intensity by 17 per cent by 2015. In the past, too, China had set the target of reducing energy use by 20 per cent and it had been close to the target. Buoyant by the series of success in economic and social development fronts as well as environment protection, the new five year plan has set a range of targets to improve the quality of China\'s air, water, and soil, both urban and rural. The authorities are of the view that these targets are achievable and by the end of 2015, the air, water, and soil quality of China\'s urban areas would be quite better than that of today. Environmentally, China would be better off in 2015 probably better than any other Asian economies. The third point that the five year plan has envisaged is the effort to adopt a holistic and more coordinated approach for greater attention to social needs and social justice. In the past, Beijing had accorded priority to speedy growth enabling the country to become world\'s second largest economy. With already surpassing Japan to become the world\'s second largest economy and presently eying to beat the United States of America, the world\'s largest economy, in a few years, China now has accorded its top most priority to raise living condition of its citizens so that they can enjoy modest life at par with some of the western developed countries. Given the huge population of the poor, this seems to be an uphill task in the near future. However, the way Beijing is moving ahead in economic and developmental fronts, the target does not seems to be unrealistic. It is becoming clearer that China\'s march towards prosperity would be a reality sooner than later. This is one of the key targets that the new five year plan has envisaged for which Beijing would be successful. Since the five year plan has been endorsed by the National People\'s Congress, the targets and goals are less likely to fail as all the previous targets have been achieved successfully. In the next decade, China is, therefore, expected not only to be the world\'s strong economic powerhouse but also a country of people with moderate income and dignified life. At a time when the entire world including the western economies suffered heavily and severely due to global financial meltdown, China remained largely untouched from this crisis not because it is aloof from the developments in the rest of the world but because of its cautious and pragmatist policies as well as the will and ability of the leadership to tackle the crisis more wisely. As a result, China continued to grow and prosper even when the rest of the world faced serious economic crisis due to recession. China is unstoppable in its march for development and modernization, thanks to its visionary and wise leadership and determined and hardworking people. It is a good news not only for the Chinese but also for all the Nepalese people because Nepal, as a close neighbor, can learn and benefit a lot from China\'s experiences and success. The new five-year plan, thus, is a shift to quality that China envisages to achieve for the better living condition and qualitative growth of its economy.

India's failed Nepal policy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Indian external affairs minister SM Krishna was in Kathmandu last week for a three-day visit in which he met with Nepali leaders and interacted with them on several issues including bilateral relations, Nepal\'s political and peace process and matters of Indian\'s concerns. It is Krishna\'s second visit to Nepal since he assumed the office of Indian foreign ministry two years ago. The Indian main concerns that SM Krishna and his team raised in public were the security of Indian investment in Nepal, extradition treaty that India had long been pushing and the control of anti-Indian activities in Nepal\'. However, in secret, he discussed with some of the \' India-trusted\' politicians and people on alternatives to the present \' India unfriendly\' Maoist-UML coalition government. The visit of India\'s foreign minister accompanied by foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and other responsible people in the South Block that handle Nepal desk came at a time when India\'s grip in Nepal\'s politics is slowly diminishing. Even Indian media and some foreign policy analysts in New Delhi are critical of the handling of Nepal policy. According to them, New Delhi\'s Nepal policy has failed which has given rise to massive anti-Indian feelings and activities in Nepal. India has been equating patriotic feelings and sentiments of Nepali people with anti-Indian activities. Indian media and columnists have more than often said that \'anti-Indianism is Nepal\'s patriotism\'. This is the flawed notion of India\'s foreign policy\' which speaks of the fact that India is always bent on weakening Nepal\'s patriotism and patriotic movement so that Indian influence and interference would continue to remain strong in Nepal. India\'s Nepal policy, to a large extent, has failed. But this is not a new phenomenon. India\'s Nepal policy has continued to fail right after the independence when New Delhi adopted the hawkish and expansionist policy towards its small neighbors specially Nepal. The success of foreign policy of any country and regime is to win the trust and confidence of the people as a whole. In the popular level, the image of India is fairly bad. This is because of the bullying nature of Indian establishment. India has always been using ugly tactics of coercion in order to force Nepal\'s regime to accept certain conditions which are often not favorable to Nepal. Be it the 1950 treaty or 1965 agreement, Mahakali Treaty or other issues, India has always been using coercive methods to get things done in Kathmandu. This is the method not compatible with international diplomacy and the concept of soft power, which is in vogue in modern day diplomacy. The use of force and coercive measures are always counterproductive in the long-run although it might be beneficial on the short term basis. The image of soft power and cooperative diplomacy alone build positive image of any country and win goodwill and trust of the people in other countries. India seems not to have understood this fact. Krishna\'s visit and issues he raised and discussed with Nepali leaders have reflected this long-held Indian policy towards Nepal. The sole objective of his visit was to build positive image of India in Nepal in the wake of failure of India\'s Nepal policy. The formation of the Maoist-UML coalition government headed by Jhala Nath Khanal was attributed to the failure of the India\'s Nepal policy. India was against the formation of the present Maoist-UML coalition government headed by Jhalanath Khanal and New Delhi has dubbed this government as an anti-Indian coalition. In fact, this government is against any particular country but a government formed at the initiative of Nepali parties and leaders that shunned external meddling. India had desired for the continuity of earlier UML-Nepali Congress government headed by Madhav Kumar Nepal. As a matter of fact, India backed only those who were rejected by the people. This was also one of the reasons that has created a bad image of India in Nepal. Madhav Nepal was defeated in the election from two constituencies but he was the closest chum of New Delhi and wanted him to continue. The sole reason of India\'s support to Madhav Nepal and his government was due to his policy and role to serve the interest of India right from the ratification of Mahakali Treaty. In the past, India\'s role was vital in every political change or formation of the new government. India now wants the Maoists out of power simply because the Maoists did not toe with New Delhi\'s line when they were in power two years ago. India has claimed to have played midwifery role in bringing the Maoists and the seven parties together for signing the 12-point agreement that not only made the Jana Andolan II possible but also brought the Maoists into the peaceful politics. When the Maoists went to power leading a coalition government after their emergence as the single largest party in the Constituent Assembly election, New Delhi demanded its dividends. India had expected that the Maoists would do what India had wanted in Nepal, for which New Delhi had proposed some new proposals including the extradition treaty. However, as a patriotic force, the Maoists refused to compromise in Nepal\'s national interests. Moreover, the Maoists tried to have equal relationship with India and China on the basis of mutual benefits. This Maoist policy irked India which was one of the reasons for the collapse of Prachanda-led Maoist government. The Indian influence is dwindling slowly in Nepal in recent years. The general and overall sentiment in Nepali is against India\'s attitude towards Nepal as New Delhi often tries to keep everything in Nepal\'s under its grip. Since Nepal is an independent country which has never been a colony of any country and has its own distinct character and independent policy throughout the history, Nepali people cannot tolerate any kind of neo-colonialism that India has tried to impose upon Nepal. Even during the height of British colonial power that kept most part of South Asia under its grip, Nepal kept its independence intact. British has also tried to take over Nepal but their bid failed because of the velour of Nepalese warriors in the Anglo-Nepal war which forced the British to accept Nepal as an independent country. But independent and democratic India has been a problem for Nepal\'s independence and its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Right after the independence, Indian leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister BB Patel adopted hawkish and expansionist policy which their successors continue even today. The annexation of Sikkim, which was an independent Himalayan nation, and taking over Kashmir are the testimony of the India\'s expansionist policy. The Indian expansionist policy is the main threat to Nepal\'s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is reflected in the present India\'s Nepal policy as well. As and when there is a political turmoil, instability and transformation, India always pokes its nose and interferes in Nepal frequently and its acts are always against the genuine interests of the Nepalese people. The failure of preventing the Maoists coming to power is being taken by the Indian establishment as the failure of India policy in Nepal. The India\'s neighborhood policy is the principal reason for this failure. However, the people that are responsible in handling Nepal affairs including the current Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood are more responsible in fueling anti-India sentiments in Nepal. Ambassador Sood was greeted with black flags and shoes on several occasions because of his hawkish and undiplomatic role that has created bad image of India in the mind of Nepali people. The mission of Krishna\'s high-level team was to reverse this image and ensure that India\'s influence in Nepal\'s politics would continue. However, Krishna failed in his mission. Although he tried to bring together some so-called India friendly groups and people, Krishna could not do anything to break the present Maoist-UML coalition in the first place. Secondly, Krishna tried to woo Maoist leader Prachanda and bring him into India\'s fold, perhaps, with some new assurances. But Prachanda openly rebuffed and demanded that India cease its interference in Nepal and behave properly in accordance with the universally accepted diplomatic norms. Prachanda also demanded that Nepal-India relation be developed on equal footing and on the basis of mutual equality. This was not expected by India as no other leader, perhaps, especially after the 1990 political change had ever dared say so. Krishna’s visit was, thus, aimed at keeping the non-Maoist forces together so that the Maoists can be contained in accordance with India\'s grand design. This is India\'s flawed policy which is doomed to fail. India wanted to show the world that Nepali parties were not competent and capable to handle their affairs and under this pretext New Delhi wanted its direct and more naked interference in Nepal. But Nepali parties failed India\'s design and they have demonstrated that the Nepali parties are very much capable of handling their affairs on their own.

Progressive Coalition At Work

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Nepal has witnessed some new twists and turns in the political spectrum that have resulted in the formation of the Jhalanath Khanal-led government with the backing of the UCPN-Maoist. This is a positive signal that has heralded a new chapter in Nepal’s political history. The new development that saw Khanal’s victory in the prime ministerial race has demonstrated that the Nepali people are capable of determining their destiny and do not seek external meddling and interference in Nepal’s internal affairs and politics.
External powers were openly and blatantly interfering in Nepal’s internal politics and were active in imposing conditions and terms on the Nepali political parties in the formation of the new government. There could have been genuine concerns from some friendly countries that want peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal. These countries are genuine friends of Nepal and want to make meaningful contribution to the development of Nepal.
Foreign Interference
But there are some countries which, in the name of friendship, are making efforts to extract maximum benefit by squeezing Nepal through various means. To serve their interest, they often dictated terms and conditions on our government. Worse still, there are countries that seek a direct role in every decision taken by Nepal.
They even want to see a government of their choice. The deadlock and delay in the formation of the new government for a period of over six months was mainly because of external meddling and interference in our domestic politics. This was definitely unfortunate for the Nepali people. But more unfortunate was the case when some of our own political parties and leaders not only acted as agents of the foreigners but did everything to fulfill their interest than our own national interest and needs.
The formation of the Khanal-led government is a big and serious blow to the external forces that had been directly meddling in Nepal’s political process. Some external forces were of the misguided notion that a government cannot be formed without their support. This particular external force that was directly interfering in Nepal’s internal politics wanted an alliance between forces other than the Maoists. The external element had adopted the policy of not allowing the Maoists to be in the government of any kind. This factor played a key role in keeping the Maoists out of power for a long time simply because the Maoists refused to toe its line and accept its domination and dictation.
The external powers and their agents in Nepal often talk of a democratic alliance against the Maoists. This is an absurd position with no justification whatsoever. What do they mean by a democratic alliance? According to this school of thought, which is often backed by some external hegemonic power, the anti-Maoist alliance in Nepal is the democratic alliance.
Then what is the UCPN-Maoist? Is this not a democratic party? If a name is any yardstick to determine whether a particular party is democratic or not, there are other parties including the CPN-UML, which continue to have the communist tag in their name. If a particular party toes the line of a particular country or countries, it is certified as a democratic party no matter what its name or policies. But if any party does not toe the line of the external forces, it is described as an authoritarian party.
Look at their view of the CPN-UML. As long as the CPN-UML joined hands with the rightist parties, including the Nepali Congress, it was a democratic party, and once it gave up its alliance with the Nepali Congress and other rightist parties, the CPN-UML was suddenly described as a communist authoritarian party.
In the past, there was a government headed by the CPN-UML leader, in which the Nepali Congress and some other parties were in. This government was described as a democratic coalition simply because it could keep the Maoists out of power. Now there is an alliance between the CPN-UML and the Maoists, which is being dubbed as communist polarisation by the rightist parties and elements. This is flawed thinking.
The right to decide whether a particular party or government is democratic or not solely rests with the people of a particular country. This is not the business of foreigners. Moreover, the Maoists in Nepal took part in the election which was certified as being free and fair by international observes and emerged as the largest party in Parliament. How can a party that takes part in a competitive, free and fair election and wins popular support be branded as an anti-democratic party?
This is exactly the case with the Nepali Maoists viz-a-viz its position with the external forces and other rightist parties in Nepal. The Maoists took part in the Constituent Assembly election held under the laws and conditions formulated by the interim parliament in which the Maoists were in a minority. The Maoists accepted these conditions and contested the elections in which they emerged as the largest party.
Perhaps the anticipation and assumption of the other parties, mainly the Nepali Congress, and some external forces were that the Maoists would not be able to gain so much strength. But they were shocked by the election results, which gave the Maoists an upper hand even in open and parliamentary politics. The election result was a popular endorsement of the Maoists and their policies.
In a democracy, people are supreme, and their verdict is final. But any attempt to misinterpret and disregard popular verdict and mandate in itself is an anti-democratic step. The Maoists are the largest force in Parliament, having won the largest number of seats. Since the people of Nepal have accepted them as a mainstream democratic party and given them the mandate to lead the government as well as lead the constitution-writing and peace process, what right do the external elements and their agents in Nepal have to make statements whether a certain party is democratic or not? This is purely an expansionist and hegemonic position of the external power and reactionary and anti-democratic policy of the domestic forces.
If one believes in the universally accepted cardinal principles of democracy, he/she must respect the verdict of the people. Similar is the case with the present coalition government headed by CPN-UML Chairman Khanal. The international community in general is happy with the formation of the new government, which has broken the nearly seven-month-long political deadlock and stagnation.
The formation of the new government has once again revived the hope that the constitution might be written in time, and the peace process concluded. But certain external powers and elements that want to keep Nepal under their political and security ambit are trying to discredit the Khanal-led government, and they have, right from the beginning, started hatching an ugly conspiracy against it.
This is an alliance between the two major parties in Parliament - one is the largest party and the other the third largest party. Other fringe parties have either joined or backed this alliance. Thus, this alliance is a patriotic, democratic and progressive alliance. Some have even raised the possibility of polarisation of politics in Nepal as the alliance between the CPN-UML and the Maoists would ultimately create two political poles - communist and non-communist camps.
Polarisation a necessary evil
Some have described the non-communist front as a democratic alliance while the leftists and progressive groups see them as reactionaries. According to the leftists, polarisation between the progressive (communist) forces and reactionary (non-communist or democratic) forces is necessary to complete the task of the present political transformation of Nepal more successfully.
Whatever the logic and counter logic, the present coalition is not against any political group or any particular country or group of countries. As long as the external forces and countries continue to have friendly relations based on the principle of equality and mutual respect, refraining from interfering in another’s internal affairs, the coalition government and its partners will be happy to exchange meaningful cooperation with all countries on the world. But interference under any pretext and cover would be unacceptable for the government as well as the people of Nepal.

Parties Keep Repeating Mistakes

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Habits die hard’ goes the maxim. This is particularly applicable to our political parties that never seem to learn any lessons from history and their past mistakes. It is said that history repeats itself. Our leaders are short sighted and have such bad memory that they forget events and mistakes quickly to allow history to repeat itself.
This has been a common and chronic problem in present day Nepal. All the political parties are to blame for this. Now is the time when the political parties need to develop a common understanding and work in a collective and cooperative way so that the political mission with which the country has been moving ahead can be achieved and accomplished. Given the lackluster performance of the parties and their partisan agenda and arrogant attitude, consensus and cooperation among the parties appear to be almost impossible at this point of time.
Elusive consensus
The spirit of the interim constitution, which is the fundamental law of the land, clearly requires consensus politics and cooperation among the parties. The ground reality of Nepal’s present politics and power equation, too, needs consensus and cooperation. If the historic job is to be accomplished in time, cooperation among the parties is a must. The parties also talk loud of the need for consensus and compromise, but their actions have never matched their rhetoric. As a result, consensus appears to be elusive.
Nepal is passing through a difficult period. The law and order is at its lowest ebb. The feeling of insecurity has haunted every Nepali citizen. The problem is more acute in several Terai districts, some mountainous districts of eastern Nepal and urban centres including the Kathmandu Valley. Cases of threat, extortion, robbery and even killing have become a daily phenomenon. The law enforcement agencies are weak and ineffective in curbing violence and criminal activities. As the government is weak and ineffective, people often resort to strikes and closures to make their voices heard and press for their demands.
The condition of the people is getting further complicated due to the unbridled price hike of essential commodities. The purchasing power of the Nepali currency is declining. Unemployment is pervasive, and a large number of energetic Nepalese are leaving for the Gulf countries in search of employment opportunities.
The recent uprising and turmoil in some countries of the Middle East and North Africa have directly affected the Nepali workers abroad, and they are returning home for fear of being caught in the cross fire. If the turmoil in the Gulf and North African continues for long, Nepal would also be a victim.
The country is currently facing 16 hours of power outages daily. In the absence of regular power supply, several industries face closure. At times, the black marketers and hoarders create artificial shortage of daily essentials and services, taking advantage of the poor law and order and the country’s transitional period. As a result, the life of the people is getting unbearable as their income is hardly sufficient to survive and support their family.
The UN human development report has put Nepal at the lowest rank in South Asia in terms of economic, social and human resource development. If the present trend continues, the country is likely to witness further decline in its economic viability.
On the political front, the scenario is even more bleak. The country is now in the process of writing a new constitution as an important part of the ongoing peace process. The peace process began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Treaty between the government and the Maoist party that had been fighting a guerilla war to establish a communist state. With the signing of the treaty, the Maoists gave up the armed insurgency and entered peaceful politics. This was a great achievement for the country and the people as this historic event provided a sense of optimism for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal.
However, things did not move ahead as expected even after the signing of the peace treaty. The Constituent Assembly election, which was an important part of the peace process, was held after being postponed twice. Even after the Constituent Assembly election that put the Maoists as the largest party, there has not been much optimism and enthusiasm. The hung Constituent Assembly has invited more instability as we are seeing change in the government every now and then.
The parties failed to write the new constitution in two years - the period the interim constitution had provided for the lawmakers to complete the job. So the parties amended the interim constitution and extended the life of the Constituent Assembly by one more year. Even after that, the progress has been slow. This shows that the constitution may not be written even within the extended period. This shows that the parties are more interested in power, position and perks rather than their job and problems of the country.
It must be remembered that the people had almost lost their trust in the parties in the past. The activities of the political parties in the 13 years after the 1990 political change made the people apathetic to politics as the parties were focussed more on partisan and personal gains than on the problems of the people. It can be substantiated by the poor show in the protest of the political parties when then King Gyanendra took over power and imposed his direct rule. It was only after the leaders publicly apologised and expressed commitment not to repeat past mistakes that the people came overwhelmingly to the streets that toppled the king’s regime.
After the success of Jana Andolan II, people had expected the parties to change their behaviour. But the people’s expectations were soon dashed as the parties and leaders again got bogged down in dirty power politics instead of engaging in politics to empower the people. This power game took an uglier turn after the Constituent Assembly election. The government could not be formed for more than four months after the results of the election were announced. Open chasm and sharp division appeared during the election of the president and vice president. The parties were polarized into the Congress-led alliance and the Maoist-led front.
In the election for the president and vice president, the Maoists were defeated. This sowed the seed of mistrust among the parties and consensus politics. The interim constitution did not have any provision for ruling and opposition benches so as to ensure that there would be consensus politics and cooperation among the parties. But constitution was amended, and this provision was inserted at the insistence of the Nepali Congress.
As the largest party in the CA, the Maoists had the legitimate right to lead the government. But efforts were made not to allow the Maoists to form the government. Only after much ruckus were the Maoists able to do so. Although a Maoist-led coalition government was formed, serious efforts were made to pull down this government right from the beginning.
At the same time, the Maoists were also not able to understand the feelings and concerns of the coalition partners and carry them along. There had already been some serious differences among the coalition partners on several issues, and those differences broke out openly when the issue of removing the army chief came to the fore. This broke the coalition and the Prachanda-led government collapsed.
As a result the new government headed by UML leader Madhav Nepal was formed. This government, too, collapsed in one year which gave rise to uncertainty for seven months as a new government could not be formed. Now another government headed by CPN-UML chairperson Jhalanath Khanal is in place. But this government, too, has been facing similar problems faced by the earlier government.
All parties to blame
The politics of unity and consensus has been broken. The breach of consensus politics is a breach of the spirit of the interim constitution. The spirit of the interim constitution is to settle all issues through consensus among the major political parties. In the breach of this constitutional provision, all the political parties are responsible. The Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN-Maoist and Madhesi parties are to be blamed for the violation of the constitution.
Time is running short, but the parties can still correct their mistakes and again work together as per the constitutional provision at least until the new constitution is promulgated and the ongoing peace process is successfully concluded.

Use Nepal’s Strategic Strength

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Nepal is currently in political transition. Although Nepal has been declared a federal democratic republic - a key achievement of Jana Andolan II held in April 2006 - the gains of the popular movement cannot be formally institutionalised as the new constitution is yet to be promulgated.
A transition period is always painful for any country, marked as it is by uncertainty, confusion and instability. The transition in Nepal is already longer than envisaged earlier. And it is still not certain how long the present transition period will last. In such a situation, it is natural for some unscrupulous elements to try to take advantage of the uncertainty and confusion.
Foreign meddling
In this political crisis, both domestic and external elements are trying to reap benefit at the expense of our new found political set up and also our national interest. The feudal and regressive elements are trying to revive and regain their lost laurels. Some external forces, too, are active in Nepal, blatantly violating accepted international norms and values of diplomacy. Most of the countries having diplomatic relations with Nepal are friendly and want peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal. However, there are some countries that are trying to openly interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs.
The inability to make decisions by the power-hungry parties and politicians has, to some extent, paved the way for heightened external meddling in Nepal. But more than this, it is the desire of certain countries, especially those in our neighbourhood, to bring Nepal under their sphere of influence that is behind this situation. To add to this, some of our political parties and leaders, instead of rejecting such overtures, are seeking support and blessings from the external powers for their personal and political benefit.
While the external forces are active in trying to influence Nepal’s domestic politics and other affairs, the political parties and politicians are preoccupied with their power struggle, which is only helping to compromise on our national interest, national sovereignty and independence.
Although the Western countries also want Nepali politics to move the way they want, their activities are more sophisticated, and are within the diplomatic demarcation. However, this is not the case with some other countries, including our immediate neighbours.
While Nepal’s prolonged political crisis is the product of the game plan of the external forces on the one hand, the long transitional period has created a fertile ground for increased foreign meddling, on the other. The external forces express grave concern over each and every turn of political event, which in itself is interference in Nepal’s domestic affairs. Diplomatic missions and diplomats are not allowed to make comments on the internal affairs of other countries. However, this rule has hardly been followed and respected by the powerful countries.
The interference by the external forces and countries was not so intense in the past. During the Cold War period, Nepal was not in the spotlight. Moreover, Nepal had been able to handle its foreign policy in a delicate and sensible manner, and was successful in keeping external meddling at bay.
The Cold War was marked by ugly superpower rivalry. The two superpowers, namely, the United States of America and the Soviet Union had their own priority zones in Asia like East Asia and the Middle East. Afghanistan came to the fore only since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Kabul. Since then, South Asia became important in international politics to achieve a balance of power.
After the end of the Cold War, the world became unipolar, and the United States became the lone superpower. The international balance of power drastically changed, and the centre of power shifted to Asia with the rise of China. India, too, is rising economically, which is reflected in its military position as well.
China and India are competing more than cooperating on many fronts. Similarly, the rise of China both economically and militarily, accompanied by its assertiveness in global affairs, has been taken by the United States as a threat to its global dominant position.
Nepal is strategically located in the present global geo-political and geo-strategic scenario, in general, and regional power balance, in particular. The world is watching China and India closely as both rise to become world powers. The developments and decisions in Beijing and New Delhi today have great impact on global affairs.
China’s rise is of concern to the Western world, especially the United States of America. The United States has adopted the policy of weakening and containing China so that America’s dominant position remains unchallenged. As a regional competitor, India, too, has joined the American bandwagon of containing China.
Both global and regional powers are, therefore, seeking a strong presence to have an upper hand in South Asian politics and balance of power. Nepal has had long and friendly relations with the United States. As the lone superpower, the United States obviously wants a strong presence in each and every country. But its increased interest in Nepal stems from its desire to keep watch and check Nepal’s two giant neighbours, more particularly China.
The United States and India are coming closer particularly because of rising China. Some analysts even dub the strategic partnership between India and the United States as a joint initiative to encircle China, for which Nepal is a strategic destination.
Whatever the reasons and logic, Nepal should by no means be allowed to be a playground for international powers. For this, Nepal’s parties and politicians must be alert and act accordingly in time. However, some events and developments have shown that some of our parties are willingly to give a free hand to the external forces to meddle in Nepal’s internal politics. If this is the case, it would be most unfortunate on our part for our sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest in the long run.
National strength
Nepal’s strategic location is our national strength, which can be properly utilised for the development of Nepal. However, the rulers in Nepal have turned our strategic strength into strategic vulnerability. Nepal should not be taken merely as a buffer state between China and India. It should be taken and utilised as a vital bridge and link between the two rising economies and global powers - China and India - and also between South Asia and East Asia. Against this background, Nepal can extract maximum benefit to serve our national interest by wisely tapping our strategic strength.

Shift In Maoists’ Political Line

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Barely six months after the much-vaunted Palungtar Plenum, the UCPN-Maoist has once again taken a U-turn in the party’s political line, and also changing the equation within the party. The new debate started after Chairman Prachanda temporarily suspended the party’s political line of popular revolt and proposed a plan of action to focus on peace and the constitution.
Peace and constitution
While Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai, despite reservations on certain issues, has hailed Prachanda’s new proposal as a positive and more pragmatic one in view of the present domestic political situation and international scenario, senior Vice-chairperson Mohan Vaidya is critical of the new proposal and has dubbed it as national capitulation and deviation from the revolutionary spirit.
Vaidya and his team have maintained that the central committee cannot override the decision of the plenum and have demanded either another plenum or national congress of the party to decide this issue. However, Prachanda and his supporters within the party have defended his line, citing it as a temporary plan until the new constitution is written and promulgated.
In fact, the Palungtar plenum had kicked off a massive debate on the party’s political line in the party’s greatest gathering of more than 5,000 delegates. In the plenum, three different political lines were proposed by three senior-most leaders of the party, including Chairman Prachanda, Vice-chairperson duo Mohan Vaidya and Baburam Bhattarai.
Prachanda and Vaidya’s views were identical on most of the issues except on the issue concerning the analysis of history. Both of them had advocated popular insurrection to overthrow the regime and capture state power. However, they had not completely rejected peace and the constitution. Their conclusion was that the domestic and external reactionaries would not allow the constitution to be promulgated or conclude the peace process, and thus a mass revolt was necessary in order to foil the reactionary conspiracy against the people and the party.
On the issue concerning the party’s principal enemy, Vaidya and Prachanda had stood together, concluding that India was the principal enemy as, according to them, New Delhi was colluding with the domestic reactionaries against the Nepalese people and the Maoists.
Baburam Bhattarai’s position was different. Although he also did not reject the need of a mass revolt, he advocated that the time was not ripe for it. According to him, this was the time to concentrate on peace and the constitution and that a revolt would be necessary only when the efforts for peace and the constitution fail. On the issue of the principal enemy, he pointed at the domestic reactionaries and compradors who are the fundamental stumbling blocks in the country’s political and economic transformation,
There was fierce debate on these three proposals, but no decision was taken at the plenum, and the central committee was entrusted with the task to take a proper decision in accordance with the spirit of the Palungtar plenum.
In the central committee meeting held soon after the Palungtar plenum, Vaidya and Prachanda stood together, and their political line of mass insurrection was adopted, while some of the Baburam supporters registered their note of dissent.
Even though the political line of a mass revolt was adopted, it was never put to test or implementation. In the last five months, everything has been done on an ad hoc basis. But with the deadline for the promulgation of the constitution fast approaching, Chairman Prachanda all of a sudden brought a new proposal in the politburo meeting, temporarily suspending the political line of mass insurrection. Prachanda’s new proposal focussing on peace and the constitution is akin to what Baburam had been advocating.
The politburo was unable to take any decision on this issue, and was, therefore, sent to the central committee for a decision. The new political line has changed the earlier equation in the party. Earlier, Prachanda was closer with Vaidya. But the new development has brought Prachanda closer to Baburam, alienating Vaidya and his group.
Equations have often changed in the Maoist party based on the political line being adopted by the party. Once in the past, the party had taken action against Baburam Bhattarai and some of his supporters for advocating peaceful partnership with the parliamentary parties against the monarchy. However, the situation took a new turn soon after Gyanendra Shah took over absolute power, marginalising the parliamentary parties.
Analysing the new situation, the famous Chunbang meeting not only withdrew the action against Baburam Bhattarai but also brought Prachanda together with Baburam. The Chunbang meeting adopted a new tactical line which remained at work until the Constituent Assembly election. The equation again changed at the Kharipati conclave that brought Prachanda and Vaidya closer until recently.
Prachanda’s new proposal has come taking into consideration the people’s aspiration and wish of the international community. If the Maoists go for a mass revolt immediately, it may send a negative message to the people as well as the international community that the Maoists are not serious about peace and the constitution. The other political parties, mainly the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and Madhesi parties, are constantly accusing the Maoists of not being serious about peace and the constitution.
Even if the party decides to go for an insurrection, can the revolt be successful? What will happen if the revolt fails like the indefinite general strike called by the party that had to be withdrawn after six days under mounting pressure from the people and the international community?
People have the right to revolt if the regime and parties do not act in conformity with the will and aspiration of the people. But the parties and leaders must feel the pulse of the people. But is this the time for a revolt? The country is in a mess due to political instability and uncertainty. The political instability and uncertainty have given rise to insecurity, poor law and order, high inflation and low productivity, massive unemployment, poverty, discrimination, economic disparity, scarcity, communal feelings, regionalism, among many others. These evils have to be fought and controlled in time for which political stability and peace are necessary.
Political instability can be ensured only when the ongoing peace process is concluded at the earliest by promulgating the new constitution and resolving all other outstanding issues. The people and the international community are watching cautiously and curiously the activities and role of the political parties at this crucial moment.
Any efforts to derail and delay the constitution-writing and peace process will be taken by the people as a move to sabotage the achievements of Jana Andolan II. Thus, the parties must show the people and the international community that they are serious and sincere about peace and the constitution. Prachanda’s new proposal may have come under these circumstances and compulsion.
In fact, the present political process that began four years ago is the agenda of the Maoists. The Constituent Assembly election, republican set up, federalism and inclusive democracy were initially the agenda of the Maoists which were later accepted by the other parties. If the constitution is not written and the peace process not concluded, these agenda would fail. In such an eventuality, the entire political process and exercises of the last four years would be defeated. Moreover, Prachanda may have understood the mood of the people and the situation both at home and abroad.
Debate and discussion make a political party more democratic and vibrant. So the current debate in the Maoist party is natural. The party is, thus, expected to come up with more commitment and seriousness to complete the ongoing political and peace process.
Onus
The UCPN-M is not only the largest party but a key constituent of the present coalition government. The people have placed high hopes on this party, which was demonstrated in the Constituent Assembly election. Being the largest political force of the country, the onus lies more on the Maoists to complete the present political process.
The author can be reached at: yubanath@wlink.com.np

Is this Arab awakening or tempest in teapot?

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Almost 75 years ago, George Antinius wrote a book \' Arab Awakening" reflecting upon the rising Arab nationalism. The Pan-Arab sentiment then had been focused mainly against the Europeans especially the newly created Israeli state and its patron the United States of America. The creation of Israel rendered Palestinian people stateless that angered the Arab people, mainly the Muslims. The hatred that was instilled in the mind of Arab people was because of their blood relationship with the Palestines. During the height of Cold War when the world had been divided into two camps—US led group and Soviet bloc— most Arab countries and leaders developed sympathy towards the Soviet Union ( now Russia) simply because the United States backed and protected Israel against the hostile Arab neighbors. The Soviet Union had considerable influence in the Middle East. However, Americans and Western countries, too, used their power and resources to keep certain key Arab leaders and government under the ambit of their influence. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are some countries to name a few that remained under US ambit of influence. Later situation changed as the world turned into unipolar and the most Arab nations looked to the United States for their security and survival especially in the wake of growing Islamic resurrection. When the Soviet Union intervened in Muslim Afghanistan and installed pro-Soviet regime, the United States used this opportunity to bring the Muslim world into its fold. Although the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was globally condemned, Muslim world especially Arab countries and groups sided with the Afghan people in the fight against the Soviet influence and occupation, which brought them closer with the United States and the Western world. It was a good diplomatic victory of the United States to win over Arab countries. But the tide turned against the United States itself when the Cold War rivalry ended following a democratic surge in the world in exactly the similar way Samuel Huntington has described as the third wave of democratic upsurge. The Arab dictators sought protection and patronage of the United States and the Western powers to keep safe their hold on power. Those countries that toed western line were considered the allies but those who opposed western hegemony were dubbed as dictator. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain alike became US allies and got western backing even when none of them were democracies but notorious dictators. Until the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the Arab world joined hand with the western countries against the Russians. After the Russians pulled out from Afghanistan ending a decade-long Afghan war in 1989, situation began to change. The Iraqi invasion in Kuwait was yet another turning point in Arab politics and polarization. Until the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was an ally of the west. Saddam Hussein soon became enemy of the west as interest clashed with him. This led to the attack on Iraq by a coalition force under the leadership of the United States, which forced Saddam Hussein\'s Iraq to pull out from Kuwait. Until then, the US and western strategy was acceptable as the western move was aimed at freeing a small and weaker Kuwait from a hawkish neighbor\'s invasion. But things did not stop there as the western countries were not satisfied until the regime change in Iraq. The West again attacked on Iraq accusing Saddam of harboring terrorists and developing weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was finally caught and hanged fully bringing Iraq under US control in the name of installing democratic regime. Iran is another case. Until king Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was in cotrol of Teheran, Iran was a model for Islamic world as the western countries lauded the Shah regime as the first open society in the Arab world. The Shah regime fell in the wake of Islamic revolution in 1979, which turned Iran into an Islamic country with Islamic law in force. As the old regime was patronized by the US, the new regime turned against the Western countries especially the United States. The situation became worse when the Islamic students patronized by Iran\'s new regime made staff at the American embassy in Tehran hostage. The hostage issue was resolved only when America caved in to Iranian demand. This strained US-Iran relationship which continue even now. The United States and the western countries have classified some of the Arab countries as authoritarian regimes which include Iran, Yemen, Syria and Libya, among others. But the western countries never speak any word against other Arab governments that back western policies. None of the countries in the Arab and North Africa are democracies. But the Western countries have adopted duel policy vis-a-vis their relations hip with the countries in the Middle East. The current popular uprising in the Middle East and North Africa is yet another Arab awakening not against Israel or the United States but against their own authoritarian rulers. The Arab revolutions are home grown generated by the ordinary masses for freedom and liberation from the repressive rule. This is second Arab awakening. But attempts are being made from outside to abort the revolution of the people. A case in point is Egypt. When US ally Hosni Mubarak was almost in the position of being toppled by popular revolt, the western countries were quick to persuade Mubarak to step down and ensure the power to remain in the hand of pro-west people. Although regimes changed in Tunisia and Egypt in the wake of popular uprising, democracy has not yet dawned there and the revolution was aborted through conspiracy. Protests are building up in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Iran and Qatar. Other Arab countries are also started feeling the heat of protests. The fire of revolution is flaring up, which is expected to dump despotic regime and institute people\'s polity. However, it is not sure whether this heat would really change into a genuine democratic revolution in the Arab world or simply fizzle out. Now the latest developments have shown that Libyan dictator Qaddafi is counting his days. When the people rose against Qaddafi\'s iron rule, he used brutal force to suppress the protests. As a result, many people have been killed in the hands Qaddafi\'s troops. The world has expressed solidarity with the people of Libya as well as other countries of the Middle East and North Africa. The United Nations has urged the Libyan government not to use force against the peaceful protesters. But the Libyan regime has not listened to the international community. In response, the United Nations adopted a resolution to enforce no fly zone in Libya so that protesters could be saved from the aerial attack of Qaddafi\'s brutal troops. But in the name of enforcing no fly zone, some western countries mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and France have already launched their attack on Libya, which has already caused severe collateral damage in Libya and weakened Gaddafi\'s military power to certain degree. Although the US-led Western attack has emboldened and inspired the protestors who have been on the streets against Gaddafi\'s cruel regime, the attack has violated the international laws and practices. Revolt is people\'s right and Libyan people have the right to revolt against their dictatorial regime, which they are doing. If external forces launch military attack in another sovereign country in the name of supporting Libyan protesters, it can never be justified. Gaddafi\'s regime has waged a brutal war against the people of Libya but the western countries as well have started imperialist war with the objective of controlling Libya\'s oil and other resources in the post revolution era. It has been stated that the attack on Libya was to implement the no fly zone resolution of the United Nations. In the first place, the resolution of the United Nation itself is flawed as it has no right to implement no fly zone within a sovereign country. Secondly, the United Nation resolution 1973 has never given mandate to any country to attack on Libya in the name of implementation of the resolution. Maummar Gaddafi rose to power in 1969 through military coup and has imposed his brutal regime since then. In the beginning, Western capitalist countries expected him to raise the anti-communist banner in Africa and Arab world. With this assumption and expectation, the western countries thought that Gaddafi was worth protecting. However, things did not go in a way the Western countries mainly the United Stated had thought. Instead Gaddafi not only closed American and British bases in Libya but also introduced anti-capitalist policies including nationalization of foreign oil and commercial interests of the west. This infuriated the Western government and the relationship between Libya and the West became sour. This made Gaddafi closer to America\'s arch rival Soviet Union. Since the West was always trying to topple Giraffe\'s regime, they now have got a pretext to oust him from power by any means possible. The attack on Libya is not intended to help the revolution and democratization process but control Libya\'s rich resources including oil. These developments have indicated that the external forces are effortful to weaken and divert the genuine revolution of the people. Gaddafi\'s regime must end but the people Libya should be allowed to decide their own fate not by external forces. The regime change in support of the external forces would have bad precedent in the world. Already Iraq and Afghanistan are the worst example, Libya will now be added to this list of countries. This incident would embolden and encourage other countries to pursue their hegemonic policy towards the weaker countries especially their neighbor. As a country that has always been facing a threat from its hegemonic neighbor—India— Nepal has to come forward in protesting such an external meddling and attack on another sovereign country.

External forces in Nepal's domestic affairs

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The role of external forces in Nepal's domestic politics has been a topic of intense debate in the media and intelligentsia. By external forces we mean the major international powers and also our immediate neighbours. These powers include India and China in our neighbourhood and the United States and some members of the European Union. All countries of the European Union may not be interested in Nepal's internal affairs although they want a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal and want to cooperate with this New Himalayan Republic. There are certain countries within the European Union that are particularly interested in Nepal's domestic politics and also have their stakes in Nepal. To be specific, the United Kingdom and France are the two European Union countries that try to poke nose in Nepal's affairs along the side of the United States.
Role of external forces in Nepal's domestic politics could be analyzed in more than one perspective. There are several reasons that have made Nepal important for international powers. These factors include, among others, strategic location, ideology, and regional perspective. Unlike the countries of the Middle East and some African countries, Nepal does not possess any significant natural resources that may attract attention of international powers. But Nepal's strategic location is so vital that the international powers cannot ignore Nepal in the present global power equation. Nepal is situated between Asia's two giants—India and China—which is the main reasons why international powers are so interested in Nepal.
China and India are emerging as global economic and military powers. China is already a global power with its strong economy and military might. China is already a second largest economy and also most powerful military power in the world only next to the United States. China is, thus, taken by the western countries specially the United States as their formidable rival in terms of economic strength and military power. In a manner and speed with which China is growing, Beijing is eying to become the largest economy in the world and also the super power. This has concerned the United States, the United Kingdom and France. The United States does not want to lose the status of the sole superpower. These countries have adopted strategies to contain China and prevent it from becoming the global power. For this, they have adopted multiple strategies and approaches, which include politically destabilizing, economically stagnating and militarily weakening China.
The presence of the United States is already strong in the Pacific and the South China Sea which has in a way encircled China from the east and the south. Washington is penetrating from the west and also from the north especially by using its growing presence in the central Asian republics, India and Afghanistan. Nepal can be another point to create trouble in some southern parts of China specially Tibet and Xinxiang. Washington, therefore, wants friendly regime in Kathmandu to accomplish its tasks in Tibet and Xinxiang through Nepal for which it has been using instigating 'free Tibet group'. The interest of the United States, some European countries and India matches on this issue and these countries are working together to sabotage China for which they often use Nepal's territory and sometimes Nepal's political parties and also the regime for this task. If the regime in Nepal is friendly to them, it would be easier for these countries to further instigate anti-China activities through Nepal. This is the reason why these countries are active in Nepal and they often meddle in Nepal's domestic politics.
Ideology is yet another factor that has brought more interest and interference of external forces in Nepal. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet empire are being taken as a defeat of communism in the world and victory of the capitalist democracy. In other words, it was viewed as a victory of the United States that led the war against communist ideology. Despite international setback, communist ideology is gaining popularity in Nepal. The communists are very much influential in Nepali politics. In other words, Nepal has been a fertile ground for the growth of communist ideology, which the United States accompanied by other countries like India and some European countries have taken as a challenge. These countries are using all their tactics and means to discredit the communists and weaken them. They are pitting one group against the other to ensure that the communists remain divided and they would not be able to capture power. They sometime accuse Nepal's communists of being backed and instigated by China and sometimes try to link them with some Islamic terrorist groups. This strategy is at work especially to prevent the Maoists from leading the government despite its position as the largest party in Nepal's parliament. In this collective scheme, India has been encouraged to play the lead role which could simultaneously contain communists in Nepal as well as harm China through Nepal with the help of their friendly parties and regime.
The regional factor or regional balance of power is yet another factor that has brought more international forces in Nepal and their activities. In the regional perspective, India and China have greater role to play in Nepal than that of extra regional forces. China and India have common border with Nepal and both the countries have their own stakes. China's role in Nepal is rather sophisticated and shrewd as it has never tried to interfere in Nepal's affairs. But it definitely wants its national interests to be well protected. China's main concern in Nepal is related to Tibet. Beijing does not want any kind of anti-China activities from Nepal's territories. Since some countries are instigating anti-China activities in Nepal, Beijing wants the Nepal Government to ensure that such activities are checked and Nepal's territory not be used against China. Although Nepal has repeatedly made public its declared policy of not allowing its territory to be used against China, it has not been truly translated into action. China wants a stable Nepal and strong government so that security situation in Nepal would be strong and its development further accelerated. Instability in Nepal may have grave impact in Tibet and also in Xinxiang as elements that try to create trouble in China would take advantage of Nepal\'s instability. This has been the permanent concern of China in Nepal. But China\'s concerns and interests in Nepal have grown more serious in recent years because China no longer continues its quiet diplomacy. With its growing economic might and international clout, China has now been more assertive in the international arena and has accordingly conducted its diplomacy. As a global power, Beijing definitely has its international obligation which it is trying to achieve through soft power image. Moreover, Nepal is a close and friendly neighbour with which Beijing has a big stake. At a time when China has grown as a global economic power whose trade has spread worldwide, Nepal is an important point through which it can enter into the huge market of South Asia mainly India. Any kind of hanky-panky of any other country in Nepal would, therefore, be intolerable for Beijing especially in the present international scenario, which has been clearly reflected in remarks of various leaders and officials of China. So far, China is conducting its diplomacy in Nepal on the basis of its long-cherished foreign policy not to interfere in other countries but promote cooperative relationship on the basis of mutual benefit and equality. But Beijing's gentlemanly diplomacy should not be taken by any country and force as its weakness in Nepal. If need be, Beijing would come more assertively if Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity are in jeopardy because security and stability of Tibet is closely linked with Nepal's security and stability.
India is the country that has own role and stake in Nepal. Nepal is surrounded by India from three sides. Nepal and India have a long open border and free flow of people across the border. Due to open border, Nepal's trade with India is bigger than with any other country. Although Nepal is a landlocked, it is being created as an India-locked country due partly to difficult terrain in the north and due partly to the parasitic and dependency policy of Nepali rulers and authorities. India is always exploiting the geo-strategic and geo-economic conditions and compulsions of Nepal and New Delhi has tried to keep Nepal under its security ambit. Being a close neighbour sharing a long open border characterized by free flow of people, India has definitely greater stake and security interest in Nepal. But the intent and purpose with which India has been treating Nepal is by all means objectionable and Nepal can never be under security umbrella of any country.
Nepal is an independent and ancient country that came into existence quite before India was created as an independent country. India came into existence along with Pakistan in 1947 out of the partition of British colony of South Asia. Except Bangladesh, all other south Asian countries are older than India. Pakistan is India's twin sister born together out of the partition.
British had far more cordial relationship with Nepal except some hitches especially during the Anglo-Nepal war. British always respected Nepal's sovereignty. But the problem started after India was created in 1947. India's rulers, right from the beginning, adopted expansionist and hegemonic attitude and policy towards its small South Asian neighbours especially Nepal. In fact, British colony was friendlier than independent India in terms of bilateral relations.
Although India has its own interests and stake in Nepal, its policies and attitudes have often created problems and have hurt the sentiments of Nepal and Nepalese people. India always tries to raise the bogey of Chinese influence and Pakistani activities in Nepal, which are totally unfounded and fabricated. Under this pretext, India has intensified its interference in Nepal, which is against international laws and diplomatic norms. India, the United States and some western countries have a common interest in Nepal that is to contain China and create trouble in Tibet through Nepal. For this, purpose, there has been a tacit agreement and partnership between India and western countries in Nepal. The United States has lately started looking at things in Nepal through Indian lens that has emboldened India to pursue its hegemonic policy towards Nepal. It shows that the United States has departed from its old independent South Asia policy and has hobnobbed with New Delhi, which is guided by the common interest of containing and encircling China.
These conditions and developments magnify Nepal's increasing strategic strength, which can be duly utilized for Nepal's own interests. Unfortunately, this strategic strength is being defined by some pundits as Nepal's vulnerability paving way to external meddling and interference. Many of our leaders and officials, too, subscribe to this view, which is unfortunate and also against the interest of Nepal. Most of the Nepali people are patriotic and would definitely not accept and tolerate external interference under any pretext.
The author can be reached at yubanath@wlink.com.np