Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reform The United Nations

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Otherwise far apart on several international issues, the UN member states have one thing in common—the reforms. This view was explicitly and more loudly expressed in the 65th United Nations General Assembly, which is underway in currently New York, than ever before. From Algeria to Albania, Mongolia to Mozambique and China to Chile, all member states have one voice that the world body needed vigorous reforms in order to make the United Nations more representative, legitimate and efficient so that it can play more effectively its essential role in resolving the global challenges ranging from financial crisis to peace and security to climate change.

However, the disagreements on its institutional modalities, regional rivalries and some structural and bureaucratic hurdles have dogged the much-vaunted agenda of UN reforms. Although the member states are demanding reforms in the United Nations organizational structure for the last 20 years, they are not unanimous on the single model and the modus operandi for the structural change and reforms of the global organization. This demonstrates the fact that the genuine reforms in the United Nations is still far away from realization.

The reforms in the United Nation was long felt and demanded. However, it was not put forth so vocally and strongly as it was done in the in the 65th General Assembly. But members have their own agenda and modalities of reform. The core of the demand is the structural and representational reforms in the Security Council (SC), the main executive organ of the United Nations. Despite the United Nations being the world body, its functions, as it seems, do not reflect multilaterism in genuine sense due mainly to the composition and power structure of the Security Council.

The 15 member-Security Council has two types of membership—permanent and temporary. The five permanent members are United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. The rest are non permanent members that are elected by the General Assembly for two –year term with no power to influence the decision of the UNSC. The decisions of the United Nations are influenced by the five permanent members of the Security Council wielded with veto power.

The present structure of the Security Council is not democratic and judicious. The permanent members hold the decision making power in the form of veto, with which they manipulate its decisions. The Security Council obviously cannot take any decision that is against the will and interest of the five permanent members mainly because of their veto power. The non-permanent members are just there to endorse what the permanent members decide.

Countries like Japan, Brazil and Germany want enlargement of the Security Council so that their chances of being included as the permanent member would be high. At the same time, some regional groups are demanding the seats for the regional groups in the Security Council. The ASIAN, OPEC, SAARC, African Union and South American groups are pursuing vigorously for their permanent representation.

Given the present structure of the UNSC, the representation of all five continents has not been even and judicial. Europe has three permanent members—Russia, the United Kingdom and France—whereas Africa and South America have none. This system was devised more than six decades ago when the international scenario was completely different. Now the world has undergone a sea change. The world body also has to be changed in line with the new pattern and order that have evolved in the present day world. The Security Council needs to be restructured in order to ensure equal representation of all continents and people in the world on equitable and judicious manner.

When the United Nations was mooted and founded, the World War II had just been over. The Allied force had won the war. The powers of that time especially the ones that emerged victorious in the World War II decided the modalities of the United Nations. In other way, the United Nations was created as an international luxury club of the allied forces during the World War II. In the World War II, the United Kingdom, United States of America, France and Russia were in one camp that defeated Germany, Japan and Italy. In the post war world order, the victors set the tone and agenda in the international order which was also reflected in the structure of the United Nations. The victors of the war created the United Nations and incorporated the provisions in which they are well placed and have better say in the decision making process of the world body whereas the rest of the world would revolve around them. Otherwise, there should be no justification behind the provision of having three permanent members from a single continent whereas depriving the other continents of their due representation.

The United Kingdom was the global power whose colonies expanded far and wide in the world. As a superpower of that period, it was natural for the United Kingdom to have its secured place in the Security Council with veto power. The inclusion of the USA in the Security Council can be duly justified as it represents the North American continent. Russia was given the permanent seat because it represented the communist and socialist bloc in the world. The seat of permanent member of the Security Council was given to France to represent the vast majority of Francophone countries mostly in Africa which were either French colonies or under influence of France. China's seat in the Security Council is for the representation of Asian continent and also for the one fifth of the world's population.

Although defeated in the war, Japan and Germany were the powers to reckon with. But their role was not recognized and they were not given due place in the World Body but treated like any other states in the world, which may not be justified. Since they were defeated in wars, the victors treated Germany and Japan so badly that they were forced to accept any decisions made by the victors. Japan and Germany were compelled to remain under the security umbrella of the victors.

The international situation has changed drastically. The post World War II international scenario no longer exists at present. The divided Germany has now been unified. Both Japan and Germany have emerged as the economic powers. The United Kingdom is no longer a global power but acting just like an extended arm of the United States. Soviet Union was disintegrated into several countries. Russia is exercising the permanent seat of the Security Council as an inheritor of the Soviet Union. Russia is no longer a communist or a socialist country and does not represent the socialist bloc. Just being a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Russia cannot be the successor of the Socialist Soviet union. France, too, does not represent the entire Francophone countries. Against this backdrop, the question of rationality regarding the permanent membership of the United Kingdom, France and Russia is being raised seriously worldwide. Now Germany deserves place in the Security Council more than UK, France and Russia.

Africa is rising vibrantly and the African countries have already started asserting their legitimate share and say in the United Nations' decision-making process. It is an injustice to Africa to deprive permanent seat in the Security Council. Moreover, more than 50 per cent issues that the Security Council deals are pertaining to the African continents. Similarly, South America, too, is feeling pinch of being alienated in the UN decision-making process. Brazil, which is an emerging global power, has already started asserting its share in the UN Security Council to represent South American continent.

The organizational and power structure of the United Nation also needs to be reformed and changed to cope with new realities. As long as the present composition of the United Nations Security Council continues, it, at all, will not represent the present geopolitical, geo-strategic and geo-economic realities. The first and the foremost job of the UN reform should be to change the Security Council's composition, representational system and structure. It has to either scrap the provision of veto power of permanent members or restructure the entire organization. Mere enlargement of the Security Council, as some countries are demanding, would not address the changed international realities. It has to be restructured in a way that genuine and deserving countries are given place in the Security Council as the permanent members with veto power whereas some countries that have lost relevance and validity to be permanent members should be released of their role.

Nepal should address China's concern

Yuba Nath Lamsal

After Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal stepped down last week, China's
foreign ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu responded to new political
developments in Nepal saying ' China hopes that political parties in Nepal
will seek consensus through dialogue'. Ma added, 'China values the
friendship and cooperation between the two countries in accordance with the
Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence'. The quick response of the northern
neighbour to Nepal's unfolding political developments exemplifies high
priority China attaches to its relations with the Himalayan Republic.

Soon after this, a high level delegation of China led by special
representative of President Hu Jintao arrived in Kathmandu for a three-day
good-will visit. The delegation led by Zhou Yongkang, a member of the
Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China
(CPC) Central Committee and also secretary of the Commission for Political
and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, held talks with Nepali
leaders and officials during which China expressed its desire of peace,
stability and prosperity in Nepal and also conveyed its willingness to build
stronger partnership in Nepal's development.

The tone and tenor with which Zhou's delegation spoke with Nepali leaders
and officials tells a lot on issues pertaining to bilateral relations and
cooperation between the two countries and Beijing's expectations with
perception about Nepal. Over the last few years especially after 2006, China
has felt its position a little bit shaky in Nepal. This is because
anti-China activities have escalated over the last few years in Nepal. The
activities and developments in Nepal for the last couple of years have given
impressions that the parties in power in Nepal are not sensitive enough
towards the concerns of China.

Until 2006, China regarded monarchy as a traditional and permanent friend in
Nepal and accordingly adopted its policy. With the abolition of monarchy,
China felt that it lost a permanent and trustworthy friend, although Beijing
had equally good and friendly relations with all major political forces and
parties in Nepal. China is, now, in search of a strong, trustworthy and
permanent friend in Nepal upon which Beijing can fully trust. But the
pro-India tilt of some major parties of Nepal specially the Nepali Congress
and CPN-UML has made China more susceptible and is not fully assured that
its interests would be best served in Nepal. Moreover, the rise of Madhesi
parties in Nepali politics, which are the creation of New Delhi, is yet
another source of irritation for China. It is being felt that India is
pushing its agenda in Nepal through the Madhesi parties. India wants to
control Nepal's politics, foreign and defence policy directly through
Madhesi parties and some of its lackeys within the Nepali Congress and the
CPN-UML and also a section of the UCPN-Maoist. In such an eventuality, Nepal
may be a source of China's security threat as foreigners would use Nepal as
their launch pad to instigate anti-China activities.

China's main concern in Nepal is Tibet's security and wants to ensure that
there would not be any kind of activities that may harm China's interest.
Although Nepal has expressed its one-China policy and it has repeatedly
expressed commitment not to allow anti-China activities in its territory,
the reality is not what the Government of Nepal has preached in public. The
anti-China activities have frequently taken place in Nepal ostensibly
orchestrated by Nepal's southern neighbour and some western countries. The
way anti-China activities are growing in Nepal in the name of 'Free Tibet
Movement' China is not fully assured of its security from Nepal. China's
security is not threatened from Nepal but from other countries that have
been waging proxy war against China and using some Tibetan renegades and are
instigating them to create trouble in Tibet and Xinjiang of China. In this,
the sincerity of some Nepali parties is in question because they have
adopted double standard on this issue. While in public, they advocate '
one-China policy' while clandestinely they are suspected to have
collaborated with India and western countries in triggering violence and
trouble in by instigating. This is because of their pro-India-tilt and
anti-communist policy. These parties have failed in the good neighbourly
test of China. Chins is, therefore, weighing option on which power and force
it can depend on. Now China is testing the new power- the UCPN-Maoist. But
Beijing is still not fully assured of Maoists, as well, because of its
vacillation on domestic as well as foreign policy.

China's trust on the Maoists is not its ideological affinity. Despite the
UCPN-M adopting Maoism as its guiding political doctrine, the Maoists of
Nepal and China have fundamentally ideological differences. The Maoists do
not regard China as a communist country and their model. Instead, Nepali
Maoists claim that China had long ago deviated from the communist principle
and Mao's ideology but adopted capitalism. The Deng Xiaoping's reforms
beginning in 1978 is what the Maoists dub as a departure from
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. China, too, never supported Maoists during the ten
years of insurgency. Reacting to activities of Maoists in Nepal, China had
once said ' some people are carrying out terrorist activities in Nepal in
the name of our Chairman Mao'. In fact, there was no link and relation
between Nepal's Maoists and China in the past. They began to develop
relations only after the Maoists entered into the peace process in 2006.

Against this background, a 60 member team led by Zhou visited Nepal. The
visit took place at a time when Nepal was in the process of electing a new
prime minister following the resignation of Premier Khanal. The timing of
the visit of such a high-level Chinese delegation has given rise to many
speculations for some people and media on China's activism in Nepal. So far
as the timing of the visit is concerned, it had been scheduled long ago.
There is no ill intention at all on the part of China regarding this visit,
which was made clear by the members of delegation. The delegation repeatedly
and vocally spoke of China's intention that it wants to see peace, stability
and prosperity in Nepal, for which Beijing is willing to make meaningful and
constructive contribution.

But one thing is clear that China is a bit susceptible of activities and
highhandedness of some countries in Nepal mainly India. This susceptibility
is valid because India has now entered into strategic and military alliance
with the United States purportedly to contain and encircle China. Beijing's
fear is that since Nepal has open border with India, the Himalayan republic
may be misused against China's security interest. Since India has entered
into anti-China alliance, New Delhi's over activism and interference in
Nepal has definitely made China sensitive and extra cautious. As the only
superpower is propping South Asia's regional hegemonic power to flex its
muscle, many suspect that Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity may
be in danger. The way India is directly interfering in Nepal's internal
affairs, this suspicion has validity. China, too, may have little bit
worried about this situation.

The overtures of Chinese officials and leaders on Nepal in recent years have
indicated China's worries on the state of Nepal. Chinese officials and
leaders have often made their remarks public that Beijing would not tolerate
if Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity is in danger. This is a
clear indication that China may not remain a mute spectator in such an

China wants to come in a huge way to Nepal not for interference but for
development and cooperation. A Chinese non-governmental organization has
shown interest to invest a huge fund in Lumbini with the objective of
developing the birth place of Lord Buddha into an international Buddhist
hub. Similarly, Nepal and China have recently signed two agreements on
cooperation in security sector strengthening and also for the development of
Nepal's infrastructure including hydro-power project.

Now Nepal has to adopt wise, mature and pragmatic policy so that more
Chinese cooperation would be forthcoming. Nepal is in need of huge foreign
investment especially for its infrastructure development and hydro-power
generation. China has shown keen interest in both the areas. China has
already linked Lhasa with the rest of the country by a fast-speed railway
network. Beijing is planning to extend this network to Nepal border of Khasa
in near future for which work is already underway. If Nepal comes up with
pragmatic proposal, China may be interested to extend this railway link
further south as far as Lumbini via Kathmandu. Once this railways is
constructed, it will completely change the face of Nepal.

However, Nepal's wavering foreign policy and pro-India tilt of some
political parties have made some of our neighbours especially China a bit
apprehensive. Even if China comes up with selfless interest of Nepal's
development, unnecessary controversy is created in Nepali media-most of
which are either directly funded or being supported through backdoor
channels by India. These elements, at the behest of India, are trying to
create controversy on the proposal of Lumbini Recovery project, which a
Chinese non-governmental organization has pledged to take up, with the
objective of scuttling this mega project.

The problem lies not with the foreigners but with ourselves including our
political parties and leaders. Some of our parties and leaders do not seem
to be acting on their own but follow diktats from foreigners mainly New
Delhi. This reflects the political and intellectual liquidation of our
leaders. Since foreigners dictates on domestic policy, it is reflected in
the foreign policy front as well. It is felt that our foreign policy is also
being dictated by others. As a result, we are slowly losing our credibility
in the international community.

Despite China's good intention of helping Nepal's development, Nepali
parties are often playing India card against China. History is witness that
India has always been trying to block Nepal's democratization process,
economic development, peace and stability. There are two purposes for
India's not allowing peace, stability and development in Nepal. One is to
create chaos and instability so that it would be easy for New Delhi to fish
in troubled water and consolidate its control and influence over Nepal's
political and internal affairs. The other purpose is to checkmate China and
create trouble in Tibet and Xinjiang through Nepal with the objective of
keeping Beijing occupied in its internal conflict and preventing China's
outward advance. If Nepal becomes stable, strong and prosperous, it may
stand against India's ill-design, which India knows very well. But Nepal's
parties have either not understood this or they are doing it deliberately in
collaboration with New Delhi. Playing one country's card against the other
would not be in the interest of Nepal because of its location.

China is a global power and Nepal can extract benefit from China's
prosperity. China is willing to share its experience for the development of
Nepal. Thus, Nepal should be able to take this benefit. But dancing to the
tune of India would not serve this interest of Nepal. As we are located in a
vital strategic point, it would be in the interest of Nepal to strictly
maintain independence in the conduct of our foreign policy and win trust of

China's Goodwill For Nepal

Yuba Nath Lamsal

A 60-member high level delegation headed by special envoy of Chinese
President Hu Jintao returned to Beijing last week after wrapping up a
three-day good will visit to Nepal. The visit took place at a time when
Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal had stepped down and a new process for the
election of prime minister had begun. The visit of Chinese delegation led by
Zhou Yongkang, Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the
Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and also secretary of the
Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Central Committee, had
been worked out long ago through diplomatic channels of both the countries.
However, the timing of the visit had given rise to speculations in the media
and political circle of Nepal. Some even linked the visit of the Chinese
team with the process of government formation in Nepal.

A day before the Chinese team was to embark on Nepal visit, Prime Minister
Khanal suddenly stepped down. In the eleventh hour, the Chinese government
did not feel appropriate to postpone the visit. Had the visit been
postponed, it would have given different meaning which may not be in the
interest of the bilateral relations. Thus, the delegation went ahead with
its prior schedule. And the delegation had nothing to do with the newly
emerged political developments in Nepal.

The visit of Chinese team was aimed at further cementing bilateral relations
and probing new areas of cooperation between the two close neighbours. Given
the close proximity and fine tract record of their bilateral relations, it
would not be wise to raise any question on the motive and intent of the
Chinese team. But the size of the delegation and high profile of the team
members have definitely given special meaning and impression in the
intellectual circle of Nepal that China attaches greater importance to the
relations with Nepal in the changed national and international situation.

China does not have any favourite political force in Nepal. Beijing treats
and respects all political parties and forces of Nepal in equal terms and
manner. What has concerned China is the increased and intensified
interference and meddling in Nepal by some external forces. Past experiences
have shown that external forces and powers played active role even in the
process of formation of the government in Nepal. Even now when the process
of formation of the new government has begun, some external forces have
become extra active to ensure that a particular candidate and political
party or parties command the rein of government in Nepal. It is the business
of Nepali people and parties to decide the nature and character of the
government but not of the foreigners. Unfortunately, it has happened in
Nepal which is definitely a matter of concern for a genuine neighbour like

In the present globalized context when the world has been reduced to a
narrow small global village, the events and developments in one country have
impact on other countries. The developments that unfold in Nepal have their
repercussion and ramification on other countries particularly our immediate
neighbor-China and India. In such a situation, the concerns of a neighbor
can well be justified. As long as the matter remains within the diplomatic
limit, it may be called a neighbourly concern. If any country crosses the
diplomatic boundary and tries to interfere in the internal affairs of other
country, it would not be tolerable to the citizens of any country as well as
for other neighbouring countries. However, China, so far, has kept itself
away from the internal problem and politics of Nepal. But it has given a
loud and clear message that Beijing would never tolerate if sovereignty and
territorial integrity of its neighbor like Nepal comes under threat. This is
a warning to those forces and elements which are trying to meddle in Nepal's
internal affairs and politics.

China has its long-cherished foreign policy objective. China's foreign
policy is based on Five Principle of Peaceful Co-existence or 'panchaseel',
which includes non aggression and non interference in other countries,
respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries in the
world. Nepal, too, adheres to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence
which are the cardinal tenets of non-aligned movement. In principle, Nepal
strictly maintains non-alignment and friendly relations with all countries
in the world. This is a policy of Nepal right from the Panchayat era which
was given continuity after 1990 political change and also in the present
republican Nepal.

In the case with Nepal, China has strictly adhered to this foreign policy
goal and wants good neighbourly relations. China knows well that instability
and insecurity will have its fallout in its own territories which share
border with Nepal. China has made tremendous progress in economic front and
wants similar level of progress and development in its neighbourhood as
well. Guided by this noble idea, China is more forthcoming to invest and
help Nepal. Beijing has thus shown interests to invest and cooperate in
Nepal's infrastructure, energy, communication and tourism sector of Nepal,
which would ultimately contribute to lifting the people of Nepal out of
poverty and backwardness.

This message was conveyed by the Chinese leaders during the recent visit to
Kathmandu. However, Nepal seems not to have taken up this issue with more
seriousness. Currently Nepal is heavily preoccupied with its own internal
problem. As a result, not much attention seems to have been given to the
foreign policy and international relation. The intention of China to help
Nepal in a huge way is a big opportunity for Nepal. Nepal, currently, is
suffering from acute power crunch. China has shown interest in investing in
Nepal's water resource and hydro-power development. China has money,
expertise, capability and experiences in hydro-power development in the
difficult terrain like that of Nepal. If we are able to win trust of China,
we can bring a huge Chinese investment and develop some mega hydro-power
project through which Nepal not only can be self-sufficient in energy but
also can earn huge foreign currency by exporting surplus electricity. Nepal
has the potentials of producing more than 80,000 megawatt hydroelectricity.
South Asia is suffering from power deficit and other countries of the region
including India may be willing to buy Nepal's electricity. This would also
help meet the growing power demand in India and other South Asian countries
which would be beneficial for both Nepal and other countries in the region.

But Nepal does not have specific China policy to win the trust of Beijing.
Although not spelt specifically, there has been deficit of trust due mainly
to Nepal's wavering foreign policy priority and unnecessary tilt to a
particular country. Nepal considers as a neighbor like any other countries
in Asia. In fact, this is not an appropriate foreign policy priority of
Nepal. China and India our two immediate neighbours with which Nepal shares
border, history, culture, religion and long legacy of trade and friendship.
These two countries should occupy special priority and place in our foreign
policy formulation. China is more important especially when it comes to
Nepal's survival strategy. China has never been a security problem of Nepal.
Instead there are instances that China has come to Nepal's rescue in some
difficult period. Moreover, Nepal's relationship with China is as old as our
ancient civilization. Thus, China is and should be an important country for
Nepal from which we can learn and benefit a lot.

China has its own priority and interest in Nepal. But it in no way wants to
interfere in Nepal's internal affairs. It wants to be a partner of Nepal's
development efforts. Beijing wants stability, peace and prosperity in Nepal,
for which China is always ready to extend meaningful and constructive
cooperation. This message has been expressed by Chinese leaders and
officials on different forums and different occasions. The head of the
high-level delegation that recently concluded its visit to Nepal, too, spelt
out this message with more clarity.

China has security interest in Nepal. It does not want Nepal to be an
unstable country, which would also have its fallout in its own
territory-Tibet. China knows well that some elements and forces are active
to create instability in Nepal and ultimately take advantage of Nepal's
instability to instigate trouble in Tibet. China is, therefore, cautious to
ensure that such a situation may not occur in Nepal. It is with this motive
Nepal and China have recently signed a deal on security sector

In addition to this, China is a global economic power. Its success in
economic growth and development is stunning. As a global economic
powerhouse, China wants to expand its trade in South Asia for which Nepal is
an important gateway. It is for this reason as well, China has accorded more
priority to the relations with Nepal.

China is, thus, more open and interested for increased economic cooperation
with Nepal. This is an important opportunity for Nepal which must be
properly and wisely utilized and exploited for the greater interest of
Nepal. Now gone are the days when Nepal had to be over dependent on a
particular country. The modern technology has smashed the geographical
barrier and Nepal should be able to take maximum benefit from China's
development and its willingness to cooperate with its neighbor.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

China on Lumbini Recovery Project: Let it go ahead

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Buddhism is a vital link between Nepal and China and an important basis for
bilateral relations both at official as well as popular levels. The
relations between Nepal and China have existed from ancient time. Different
personalities and people at different interval of time have played crucial
and constructive role in nurturing and enriching the goodwill, bond of
friendship and cooperation in varied fields between these two neighbors. The
recurring and sustained exchanges of visits between leaders, scholars,
religious personalities, businessmen and people of different vocations
including artists and craftsmen have further deepened the bond of friendship
between Nepal and China.

Buddhism has served as a strongest thread to tie the people of two countries
together right from the ancient time to the present era. A man who was born
on the soil of Nepal over 2600 years ago attained highest form of spiritual
enlightenment or Boddisattwa through his constant meditation, research and
hard work to ultimately become Buddha and to be revered all over the world
as an apostle of peace and non-violence. Originated from Nepal, Buddhism is
preached and practiced by, perhaps, the largest number of people in the
world. Now Buddhism is the mainstream religion in many countries like China,
Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and it is one of the main
religions in many countries like Nepal and India.

Lumbini, situated in southern plain of Nepal, is the birth place of Lord
Buddha. Like Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for Christians, Lumbini is the
important pilgrimage for Buddhists all over the world. Lumbini has not only
a pilgrimage for Buddhist believers but also an international archeological
site, which has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) as a world heritage site. However, the place which is
so important archeologically, religiously and culturally, is in the desolate
state. Despite efforts from the government of Nepal and several
international organizations including the United Nations, Lumbini is in the
state of neglect which is a matter of great worry for all Nepalese people as
well the Buddhist believers in the world.

Nepalese are proud because of several world renowned natural, cultural and
religious sites. Lumbini is one of them. If Lumbini was developed properly
and marketed, Nepal's tourism industry could bounce. It would not only help
Nepal economically but Nepal could also be taken as a country of global
strategic importance.

Recently, a new praiseworthy initiative has been taken to develop Lumbini as
an international pilgrimage and spiritual center. The initiative has come
from non-governmental sector. The Asia and Pacific Exchange and Cooperation
(APEC), a non-governmental organization with representation from various
countries, has come up with a proposal for the development of Lumbini as a
Buddhist satellite city and also an international Buddhist religious and
cultural hub.

The APEC is a non-governmental organization, which has already declared that
it would collect three billion dollars and invest in for the development
Lumbini, including construction of an international airport, railway track,
international convention center, communication center, broad band internet
facilities, hospitals, conference halls, schools and a university. For this
it has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization. As an NGO, the APEC has planned to
collect the proposed amount through private sector. This was revealed from
the members of APEC delegation that recently visited Nepal for the
inspection of the site-Lumbini.

Some people including media both in Nepal and India have raised alarms and
tried to create controversy on the project suspecting the involvement of
Chinese government in the area close to border with India. However, the
government of China has nothing to do with the project which is entirely
funded by private sector and is to be implemented by people who are
interested to develop the birth place of Lord Buddha. Vice president of APEC
Jaio Yuan, who led the inspection team, told the media persons in Kathmandu
recently that the government of China has no investment and involvement in
the project.

The development of Lumbini had been raised for a long time. But nothing
concrete was done in the past. U Thant, then secretary general of the United
Nations and also a devout Buddhist, visited this sacred site in 1967 and
virtually cried to see the neglected state of Lumbini. U Thant then drew
international attention to Lumbini and called for contribution for the
development of this site. Hard pressed Nepal government decided to develop
Lumbini as a special zone and to turn it into an international tourist
destination as well as religious place. The government of Nepal hired a
Japanese architect Kenzo Tange to draw a master plan for Lumbini development
in 1972. Tange completed the design of ' Lumbini Mater Plan' and handed over
it to Nepal Government. Despite commitment expressed by the Nepal Government
to develop Lumbini as per the Master Plan, the work so far has been in
snail's pace. As a result, Lumbini still continues to be in a desolate

Now the APEC has come up with intention, fund and plan for the development
of Lumbini, Which has definitely revived optimism. The Lumbini development
work began almost 40 years ago during the tenure of a Buddhist UN secretary
general U Thant. It may a mere coincidence but the concrete work for total
transformation of Lumbini into a pure international Buddhist site has taken
place at the time of another devout Buddhist UN secretary general-Ban-
ki-Moon, who hails from South Korea. Like, U Thant, Ban, too, has especial
interest for the development of Lumbini.

The APEC project on Lumbini, if it at all kicks off, would have its
multi-dimensional impact on Nepal. It would be definitely an international
Buddhist center and also an international tourist hub. By taking up this
project and expressing commitment to collect three billion US dollars for
the project, the APEC has been able to win the heart of millions of
Buddhists both in Nepal and outside. This project would be constructed in
way that would keep all historical, archeological, religious and spiritual
aspects intact, which would help creating a tourist and spiritual place at
par with international excellence. As it plans to construct, an
international airport, convention center and other international level's
infrastructure, it would help Nepal's tourism industry.

Despite rhetoric of Nepal Government to construct a second international
airport outside the Kathmandu Valley, it has so far not materialized.
However, the APEC project aims at constructing an international airport in
Lumbini which would help Nepal's development, to a large degree. More than
that, the project is in Nepal's strategic and economic interest. Firstly,
the project would foil the ill-intentioned propaganda of our southern
neighbor which claims time and often that Lord Buddha was born in India.
New Delhi has deliberately trying to misinform the word with the objective
of brining more tourists to India. Although the world knows well that Lord
Buddha was born in Nepal and India's claim is just rubbish, the new project
would further counter India's propaganda machine. Secondly, the project is
important for Nepal from strategic point of view as well. In addition to
this, Nepal would be on global spotlight as a must visit country in the
world. This would further boost Nepal's tourism industry which would have
far-reaching impact on Nepal's overall economy.

India is now instigating some media and people in Nepal against this
project. With instruction and help from our southern neighbor, a section of
our media fraternity, too, is creating unnecessary controversy. India is
always trying to scuttle international investment in Nepal-be it in
religious, hydro-power or other development activities. It would be
worthwhile to mention a fact how India scuttles international development
cooperation and investment in Nepal. A few decades ago, when the government
of China and Nepal agreed to construct bridges along the western section of
the East-West Highway, India objected it and finally got it cancelled. As a
result, it took more than three decades to construct 22 bridges. Similarly,
when World Bank was about to invest in Nepal for the construction of 402
megawatt Arun III project, India pulled the wire from behind which led to
cancellation of the World Bank's assistance. Had the Arun II not obstructed,
Nepal would not have been reeling under severe load-shedding as it is facing
today. It should also be mentioned that India had vehemently opposed the
construction of Kodari Highway that was built with assistance from China.
This is evident of the fact that India always tries to obstruct Nepal's
development and any international assistance. This is because New Delhi
wants Nepal to remain a backward country so that it would be safe and easier
to control and intervene in the affairs of Nepal. The attitude of India
about the Lumbini project can be likened to the popular Nepali adage: '
'Monkey neither builds its own house nor does it let others do it'.

Moreover, the intention of China and Chinese people about Lumbini and other
development assistance and cooperation to Nepal should not be suspected. The
Chinese assistance has always been selfless and purely motivated by its
desire to help development of Nepal. So far as Lumbini is concerned, Chinese
regard Lumbini as the sacred place and they would never play politics over
Lumbini. Chinese scholars like Fi'xian and Xuan-zhang and Buddabarta had
visited Lumbini and written about it on their travel accounts even in the
ancient time, which helped popularize Lumbini among the Chinese people. This
is an example of how Chinese have been deeply interested about Lumbini and
want to develop it. Fi'xian and Xuan-Zhang had long ago been felt upset to
see Lumbini in a deserted condition. After the demise of Lord Buddha,
Taulihawa kingdom was attacked and all Shakyas were massacred. Since all
people fled either to the
south or the north, Tilaurakot, capital of Taulihawa kingdom, and Lumbini
were deserted.

The Lumbini project which is being taken up by APEC is, perhaps, the largest
project ever initiated in the non-governmental sector. Indian media have
already started spitting venom against this project and some Nepali media,
too, are echoing the same voice. Media people have raised with prominence
the hush-hush approach of APEC with regard to Lumbini project. In the
absence of transparency and publicity, there had been some apprehension and
confusion in Nepal about the project. Now it is clear that the project is
being funded solely for Nepal's benefit and it would be the duty of Nepali
patriotic people not to sway by the disinformation and propaganda of India
and India-funded media here in Nepal but to extend meaningful help to
implement and complete the project. The project aims at changing the face of
Lumbini and creating an international spiritual center. But one thing the
APEC and the Government of Nepal need to take into account is the fact that
they should ensure greater transparency on the activities of the project so
that there would not be any kind of apprehension, misunderstanding and

Marxists, Trotskyites and Capitalists in Nepal

Yuba Nath Lamsal

The communist movement in Nepal has a history of 62 years. During this
six-decade-plus chequered and complex history, Nepal's communist movement
has undergone many ups and down and taken many twists and turns. The mother
party has been fragmented into many groups.

Inspired by the October Revolution in Russia, the Chinese Revolution and
rising revolutionary wave worldwide, Pushpa Lal Shrestha formed the Nepal
Communist Party along with his four comrades-in-arms, namely, Nar Bahadur
Karmacharya, Narayan Bilas Joshi, Niranjan Govinda Vaidya and Moti Devi in
1949. In the initial period, it was never thought that this force would be
so popular and powerful within a few decades.

During the last 62 years, the communist movement in Nepal has suffered
serious setbacks, committed many mistakes and experienced crises and
failures. At the same time, some great strides and achievements have also
been made in advancing the movement to a newer height. However, the
communist parties and their leaders still seem not to have learnt lessons
from the past mistakes, which is the primary contributor to the
fragmentation in the revolutionary movement in Nepal.

There are over a dozen communist groups in name, each claiming to be the
genuine revolutionary communist party capable of and committed to
transforming and bringing about radical change in the Nepali society. These
groups are engaged in accusing one another of being extremists,
left-adventurists, dogmato-sectarian, reformists and revisionists. Whatever
the accusations and counter accusations, one thing is true that the
communists command overwhelming support and popularity in Nepal.

It is a subject of debate as to which one is the real communist party and
which one is just exploiting the sentiments of the people under communist
cover. Despite the existence of many communist parties and groups in Nepal,
there are two distinct lines in Nepal's communist movement - revolutionary
and reformist or parliamentary.

The UCPN-Maoist represents the revolutionary line while the CPN-UML is the
advocate of the reformist/parliamentary line. The UCPN-Maoist, which
established itself as the largest political force through a decade-long
armed insurgency, believes in armed revolution to bring about radical change
in the society and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Maoist insurgency and its ability to challenge state power were seen as
a model of revolution in many countries. However, many questions are being
raised by revolutionary communists throughout the world on the policy
adopted by the party after entering the peace process in 2006.

Some revolutionary communist parties have dubbed the new approach of peace
and constitution adopted by the Maoists as being opportunist and
rightist/reformist deviation. Apart from international criticism, a great
debate has started within the party as well, which the Maoist leaders
describe as a two-line struggle aimed at ideologically and politically
purifying and sharpening the party. This two-line struggle is being dubbed
as a form of class struggle and an expression of the highest degree of
internal democracy within the party.

In the name of the two-line struggle, there is, in reality, a triangular
fight. There are three visible groups in the party which advocate three sets
of views, and their struggle is fierce. Party Chairman Prachanda,
Vice-chairmen duo Mohan Vaidya and Baburam Bhattarai lead the three views
and groups.

In terms of policy and ideology, Vaidya and Bhattarai exhibit two extreme
poles. Vaidya is the advocate of armed struggle or mass insurrection to
capture state power. According to him, the ongoing constitution and peace
process should not be made the ultimate goal of the party, instead it should
be a tactic to achieve the larger goal.

However, Bhattarai sees no possibility of a revolution or mass insurrection
in the immediate future. He wants to complete the constitution writing and
peace processes through which some progressive changes can be brought about.
According to him, mass insurrection can be launched only when the efforts at
peace and the constitution are foiled and failed. Earlier Prachanda, too,
had championed the line of mass insurrection, but recently he has come up
with the policy of peace and the constitution.

From an ideological standpoint, Prachanda and Bhattarai stand together as
both of them advocate peace and the constitution. But in terms of practical
politics, Vaidya and Bhattarai are together. This new alliance between
Vaidya and Bhattarai has changed the equation within the Maoist party.

Whatever the internal fight and squabble, all factions are unanimous on the
analysis of the other parties and the nation and international situation.
They do not consider any country as being friendly. But they differ on the
issue of principal contradiction of the Nepali revolution and the Nepali
people. Prachanda and Vaidya are of the view that the principal
contradiction of the Nepali revolution and Nepali people is with Indian
expansionism, which has been acting in close collaboration with domestic
reactionaries. If 'Indian expansionism' is hit back and defeated, the
domestic reactionaries would be automatically defeated and controlled.

Baburam Bhattarai considers the domestic reactionaries as the principal
enemy of the Nepali people and the target of the Nepali revolution should be
against these two forces. So far as their analysis of Nepal's political
forces is concerned, they are unanimous and dub the Nepali Congress as a
rightist and reactionary force, while the CPN-UML is a left opportunist and
revisionist party. The UCPN-Maoist believes that both of these forces are
lackeys of 'Indian expansionism'.

Neither the Congress nor the CPN-UML is prepared to accept this accusation
or analysis. In the analysis of the Nepali Congress, the Maoists are still
extremists and an anti-democratic force, which is trying to capture state
power by force. The CPN-UML, too, subscribes to the views of the Nepali
Congress on the analysis of the Maoists. The UML claims that it is the only
genuine communist party in Nepal.

The CPN-UML too had initially believed in an armed revolution and
accordingly launched the Jhapa revolt with the objective of annihilating
class enemies. As the revolt was quickly crushed by state troops, the party
changed its strategy and started strengthening its organisational base and
strength among the people nationwide. In a period of one decade, its
presence and organisation spread nationwide to become the largest communist
party in Nepal.

But the UCPN-UML (initially known as the CPN-ML) abandoned communist
ideology to become a reformist party. The People's Multi-Party Democracy,
which the UML adopted at its fifth congress, further turned it into a
parliamentary and capitalist party, while hoodwinking the people under the
false banner of communism. Now the CPN-UML does not have its own programmes
and vision for steering the country out of the crisis. It vacillates between
the agenda of the Nepali Congress and that of the UCPN-Maoist.

In this way, the communist movement has been fragmented. But an intense
debate is going on as to which path is the correct and pragmatic one in the
present national and international context. The question is on the relevance
of a revolution. If the banner of Marxism is to be upheld in its letter and
spirit, there is no alternative to a revolution. However, according to the
CPN-UML, a revolution has lost its relevance in the 21st century and it is
peaceful and competitive politics that alone can bring about changes in the
society. Whatever the logic and counter logic, both schools of thoughts are
active to justify their political and ideological standpoint.

There are Marxists, Leninists and Maoists on the one hand and there are
Trotskyites Lin Biaoists and Kruschevites on the other. In Nepal, both the
schools of thoughts are equally strong and active. In the context of Nepal,
the Maoists represent the former school of thought while the CPN-UML
advocates the latter.

Needless to say, the reformist path and capitalist road are not compatible
with Marxism and they can never lead to a revolution. If one tries to
justify the revisionist and reformist approach in the name of pragmatic
application of Marxism, as has been claimed by some leftist groups and
individuals in Nepal and also in the world, it is either a distortion of
Marxism or simply ignorance of Marxist philosophy. But the people in Nepal
are slowly coming to understand who is right and who is wrong. There must be
a distinct demarcation between the genuine revolutionaries and revisionists.

Nepal-China Neighbourly Ties

Nepal and China have once again reinforced their faith in good neighbourly and friendly ties existing between the two countries and have vowed to take these relations to greater heights. This spirit of camaraderie was expressed during the meeting and interaction between the Nepali leaders and visiting high-level delegation of China led by Zhou Yongkang, Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China and also the Secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the Communist Party. Zhou was here as special representative of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who conveyed the message of goodwill from the Chinese president and people of China to the people of Nepal.

During the interaction, the Chinese view was clear that the northern neighbour wants peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal, for which Beijing is prepared to make any kind of meaningful contribution. China’s Nepal policy is clear which is based on good neighbourliness and the five principle of peaceful co-existence. As Nepal is now in the process of political transformation, China’s willingness to provide meaningful help to institutionalise peace is definitely significant and praiseworthy.

Right from the time when diplomatic relations were established, China has been providing Nepal comprehensive assistance for building its infrastructure. China has assisted Nepal in constructing several development infrastructure projects like roads, industries and hospitals. China has shown its willingness to further increase its volume of assistance in the future. During the recent visit of the Chinese delegation, Nepal and China signed agreements concerning China’s assistance to Nepal in various fields. This friendly and neighbourly gesture demonstrated by China and its development cooperation have been highly appreciated by the Nepalese government.

Expressing gratitude to China for its support and goodwill towards Nepal, Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal has said that the two countries are coming closer and working in true partnership for the development of Nepal. Nepal has also reiterated its one-China policy and vowed not to allow any kind of anti-China activities from its soil. This spirit of Nepal has been highly valued and appreciated by China.

In fact, Nepal and China have no problems but only a friendly and cooperative relationship between them. As China has made tremendous development on the economic front, Nepal can learn a lot from China’s experience. China’s development is a matter of satisfaction for Nepal. Now that China is coming forward more openly and generously to help Nepal in its development and achieving political stability, Nepal should be able to utilise this generosity of China. It is expected that Nepal and China will move further ahead in strengthening their bilateral relations and become partners of development to serve as a model for other countries in the world.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nepal: A vital bridge between China and India

Yuba Nath Lamsal

For more than 240 years, Nepal's strategic position was interpreted from a
narrow perspective, which limited our foreign policy options. Prithivi
Narayan Shah, who unified Nepal by bringing together several tiny
principalities with the strength of his swords, defined Nepal's strategic
location as the one like a yam between two boulders. His interpretation of
Nepal's strategic position was on the basis of regional situation followed
by strength and attitude of the two powerful neighbors both in the north and
the south. Prithivi Narayan Shah likened China in the north and British in
the south (India) as the two boulders and tiny Nepal which was just
struggling for survival as a fragile yam.

The analogy of yam and boulders might have been true during the period of
Prithivi Narayan Shah. This was the time when Nepal was on the unification
campaign and had to act cautiously so that its military campaign would not
end up in confrontation with the two empires. The sole strategy of Nepal was
to protect the newly conquered territories and maintain Nepal's sovereign
status intact. Against that background, it was definitely a move not to
provoke any of the powerful neighbors. Even if Nepal chose to confront with
any of the neighbors, it was bound to be crushed given the military power of
its neighbours. In such a fragile situation the definition of Nepal's
strategic location as a 'yam between two boulders' held meaning and
significance. This was mainly aimed at protecting the fragile and weak
country from external aggression and attack.

The rulers, policy makers and interlocutors of Nepal's foreign policy and
strategic policy formulation kept on parroting this phrase for 240 years
without giving an iota of thought whether this definition held any meaning
and significance in the present changed national, regional and international
situation. When this phrase was first coined, Nepal did not have contact
beyond Britain and China and had no other option other than co-existing with
the reality and molding its strategic and foreign policy accordingly.

But the situation changed in the 50s as British colonial rulers left South
Asia which gave birth to two young nations in the region-India and Pakistan.
In the north, too, an old empire crumbled and a new communist regime was
installed through a revolution in its place. This heralded anew situation
and opportunities in South Asia including Nepal. However, Nepal failed to
cash in on this newly emerged situation. Instead, the regime in Kathmandu
continued with the same old mindset and Nepal failed to reap benefits out of
the changed national and international situation.

Until British colonial power was ruling in South Asia, Nepal's Rana
oligarchic regime maintained its hold on power with patronage from the
British rulers. This had been in practice for years since the Sugauli Treaty
which rendered Nepal into virtually semi-colonial status. Even after 1947
that not only marked the departure of the British colonial era in South Asia
but also saw the birth of India and Pakistan, Nepal's regime, instead of
seeking new role and asserting its rights, capitulated to the new regime in
Delhi. As British charted out two countries in South Asia when they were
leaving, Nepal could have tried to take back its territories lost during the
Anglo-Nepal war and could have scrapped all previous treaties made with
colonial powers.

But the old regime in Kathmandu sought and followed the diktats from New
Delhi in order to protect its beleaguered regime which had been under severe
pressure and crisis from the burgeoning people's movement for political
change. Nepal's regime had under the impression that it could crush the
democratic movement with support from India's new regime. Delhi knew the
mentality of Nepal's Rana regime and exploited this situation for India's
interest. India, thus, proposed a new treaty to reinforce the Sugauli Treaty
in a new version that limited Nepal's sovereign right. With formal signing
of the treaty of 1950 ( Nepal-India Treaty of Friendship-1950), India's
purpose was served and the treaty brought Nepal under its security ambit.
Nepal's regime was well assured of its longevity with support from Indian
regime. However, people's movement continued unabated, which ultimately
forced the Rana regime out of power.

After the change of the regime in Kathmandu in 1951, New Delhi gave the
impression that the political change that Nepal saw was gifted by India.
Under this false pretext, New Delhi intervened in Nepal's internal political
affairs so badly that ultimately gave rise to heavy anti-India sentiment in
Nepal. The new regime in Kathmandu could have undone all the previous
agreements with India and started bilateral relations afresh on the basis of
mutual equality and common interest. However, it did not happen as the
rulers including the king and parties chose to remain in power with backing
from India. Their foreign and security policy, too, remained India centric
and did not try to diversify Nepal's relations to suit with the changed
context both at home and abroad.

Some efforts were, however, made in the sixties to diversify Nepal's
diplomatic relations in the international arena. It was the period when
Nepal established its diplomatic relationship with China, United Nations and
several other countries. But the core objective of Nepal's foreign policy
formulation continued to remain India centric. With the imposition of
Panchayat regime by the king, the same foreign policy was given continuity,
although some rhetorical changes were seen in foreign policy front. A feeble
attempt was made to come out from India's domination after king Birendra's
rise to power. As a young monarch, who had been educated in the West, wanted
some innovative ideas in the governance and foreign policy of Nepal. The
Zone of Peace (ZOP) proposal was king Birendra's brainchild, which, in
principle, aimed at bringing Nepal out of India's influence. The
international community had taken Nepal's ZOP proposal positively and 116
countries including China and the United States of America had supported it.
Even Soviet Union had initially appreciated the ZOP and had assured to
support it. The Soviet Union backed out later following India's insistence.
Almost all South Asian countries had also supported this move. Nepal had
planned to propose the ZOP proposal in the United Nations for its approval.
Had it been endorsed by the United Nations, it would have been Nepal's big
diplomatic achievement and would have enhanced Nepal's clout and position in
the international arena. The support Nepal's ZOP proposal had gotten from
116 countries was not a mean achievement. But it was suddenly and without
any justification abandoned soon after the political change in 1990
ostensibly from India's pressure. Although this ZOP proposal was initiated
by the absolute monarch and dictatorial Panchayat regime, it was in the
interest of Nepal, which could have been given continuity even after the
political change. This once again proved that India was successful in
scuttling Nepal's struggle for an independent and distinct posture and an
effort to come out of India's domination. It is a clear example how India
wrecks Nepal's initiative for independent policies, in which Nepal's
dominant political parties of that period mainly the Nepali Congress and the
CPN-UML either capitulated to New Delhi's pressure or deliberately chose to
remain under India's security and foreign policy domain.

Despite these efforts, the overall attitude of Nepali rulers and the
so-called intellectual remained India centric who continued to define and
analyze Nepal's security and foreign policy from the old perspective. With
the tremendous change in the field of science and technology that has
brought the world closer, any particular country cannot remain isolated from
the world. At the same time, a sea change has taken place in security and
foreign policy concept in the world. But Nepal's policy makers have failed
to grasp this new reality in the changed national and international scene.
Our interlocutors of foreign policy continued to subscribe to the old and
outdated views of analyzing Nepal's geo-political and geo-strategic position
as being a ' yam between the two boulders'. This definition limits Nepal's
scope of expanding its strategic and foreign policy beyond India and China.

Lately, a new realization has dawned on some of Nepal's political leaders
who not only rejected the old definition but devised a new and realistic
analysis of Nepal's geo-strategic and geo-political position. Maoist leader,
who is also the chief of the international department of his party, is,
perhaps, the first one to publicly oppose the old definition. In contrast to
the old definition of Nepal's geo-strategic position, Mahara, instead, said
that ' Nepal is not a yam between the two boulders but a bridge between
China and India'. The same view was echoed by Prime Minister Jahalanath
Khanal recently. This is a positive development in our strategic and foreign
policy front. Both Mahara and Khanal are absolutely right. But this has to
be explicitly reflected in the policy as well as in practice.

Nepal is indeed a bridge between not only China and India but also between
South Asia and East Asia. Now Asia is growing as a global economic
powerhouse. China has already become the second largest economy. The
predictions are that China may grow as world's largest economy surpassing
the United States in a couple of decades. The pace and manner with which
Chinese economy is growing and the magnitude of recession the United States
is suffering are the indication that China is going to surpass the United
States in the near future. Similarly, India, too, is growing economically,
despite its serious internal problems. Against this background, the global
strategic focus has taken a paradigm shift. Asia in general and China and
India in particular are becoming the epicenter of global power in the 21st
century. Nepal being located between these two global giants has strategic
as well as economic advantage. In the near future, Nepal would be a global
center for various reasons. Moreover, Nepal could also be a center of
international business not only between China and India but also a global
hub. If handled properly and wisely, Nepal can be another Singapore and Hong
Kong in terms of international trade and business. Thus, Nepal is not a '
yam between two boulders' but a bridge between China and India and also the
future international strategic and commercial hub. Thus, our policy makers
and politicians must shun the old hangover and begin a fresh so that Nepal
could be an international power in the future.

Power, The Only Priority Of The Parties

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Once again the political parties are busy in a exercise at forming anational unity government with the representation of all the political forces in the country. However, such a consensus-based government is mere wishful thinking because the parties are unwilling to give up their stance and arrogance on several key issues impacting the ongoing political process. The rhetoric to form a national consensus government appears to be guided more by their interest in grabbing power than giving the country an honourable and dignified outlet.

Given the power equation in the Constituent Assembly, which is the only democratically elected institution in the country, there is no alternative to consensus and a national unity government if the political and peace process is to be concluded. The parties have already failed to live up to the people’s expectation that they would deliver a constitution within two years of the Constituent Assembly election. They failed not once but twice. They are going to fail once again in two weeks.

CA extension

Last year, the life of the Constituent Assembly was extended by one year as the tasks concerning constitution drafting could not be completed for various reasons. However, the job could not be completed even within the extended time of one year, compelling the parties to give it one more extension.

There had been much ruckus and mind boggling exercises prior to the extension of the Constituent Assembly (CA) term. The parties in the opposition bench had stood against the extension of the CA’s tenure. However, the life of the CA was extended following promises to pave the way for the formation of a consensus government. In both extensions, similar tactics and tricks were applied for the extension of the CA term, although the actors were different.

When the CA term was extended the first time, there was a coalition government of the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and some Madhesi parties whereas the Maoists were in the opposition. At that time, the Congress, Madhesi parties and the CPN-UML advocated for the extension of the CA’s term while the Maoists were reluctant to do so. But the inner intention of all the parties was to go for the extension of the CA’s life because no CA member was willing to sacrifice his or her perks and position.

A carefully worded gentlemen’s accord stipulated that Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal would resign to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government. This provision was interpreted differently by different parties. The Maoists claimed that the spirit of the accord was the resignation of the prime minister to make way for a consensus and national unity government.

But the other parties rejected this interpretation and maintained that the prime minister would resign only when there was credible ground for national consensus. But Prime Minister Nepal resigned under pressure from the opposition party, although he was reluctant to do so in the beginning.

During the second extension, the nature of the coalition government was identical but the partners were different. The coalition has two principal partners with the rest backing it. In the present coalition government, the UCPN-Maoist is the dominant constituent and has a major say. The CPN-UML is in the driving seat of the cabinet, but its role is not a leading one.

During the second extension of the CA’s term, the Nepali Congress and some Madhesi parties were vehemently opposed to the idea. But they finally agreed to extend the CA’s tenure by three months, for which another gentleman’s agreement was reached among the three major parties. The power-sharing formula was once again the dominant agenda during the dialogue for the CA’s extension.

The job of the Constituent Assembly is to write the constitution, but the entire exercise of the parties and their talks have been focussed on power sharing. This has delayed the peace process and prolonged the political crisis in the country.

The job of the government is to run the daily administration of the country. In the present context, the government’s role is to facilitate the ongoing peace and constitution-writing process. It has little role in writing the constitution. So power sharing and the issue concerning who should lead the government are the two prominent agendas of the parties.

The term of the Constituent Assembly is expiring in two weeks. When the CA term was extended the last time for three months, it was agreed that the initial draft of the constitution would be ready by August 13, which would provide the basis for the extension of the CA’s term for another three months.

But the contentious issues have yet to be resolved. Unless these issues are settled amicably, the constitution writing process cannot go ahead. The management of the Maoist combatants is one of the key issues that must be settled first.

Although the parties had agreed to come up with a suitable model for the management of the Maoist combatants and their numbers to be taken into the security organs by August 13, they have so far failed to agree on any model and their number. The developments do not suggest that these tasks will be accomplished within the given time.

Now the incumbent prime minister is in the mood of stepping down soon, possibly by August 13. Even the coalition partners and the prime minister’s close aides have hinted at Khanal’s resignation. All the major parties are thus claiming leadership of the next government.

The Maoist party has already proposed Vice-chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai as its candidate for the national unity government to be formed. Being the largest party, the claim of the UCPN-Maoist is justifiable. In the same way, the Nepali Congress, too, has staked its claim for the premiership, for which two senior leaders - Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel - are vying. The claim of the Nepali Congress - the second largest party - is based on its logic that the UCPN-Maoist and the CPN-UML failed to lead the government in the past and complete the peace process.

A section of the CPN-UML, which is opposed to Chairman Khanal, seems to be comfortable with the leadership of the Nepali Congress in the next government. Only the Khanal faction is unwilling to forge a coalition with the Nepali Congress, instead, it favours the Maoists to work with. In this way, the CPN-UML seems to be divided.

Given the recent developments and equation in the CPN-UML, the balance is likely to go in favour of the anti-Khanal faction. But some CPN-UML leaders are trying to reap benefit once again from the rivalry between the Maoists and the Nepali Congress. Khanal wants to give the present government the shape of a national unity government for which it is seeking support of the Congress and the Madhesi parties. The KP Oli faction wants to resume the leadership of the CPN-UML by overthrowing Khanal.

Thus, the entire political and peace process of Nepal has hinged on the nature and leadership of the government. Past experiences have clearly shown that a majority government cannot serve the purpose and resolve the crisis. Against such a background, the efforts to form a majority government would be a futile exercise.

Only way out

Thus the parties, if they want to address the political crisis and conclude the peace process, must arrive at a common point and work collectively at least for some time until the constitution is promulgated. This is the only way out for the present. The parties need to give up their arrogance and partisan interests and be prepared to work for the overall interest of the country

New initiative in India-Pakistan relations

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Any kind of developments in the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan draw global attention. This is because of the magnitude of impact India-Pakistan relations have in South Asia. The impact of the relationship between India and Pakistan is not limited to peace and stability not only in South Asia alone but goes beyond that and impacts on the entire world. Positive or negative, the developments in India-Pakistan bilateral relations send strong ripples globally. This is more so now than ever before because Asia has emerged as an international powerhouse with South Asia too emerging fast in the global arena economically.

Now China and India are fastest growing economies in the world. China is already world's second largest economy accompanied by military power and increased international clout. India, too, is growing despite its numerous internal problems and constraints. The growth in Asia is in sharp contrast to the economic situation in the western countries. The western economic powers are losing their earlier image and competitive strength. Japan has already been trailed behind China in terms of size of the economy. The United States is in deep financial crisis and this crisis is not likely to come to an end in near future. Europe is also suffering from recession and stagnation. On the contrary, the emerging Asian economies have succeeded in warding off impact of recession. China's impressive growth even during the global economic slump is its evidence.

The rise of China is unstoppable. Beijing's influence in the world is growing vigorously which is evident of China's likelihood of overtaking the rest of the world in all sectors in a couple of decades. China's unprecedented rise is being taken as a threat to the economic and strategic supremacy and interest of the western world in general and the United States in particular.

China's presence and influence in Asia is growing more strongly. This is because of China's soft power image and friendly diplomacy. The spirit of cooperation and friendliness with which China is pursuing its diplomacy has brought China and other South Asian countries closer, which is a main headache for the United States and India. The relations between China and Pakistan are closer than between any other two countries in Asia. Pakistan considers China as an all weather-friend whereas India thinks China is its rival. In fact, China is not India's rival. If China has rivalry and competition with any country in the world it is the United States. China wants cooperative relationship with India but not rivalry. Beijing seeks similar kind of reciprocity from India. But India has taken closer ties between China and Pakistan as an alliance against New Delhi, which is a wrong perception. With the flawed notion of treating China as a rival power, the United States and India have entered into strategic partnership, which is mainly aimed at encircling China. At a time, when the United States is fighting a war in Afghanistan, the new strategy to strengthen India and weaken Pakistan will ultimately prove to be a dangerous move for South Asian security and peace. It is becoming clearer that the war on terror in Afghanistan would be costly for the United States without support of Pakistan. But the growing hobnobbing between the Unites States and India is likely to alienate Pakistan which would be counterproductive for the United States in the long-run. India and the United States have common interest when it comes to China. But their priorities are different. United States priority is to weaken and encircle China. But India regards China too powerful to provoke. New Delhi in fact does not want confrontation with China at present. Its priority is to contain and weaken Pakistan. India has designated Pakistan as its number one security threat. Its key purpose of entering into the strategic alliance with the United States is to prevent Washington from providing more military and other support to Pakistan. New Delhi's conclusion is that once the United States stops military assistance, Pakistani army will cripple and it would be in no position of challenging Indian hegemony in South Asia.

India may have been successful in creating gulf between the United States and Pakistan as there are serious differences between Islamabad and Washington specially after the United States started war on terror in Afghanistan. The Pak-US relations turned further sour after the US troops secretly and unilaterally conducted a raid and killed Osma Bin Laden in Pakistan. While these developments have encouraged and pleased India, they, on the other, brought China and Pakistan closer. Since the United States is keeping itself away from Pakistan and trying to hobnob more with India, Pakistan has been left with no option other than further consolidating strategic partnership with Beijing. Despite Pakistan's contribution not only in helping the United States to drive away Soviet Union from Afghanistan but also winning the Cold War, Washington has slowly alienating Pakistan and hugging with India, which was in the enemy camp in the Cold War. This tells the opportunistic policy and approach of the United States guided by its own interest rather than the long-term partnership with allies and friends in need. This is perhaps the reason why Pakistan calls the United States as a fair weather friend and China as all-weather friend.

Given the strategic significance, a huge population and other resources, South Asia is increasingly on the global spotlight. South Asia is a home to one fifth of the world's population and is a big market for western and other developed countries' products. The developments in South Asia thus attract global attention. Against this background the recent visit of Pakistan's foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her meeting with Indian counterpart SM Krishna is viewed with special significance and interest by the world.

This is a new initiative taken by both India and Pakistan to ease tension, build confidence and improve bilateral relations, which has raised faint hopes for peaceful and tension free South Asia. Circumstances suggest that the hawks in both the countries are the ones who spoilt the environment for peace and cooperation in South Asia. War bleeds the country but benefits the military. The country prospers only in peace time. Military and political hawks especially in India have spoilt the environment of dialogue and peace between New Delhi and Islamabad. Even now, hawks in the army, bureaucracy and political circle may try to derail the new confidence building measures initiated by Pakistan. Despite unwillingness of the military and political hawks, Pakistani foreign minister has started the initiative for confidence building between the India and Pakistan. This is praiseworthy move. India, too, has responded positively. These moves are conditioned by compulsions because there is no option with both the countries other than engaging in dialogue for settling their issues and improving their relations in the present regional and international situation.

India knows that Pakistan can neither be tamed nor weakened by means of military threat. It is true that India has greater military power than Pakistan in terms of number of soldiers and weaponries. However, Pakistan, too, has adequate strength for deterrence. More than that Pakistan is a nation built on strong sentiment and feelings of Islamic nationalism. India is well aware that Pakistan cannot be defeated by means of force. Similarly Pakistan, too, may not want perpetual rivalry with India.

Realizing the value of peace and friendship, India and Pakistan have started a fresh initiative to turn rivalry into partnership and cooperation. The visit of Pakistani foreign minister heralds this new initiative which must be utilized by both the countries for permanent friendship and goodwill. The world has watched the newer developments between India and Pakistan more keenly and with greater optimism. The United States has reacted with positive note saying that Washington was 'encouraged' by the talks between India and Pakistan. Other countries in the region, although they have not expressed their views in public, are much optimistic on these developments that have seen thaw in the tension between India and Pakistan.

The sense of optimism that has been created by the visit of Pakistani foreign minister to India needs to be translated into reality. There had also been efforts in the past to ease tensions and develop friendly relations between these two South Asian neighbors. But hawkish policy of Indian establishment especially in the army and bureaucracy derailed the peace initiative. When something goes wrong in India, the Indian establishment would point finger to Pakistan in order to divert public attention. As a result, they suddenly hijacked the peace process initiated between the two countries. Given this past tract record, people are not much enthusiastic about the new initiative that Pakistan has started. Now both the countries seem to be happy with the new initiative and have expressed their commitment to give continuity to this initiative for durable peace in South Asia. However, the words alone do not serve the real purpose. The commitments need to be translated into action. Only time would show how sincere these countries are for peace and stability in the region. South Asia now desperately needs peace for which confidence building between India and Pakistan is a must. It would bode well if these two countries act swiftly in bury their ugly past of rivalry and confrontation and build goodwill and friendly relations in the larger interest of more than one fifth of the humanity.