Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 28: Tibet’s historic day

Yuba Nath Lamsal
It is not only Tibetans but all 1.3 billion Chinese people are commemorating March 28 as their historic day. This day is marked and remembered as an important day in China’s modern history. It was this day in 1959 when Tibetan people were declared free and emancipated from feudal serfdom of the Dalai Lama. This day reminds of how Tibetans struggled hard to attain their much desired liberation to become free and proud Chinese citizens.
This also reminds all how the Tibetan people lived prior to their emancipation under the Dalai Lama’s serfdom and it also showcases how their life has changed in the period of 55 years since Tibet was liberated forcing the Dalai Lama and his clique to flee.
On March 28, 1959, the air in Lhasa’s sky had been filled with a new kind of freedom, optimism and jubilation. On this day the central government in Beijing announced the dissolution of the local government of Tibet and decided to replace it with a preparatory committee for establishing the Tibet Autonomous Region. This marked the beginning of a new era in Tibet. Since then, phenomenal changes have taken place in this province of China.
Chinese authorities describe the Dalai Lama’s rule in Tibet as a period of serfdom where people were treated not as citizens but as personal property. This was worse than the slavery that existed in the United States of America before Abraham Lincoln declared an end to slavery and the slave trade. Under serfdom, all properties, including the people and natural resources, belonged to the rulers, and the people had to submit to the government. While the rulers enjoyed a luxurious life, the general mass suffered hunger and lived a primitive life.
Some may take Beijing’s claims and its comparison of life then and now in Tibet as mere propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party. But anyone who has seen Tibet in recent years agrees with China’s version. Once one of the most backward regions of China, Tibet has now leapt forward in terms of economic development after the central government intervened and decided to ensure governance by the people of Tibet, which was impossible during the Dalai Lama’s rule.
According to some western propaganda that we have seen in the biased press, Tibet was an independent country which was taken over forcibly by China. They are fanning separatist activities in the name of a small group of followers of the Dalai Lama. According to them, the situation of human rights in Tibet has worsened and the Tibetan people have been denied the right to self-rule by Beijing. This is propaganda designed to create a split in China and an attempt to once again push the people of Tibet into the trap of serfdom.
So far as the question of Tibet’s status is concerned, it was never an independent country but always remained an integral part of China. All historical facts have proved this. Right from the Tang Dynasty in early 7th century, Tibet came under Beijing’s rule, and it continued to be under the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. When China became a republic in 1912, the central government declared it as a republic of five nationalities - Han, Manchu, Mongolian, Hui and Tibetans. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, serfdom was formally abolished and Tibet was declared an autonomous province of China.
Even after being declared free from Dalai Lama’s serfdom, Tibet was granted total autonomy by the central government, which has guaranteed self-rule of Tibetan people. Tibetans are responsible for all kinds of decisions and governance. The role of the central government is just to facilitate the local development. This is a good model of self-rule and autonomy, a concept that has gained currency in the modern day democratic polity everywhere in the world.
When central government in China was weak especially before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Tibet had been granted autonomous status, which was interpreted by some as an independent status of Tibet. But history does not prove this. The reality was that the central government had been so weak during that time because of foreign invasion and war and Beijing could pay much attention to have tight control over all its provinces. During this time provincial authorities exercises more power as Beijing was preoccupied in war. This situation by no means implied that Tibet was independent country. Thus, Tibet had always been the part of China.
After the 1949 revolution that established a communist government led by Mao Zedong, things changed and the central government became stronger and more assertive. The central government then asserted its power over all its territories and applied uniformed laws and rules in all provinces including Tibet. Since the communist party government was committed to abolish all kinds of feudal, repressive and exploitative systems and measures, it declared that serfdom, too, was abolished in Tibet. Moreover, the Dalai Lama was so unpopular in Tibet that the Tibetan people themselves wanted Beijing’s intervention to free the Tibetan people from the vice of serfdom. At the request of the Tibetan people and policy of the Communist Party to free its people from all forms of slavery, serfdom and exploitation, a contingent of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army marched into Lhasa along with Tibet’s common citizenry and declared an end to serfdom and the beginning of people’s rule. In the wake of popular uprising, the Dalai Lama along with a small group of his henchmen then fled to India, where he is still living.
Distorting the historical facts, the Dalai Lama’s clique being backed by some western organizations and powers, are trying to mislead the Tibetan people and they are making attempts to destabilize Tibet and China. But they have not been able to do so as Tibetan people are all aware the ill designs of this group. The other issue is related to human rights in Tibet. One thing is true that no country in the world can ensure full human rights to its people, and there are bound to be drawbacks in China as well. But there is a question - which human rights one wants first. A debate is taking place at various international forums regarding the concept and fundamentals of human rights and priority.
The western countries attach more priority to the political and civil rights, whereas economic and social rights have been areas of more concern for other countries including China. The first and the foremost right of an individual is the right to life and the conditions that help an individual to enjoy other rights, including civil and political rights. Civil and political rights are also very important rights without which an individual’s liberty and free choices cannot be guaranteed. However, in the absence of economic and social rights, civil and political rights become a mere mirage. China has focused more on ensuring a decent life for its people so that they can enjoy and exercise other rights. This is exactly the case in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Now Tibetans are richer, happier and more educated today. They have enough food to eat, decent life and good health care system and better income. What can be better human rights than this? Are serfdom, poverty and exploitation are human rights in the definition of Western powers or the emancipation from these vices is genuine definition of human rights? Now crusaders of international human rights movements need to visit Tibet and compare it with the time when Dalai Lama was in Tibet. This would help them to understand the real situation of Tibet and explain how human rights of the people have been protected in Tibet now.
Moreover, the support to the Dalai Lama is support to slavery and serfdom, which is the worst violation of human rights. In fact, slavery and serfdom are a blot on civilization. But it is only the Dalai Lama’s supporters who are backing serfdom in the name of the ‘Free Tibet movement’. They want serfdom to stage a comeback in Tibet in the name of "Free Tibet", which is being backed by some western governments.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Indian politics may hang in balance after election

Yuba Nath Lamsal
India will have a new government at the center either in May or early June as election to the 16th Lok Sabha (parliament) has already been announced. Indian Election Commission has announced that the election will be held in nine phases from April 7 to May 12, in which 814 million eligible voters are expected to exercise their voting rights to choose their representatives belonging to more than 500 different political parties.
Although latest exit polls suggest a hung parliament with no single party winning the clear-cut majority, Hindu rightist Bharatiya Janta Party ( BJP) or Indian People’s Party is projected to be the leading force in the post election politics of India. BJP leader Narendra Modi is being portrayed as a new prime minister of South Asia’s leading power representing National Democratic Alliance or NDA.  The present ruling secular Congress Party of Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh is likely to be an underdog to trail behind the Hindu nationalist BJP. However, things are not yet clear as the newly emerging Aam Admi Party (AAP) or Common Man’s Party of Arvinda Kejariwal is seen as a force to make a difference in the voting and result pattern of the election. The AAP, an upstart political party with staunch anti-corruption and critical of crony capitalism, has made inroad into the urban vote bank of these two largest traditional political parties of India. There are several other national as well as regional parties that will have their dignified presence in the to-be formed parliament, which will definitely tilt power balance in New Delhi’s post April 16 politics.
The BJP-led NDA is expected to be in significantly better place in this election simply because the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance or UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh performed poorly especially in dealing and addressing with common people’s concerns including their basic needs food, clothes shelter, jobs, price control and good governance. During the five year rule of the Singh-led UPA government, inflation reached almost double digit especially of basic commodities, unemployment rose ever higher, and the administration was corruption-ridden.  Narendra Modi, who is tipped as the next prime minister if the BJP-led alliance won the election, is yet another factor because Mr Modi is seen by a large chunk of middle class voters, who play a determinant and dominant role in India’s politics and election, as a possible savoir of India’s ailing economy and fragile country. This was because Modi’s performance in Gujarat state in which he served two time as a chief minister. At the same time, Modi is a controversial figure with which the religious minorities often fear of being further marginalized if he at all was chosen as Indian’s new prime minister.
The loss of Congress-led alliance is a foregone conclusion but it cannot be said with certainty how many seats the Congress will lose and how many the BJP-led coalition will gain. As Prime Minister Manmohan Sing has already expressed his desire to stay out of politics after the election, it will be a big setback to Congress general secretary and an inheritor of India’s political Nehru-Gandhi family, Mr Rahul Gandhi, who is the prime ministerial candidate, if the Congress-led UPA at all emerged the winner.  The election is, thus, a Rahul versus Modi show.  But it is certain that there will not be a single party government but a coalition one in which pull and push factor of small and regional parties will play a key role in the stability of the new government and national politics of India.
If BJP-led alliance won the election and Modi was elected as the next prime minister, New Delhi would take more rightist and hawkish policy when it comes to foreign and security policy. Modi is a kind of breed who often criticizes Congress policy on Pakistan and China and champions tough stance against its neighbors. This may lead to possible tension between India and its neighbors especially China and Pakistan that may also seriously wreck peace in Asia and more particularly in South Asia. As a proponent of stronger policy and stance against China, Modi’s policies more often converge with that of the United States of America when it comes to China, which may bring New Delhi and Washington closer in a mission to contain and encircle China. In other words, there will be strong likelihood of new kind of security and strategic partnership between the United States and India meant to checkmate China.
India tends to claim to be the largest democracy because the largest number of people participate in the election. But not all people vote during the election and choose their representatives. India is a country with the largest number of poor people in the world and these poor people are illiterate and unable to make an informed choice. Thus, the election results may not necessarily represent the genuine voice of the people and ensure their true representation. In areas where people are poor and illiterate especially in the north, votes are often bought and rigged denying the people of their representation and voice in the governance.  This has made Indian people disillusioned about their political system and compelled them to look for other and alternative methods and models to have their voice heard in the decision-making and political process. This may be one reason why insurgencies of various kinds have taken place in different parts of India. Acknowledging this, India’s former chief election commissioner TN Seshan, trying to establish a link with election fraud and Kashmir’s insurgency, has said, “an instance could be drawn from the 1972 election in Kashmir , which were rigged and as a result, many of the local youths, disillusioned by the unrepresentative political process, turned towards arms for political salvation”.
Election is not merely an event but a process to empower people, enable them to exercise their rights and have them access to adequate food, housing and health care system. But Indian election is just once in five year showcase event that is held to gain legitimacy in the international arena but not to empower its own people.  Thus, a large section of Indian people have no faith on Indian democracy and political system and do not participate in election, which is why people have launched insurgencies in various parts, provinces and states including Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Despite this, parliamentary elections are being held in India, whose preliminary trends are indicative of the nature that the election results are more likely to send a message of susceptibility to its neighbors while giving further rise to disillusion among its own people back home.

Nepal’s one-China policy and UN Charter

By Yuba Nath Lamsal
Unlike double standards and hypocrisy of some countries in the West as well as in its own neighborhood in the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy, Nepal always says what it believes and does what it thinks good. When it comes to the relations with its neighbors, this Himalayan Republic does not have any kind of ambiguity and hidden agenda. Nepal is candid and clear enough on its foreign policy and in the conduct of international relations and diplomacy.
Nepal is a country located in the highly strategically vital as well as volatile position of Asia surrounded by two giants—China and India.  Perhaps, it is this reason why Nepal’s founder Prithivi Narayan Shah once symbolically described this geo-strategic position as a ‘yam between the two boulders’— the view many of us still continue to subscribe. This view is so apt and practical that it not only indicates the need for handling our foreign policy in a more delicate and tactful manner but also continues to provide a leitmotif for the conduct of foreign policy of Nepal even today.
With regard to relations with China, Nepal has adopted one-China policy and strictly followed it, which is not merely meant to please its northern neighbor but seeks to uphold universally accepted norms and principles of international diplomacy. The one-China policy is a historical legacy of Nepal that has been executed in both its letter and spirit right from the time these two countries established contacts and established relations. Unlike some analysts, who think that Nepal’s one-China policy is basically related to Tibet Autonomous Region of China, this policy rather encompasses broader aspects and respect to the principle of China’s sovereign independence, national unity and territorial integrity. One-China policy is not merely related to the position of Tibet Autonomous Region but asserts that China always has legitimate authority over Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and continues to respect this principle both in words and action.
Nepal has unwavering faith on one-China policy, which has earned high respect and appreciation from China. The firm commitment to one-China policy is part of Nepal’s broader foreign policy priority and also its unflinching belief and faith on the rule of diplomacy and international law that does not subscribe to divided loyalty and double standard.  Nepal’s foreign policy is based on five principles of peaceful  co-existence that include, non-aggression, not-interference, respect for territorial integrity and  sovereignty and mutual cooperation  and the one-China policy is strictly in commensurate with these principles. Nepal believes that Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan historically belonged and continue to belong to China and are inalienable and integral part of China. Nepal’s stance is clear that it not only respects one-China policy in principle but also does not allow in its territories any kind of activities that are contradictory to this policy.
The adherence to the one-China policy is Nepal’s long cherished foreign policy that sends the message to the world that despite being small in size Nepal’s policy and stance is firm and consistent in fostering peaceful and cooperative atmosphere in the world in general and in its neighborhood in particular. Being an active member of the United Nations, Nepal strictly adheres to the UN Charter that always seeks national unity and territorial integrity of all member countries and does not support any kind of separatist activities anywhere in the world. One-China policy is the reflection of the respect to the UN Charter, which is a basis of Nepal’s foreign policy. Departing from this policy and any kind of efforts to encourage and instigate activities to destabilize any country is in violation of the spirit and provision of the UN Charter and international principles of diplomacy and international laws. Thus, the one-China policy Nepal has adopted is strictly in consistency with the international instruments, which should also be followed by all other countries in the world without double standard and hypocrisy.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Politics getting polarized

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Recent developments unfolding in our political spectrum only suggest that Nepal may witness a new but natural kind of political polarization. Its symptoms are already visible in our political horizon. After the results of the engineered election held in November 2013 came out, politics of Nepal has taken a new turn and twist. In the election, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML were declared the winners whereas the UCPN-Maoist was given the place of distant third.
Agenda wise, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are on one side while the UCPN-Maoist and even the CPN-Maoist are in the other camp. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are, therefore, natural partners as  their political orientation and agenda almost converge and match. Look at the issue concerning the governance model and federalism. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML seem to have accepted federalism under  duress and they want to create as little number of provinces as they can. According to them, lower the number of federal provinces, better it would be for Nepal both politically and economically. Also they want the provincial states less powerful with more power resting with the central government. In other words, they want some kind of Panchayat era power decentralization or five development regions.
However, the UCPN-Maoist, CPN-Maoist, Madhesi and ethnic parties are pushing for powerful provincial states with right to self-determination. Some are even demanding ethnic based-federalism in which priority right and prerogatives would rest on the dominant ethnic community of the states with especially reserved rights for ethnic minorities.  But a couple of fringe parties are even against the federal system as such and are demanding that the new constitution must ensure the unitary state as federalism does not suit to Nepal.
They have their own logics and counter logics. But all are right in some points and wrong in the rest. Even those who are opposing federal system have their valid points and arguments. Thus, the arguments for and against federalism have both positive and negative sides. In other words, the parties are neither 100 per cent correct and nor are they totally wrong. If we look at the logics of the Maoists and Madhesi parties, it
appears as though federalism is the panacea of all the existing problems in the country. However, things are not as these parties have claimed. Federalism is not the solution to all problems. To speak more
fairly, the country, in fact, may not need federalism, if good governance was delivered at the grass roots level. The concept of federalism is to ensure better access of the people at the grassroots level to the decision making and services of the government. In other words, federalism is supposed to deliver services to the people at their door steps and ensure self-rule. But experts are of the view that the way federalism
is being discussed and debated, its purpose is not to deliver services to the people and empower them but to create several unitary states out of one unitary state.
To become a realist, we must accept the fact that Nepal is a tiny state that can run well even without federalism if true sense decentralization practiced. But it is not to say that federalism is not needed. What is intended to say is that the fundamental aspect is the practice and self-rule- whether it is federalism or functional decentralization under federal structure. If the past practices and experiences are any lesson for us, Nepal's decentralization and local self-governance remained only in papers. After the 1990 political change a lot of talking took place and a lot of budget spent in the name of decentralization and local self-rule. But it produced a little result and people could hardly feel any difference in their life. This situation necessitated to go for a federal structure of the country.
All major political forces have already committed to federalism and there is no going back from it. This means Nepal will be a federal country but its nature, number and power structure have not yet been decided. Since federalism is our new experience and experiment, we need to move ahead cautiously. According to experts, the concept of right to self-determination is dangerous as it may ultimately lead to disintegration of the country if federalism was not properly managed. We need to learn historic lessons from the
balkanization process and disintegration of former Soviet Union. On the issue concerning the right to self-determination to be granted to the federated states, a heated debate between V I Lenin of Soviet Union
and Rosa Luxembourg of Germany needs to be mentioned here that can really give us a good lesson for us at the present context as we are in the process of federating our country. Lenin had agreed to grant right to
self-determination to all federated provinces of the Soviet Union, which meant the provinces could event opt to secede if they so desired. Rosa Luxembourg had strong reservation on this proposition and had objected to Lenin augmenting that Soviet Union would ultimately be disintegrated because of this provision. Rosa had alsoasked Lenin not to play such a 'suicidal' game by granting the right to self-determination to federal states. However, Lenin refused to buzz to Rosa's demand but said that disintegration would not be possible as
long as the central authority of the Soviet Union was strong enough and it would happen only when the central authority weakened. In the long-run, both Rosa and Lenin were proved to be right. Rosa was right
because the Soviet Union got disintegrated by asserting the same right to self-determination. Similarly, Lenin was also right because the Soviet Union did not disintegrate as long as the central authority was
strong. Once the authority in Moscow was weakened for various reasons, the federated states asserted the right to self-determination and declared independence. Now more than a dozen countries have emerged out of the single Soviet Union, which is attributed to the provision of the right to self-determination granted by the Soviet constitution. Now Nepal needs to learn an important lesson from this.
The other issue that experts and others have shown their strong reservation and objection is the ethnicity-based federalism in the name of identity. Identity and ethnicity are two different terminologies that have different connotation and meaning. The Maoists have demanded identity-based federalism, which is being interpreted by other parties including the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML as ethnic
federalism and the Maoists are being accused of fanning racism, communalism and communal friction in the society. In reality, Maoists are not fanning communal discord but pushing for establishing identity of all ethnic, cultural, lingual and religious communities. While the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML are shrewdly calculating their design on how to move ahead to divert the issue of federalism and giving continuity to the old unitary state, the Maoists and Madhesis seem to be unwilling to back out from their stance of federalism. Here is the fundamental difference between the Maoists and other parties regarding federalism.
This is the crux of problem that failed the first Constituent Assembly to deliver the constitution. There has been a broad agreement on all other issues except federalism and form of governance. That is the reason why it is said that more than 80 per cent of the constitution writing had been completed by the earlier Constituent Assembly and only the 20 per cent job had remained unsettled. This view is also wrong. All other issues are general issues and these two are the major ones. In other words, these two issues carry 80 per cent weight because these are the issues that have direct bearing on state restructuring and determining the model of governance or political model. Thus, parties and representatives in the Constituent Assembly are required to accord more attention, strength, priority, energy and time to these issues. This alone can help find an amicable solution to these issues and come up with a draft of a new constitution.
These are the two key issues that have polarized the entire nation. Unless these two issues are settled, it is almost certain that the constitution would not be delivered. But the two ruling parties, which have slightly less than two third majority appear in the mood of bulldozing and declaring constitution on the basis of majority. If they try to do so, it would prove to be politically counterproductive to the nation. It may not resolve the country’s problem but invite yet another type of conflict. Already sensing this move of the two ruling parties, the UCPN-Maoist and the Mohan Vaidya-led CPN-Maoist have come closer and vowed to work collectively. Some other fringe parties, too, may join this camp. This is the beginning of a new political polarization in the country. If such polarization takes place and the relationship between the two political poles worsens, the country only sees a new disaster. Thus, the two ruling parties are required to be a little more responsible and serious to accommodate demands and voices of the opposition both within and outside the Constituent Assembly and make optimum effort to bring the constitution with consent and consensus of all political forces of the country.