Saturday, June 28, 2014

CPN-UML in fierce leadership battle

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Stage is all set for the ninth national congress of the CPN-UML, which would be held on July 3-9 in Kathmandu. All preparations seem to be almost complete for the ninth national congress in which, according to party sources, more than two thousands delegates are likely to participate. The delegates have already been elected and selected to take part in the conclave. The political and organizational reports have also been prepared by party chairman JN Khanal and general secretary Ishwar Pokhrel respectively and have been made public for comments and feedback from the workers and sympathizers for their improvement. Also, the CPN-UML is likely to make best use of the information technology in the national congress so that the delegates would be more familiar with and benefit from the newer technology. In other words, the ninth national congress of the CPN-UML is being dubbed by some of its leaders as the ‘high-tech’ conclave, which would be first of its kind in the organizational life of the party.
Two senior leaders of the party are in the leadership race. Madhav Nepal and KP Sharma Oli are the two contenders for the principal position of the party chairman. However, current Chairman Jhalnath Khanal, too, has not totally lost hope as he is still pulling strings from behind to ensure that the mantle of leadership would again be in his hands. Khanal has not spelt out his intention and desire in public but he has said he would be very much willing to take the leadership if the national congress decides so unanimously. However, it will be Khanal’s mere wishful thinking because the leaders who in the leadership race are not likely to give their claim and handover the leadership to Khanal again.
In the present consumerist and market politics, idealism does not prevail. The politics is determined and controlled by intricate compromise and ‘give and take’ guided by personal benefits which often takes place in secret deal. This is the reason why factionalism has so strong and intensified in this party. However, factionalism and factional rivalry is not an isolated case of the CPN-UML but a general phenomenon in all existing political parties. Bigger the parties, more and stronger groups exist and function. Being one of the largest political parties in the contemporary politics of Nepal, factionalism and factional fights within CPN-UML is also intense, fierce and vicious. Some pundits within the CPN-UML call it as a natural and normal in a vibrant and voracious party, which may be true, to certain extent but not fully convincing. Many are of the view that, the way the factions are operating and they are trading charges and counter charges; the CPN-UML seems to be heading nowhere but on the verge of disintegration, sooner or later. Given the attitudes of the leaders belonging to these two principal factions (Madhav Nepal and KP Oli faction), one, who is not aware of its history and past trends, definitely may think that  these two groups would not be able to co-exist after the ninth national congress. If we look at the UML factional battles in the past and compare them with the present one, the current factional divide appears more artificial than natural one. There were greater and fiercer factional rivalries and conflicts in the past. Once the factional fighting led to the extent of party split.
Previous factional divides were based on cause and principles. The first ideological sword was raised in the CPN-UML by its founder general secretary CP Mainali as he was stripped of the responsibility as the general secretary by the majority decision of the party on political and ideological ground.  As Jhalnath Khanal led the faction against Mainali, Khanal was naturally chosen for the new general secretary. Madan Bhandari was elected general secretary in the fourth national congress amidst similar ideological dispute between the two factions and Bhandari continued to remain the general secretary until his death. The ideological debate and dispute intensified even further and more seriously in the firth national congress in which Madan Bhandari easily and smoothly got his ‘ People’s Multi-Party Democracy (PMPD)’ adopted by the fifth national congress despite opposition from CP Mainali, Jhalnath Khanal and Mohan Chandra Adhikari. The fifth national congress has once and for all resolved the ideological issue and debate in the CPN-UML and PMPD has been the guiding principle of the party.
The factions continued to operate in the CPN-UML, in sixth and seventh national congresses as well. The factional fighting was so severe in the sixth national congress that it paved the ground for party split. Bamdev Gautam, Sahana Pradhan, CP Mainali and other leaders chose to break the relationship with the CPN-UML when CPN-UML stood in favor of the Mahakali Treaty between Nepal and India.
The eighth congress was even unique and ironic in the life of the CPN-UML. In the communist party, one whose polices are approved, is generally entrusted with the responsibility of leading the party. However, CPN-UML saw a serious political contradiction in the eighth national congress. The eighth national congress on the one hand reaffirmed its faith on the PMPD at party’s fundamental guiding principle, while it elected Jhalnath Khanal, who was staunch critic of the “PMPD’, as the party chairman while defeating KP Oli, the true follower and advocate of the PMPD. The problem started in the CPN-UML right from this point.
In the ninth national congress, ideological and political issues and debate are less likely to figure in the conclave as the ideological issue has long been resolved in the party. Both the contenders for the post of the party chairman are supporters and followers of PMPD. Thus, the dispute and debate is not on ideology and political issues but for mere post and position. The entire party has been sharply polarized between these two rival camps and both the camps are engaged in ugly mudslinging against one another. The way they are trading charges and counter charges, some of its rivals and critics are predicting split in the CPN-UML after the national congress. But this may not happen as the leaders are well aware of the fate of the party after its split in the past. Prior to the split, the CPN-UML was so strong it was in the position of sweeping the election if it had remained unified. As Bamdev, CP Mainali and others broke away and formed their own party, the split severely weakened the organizational strength and popular base of the CPN-UML. Although it reunified later, CPN-UML has not yet been able to regain the past glory and the organizational strength it once enjoyed. Both Oli and Nepal are aware of this fact and they may not risk splitting the party again but will remain within CPN-UML even if one group is routed in the ninth national congress. Moreover, the CPN-UML has had democratic exercises for the last 25 years in multi-party competitive system and leaders and workers are habituated to take the victory and defeat in election as a normal democratic process. Thus, the pre-election rivalry will not have any negative impact on the party but will be taken in a normal way as a democratic exercise. If it again splits, it will lose its validity and popularity. Perhaps, its leaders have understood this more clearly than anybody else as they have already had the bitter consequence of the party split.
More importantly, the internal equation in the CPN-UML often change. In the eighth national congress, KP Oli and Madhav Nepal were together against Jhalnath Khanal camp. The KP-Madhav bonhomie lasted until last year. Bamdev Gautam was then in the Khanal camp but he chose to change the camp and entered KP Oli group only five months ago. The equation may change even during the ninth national congress as Jhalnath Khanal is apparently seen as a fence sitter not publicly siding with any of the two principal contenders. But his internal sympathy is with Madhav Nepal as his staunch supporters are publicly backing Madhav Nepal. Similarly Ishwar Pokhrel was with Khanal camp during the eighth congress and he won in the election for general secretary. Now Ishwar Pokhrel, too, has changed his loyalty and is in the Oli camp. Thus, the equation in the CPN-UML keeps on changing and it will continue until the last hour. There are many neutral members who have been elected as delegates. Their support will determine who would win the race. Khanal is now in decisive position. It is being said that most of the neutral delegates are Khanal’s loyalists and they are likely to side with the one who gets Khanal’s backing. Khanal decision and support would change the entire scenario. Thus, it is premature to predict the outcome of the UML ninth congress right now. Let’s thus, wait and watch until the last hours of the ninth national congress of the CPN-UML.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Koirala government fails in all fronts

Yuba Nath Lamsal
It’s been five months since the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was convened and the coalition government headed by Sushil Koirala was formed. However, given the snail’s pace with which the government is moving ahead, the government has not been able to make its presence felt and instill optimism in the general mass and the intelligentsia that the government and the ruling parties would keep the promises made to the people during the Constituent Assembly election held in November last year.

All the political parties had made their stance and position clear to the country and the people during the election in which they had promised to give the country a competent, efficient and effective government to be able to solve the country’s problems and deliver swift services to the people. The other but most important promise they had made was the writing and promulgation of a new constitution within a year. The Nepali Congress triumphed in the election as it emerged as the largest party in the CA, though it has still short of the much required magic number to form its own government. The emergence of the CPN-UML, with which Nepali Congress can share in many of the agendas, as the second largest party has come as a big relief to the Congress. The emergence of CPN-UML has made things easier for the Congress as the combined strength of these two parties forms comfortable majority to run the government. As some fringe parties have already joined the coalition government and some have backed the government from outside, the present coalition government now commands two-third majority in parliament. If the government works strictly in conformity with its promises taking into account the largest interest of the country, it will have no obstruction from anywhere either to run the government or promulgate the constitution. Although the opposition parties may try to put up some hurdles on the path of the government, Sushil Koirala can sail through smoothly if he has the intention and will power to do so. But the government seems to be confused in itself and has got embroiled in frivolous issues that is leading it nowhere.
In the slightly over four month since the Koirala led government was formed, there is not even a single achievement that is worth mentioning. If we look at the good governance issue that the present ruling parties had promised during the election, the government has miserably failed. There is neither good governance nor quick delivery of services. Right in the beginning, the government drew much public flak as half a dozen ministers in the present cabinet were either defeated in the election or did not contest, which is politically and morally incorrect and illogical, though not legally and constitutionally. But politically it is a mistake and a wrong message to the people. The problem has started from this point and the government seems to be making mockery of democracy.
Secondly, the whole concentration of the ruling parties and more particularly the Nepali Congress so far is to give benefits to their workers instead of ensuring good governance. Even the two key coalition partners seem to be in virtual conflict on issue concerning appointments and other benefits. The Nepali Congress considers itself as a principal party in the present cabinet and tends to treat the CPN-UML as the junior partner. On this token, Nepali Congress wants a lion’s share in the benefits but wants the coalition partners to equally share the discredit if it at all occurs due to the functioning or mal-functioning of the government. However, the CPN-UML is has slightly less number of seats in the CA than those of the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML is by no means a junior partner. The position of the CPN-UML is such that the Nepali Congress cannot even imagine leading the government without the CPN-UML. Thus, the CPN-UML is the key partner in the present coalition government and any efforts to undermine and underestimate its role and position would only backfire. In an interview to an English language daily recently, the parliamentary party leader of the CPN-UML KP Sharma Oli has put forth his views that the CPN-UML may not always be willing to stay in the government if the Nepali Congress tends to treat it as a junior partner.
While the government has virtually done nothing in domestic front over the last four-plus months, it is disaster in international relations and in the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy. This is purely because of Prime Minister Koirala’s own lethargy, negligence and incompetence. Almost two dozens of Nepal’s missions abroad are functioning without the mission heads or ambassadors. Nepal does not have its ambassador in New Delhi for three years. India is a country with which we have barrage of issues to be settled. These issues need to be sorted out through diplomatic acumen and skill. However, the present government seems to be least concerned about our national interests abroad.  As a result, our diplomatic performance and presence in the international arena is getting weak and poor.
Prime Minister Koirala is perhaps Nepal’s most powerful prime minister in the period of last one decade as he commands two-thirds majority in parliament. However, his performance is one of the weakest and poorest. He failed to exercise his authorities and power both at home and abroad. If we look at his recent visits to India and China, his role and ability seem to be in question in handling foreign affairs and diplomacy. Prime Minister Koirala was among the seven other South Asian leaders who were invited to New Delhi to attend the inauguration of newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was definitely a good opportunity to demonstrate Nepal’s diplomatic performance and role on the part of Prime Minister Koirala. Perhaps, our Prime Minister’s role and performance was one of the weakest. Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan stole the limelight, which is natural due to its size and issues with India. Similarly other leaders like Mahinda Rajapkha of Sri Lanka, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan had made their presence strongly felt in New Delhi whereas Nepal’s Prime Minister seemed to be virtually in oblivion during his New Delhi sojourn, which may be, to some extent, a national disgrace. This may not be Prime Minister’s own fault but his team of advisors seemed to be less competent and less serious on this issue and perhaps failed to make good preparation well in advance. Similar case is with his visit to Kunming of China. The People’s Republic of China had extended invitation to Prime Minister Koirala almost four months ahead to be a special guest in the China-South Asia Expo in Kunming. However, Prime Minister Koirala did not give his definite answer whether he would be joining the other heads of the state and government from South Asia in Kunming. As a result, our prime minister was not able even to go to Beijing and meet Chinese President and Prime Minister, whereas Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed was accorded high level of respect in Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Had our Prime Minister given his nod to China visit quite in time, he could also have received such a high level of welcome in Beijing. Prime Minister Koirala showed his reluctance to go to China due to fear of being New Delhi’s bête noire for picking up China as the first country of his foreign trip. He decided just a week ahead after coming back from Ne w Delhi. This is fundamental weakness and flaw in independently handling foreign affairs and diplomacy. He is the prime minister of a sovereign country and he should have taken a bold and independent decision to visit any country in the world. Here comes his yet another failure.
So far as the promulgation of the constitution in time is concerned, it is not likely that this goal would be achieved given the slow pace and posture of the Koirala-led coalition government. As per the calendar set by the Constituent Assembly, the first draft has to be completed by October this year. We have only four months left to meet this deadline of preparing the first draft. The way and pace with which the CA members are working, it may not be possible to meet this target, although it is not totally impossible. If the draft is not prepared by October, the promulgation of the new constitution may not be accomplished within a year, which would prove yet another failure of the Koirala-led government. This shows that the present Koirala-led government seems to be a failure on all accounts.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

One More Key Step In Nepal-China Ties

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala paid a two-day official visit to Kunming, China as a guest of honor in the inaugural session of the second China South Asia Expo in which he delivered as key note speech that touched upon not only the long legacy of friendly and cooperative relations between these two close Asian neighbors but also laid down a ground work for a new model of enhanced cooperation between Nepal and China. The visit was taken in a highly optimistic tone in both Nepal and China as it was viewed as an important milestone for further nurturing age-old friendly relations between these two neighbors.
Soon after being elected as Prime Minister, Koirala was greeted with prompt congratulatory message by Chinese premier Li Kequiang  in which premier Li expressed his readiness to work together, develop comprehensive and cooperative partnership with Nepal. Moreover, the respect and role that was bestowed upon Prime Minister Koirala by the government of China is Kunming is suffice to illustrate the high priority Beijing attaches to Nepal in broader spectrum of Beijing’s foreign policy. More than that China sent a special aircraft to Kathmandu to facilitate Koirala’s safe  and comfortable journey to Kunming. Koirala, too, put forth his views in a candid manner to seek China’s greater and more meaningful cooperation and investment in Nepal in the days to come, to which the Chinese side has shown positive response.
With China rising as an international power economically and otherwise, Beijing is now more outward-looking building peaceful and constructive partnership with nations across all continents. However, after Xi Jinping rose to power, Beijing’s focus of international cooperation has been in its neighborhood as China wants its neighbors also to benefit from its prosperity. South Asia is, therefore, a priority zone with which China wants to build meaningful partnership. As a close neighbors sharing common border and enjoying a long history of cooperative relations, Nepal is an important neighbor as it is a gateway to South Asia. Similarly, China, too, is an important country for Nepal for variety of reasons.
To put simply and plainly, China is important for us because it is our close neighbor with which we share a 1,439-km common border in the north. However, despite having common border, Nepal and China never have any border dispute in the modern history, which in itself is the most important feature in the bilateral relationship between these two countries. Nepal and China had had contacts and good bond of mutual cooperation and exchanges in various fronts and areas right from the ancient time. The scholars and experts, artists and craftsmen, travelers and traders had long served as important sources of thread to bind and bring peoples of these two countries together. Nepali princess Bhrikuti, who was married to a Tibetan prince, not only carried with her the deep feelings of love and respect of the Nepali people for Tibet but was also principally responsible for introducing and popularizing Buddhism in Tibet and then China, for which she is revered as Green Tara in Tibetan iconography. The other personality that played an instrumental role in promoting Nepal-China relations is craftsman Arniko, who popularized Nepali architecture in China during the time of the Yang Dynasty. The white pagoda built by Arniko still stands tall in Beijing as a symbol of friendship and cooperative relations between our two great nations. In the similar way, several Chinese monks and travelers like Faxian and Hsuan Tsang are some of the names who travelled to Nepal on different occasions and wrote a travel account about Lumbini and Nepal. Such visits contributed to deepening social, cultural, religious, economic and even political relations between Nepal and China.
The year 1955 is a turning point in the history of Nepal-China relations. On August 1, 1955, Nepal and China, after a six-days of negotiations between the representatives of the two countries from July 27 to August 1, issued a joint communiqué in Kathmandu agreeing ‘ …to establish normal diplomatic relations and to exchange ambassadors…’ and also agreed upon the five principles which would serve as the basis for the bilateral relations between the two countries. These five principles include ‘mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-aggression; non interference in each other’s internal affairs for any reasons—of an economic, political, or ideological character; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence’ The same five principles were later accepted by Non-Aligned Movement as the fundamental guiding principles for international relations. The objectives of the establishment of the diplomatic relations were to boost and bolster bilateral mutual cooperation and friendship between the two countries as the joint communiqué clearly states ‘ the two governments believe that the establishment of diplomatic relations will also promote further development in the cultural and economic cooperation between the two countries’. Since then the bilateral relations constantly continue to grow and deepen in the best and utmost interest of the peoples of the two countries. China has truly lived up to its words and is sincerely contributing to Nepal’s development. As a result, China has become Nepal’s genuine development partner, which has been consistently, but unselfishly, contributing to social and economic development of Nepal and enhancing bilateral friendly relations at different levels.
The exchanges of visit between Nepal and China at different levels had started right from the ancient time  and this tradition continues even today that has contributed to bringing the two people ever closer and strengthening the friendly bilateral ties. After the diplomatic relations were established, exchanges of visits at different levels have further intensified. The high level visits between these two countries have taken place on regular basis. Chinese Premiers Zhou Enlai, Hua Guofeng, Li Peng, Zhu Rongji and Wen Jiabao and President Li Xiannian are the top most Chinese dignitaries to visit Nepal whereas many top Nepali dignitaries including kings and prime ministers have visited China seeking to promote bilateral friendship and cooperation. The recent visit of Prime Minister Koirala to Kunming of China is the continuation of this long tradition of exchanging high level of visit between Nepal and China.
These visits have helped both the countries understand one another more closely. As a result, Nepal and China understand the sensitivity of one another. While China is a genuine partner of Nepal’s development, Nepal, too, is doing its best to ensure that nothing will hurt China’s interests and sensitivities. Nepal has always adhered to one-China policy and does not allow any kind of anti-China activities in its territories. As a result, Nepal and China have identical approach in viewing the world and dealing with international issues. Both these countries seek peaceful approach to settle any kind of international disputes. The five principles of peaceful co-existence are the basis for the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy. More than that, China attaches greater priority to the relationship, friendship and cooperation with its neighbors, including Nepal.

Being a close neighbor, Nepal is in China’s priority list and has done everything possible to further deepening the age-old friendly relationship and cooperation with Nepal and the Nepalese people. Nepal is China’s backyard and also a gateway to South Asia with which China is keenly desirous to expand trade and economic relations and cooperation more than ever. Situated in such a vital strategic location, Nepal can be an effective and vibrant bridge between China and South Asia. It is against this background that the concept of trilateral cooperation among Nepal, India and China has come up. China is positive in building a trilateral partnership through which Nepal can emerge as a regional strategic and commercial hub.
 Perhaps, guided by the notion of further accelerating economic cooperation and trade with South Asia, China has started to organize annually the China-South Asia Expo in Kunming of Yunnan Province, an important gateway to South Asia, to showcase the prospects, priorities and potentials for cooperation with different South Asian countries. The second China-South Asia Expo was held on June 5-10 in which Nepal was a theme country and Prime Minister Koirala was a principal guest. Prime Minister Koirala was accorded a high level of respect by China in Kunming, which is a testament of the fact that China attaches especial importance to the relationship with Nepal. In fact, Nepal and China have remained friends in need throughout history and the recent visit of Prime Minister Koirala has added further impetus to the already existing friendly ties between these two countries.

China's entry would benefit SAARC

Yuba Nath Lamsal

The 17th summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) recently concluded in Addu Atoll of the Maldives, which
appears to be a turning point in its history. Coming to the 17th Summit, the
SAARC has traversed a long and tumultuous journey and has finally proved its
worth. Some new initiatives now are afoot to turn the SAARC from a regional
gossiping club of South Asian leaders into a vibrant and resourceful
regional body.

Much was discussed among the leaders of the South Asia and observer
countries especially on the sidelines of the formal meetings. Talks were
held and ideas were exchanged on various issues including enlargement of the
SAARC. Currently, there are eight members and nine observers. The eight
members include Nepal, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
Maldives and Afghanistan. The observer countries are China, Mauritius,
Japan, South Korea, Australia, United States of America, Iran, Myanmar and
European Union. Turkey is another country that may be interested to join the
SAARC as the observer and the SAARC members appear to be positive for
Turkey's entry into the SAARC as observer. With Turkey, the number of
observer countries in the eight-member SAARC would be ten. There are other
countries and groups that may be interested to join SAARC as observers.
Since European Union has the observer status, why should other regional
groups like ASEAN, African Union, Arab League and the Union of South
American Countries not be included as observers? If Iran, Myanmar and
Mauritius are qualified for the observers, several central Asian countries
that have close proximity as well as other relations with South Asia are
equally qualified for the same. Similarly, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,
Vietnam, Russia may also be equally qualified for SAARC's observer status.
It seems as though observers are included in an arbitrary manner without
setting specific criteria. If this trend continues, SAARC, one day, may be
overwhelmed by observers, Situation may arise when member states would not
be able to take any decision whereas observers may dictate the members of
the SAARC.

The issue concerning the expansion of the SAARC has come up more
prominently. Originally SAARC was an association of seven countries.
Afghanistan was included only recently. Iran and Myanmar have long ago shown
willingness to join the SAARC as full-fledged members and have already
registered their written request. Similar case is with China, which is
currently an observer like Japan, South Korea and the United States. China
is the country which shares border with five members of the SAARC. China is,
thus, very much South Asian as well as East Asian country and it fully
deserves to be the member of the SAARC.

Recognizing this reality, there are some moves already afoot to include
China as a member of the SAARC instead of observer status. Majority of the
SAARC members are positive of China's entry into the SAARC. Pakistan has
already floated this idea, whereas Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan and
Bangladesh appear to be positive. China, too, is seeking active role in the
SAARC. At the moment, China has sought the role of dialogue partner if the
full-fledged membership is not immediately possible. The proposal to include
China as a dialogue partner has been called as 'eight-plus one' structure-
eight full-fledged members with one dialogue partner. If granted the status
of dialogue partner, China would be able to participate in all discussion
and dialogue and also put forth its views on issues of discussion. However,
it may not have voting power.

But China deserves more than the dialogue partner. But Beijing may be
contended with this status for the time being, which could ultimately be
transformed into a full-fledged member of the SAARC. China is development
partner of almost all South Asian countries. China has not only provided
generous assistance to several South Asian countries but also has been
involved in several construction and development projects. China is keen to
further expand the areas of cooperation in South Asia in the years to come.
This is China's selfless motive of contributing to the development in its
neighborhood. Beijing is well aware that prosperity and stability of China
may not be meaningful if its neighborhood is unstable, poor and backward.
The willingness and desire to contribute meaningful contribution to the
development of neighborhood and getting involved in the development works in
different countries in South Asia was clearly reflected in the speech
delivered by the head of the Chinese delegation to the 17th SAARC Summit.

China's South Asia policy is guided by its own security, stability and
development-which is called as the 'peripheral policy'. China feels that its
prosperity and stability are maintained only when its neighbors are stable
and prosperous. Beijing is of the view that when there is fire in the
neighborhood, it is likely to catch your own house. Guided by this notion,
China wants more stability, peace and prosperity in the neighborhood.

China is currently world's second largest economy and is poised to become
the largest one. The level of economic development of its people is also
going up fast. Beijing has aimed at completely eradicating poverty in a few
years. Similarly, China's investment in the world is also growing in leaps
and bound, which has bolstered China's clout and influence in the
international arena. China has invested much in other parts of the country
especially in Africa. South Asia is China's backyard and Beijing is
currently focusing its investment and cooperation in South Asia so that
South Asia can benefit from Chain's experience of economic miracle. SAARC
could be a good forum for enlarging economic cooperation between South Asia
and China. For this, China is seeking appropriate and dignified role within
SAARC forum.

 However, Chain's move to be part of the SAARC is likely to be resisted by
India. Although China does not have any ill will against any county, India
always feels threatened by China's presence in the region. China has time
and again made its position clear that its economic growth and modernization
are not aimed at any other country but solely meant for its peaceful
development. Thus, there should be no apprehension and fear from China's
growth and its presence anywhere in the world.

 Against this background, South Asia should take advantage from China's
desire to join SAARC. There has been widespread feelings in the region that
SAARC has not been able to move faster and accomplish its goal of meaningful
regional cooperation for which it was created 26 years ago. This is mainly
attributed to the lack of resources as most SAARC countries are poor.
Moreover, the role of India, which is the biggest and most powerful member
of the SAARC, may be uneasy from the effectiveness of the SAARC. India's
policy on SAARC is to keep the region alive but weak and fragile.
With China's entry as a full-fledged member, the SAARC would be world's
largest regional body with more resources and capability in tackling the
region's problems and contributing to the development of this area. China's
entry into SAARC would add one more dimension. So far, SAARC has been India
centric and New Delhi has used its influence, power and clout to reduce
SAARC activities to meetings and discussions. But China is a bigger and more
powerful in terms of size, population, economic and military might which may
serve as a perfect countervailing force in the SAARC so that one country's
hegemony would come to an end and SAARC would be more meaningful,
functioning and vibrant.

China's entry into the SAARC as a full-fledged member is necessary not for
China's interest but for the benefit of South Asian countries mainly smaller
and weaker ones like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan.
There are some other countries which have openly backed China's entry into
SAARC. Pakistan has wholeheartedly supported this move. The Maldives and Sri
Lanka are also positive. There has been widespread support in the popular
level in South Asia for brining China into SAARC forum as a member.
Bangladesh, too, may not oppose the proposal despite Prime Minister's Seikh
Hasina's pro-India tilt. Since Bhutan is India's tutelage, New Delhi may use
Thimpu card in keeping Beijing away although India would not come up openly
against China. The public opinion in Nepal is in China's favour because of
Beijing's good neighborly attitude and friendly cooperation. Prime Minister
Dr Baburam Bhattarai had publicly spoken the need for bringing China into
SAARC and has vowed to create Nepal as a meaningful bridge between China and
India. However, Prime Minister Bhattarai's silence over this matter in
Maldives during the 17th SAARC summit is conspicuous. Since he is the second
head of the government in South Asia to raise the issue of bringing China
into SAARC, he should have raised this issue in Maldives.

Modi’s message to South Asia

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has chosen Bhutan as the first country for his maiden foreign trip. It is quite in contrast to what his predecessors had done as no previous Indian prime minister ever shoes Bhutan as the destination of his or her first foreign trip. This is also against general perception that he would start his foreign trip with big bang from some powerful countries like Russia, Japan, France or Great Britain. If not he was expected to begin his foreign trip from South Asia possibly either from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Nepal. Nepal was even upbeat with rumors had it that Modi would visit Nepal soon after his inauguration as Prime Minister for pilgrimage purpose to pay homage to Lord Pashupatinath. However, all the guess works failed as Modi announced that Bhutan is his first choice for official foreign trip as Prime Minister.
If everything goes well, Narendra Modi will fly to Thimpu probably in the third week of June. An advance Indian team is already in Thimpu to take stock of security and other matters and make necessary preparation for Modi’s visit. Upon return from Thimpu, he will prepare to embark on another foreign sojourn to Japan to be followed by his visit to the United States in September this year.
It is purely the prerogative of Prime Minister Modi and the Indian government to take decision on this issue. But the surprise manner the decision was announced, it has definitely stirred debate both within India and in South Asia as to why Modi chose Bhutan for his maiden foreign visit. Even officials at the South Block may have been taken by surprise as they had not even slightest of hint of this decision. Thus, Modi wanted to give multiple messages both at home and abroad by his first foreign trip to Bhutan. As per media reports and analysis, it is Modi’s ‘humble beginning’ to embark on his foreign trip and diplomatic maneuvering as Bhutan is considered insignificant in the global diplomatic and security chessboard.  The another message he wanted to give by his own decision to go to Bhutan first before he gets on board on the international diplomacy is that  Modi may not depend solely on bureaucrats and agency people instead he wants to deal with foreign policy issues at the political level. If this is at all true, it may signal a positive message not only to his own Indian people but also to its neighbors as the last few years under Manmohan Singh regime have seen agency people and bureaucrats running the show in foreign policy handling. This has resulted in more negative image of India in the neighborhood. Narendra Modi seems to project India’s soft power in the neighborhood and beyond to create more positive image of India in the international arena for which he might not allow bureaucracy and agencies to have dominant role in the conduct of foreign policy.
This is a part of story but the other part is his domestic compulsion and BJP’s long-held position vis-a-vi its relations with other countries mainly in South Asia. Narendra Modi’s party—the Bharatiya Janata Party, is known to have more hawkish foreign policy based on Kautilya’s Mandala theory of governance that seeks to dominate peripheral states and consolidate power at the centre. The Indian establishment in general and the BJP in particular place India at the center of South Asia and treat the rest of South Asian countries as peripheral states. This notion was mooted and pushed ahead more forcefully and prominently by Ballav Bhai Patel in post-independence era of India. Patel served as the second-in-command in the Nehru cabinet immediately after India’s independence and is praised in India as an ‘iron man’ but criticized abroad for his hardliner image. Patel is believed to have once proposed to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to annex all smaller independent countries of South Asia but was rejected by Nehru for fear of condemnation and possible retribution from the international community. While Congress reveres Gandhi and Nehru, Narendra Modi and the BJP take Patel as their role model. The expulsion of BJP’s formidable leader and ex-foreign and finance minister Jaswant Singh from the party for criticizing Patel in his book a few years ago  is a testament of how BJP respects Patel. For Narendra Modi, Patel is more respectable as both Patel and Modi are Gujarati. Thus, Modi is Patel’s true follower and would try to walk on Patel’s path especially when it comes to foreign policy handling. We can thus expect more hawkish neighborhood policy under Modi and his choice of Bhutan as the first priority country may be a reflection of this policy.
Modi’s decision to go to Bhutan for maiden foreign visit may be analyzed as a reward for Thimpu’s subservient role and wiliness to follow and implement New Delhi’s diktat on both domestic as well as foreign policy. If we look at the series of events and developments over the last few years, Bhutan has been acting strictly in the interest of India on every issue and affairs even at its own expense. On request of New Delhi, Bhutan conducted Operation All Clear in 2003 to flush out insurgents who had been fighting insurgency against the Indian government, which India has taken as special favor to it.  
The China factor is yet another reason. Bhutan shares 605-kilometer border with India and 470-km border with China. Beijing is very keen on establishing full-fledged diplomatic relations with Bhutan and establishing its embassy in Thimpu. The Chinese move has made many in the Indian establishment nervous. Modi choosing Bhutan as the first destination of his foreign trip also aims at keeping Bhutan away from China. In addition to this, Bhutan is a major source of hydro power for India and New Delhi plans to construct three hydropower projects in Bhutan with the capacity of 1,400 megawatts.
Modi’s choice of Bhutan as the destination of his first foreign trip could have been BJP’s or Modi’s symbolic message to the rest of South Asia. India often hails Indo-Bhutan relationship as the role model of India’s relations with its neighbors in South Asia especially with smaller countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan. If this is the kind of message that the new regime in New Delhi is trying to send to its neighbors, it will only backfire as no South Asian country is willing to accept ‘Bhutan model of relationship with India’.
So far as Nepal and its relations with India are concerned, Nepalese people, despite having common border and sharing many commonalities are always skeptical and susceptible with Indian establishment due to hawkish and bullish policy and attitude of Indian establishment. Nepal and Nepalese people have no ill feelings to any country in the world and want similar kind of response and reciprocity from other countries including India. Nepal’s foreign policy is clearly guided by the United Nations Charter and the principles of non-alignment. In other words, the internationally recognized and accepted five principles of peaceful existence are the bases of Nepal’s foreign policy. Although India, too, accepts and preach these principles in the international arena as the fundamental basis of conducting foreign policy, it hardly exercises and respects them when it comes to dealing with its smaller and weaker nations. With Narendra Modi coming to power  and demonstrating a gesture of goodwill to all South Asian leaders by inviting them to his inauguration, it had instilled the hope with the people and governments of South Asia that BJP government under Narendra Modi will be different from the earlier regimes. Nepalese people were more optimistic from the initial indications and gesture of new prime minister of India. However, given the developments in the short span of time since Modi came to power in India, things do not appear to be moving on the correct path as they had earlier been expected. Given the agency people and bureaucrats having dominant role in Nepal policy and handling Nepal-India relations, it had been expected that Modi’s rise would bring this trend to an end and start afresh in building relationship with Nepal so that both the countries would mutually benefit. Although it is still premature to arrive at a definite conclusion because Modi has just started his work, the initial indications, however, do not portray a very positive picture. Let’s wait and watch how things develop especially on issues concerning Nepal-India relationship.