Friday, September 26, 2014

Can The 69th UN General Assembly Be Different?

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The heads of state and government from across the globe are now gathered at the United Nations headquarters in downtown Manhattan, New York, to debate issues facing the globe at the 69th UN General Assembly. As years pass by, the world sees new challenges and crises, and every year at the UN General Assembly, the world leaders promise to provide a better solution. But, much to the dismay of the people, the UN jamboree concludes with cosmetic rhetoric without any concrete steps to address the problems facing the global community. As a result, the world continues to suffer from multiple challenges.
The United Nations General Assembly is, perhaps, the only global forum in which all member states, irrespective of their physical size, economic strength and military might, enjoy equal rights and say. All leaders are given equal time to speak while participating in the debate on several topics. The annual high-level debate, which officially kicked off on September 23, has numerous issues and agendas for discussion.

Climate change agenda
However, the looming threat of climate change has been the key issue upon which leaders of the world’s more than 140 countries have already spent a day focusing on this pressing global issue. Given the unprecedented challenges and threats to humanity emanating from the growing climate change, mainly caused by the unsustainable human activities in the name of development, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon personally took initiative and proposed a one-day debate ahead of the UN General Assembly session, aimed at drawing the attention of global leaders to work more for the environment and ecological conservation and save humanity from a possible climate change disaster. For this the secretary general definitely deserves a big applause and acclamation.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, participating in the debate called the UN Climate Change-2014 Conference, notably raised the problems faced mainly by the developing countries due to environmental degradation, global warming and climate change, which are largely the making of the developed and emerging economies of the world. Prime Minister Koirala’s particular concern was the impact of climate change on the Himalayan ecosystem, which is the lifeline of more than a fifth of world’s humanity. The Himalaya has come under tremendous threat due to climate change, which will have a direct impact on the rain pattern, water flow of the rivers and agricultural productivity in the entire South Asia region.

Experts are of the view that the negative impact of climate change has already been visible in the Himalaya and South Asia as water sources are drying up, the flow of the rivers has become uneven, rain pattern has changed and glaciers are melting at a faster pace. South Asia is now seeing more natural disasters in the form of flash floods and landslides mainly due to degradation of the Himalayan ecosystem.

The share of the developing countries in environmental destruction, global warming and climate change is minimal, but they are the ones which have suffered the most. The developed countries are primarily responsible for global warming and climate change as their activities are unsustainable and environmental unfriendly. The Western developed
countries have been exploiting nature more than it can sustain. The capitalist production system of the Western world is guided by unlimited profits, which nature with its limited resources cannot sustain.

It is estimated that 15 per cent of the people of the global north have access to and control over 85 per cent of the world's resources, while 85 per cent people mostly living in the global south survive on less than 15 per cent of the resources. While the developed world dumps a huge quantity of surplus food into the sea, a large chunk of the population in the
developing and least developed countries suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
This uneven distribution of wealth and resources must be brought to an end and a new mechanism devised to ensure that all will have access to food and resources that alone will ensure equitable development. This should, perhaps, be the key agenda of the UN General Assembly. The United Nations is expected to devise a mechanism requiring the developed countries, which benefit from over exploitation of the natural resources at the expense of the larger mankind, to pay compensation in the form of increased aid volume for sustainable social, economic and ecological development of the developing countries.

However, foreign aid is being termed as merciful endowment of the Western countries. In
fact, it should be made mandatory for every developed country to commit and give at least 10 per cent of their GDP for the development of the developing countries as compensation for plundering and exploiting the resources of the developing countries in the past. However, this is less likely to figure prominently in the UN General Assembly because most of the developing countries are, unfortunately, not united and also not in a mood to antagonise the Western powers. As a result, the 69th UN General Assembly may not be different from the previous ones.

The world is now in a perilous condition in terms of peace. Although the United Nations has been able to prevent another world war, which was one key objective of this global organisation when it was formed, scores of wars have broken out in different parts of the world in which more people have been killed than the number of people killed in the two world wars. Ironically, the same world powers that created the United Nations in the aftermath of the devastating World War II are in one way or the other involved in these wars, which is a matter of utmost concern for all peace loving people in the world.
Now peace is elusive, development is deformed, international cooperation is selective and democracy and human rights are mere showcase commodities in the world due mainly to the double standard and hypocrisy of some Western powers. As a result, the United Nations, too, is just a toothless tiger which only barks but cannot bite when injustice takes place in the world. The United Nations is unable to act because the global body is too dependent on the Western powers for funds and resources.

Moreover, the decision of the General Assembly is not binding as the executive body is the Security Council, which has been dominated by the five big powers called the permanent members, namely the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. Any proposal that is against the interest of these five permanent members cannot be adopted as the UN Charter has given them veto power that can undo the entire exercise of the United Nations. If the United Nations is to be made a really effective body, the organisational structure of the UN Security Council needs to change, with more representation of the other regions and continents and the veto power ended.
No better alternative
It is against this background that the 69th UN General Assembly has started, but it is not expected to make any decision having far-reaching consequences. Despite its inability to act to address the problems facing the world, the United Nations is still at the center stage of global politics, and it is more so during the period of its General Assembly that takes place between September and November when world leaders, accompanied by their delegates and over 2,000 media personnel, rub their shoulders in the UN headquarters. This is because there is no better alternative to the United Nations. And we cannot imagine a world without the United Nations in the present global context.

Are China and India coming closer?

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up South and Central Asia trip recently, of which Xi’s India visit was taken with much interest, enthusiasm and caution in Nepal. During Xi’s visit to India, some ground breaking developments took place which will go down as a milestone event in the history of China’s relations with India and also in the entire South Asia.
Indian and Chinese politicians and analysts have described Xi’s India visit and agreement reached in New Delhi for mutual cooperation and benefits as a dawn of new era in the history of Sino-India bilateral relations.  During the three day visit to India, China pledged to invest billions of dollars in India’s infrastructure development projects including construction of high-speed railway, industrial parks and upgrading India’s moribund railway system. Apart from this, China and India have agreed for a strategic partnership on issues of mutual interests and benefits.
It is now expected that China and India would dispel apprehension about one another but cooperate in the mutually agreed fields that would benefit both the countries and the people of India and China. Xi’s visit and agreements reached during his visit is being analyzed as Narendra Modi’s brilliant diplomatic triumph whereas it was China’s diplomatic shrewdness to enlarge its influence in South Asia and reach out to world’s more than one-fifth humanity that lives in South Asia. On the surface, India got assurance from China much needed investment that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been desperately seeking. It Modi rose to India’s political central stage and became prime minister with numerous promises to the people including creation of more jobs, upgrading the outdated infrastructure to cope with the pace of technological revolution with which the world is marching ahead. Narendra Modi has a tremendous challenge to keep his promises made to Indian voters during the election. However, India’s resources alone are not sufficient to meet these challenges and promises. Thus Modi is desperately seeking Chinese investment and cooperation, for which he has been successful to some extent.
With this objective in mind Modi has been cleverly wooing countries so that India could get more investment and resources for India’s modernization and development. While trying to keep South Asia under New Delhi’s influence, Modi visited Nepal and Bhutan where he used sugar quoted words to appease Nepalese and Bhutanese. India’s main concerns in Nepal and Bhutan are security and water resources, for which Modi has adopted different strategy and approach in both of these countries so that India could use water resources of Nepal and Bhutan for the benefit of India.
While dealing with China Modi tried to play different cards—persuading and pressurizing. He tried to woo Xi Jinping and China by praising Beijing’s model of development and opening up Indian market for Chinese trade and also investment. The opening up Nathu La Pass for border trade and travel all the way to Mansarovar is yet another policy gesture that India and China have demonstrated for the interest of both the countries. China will definitely benefit as it would facilitate border trade between India’s Sikkim state and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. India will benefit from the opening the Nathu La Pass because it will reduce time, cost and energy for Indian citizens willing to travel to Mansarovar for pilgrimage purpose. This a win-win proposition for both the countries. At the same time, Modi entered into an agreement with Japan for investment in India’s infrastructure development project had indirectly exerted pressure on China to get engaged more in India. In this Modi has been successful as China’s has promised to pour billions of dollars in India’s infrastructure development.
But we still have to watch and see other arrangements that these two countries have announced during President Xi’s visit to India will really materialize in a way they have promised. China has announced tens of billions dollar investment in India and help in upgrading railway system and construction of two industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharastra. However, the implementation of agreements will depend upon how India and China resolve other issues and disputes. There is a more room for doubt on India’s intention as New Delhi is often seen to be provoking certain issues, perhaps, at the behest of some extra-regional and extra-continental powers. Even during Xi’s visit, Indian media unnecessarily continued China bashing spree as they reported that Chinese troops encroached into Indian territory in Laddakh, which was later found to be unfounded. Similarly, India deliberately allowed the so-called Tibetan refugees to protest in New Delhi against China during XI’s visit. Had India genuinely committed to check anti-China activities, such protests would not have been allowed.
China is interested to engage itself in South Asia and wants to support and energize South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc). The Saarc, so far, has remained to be a ‘poor men’s club’ due to lack of sufficient fund and has been unable to realize its goals. China has resources and willingness to help the Saarc, for which Beijing wants full membership of this South Asian regional grouping. All other members of the Saarc members are positive to bring China into the Saarc as a full member. But it is India that has opposed this proposition. Even during Xi’s India visit, China sought support for membership of the Saarc, and in return, Beijing will do its best to grant India a membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). However, India still does not seem to be positive, which demonstrates the fact that New Delhi is not sincere in its words and its rhetoric is only for public consumption but not for action. Thus, it is not certain that everything that agreed during Xi’s visit will be translated into action.
China and India are world’s most populous countries. China and India together have world’s almost 40 per cent population. If they cooperate with good intention and with sincerity and act accordingly, the world would revolve around them. China is a global power whereas India is Asian power. Thus, their cooperation is necessary for making Asia as the powerhouse of 21st century. Beijing has offered its olive branch but it all depends on India how it responds and what kind of Asia it wants to make. If China and India cooperate with one another in a sincere and genuine manner, Asia will definitely be a power of 21st century and if not, it will continue to be a dependant region on European and American powers.
However, both these countries have expressed their commitment to regional and global peace as well as common development and prosperity will bring real benefit not only to their combined 2.5 billion people, but also to those living beyond their borders, which provides hopes that a better and brighter future lie ahead for Asians in general and South Asians in particular.

As China is India’s largest trading partner and India is China’s largest trading partner in South Asia, both of these countries are required to settle all disputes and focus more on economic cooperation and enlarge their trade volume which would benefit for both the countries as well as South Asia. The long-running dispute between China and India is concerning the border. However, Chinese President has candidly put forth that they should not let the border issue affect their bilateral relations whereas Indian Prime Minister responded with the remarks that India was willing to work with China to advance negotiations in find a solution at an early date.
Now it is time that India and China give up past rivalry and animosity and start working afresh to begin a new era of cooperation and neighborly relations. President Xi’s visit has provided an ample opportunity to advance the spirit of good neighborly relations in appositive manner for which both the countries are required to demonstrate more sincerity and flexibility. But the solution cannot be found keeping the problems under carpet. Thus, all the problems and disputes need to be brought to table and negotiate taking the larger interest of both the countries.