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Monday, December 26, 2016

A Rightist Revival Attempt

Yuba Nath Lamsal    
The provocative remarks that deposed king Gyanendra Shah made through a statement on December 21 have, as expected, stirred up a hornets' nest in the Nepalese political circle.  His remarks have drawn both flak as well as commendation.  As a citizen, Gyanendra Shah, too, has every right to enjoy his freedom of expression. In that sense, his remarks should not be construed in a negative sense as he has spoken his mind on the state of affairs in the country. But given the circumstances and moves he has made over the last couple of months, one can easily presume that something fishy is afoot in the dark rooms of the rightist camp in Nepal.

Political polarisation

The Nepali society is politically charged and politics is highly polarised. Every sector, including our intelligentsia, is politically divided and polarised. Our intellectual circle, which is supposed to be independent and to make its analysis and judgment based on the facts and reasons, often tends to toe party line. So our political pundits analyse and interpret any event and its consequence in a way that suits their personal or partisan interests. Their analyses often do not reflect the reality, but the opinion of a particular political party or interest group. This is perhaps the chronic disease that Nepal, in particular, is suffering for a long time.

 If we are to drive Nepal forward onto the path of prosperity, a new culture of democracy must be established wherein the politicians will behave like politicians and professionals will act like true professionals. There must be a clear demarcation between the politicians and professionals. Politics is the domain of politicians whereas professionals have their own sphere of domain of telling people what is right and wrong without any kind of fear, pride and prejudice. Social and political scientists, economists, analysts and professionals must be honest and do justice to their profession.

Given the highly polarised politics and politically charged society, the ex-king's remarks have definitely given rise to different speculations. This is because we have the tradition and trend to analyse everything and every incident in a way that suits one's own interest. Nepal is a democracy which allows all hues of ideologies and political beliefs to exist. We have political parties which have varied orientation and leanings—from far right to the far left. Different political parties have different stance and position on different issues, which is natural in a democracy. This is the beauty of democracy, which allows all kinds of flowers to blossom in the pluralistic garden. We have diverse society in which different ethnic, lingual, cultural and religious communities have been living in a perfect harmony. This diversity is our pride, property and heritage, which must be protected and strengthened. Unity in diversity is what our constitution visualises. The ex-kings opinions should also be taken in this light.

The issues and concerns raised by the ex-king are nothing new. The politicians, activists and civil society leaders have often been saying and expressing similar views and opinions on different occasions and forums. In his statement, the ex-king has raised the concern on national unity stating,  "Nepal’s national unity is under attack by the so-called progressive, revolutionary and modern elements". He even went one step forward in attacking the political parties that they (political parties and their leaders) were trying to create rift between the hill and plain people at the behest of external forces. It is a direct reference to and attack on political parties. In it also there is nothing objectionable as every citizen has right to criticise the conduct of political parties and their leaders.  In principle, none is expected and even allowed to act anything against our national unity and integrity in any name, form and manifestation and under any pretext. If anyone tries to do so, it is treason. Necessary action must be taken against anyone who tries to harm our national interest as well as one who allows the external forces to interfere in our internal matters.

Nepal is an independent country and Nepalese people are capable of charting out their own political course and solving their own problem. Any kind of interference and dictates in our internal political affairs from external forces and country are unacceptable and intolerable. But the question is whether our leaders are as dishonest in a way the ex-king has claimed. It's a big no as our leaders are not less patriotic than the ex-king or anybody else.

This is an indication that attempts are afoot from certain quarters both at home and abroad to portray the ex-king as the symbol of national unity and patriotism and malign our political leaders. This is a serious conspiracy against our democracy, republican set up and all other achievements gained through the Jana Andolan of 2006. An individual can never be a symbol of national unity in this modern democratic era. But the ex-king is being instigated by a section of ultra rightist and ultra-nationalist elements to try to reap political benefit out of the rising rightist trend in the world.

Although the rightist trend is on the rise right from 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is more pronounced in the recent years. The rise of BJP and Modi in India, Shinzo Abe in Japan, Theresa May in the United Kingdom and most recently Donald Trump in the United States are the clearer manifestations of rising rightist trend in the world. The ex-king and his supporters might, perhaps, have been encouraged by these developments abroad and political chaos at home. The ex-king is trying to raise the specter of rightist nationalism and at the same time the sentiments of some hilly people more particularly after the registration of the constitution amendment bill in the parliament. The king's statements and moves are nothing more than an attempt to fish in Nepal's troubled political waters and he is not likely to gain anything out of this.

History

Although Nepalese people may have short memory, the history of monarchy in Nepal is still in our fresh memory. There were of course some kings who have made positive contribution to Nepal's nation-building, but most of the kings were tyrants. Prithivi Narayan Shah's role is definitely praiseworthy and historic and there is no doubt about that. King Mahendra murdered democracy and portrayed himself as a political tyrant, but his contribution to national integration and development is positive. But there is nothing in Gyanendra to command people's respect. He came to power after the royal massacre, but he left his footprint as the worst political tyrant and a crooked businessman, rather than a king. Moreover, the attempt of ex-king to raise the slogan of patriotism and national unity, too, is farce as he, himself, is running from New Delhi to Beijing seeking support for his political regain. What we need to understand is the fact that when a person is dead he/she cannot be revived. Similarly, the monarchy is already dead and abolished, which cannot be revived again, and the ex-king and his supporters must realise this more clearly. Moreover, the monarchy is an anti-democratic political institution, which cannot be compatible with the modern democratic era.

Political parties and leaders have definitely their own limitations, shortcomings and weaknesses. But it does not mean that this is the fault of the system. Democracy is the best political system which alone can solve all political problems and create positive ground for participatory development.  So there should not be any attempt from any quarter to defame the republican democratic system and malign the parties as there is no alternative to democracy in the present era. Similarly, there is no alternative to political parties in the multi-party democracy which we have adopted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Promote Culture Of Unity

Yuba Nath Lamsal

It seems as though Nepal’s troubled politics has taken a new turn especially after the government registered a bill in the Legislature-Parliament seeking amendment to the constitution of Nepal. The amendment to the constitution became necessary to accommodate some of the demands of the Madhesis and janajatis thereby settling the ongoing political imbroglio in the country, facilitating the meaningful implementation of the constitution and finally completing the political course and the peace process initiated almost a decade ago.

Protests
Immediately after the government registered the bill in parliament, protests led by the CPN-UML, the main opposition party, and supported by other fringe parties began both in the streets and the parliament.  The CPN-UML-led opposition parties have continued to block the meetings and other procedures in the parliament and at the same time they have launched street protests of various kinds mainly in districts of Province No 5. The bone of contention is the proposal that seeks to change the demarcation of the Province No 5.
But the bill is merely a proposal, which is now the parliament’s property and can be passed, modified, changed and even rejected by two-thirds majority in the parliament. The bill is not a final document but registered for discussion and decision in the House. Unfortunately, the parliament’s meeting has been continuously obstructed, which has prevented the parliamentarians from debating the pros and cons of the proposed bill.
It is neither intended to defend the bill nor to criticise it. The bill may have both merits and demerits. The parliamentarians and the political parties have their right to express their views and vote for or against the bill. This is constitutional and democratic norm and rights of the House and its members. But the fundamental question is that the parliament must be allowed to debate and decide on it.
In a democracy, persons and parties have their own views and position on different issues. In a pluralist society and system, one cannot expect all to have similar views. The political parties and people differ on issues but they finally reach a conclusion through compromise. Conflict and compromise are the beauty of democracy. On the proposed bill too, the parties may have differences, but this should be discussed in the parliament, the supreme body of the people’s representatives. The parliament is sovereign to change, modify, pass and even reject the bill. This can be done only when the House is allowed to start a debate on the bill.
The CPN-UML is a democratic party, which has strong faith in the country’s constitution, parliament and parliamentary procedures. It does not bode well for a democratic party like the CPN-UML to obstruct the parliamentary procedures for such a long time when several important bills are pending. The government has already registered some bills concerning the local and other elections. If these bills are not passed, local elections may not be held in April-May 2017. If the elections are not held by May next year, the election for local bodies may not be held perhaps until April 2018.  It is because monsoon begins in June and will last until September and elections are not possible during monsoon. After the monsoon season is over, festival season will start. Moreover, parliamentary election must be held by mid January as the tenure of the present parliament will expire in January next year. If the elections for the local bodies are not held in April-May, we may have to wait for the local election till 2018 probably only after the parliamentary elections.
If the local election is to be held in April-May next year, a new compromise must be reached among the key political parties. We have the parliament and elected people’s representatives, who should be allowed to decide what political course and what political step should be taken to find an amicable solution to the problem. Our parliament and parliamentarians are competent enough to take the right decision for the larger interest of the country. Now we have some burning issues at hand which must be settled before we go to election. If the parliament meetings continue to be obstructed, this will only give ground to the unparliamentarily and undemocratic elements to reap benefit and defame the democratic polity. Now we are running short of time to announce the local election. Thus, the parliament should be allowed to function so that all the necessary bills are enacted to facilitate the local election in April-May 2017 and paving the way for timely election for the provincial and federal parliaments.
At the same time, the bill that has been registered seeking amendment to the constitution should also be settled because the environment for election may not be created without bringing the disgruntled Madhesi and janajati parties on board. The Madhesis and Janajatis are demanding amendment to the constitution to accommodate their genuine demands for the successful implementation of the constitution and holding the elections. Thus, the bill concerning the constitution amendment which is in the parliament must be settled.
Moreover, the Election Commission has made its position and views clear in public that it will need at least 120 days (four months) for election preparations. This means the election dates need to be announced by December if the election is to be held in April, 2017. But still much needs to be done before announcing the election dates. First the issues raised by Madhesis and janajatis need to be addressed for which the constitution amendment bill must be settled. The second task will be to finalise the restructuring of the local bodies. The third task will be to enact all necessary laws concerning the election. Only then election dates can be announced. Thus, the first and the foremost task at present is to end the obstruction in the parliament.
Now the issue is not which party will win or which party will lose. It is the nation that should be the ultimate winner. The country will win only when the constitution is successfully implemented, achievements of the April Uprising 2006 are institutionalised and peace process is completed. If not, the nation will be the loser. When the country loses, we all will be losers because we are on the same boat. We all will perish if the boat sinks no matter whichever party we belong to. Now our efforts should be oriented towards the direction that makes peace, stability and prosperity possible leaving behind our personal and partisan interests.

Final phase
We are in the final phase of completing the political and peace process initiated to end the decade-long armed insurgency. If this process fails, the country and people will have to pay a huge price. Thus, this process must be successful for which a collective initiative of all political actors is a must. The country has suffered heavily due to the politics of conflict and protest. This culture of protest must be put to an end and begin afresh one to herald a new era of unity and collectiveness among the political parties for at least one more decade so as to ensure peace, stability and prosperity. For this, our parties should rise above their partisan agenda and give a little thought to the broader interest and agenda of the country. If we take the interest of the nation above our personal and partisan agenda, solution can easily be found.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nepal's war with British India and its impact on foreign policy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The Anglo-Nepal war of 1814 and the Sugauli Treaty marked a turning point in Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy. The war broke out after all peaceful and diplomatic means applied to settle the issues between Nepal and the British East India Company failed. The war lasted for almost two years in which Nepal suffered a heavy loss to the British imperial power, but still managed to safeguard its independent status.

Serious threat
Nepal had been vigorously consolidating its power and expanding territories by unifying small principalities on the southern side of the Himalayas. British imperial power in India took Nepal’s continued territorial expansion as a serious threat. Thus war became imminent as Nepal’s territorial advancement reached close to the border with areas under the control of East India Company. British had earlier attempted thrice to gain commercial rights and foothold in Nepal through other means. But these efforts had failed due to Nepal’s cautious maneuvering. As a result, British considered a war as the only means to achieve its goal in Nepal.
Convinced that only military pressure was the way to intrude into Nepal and have its political presence and commercial domination, the East India Company was looking for a suitable pretext to invade Nepal. The Butwal and Seuraj incidents served as an immediate excuse for the British to declare a war against Nepal. However, the fundamental factor behind the war was the clash between the British imperial policy to control the entire South Asia and Nepal’s desire to keep its independence intact.
 Nepal was aware of the British imperial design and was always cautious enough to keep the British imperialism at bay. More particularly, Bhimsen Thapa had seen how one Indian state after another had fallen into British control, and he was aware of the next target of British was definitely Nepal. 
Bhimsen Thapa, however, had limited options except war as all other peaceful options had already failed. The fundamental aim of Thapa’s foreign policy was to save Nepal from the ‘clutches of the British imperialism’. The East India Company had been preparing for the war as the Governor General Wellesley of the East India Company had earlier written a letter to Nepal renouncing the 1792 and 1803 treaties, which was a clear indication that the British were going to declare a war.
Thus, Nepal was left with no alternative but to prepare for the war as both war and friendship with the British had been costly for Nepal. Even if Nepal had accepted friendship in British terms, the friendship would also have been costly  for Nepal as the East India Company sought Nepal to give up several newly conquered areas. Nepal Durbar became divided as to whether friendship was to be accepted under British terms or go for war. Bhimsen Thapa argued that  war with the British was imminent as, according to him, timing for the war was appropriate for Nepal as Britain ten had been occupied in Napoleonic war in Europe and management of internal conflicts within India. Thus, Bhimsen Thapa’s logics prevailed and Nepal finally decided to go for the war.
Nepal knew that the East India Company was strong and Nepal’s own strength might not be adequate to defeat the British. Thus, Bhimsen Thapa, tried to forge an alliance with some neighbouring states against the British. In this connection, Nepal wrote to the Chinese emperor asking for support during the war against the British. China, however, rejected Nepal’s request for assistance and refused to get involved in the Anglo-Nepal war.
Bhimsen Thapa then turned to some Indian states for help in the war against the British. He sent envoys to Maratha and Sikh kings in India with an appeal for alliance against the British. But aid from the Maratha and Sikh kings was not forthcoming. Beleaguered Nepal Durbar then came to the conclusion that it had to fight with the British imperialist force alone, which was, indeed, a Herculean task. In the final response to the East India Company, Nepal wrote a letter to the East India Company expressing their will for friendship not in British terms but in Nepal’s own terms, which was obviously not acceptable to the East India Company.  Finally, the East India Company declared a war against Nepal on November 2, 1814.
Soon after the declaration of the war, British troops stormed over Nepalese forces at different points. Nepalese soldiers showed high degree of valor against the sophisticated British army. Nepalese basically fought a defensive war. The war in Kangara was the most notable as poorly equipped Nepalese soldiers could defeat the British troops which were more in number and more sophisticated in terms of weapons. In this connection, Sir Charles Matcalfe’s comment on the Kangara war and bravery of the Nepalese are worth mentioning. He says: “We have met with an enemy who shows decidedly greater bravery and greater steadiness than our troops possesses; and it is impossible to say what may be the end of such reverse of the order of things. In some instances our troops, European and Native, have been repulsed by inferior number with sticks and stones. In others, our troops have been charged by the enemy with swords in hand, and driven for miles like a flock of sheep. In a late instance of complete rout, we lost more muskets by a greater number than there were killed, wounded and missing.” (Nagendra Kumar Singh in his book ‘Nepal and British India’)
Despite gains in a few points, Nepal lost in other fronts of the war being compelled to seek a ceasefire and peace treaty. The palace sent Gajraj Mishra and Chandra Shekhar Upadhyaya as the representatives to negotiate with the East India Company for a peace treaty. However, British agent Lt. Col. P. Bradshaw demanded that Nepal should pay compensation for the expenses of the war if the peace treaty was to be signed. The compensation was so huge that Nepalese representatives were not in the position to give their opinion as it involved a large part of landmass in the Terai.
Mishra and Upadhyaya returned to Kathmandu with the message of the British for the peace treaty but the costly British proposal was not acceptable to the Nepal Durbar. Sensing Nepal’s unwillingness, the British later modified their proposal following which a peace treaty was signed between the representatives of Nepal in Sugauli and the East India Company on December 2, 1815. However, Nepal Durbar showed reluctance to ratify the treaty, which led to reoccurrence of hostility between the two powers. Nepal, finally, ratified the Sugauli Treaty on March 4, 1816, which ended the war but limited Nepal’s independent foreign policy handling.

British-centric policy

The Anglo-Nepal war and the subsequent Sugauli Treaty had far-reaching impact on Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy. Nepal’s expansionist and aggressive foreign policy came to the final end and Nepal became, as once observed by Prithvi Narayan Shah, truly ‘a yam between the two boulders’. While the 1792 treaty with Tibet-China had limited Nepal’s scope to enlarge its influence in the north, the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 with British India put Nepal’s adventure of territorial expansion to a complete halt. Since then, Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy became totally British-centric, which lasted until the political change in Nepal in 1951 that ushered in a democratic era.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Together We Stand

Yuba Nath Lamsal
A rainbow is something that can be seen but not caught. It is beautiful only to behold and observe but not to feel. Nepal’s contemporary politics and leaders also appear like a rainbow - only to be seen but never to be found in result and action.
 Academic undertone
Politics revolves around the leaders everywhere in the world. People are said to be at the centre of politics, especially in a democratic polity. But this is merely a theoretical and academic undertone. It hardly materialises in practical politics. Leaders have the final and decisive say, whereas people have the least say, except at the time of a referendum or election. But that, too, is often manipulated and engineered. People’s desire is not always reflected in the polls.
 Let us take this year’s US presidential election results. In the election, the Democratic Party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, secured more popular votes than her Republican rival Donald Trump. But Trump won the election and was declared the new president of the world’s most powerful and democratic country. The electoral system is such that even one who gets more popular votes can lose the election. Nothing can be more ironic than this.
None expected Trump to win, but he did. All pre-poll predictions failed. The American election result is an indication that politics is taking a rightist turn in the world. Brexit and the rise of Theresa May in British politics is yet another manifestation of emerging rightist politics in the world. This trend started visibly with the rise of the BJP in Indian politics in South Asia, which now has global repercussions. These events are just symptoms of the newly emerging global phenomenon that is witnessing the revival of rightist politics once again.
Nepal is a small country, and political developments in Nepal may not have any significant impact on a global scale. But what has happened in Nepal is just a repercussion of the emerging global phenomenon. Nepal’s politics is also likely to return to rightist mode once again, which may be reflected in the upcoming elections.
Nepal has a huge leftist vote bank, but rightist or non-leftist forces remained in power for a long time. Until 1990, Nepal remained under absolute monarchy with no democratic rights and freedom. The political change in 1990 saw the abolition of absolute monarchy and re-establishment of multi-party system in Nepal. The 1990 political change was ushered in by the successful movement, jointly launched by the Nepali Congress and the communists, but the commander of this movement was the Nepali Congress leader, Ganesh Man Singh.
The Nepali Congress, therefore, had a dominant role in the 1990 movement, which was also reflected in the post-1990 movements of Nepal. However, the presence of leftist forces in the country was also strong, and its impact started to become visible in Nepalese politics slowly.
In the 1991 general election, the Nepali Congress won a majority in Parliament and formed its government, while the CPN-UML emerged a strong opposition party in Parliament. Despite winning a working majority in Parliament, the NC failed to complete its five-year term, paving the way for a mid-term election in 1994, in which the CPN-UML emerged the single largest party in Parliament, but short of a majority to form its own government.
The Nepali Congress was reduced to becoming the second largest party. This was a clear indication that Nepal’s politics was taking a left swing. However, neither could the leftists keep their vote bank intact nor could they be united. The communists continued to split and disintegrate, the benefit of which went to the non-leftist parties, namely the Nepali Congress. The CPN-UML split in 1998, allowing the Nepali Congress to won a majority in the next general election.
The leftist vote bank is still strong, and should all the leftist parties unite and contest the election on a common platform, they can form a majority in Parliament. But this is not the case because there is always ugly rivalry among the leftist parties, and the communists seem ready to form alliances with non-leftist parties but not with the leftists.
The CPN-Maoist launched a decade-long armed insurgency, which again enlarged the leftists’ influence in Nepal. In the election held in 2008 for the Constituent Assembly, all leftists combined won over 62 per cent seats in Parliament, but, in the absence of unity, they could not make any significant impact in governing the country. Communists kept on playing against one another, which benefited the non-communist forces.
In the 2013 election too, the leftists combined had significant presence in Parliament. But their role has not been effective because they are divided, paving the way for anti-leftist forces to have greater say in the political decision-making.
Although the Nepali Congress is a centrist party with social democratic ideology, it has hardly practised what it preaches. Instead, the policies and programmes the NC has adopted seem to be more rightist than centrist, which is in sharp contrast to its official doctrine. Similar is the case with the communists.
The communists are no longer communists, and the NC is no more a centrist or social democratic party. The NC is moving on the rightist path while the communists are leaving leftist ideology and slowly shifting towards the centre, and in certain cases into rightist opportunism.
The recent developments in Nepal are a manifestation of opportunistic politics not based on ideals, ideology and principles but on personal, partisan and political gains. This is the reason why politics has drawn public apathy. The crux is the mismatch and inconsistency between the principles and practice.
Nepal’s politics now revolves around POD (Prachanda, Oli and Deuba). They are the principal leaders of Nepal’s three largest parties. Sometimes circumstances develop in such a way that politics is not even in their hands. The Madhesi parties and leaders may think that their role is crucial in Nepalese politics, but they, too, are not in the scene as far as practical politics is concerned, although their agenda and demands keep on festering both from within and outside.
Then what is wrong with our politics? We blame external forces for meddling in our internal politics. But it is we who have given the external forcers ground to meddle in. We do not try to find a solution to our own problems in Kathmandu or somewhere within our own country but prefer to seek it in foreign capitals. This has been the case since the 1951 political arrangement upto now. Herein lies the fundamental flaw.
Unless we depart from that mentality and build confidence in ourselves, Nepal’s politics may slip out of our hands, the symptoms of which are already starting to be seen. Nepal is a diverse country composed of many ethnic groups, cultures, linguistic communities and geographical regions. Nepal belongs to its citizens—irrespective of where we live within this country, irrespective of our ethnic and cultural identity. We may live in the mountains, mid-hills or Madhes, but our common identity is Nepali. If we lose control of our politics and decision-making, we will all become losers.

Harmony and unity
There may be attempts to reap benefits by dividing us in the name of ethnicity, geographical region and cultural and linguistic identity. We must be alert and guard against such attempts and maintain our harmony and unity. Our future is bright only in our unity.  This country belongs to all, and we must ensure that we all have equal share in the opportunities, for which constitutional and legal mechanisms must be framed. This needs to be taken into account with utmost seriousness as we are in the process of constitutional amendment, which should not be taken as a win for one section and loss for others.

Our entire purpose should be directed towards the move that will ensure the victory of Nepal. If Nepal wins, all of us will win, and if the country loses we all will be losers. We must remember: ‘together we stand and divided we fall’. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Unity Among Parties A Must Again

Yuba Nath Lamsal 
Politics and politicians often wear too many jewels of adjective in their crown of power. Great thinkers like Aristotle, Plato and Socrates defined politics as an art of governance for the common good of citizens. However, Machiavelli defined politics as a craft to deceive people and maintain authority over them. With the march of time and dawn of modern civilisation, the idealist definition of politics started slowly losing its charm and Machiavellian politics came to rule the roost. Everywhere in the world, politics is now being branded as a nasty vocation scrambling for power, position and perks, while leaders are called as the bosses rather than servants of the people.

It is perhaps this reason why politics seems to have lost attraction for ordinary citizenry all over the world. It is perhaps this reason why some tend to call politics a ‘dirty game or a last resort of scoundrels’. However, these are nasty comments on politics made by cynics. Any rational person does not subscribe to such malicious views on politics because politics is not always a dirty game but an art of governance. Politics is made dirty by the misconduct of those who handle it. The way modern day politics is being handled, it is becoming a power game in which its movers and shakers play ugly games to grab power and retain it in whatever way possible in which morale and logics have a little say.
Nepal’s current politics is suffering from similar syndrome. The level of consistency in the rhetoric and action of our politicians is far low, which sometimes raises the question of credibility. What politicians say is often taken just for granted but not taken seriously. This is so because words and actions of the political parties and leaders seldom match, while ideological oscillation and vacillation are creating a huge gap between the people and the parties. But we have no option other than trusting the parties and politicians.
Not all politicians are equal and they are not to be equally blamed for what we have been witnessing at present. Nepal has, of course, produced some visionary leaders who fought throughout their lives for the cause, ideals, ideology, people and the country. BP Koirala, Puspa Lal Shrestha, Manmohan Adhikari, Madan Bhandari and Ganesh Man Singh are some personalities who commanded high esteem and respect because they always stood firm and unwavering for ideals and ideology, for which they also had to suffer a lot. BP Koirala is, perhaps, the most towering personality in Nepal’s contemporary political history whereas Puspa Lal was a great revolutionary.  
But present day politics seems to have deviated from the ideal and ideology these visionary leaders pursued, although the major political parties claim to have followed the path and ideals their founders championed. Now politics ceases to be a mission to serve the people but has become a vocation to be pursued for profit. Ideals and ideology have taken the back seat of the parties and politicians. Immediate gains and profit are what make the difference and guide and motivate the leaders and their works. This is a bitter reality of the present day politics in Nepal.
But there are still rays of hope as our leaders have realised that they made mistakes and they would correct the past wrongdoings. That is a silver lining in our politics which makes up optimistic. It is this realisation which brought all major parties together last year that made the promulgation of the constitution possible.
Democracy is the system in which different actors having diverse ideology and interests exist. They have differences on different issues. But they narrow differences and make compromise on certain national issues for the greater cause of the country and the people. This is the beauty of democracy. That is exactly what happened last year prior to the promulgation of the constitution.
However, this wisdom and unity collapsed and crumbled like a house of cards soon after the promulgation of the constitution. The political parties had been expected to demonstrate their unprecedented unity until the next parliamentary election, which is crucial for the implementation of the new constitution and institutionalisation of all the gains we achieved through different struggles and movements in the past.
Now the challenge lies on all political parties how best and successful they will be able to implement the constitution. Elections are the best and immediate step for the successful implementation of the constitution. However, the vacillating position of our parties on some political issues for facilitating the election appears to be doubtful.
If the parties and government truly keep their promises and act accordingly, election for the local bodies are to be held within the next six months or probably by mid April, 2017. Constitutionally, the election for central parliament  of all levels (local, provincial and central parliamentary level elections) are to be held by January 2018 because the tenure of the present Legislature-Parliament will come to an end in the third week of January, 2018. The local and provincial level elections are also necessary because the upper chamber of parliament cannot be complete without the provincial and local elections.
The constitution has stipulated a bicameral federal parliament consisting of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly. The 275 member House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, is to be composed of 165 members directly to be elected from the people on the basis of first-past-the post system, whereas the rest 110 are to be elected on the basis of proportionate representation system. The tenure of the House of Representatives is five years, unless it is dissolved earlier in accordance with the constitutional provision. The upper chamber of parliament, which is called the National Assembly, will have 59 members and its tenure is of six years. The National Assembly is a permanent body, of which one third of its members are elected in every two years. The National Assembly, according to the Article 86 of the constitution, will have 56 members to be elected by an electoral college consisting of members of the state assemblies of all provinces, chairpersons and vice chairpersons of all village bodies and mayors and deputy mayors of all municipalities and three members to be nominated by the President on recommendation of the Government of Nepal.

The government and the Election Commission seem to be committed and also serious to hold all three levels of election in time within the next 14 months. But the environment for the election, so far, has not been created. There are political and legislative issues connected to the election. These issues must be settled before the elections are announced. The most important issue at hand is the one raised by Madhesi and janajati parties, which is related to the demarcation of the federal provinces, for which amendment in the constitution is required. However, the amendment is not possible without unity among the major parties. If this issue is not settled, it will be difficult to hold the elections. The parties are, therefore, required to once again demonstrate the sense of unity and cooperate with one another for the successful implementation of the constitution.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump's victory and global anxiety

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Against all odds and pre-poll predictions, Republican Donald Trump has won in the presidential election defeating his rival Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party. Although Hilary Clinton secured more popular votes than Donald Trump did, Trump was declared victorious due to the US electoral system. His election victory has definitely surprised many both in the United States itself and in the world. His victory has proved all pre-election opinion polls wrong as most the exit polls had portrayed Hillary as the most possible winner. American voters chose Trump better than Hilary Clinton to run the country for at least another four years because they were fed up with the eight years of Democrats' administration.
Now Trump will take over the presidency of the United States on January 20, which will mark the end of eight year rule of the Democratic Party and beginning of the Republican era in the world's most powerful country. Now the White House under Trump is expected to be tougher in several international issues and also some domestic matters as the Republican Party, which is also known as the Grand Old Party or GOP, is considered to be a conservative, while the Democratic Party is viewed as a liberal one. The election was neck and neck only to have been slightly gone into the Republican favor as American voters wanted a change, although cosmetic because there cannot be significant change in domestic and international affairs despite the change of person and party in the US administration. There is a thin border between these two parties on policy issues except on tax matters. However, the United States administration under the Republican President is believed to be little more conservative in domestic front and hawkish in the international arena.
With Donald Trump being elected as the new president of the United States, the world seems to be a little anxious and also scary as to what implication and impact the policies and actions of the new American President would have on the global political and economic order. When any new American president takes over the White House, the world always becomes anxious to know policies and position of the new American executive chief as American policies have greater impact globally in various sectors and sections. So far, the American policies, under most of the presidents, have been more of continuity rather than a change in foreign policy and international affairs, except differences on rhetoric. However, the case with President-elect Donald Trump appears to be different as his remarks during the election campaign have definitely made the world more scary than anxious.
Given the economic size, military might and its global presence, the US politics and policies always leave distinct marks in the world. Campaigner Trump and President Trump will be definitely different and he, as president, will be more practical and pragmatic. But the world is still watching closely, seriously, anxiously and cautiously whether he would really meant what he spoke during the election campaign or his remarks were simply political rhetoric never to be put into action.
Some of the controversies Trump has raised during the election campaign include: raising a ten feet wall along the border between the USA and Mexico to check 'illigrants'  (illegal immigrants) entering into the United Stated, eviction of all illegal immigrants from the United States, whose number is estimated to be about 11 million, sending his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to jail for 'email scam', cutting financial contribution to UN, withdrawing from NATO, policy shift on Russia virtually allowing its greater role in the Central Asian republics and eastern Europe, designating China as a currency manipulator and 'punishing' it, and adopting protectionist policy on trade by raising tax on imports. These remarks have definitely raised concerns worldwide. Russia seems to be a little enthusiastic but still remains cautious only waiting to see what exactly Trump would do when he will assume the presidency on January 20, 2017. China is concerned and cautious by his remarks than any other countries. If his remarks put into action, they are likely to seriously hurt US-China trade and overall relations. US economy is closely tied with the Chinese economy and the vice versa and slight imbalance in trade with China will have serious impact not only US economy but also global economic order.  
Perhaps realizing this, Trump appears to have toned down his earlier remarks after the election victory. After the election, against his promise to deport all illegal immigrant, he announced to expel only those illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and this will amount to about 3 million, which has given some sigh of relief to almost 11 million illegal immigrants living and working in the United States.
On issue concerning raising a wall along the US-Mexico border, he still seems to be firm and committed, although it will have negative impact on US-Mexico relations as Mexico has criticized these remarks. This will not only antagonize Mexico but will send negative message to the entire Latino community within the United States and Central as well as South Asian countries.
On the foreign policy front too, his views were a little weird which include relations with Russia, China and even other countries. If he really meant what he said during the election, the US relations and role with its allies in Europe and other continent, too, will witness change. Trump during the election campaign had said that the United States 'might not come to the defense of an attacked NATO ally that hadn’t fulfilled its obligation to make payments'. It sent shock waves to NATO countries, which many analysts call it a pro-Russian stance. However, he has remained silent on this issue after the election victory implying that campaigner Trump and President Trump will be and will have to be different.

He seems to have subdued his voice on China, too, as he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping recently during which he emphasized the need for cooperation with China on varied international and economic issues. His tune and tenor have been markedly different after the election victory, which indicate that Donald Trump's rhetoric and action will not match as he will continue to carry on the Republican Party foreign and domestic policy and he will not be fundamentally different in global politics and international issues.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Come Out Of Machiavellian Politics

Yuba Nath Lamsal
There is no dearth of political analysts both in the western and oriental societies, who advocate liberal democracy. They often tend to equate democracy with capitalism. The importunity with which these pundits pursue their treatise on democracy and capitalism sometimes creates confusion in the understanding of democracy. Capitalism and democracy are two different sets of ideas, which represent two different fields. Capitalism is an economic system in which market is the ruler and profit counts more than anything else. Democracy is a political system that is supposed to be more welfare-oriented, which is in stark contrast to the basic tenets of capitalism.
Proponents are of the view that capitalism is not merely economics but also a political and social system, which defends individual rights and freedom of citizens in all fronts and sectors. However, capitalism has to do more with the economics based on market authoritarianism and a little to do with the social face. Capitalism seeks a weak government to be easily manipulated and dictated by the market where capitalists and a few rich will be the masters.
Democracy is the political system wherein people’s representatives are chosen to govern through adult franchise. Democratic polity, in principle, ensures rule of the majority for the common good of all and seeks to protect the rights of the minorities. The political system we have adopted is the liberal democracy, which is in vogue in the world at present. In this system, elections are held in such a manner that the winner takes it all and the loser has virtually no say. This is the ‘first-past-the post’ or majoritarian system. A person or political group gets elected when one gets the most votes among the competitors. In such a case, a person or political group gets elected even when one does not get support of minimum 50 per cent voters. There are cases in the world that the candidates or political parties having secured less than 30 percent of the total votes have been declared elected.
In some western democracies, people’s apathy towards the system is so huge and high that they do not trust the system, parties and even the representatives, which is evident by miserably low voters’ turn out. The voters’ turn out is, sometimes, as low as 30 per cent. When only 30 per cent voters have participated in the election, how a political party or candidate can claim to have represented all people on the basis that one has secured more votes among many contenders out of the votes cast. Herein lies the fundamental flaw in the electoral system.
Proportionate representation is relatively better than the majoritarian one as it ensures representation of wider sectors because representatives are chosen on the basis of the number of votes the political parties get. This, too, is not the perfect electoral system but just better. Perhaps, this is the reason why some countries have adopted the proportionate election system. As many as 93 countries in the world have adopted the proportionate electoral system, of which majority countries have fully proportionate representation system, whereas the rest have semi-proportionate or mixed system. Nepal is in the second category as it has adopted the mixed system in which representatives are chosen on the basis of both ‘ first-past the post’ and proportionate electoral system.
Unfortunately, though, some countries which follow the ‘ first-past-the post’ system champion to be the best model of democracy and often teach others the tenets of democracy and preach their model in the world. What can be a bigger irony than this? This is a new Machiavellian democracy wherein the society’s biggest political hegemonies in the disguise of political parties or leaders compete through electoral struggle to have bigger say in the governance and political decision-making but not the marginalised and secluded ones. In this system, one is either complete winner or total loser and there is no middle way.
Its proponents call the proportionate system as the bane of democracy. According to them, proportionate electoral system fosters political instability as such election often produces a ‘hung’ parliament that always gives room for political crooks to play dirty game, both overtly and covertly, in the formation and pulling down of the governments as no single party secures a clear-cut majority to form the government. Nepal is taken as an obnoxious example of how the proportionate electoral system is awfully unsuitable for a young democracy. They cite the example of how the first Constituent Assembly failed and the second Constituent Assembly, too, reached near failure but was saved in the last hours due to some new circumstances that emerged out of the blue. The other example they cite is the record change of governments over the last eight years since the newly adopted proportionate electoral system was put into function or dysfunction.
However, the electoral system itself is not flawed and what is defective is the behaviour and attitude of the political players. Despite its virtue, the electoral system was misused by our political parties and their leaders for their petty personal and partisan interests, owing to which the political crooks, power brokers and corrupt breeds took hostage of the political system turning it into vicious mode with money and muscle power. As a result, politics was criminalised and crimes politicised, blaming the proportionate electoral system as the key culprit.
The fundamental intent of the proportionate electoral system is to ensure due representation of all political ideologies, interest groups and communities in tune with genuine pluralist idea. However, the apologists of capitalism advocate the ‘ first-past-the post’  and malign the proportionate system with full of malafide intention just because the former gives them more room to maintain their hold on power by buying votes, rigging and manipulating elections.
The election is only a part of political system. But real debate should start on the model of democracy itself. Is the model we have adopted is suitable for Nepal? Can the capitalist democracy solve the myriad of crises we are facing? Certainly not.  Niccolo Machiavelli, the political theorist and philosopher of the Italian Renaissance period, has said, “An effective leader can harness the weaker traits of humanity in his people to great effect, in the same way that a sheepdog can manipulate a herd of sheep”.  The similar syndrome may afflict our democracy if we do not seek answer to these questions and adopt the political system accordingly. Democracy is a must and there can be no alternative to democracy. But the crux of the question is: What type of democracy we are seeking for? We need democracy in which the people should not be treated as subordinate but masters of their own destiny.
Against this background, the political parties need to come out of ideological inconsistency and answer these questions. In principle, all key political parties agree that capitalist democracy cannot solve our problems for which a mixed model has been suggested. The Nepali Congress right from the Sixties of the 20th century has been propagating, at least in principle, the mixed model or democratic socialism, which incorporates tenets of western liberal democracy in political front whereas the Marxist or socialist approach in economic sector. The communists, too, have given up their old traditional dogma and come to embrace the mixed model. Even our constitution has stipulated the necessity of socialist approach. But the discrepancy between principle and practice continues to exist in our political parties from which the parties are required to decisively depart and begin afresh to translate their stated principles and ideals into actions of leaders and party functionaries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ideological Deviation In Politics

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Political parties are founded on particular ideology for which they advance their activities. Ideology and values are the soul of political parties based on which they train their cadres, workers and supporters to achieve their policy goal as well as shape their life style. It is the ideology and values that make a political party distinct and different from others.

Power Politics

Originally, our political parties, too, were founded on certain ideological ground and the leaders, at least in the initial days, followed these ideals and accordingly shaped their thinking and life styles.  However, as the days and years passed and Nepal entered into a new political phase, especially after the 1990 political change, ideals slowly started fading in the politics of Nepal. Ideology, political ideals and morality were replaced by opportunism guided by the motive of power politics. In the name of pragmatism, the political parties and leaders started adjusting their thinking, lifestyle and working procedures to cope with the newer trends brought about by the wave of capitalism, which starkly contrasts with what they preach in their party documents and public speeches. The inherent discrepancy between the theory and practice and between the words and actions is what has contributed to the stemming of contradictions and distortions in our political construct.

It is not the case of a single or any particular party but a general phenomenon in our politics. One likes it or not, the stark reality is that all the political parties in Nepal are devoid of ideology and principles on which they were founded. Politics sans values and principles often becomes mere gamble for power, money and position. The essence of democracy and value system is wearing off rendering democracy into a mere show piece in the glass case of ‘market politics’, in which democracy is defined and determined on the principle of ‘demand-supply’ and ‘profit-loss’. Of late, the key objective of our political parties seems to be power, position and perks, for which they are prepared to do anything and everything. This is exactly the identical trend that failed our democracy in the past and gave rise to dictatorship requiring people to wage struggles time and again for their democratic rights and freedom.

The political parties hardly practice what they preach. This inconsistency and discrepancy in principle and practice, and in rhetoric and action have raised question on the credibility of the political parties and their leaders, making it difficult to even guess what course of action the parties and leaders will take in future. Moral authority and credibility are the key strength of the parties and strong basis to win the trust of the people in politics. When principle, ideology and moral authority cease to guide the parties and leaders, people lose faith in system that creates huge gulf between the people and the parties. This is partly the reason why the political parties are jockeying for power and position rather than working for values and principles they cherish. The present crisis in our politics can be attributed to this tendency of the parties and their leaders.

In the present electoral politics, which is also called the ‘market politics’, everything is determined by the demand of the market—the voters. Eyes of leaders get fixed on the next election and anything that helps win the election becomes moral and justifiable for the politicians and political parties. The parties and leaders hesitate to take action on any issue if that does not help the election, no matter how grave is its implication and ramification on the society and the country. In the market or vote politics, anything is valid provided it helps in the election.

In such a condition, immediate gains precede the long-term gains and interests of the people and the country. This is the survival tactics of the political parties and gain power. When the parties accord priority to the existential politics, values and norms take a back seat. The parties, instead of standing firmly for the cause and ideals they fought for, take decisions that serve the immediate interests of particular leaders and their coteries.

Looking at the documents of the parties, they appear to be idealistic, democratic, egalitarian and truly dedicated to people’s larger welfare. However, in practice, they hardly follow their party documents, election manifesto and their public utterances. Let us take a look at the individual political parties.

In the last general election, the Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party in parliament, whereas the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Center as the second and third largest parties. Now the CPN-Maoist is leading the coalition government in which the Nepali Congress is the principal constituent, whereas the CPN-UML is in the opposition bench.



Replaced ideologies

The CPN-Maoist Center is the party that was founded on Marxist, Leninist and Maoist ideology. This party also led the decade-long insurgency or ‘ People’s War’, in which thousands of people died, many injured and disabled. The wound of the conflict is yet to be healed. Despite being founded on Marxist, Leninist and Maoist ideology, the party has not fully adhered to this ideology; instead it has taken the parliamentary path which is inimical to communist ideology.

The Nepali Congress, too, appears to have markedly deviated from the ideology it has cherished. The ideological ground upon which the party was built is democratic socialism which is slowly but surely losing steam in the party. The democratic socialism remains only in Nepali Congress documents and in practical politics capitalism has taken its place.

CPN-UML is another key party, which, too, faces the question of ideological vacillation. The party was founded on the ideological ground of Marxism-Leninism. Later, the guiding principle of the party was modified in the name of ‘ people’s Multi-party democracy’ to adjust in the newly emerged political scenario and to accommodate parliamentary system. In reality, parliamentary system is the concept of capitalist democracy and has no place in the original Marxism-Leninism.

There are quite a number of other fringe parties in Nepal. They too have no firm ideological ground and consistency. Power and position are the key goal and attraction of most of the parties. Thus, ideologies, principles and values are fading away in the politics of Nepal, which is being replaced by opportunism, intrigues, muscle and money power. It is this tendency that has corrupted and degraded our political system.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Unification Era Diplomacy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Foreign policy and diplomatic conduct in the pre-unification era of Nepal was basically categorised into two broad types—relationship with principalities within what once used to be a unified Nepal and relationship with Tibet, China and principalities of India. While the relationship and diplomacy with states within Nepal were characterised by suspicion, treachery, deceit and rivalry, the relationship with Tibet, China, and the Indian states was based on the strategy for survival, which mainly sought to defend the territorial control and protect trade especially with Tibet. The trade with Tibet was the main source of income and each state always scrambled to control the trade with Tibet. The state that controlled the trade route to Tibet also controlled the revenue. Several wars were, thus, fought with Tibet in different interval of time basically for trade interest.
Strong Malla Kingdoms
Nepal was divided into over 50 tiny principalities prior to the unification of Nepal. Three Malla kingdoms—Bhaktapur, Kantipur and Patan—were richer and more affluent than other states due mainly to trade with Tibet. ‘Baise’ (twenty-two) and ‘chaubise’ (twenty-four) states used to envy the affluence, power and cultural superiority of the three Malla kingdoms. Gorkha, in particular, was the poorest of all. According to German historian Dr. Hans-Georg Behr, in a book Nepal Geschenk der Gotter” (Nepal Gifts of the Gods) “Since 1716 Narabhupal Shah had been sitting on his throne made of mud. Dr Behr further says “Narabhupal found his throne very uncomfortable, and wanted to change it with the silver throne of the Kathmandu valley at any cost.”
The superior economic status of the Malla kingdoms was due to their control over the trade and supply of silver coins to Tibet. Chaubise kingdoms wanted to control the trade route to Tibet so that they could also share revenue. But they were so weak that they did not even think of defeating the Malla kingdoms. Moreover, chaubise kingdoms had bitter rivalry among themselves, which prevented them from collectively fighting with the Malla kings.
Narabhupal Shah of Gorkha had once attempted to attack Nuwakot, the key trade route to Tibet. However, he was badly defeated by Kathmandu’s king Jaya Prakash Malla’s force. Dr Behr says after the defeat, Narabhupal changed the tactics and sent his 10-year-old son Prithivi Narayan to stay with the king of Bhaktapur Ranjit Malla ostensibly to attain a good education, saying it was ‘only possible in Nepal’.
According to Dr Behr, but his real intention was to place his son in the palace so that he could spy on it and gather vital information and Ranjit Malla showed the young guest every part of the palace and let him play with Malla children. After five years, Prithvi Narayan Shah returned to Gorkha with much information on exact quantity of military equipment and the strategic location.
Knowing well that without superior arms and ammunitions, Kathmandu could not be conquered, Prithvi Narayan Shah embarked on a journey to Benaras where he made friendship with the king of Kashi and through him established contacts with East India Company. He acquired some modern weapons and brought them home. Most historians are of the view that he acquired weapons with the help of the king of Kashi. However, Dr Behr differs with other historians and says that Prithivi Narayan Shah acquired weapons from the British. Dr Behr says: “The British government had supplied the weapons to the Gorkhas, but this fact has been kept hidden in Nepal’s history’s books. The secret treaty under which this was done is still preserved in London in the archives of the East India Company. The pact was signed by Captain Ceane and the Gorkhas. The British government agreed to supply weapons and advice, and in return the Gorkhas had to destroy the old trade routes between India and China.”
However, Prithvi Narayan Shah was still cautious enough on the motive and role of the British, who had eyed on the lucrative trade with Tibet, which until then had been under Kathmandu’s monopoly. Historian Baburam Acharya is of the view that cautious Prithvi Narayan Shah made an arrangement that royal priest Gajaraj Mishra would remain permanently in Benaras to watch the activities of East India Company and inform any kind of potential threat from the British.
Upon return from Benaras with weapons Prithvi Narayan (Dr Behr says ‘Prithivi Narayan Shah received 800 muskets along with 21 British advisors’) planned to launch offensive against Kathmandu. Prior to this, he decided to weaken Kathmandu economically, for which the areas surrounding the Valley had to be conquered. At the same time, Gorkha made friendship with Lamjung, Tanahu and Kaski so that they would not pose any kind of threat to Gorkha during its Kathmandu mission.
Prithvi Narayan Shah adopted the strategy to divide the Malla kingdoms, for which he offered friendship with Bhaktapur and Patan. Gorkha’s friendship offer was a diplomatic maneuver not to allow the Malla Kings to be united because Gorkha was no match if the three Malla kingdoms joined hands.  While he kept the Malla kings divided and neutralised other kingdoms, Gorkha launched an attack on Nuwakot and took control of the main trading route with Tibet. Leo Rose in his book ‘ Nepal Strategy for Survival’ says Gorkha was in a position to cut off all commerce between Kathmandu and Tibet but Prithvi Narayan Shah refrained from doing so. Instead he launched diplomatic offensive forcing Kathmandu to acknowledge Gorkha’s authority over the trade route with Tibet. Accordingly, Kathmandu, under pressure from its own merchants as well as diplomatic onslaught from Gorkhalis, signed a treaty with Gorkha in 1957 accepting joint authority of Kathmandu and Gorkha over Tibet trade route.
With Tibet’s refusal to acknowledge the Kathmandu-Gorkha treaty of 1957 citing the reason that Lhasa was not consulted, the arrangement did not materialise causing friction between Gorkha and Kathmandu. Kathmandu’s king, under pressure from merchants, opened an alternative route via Kuti, which was also soon blocked by Gorkha. Being diplomatically and politically isolated as well as economically weakened, Jaya Prakash Malla of Kathmandu sought military help from the East India Company to counter Gorkha’s onslaught. Taking it as an opportune moment to control Nepal’s politics and business, the British dispatched troops led by Captain Kinloch to support Kathmandu.  Shrewd Prithvi Narayan Shah got the report in advance probably through Gajraj Mishra and ambushed the Kinloch’s force in Makwanpur, hence, forcing the British troops to return. Before any late, Gorkha took control of all areas around the Valley and finally seized all the three Malla kingdoms, thereby, declaring Kathmandu as the capital of unified Nepal.
Prithvi Narayan Shah then turned to Lhasa to revive relations and trade that had strained after Gorkha seized control over trade route. Nepal sent a delegation to Lhasa to settle the issue and bring back the trade and bilateral relationship to the earlier state. Accordingly, an accord was signed under which Nepal would supply new coins to Tibet replacing the old Malla coins and the trade between the two states would continue in accordance to the earlier terms. Prithvi Narayan Shah, then, tried to manage the East India Company, which had been susceptible from Gorkha’s continued territorial expansion. Sensing Nepal’s receptive tone, East India Company sent a delegation headed by James Logan to negotiate with Kathmandu and pressed for providing Indian merchants route for trade with Tibet. However, Prithvi Narayan Shah rejected the British proposal fearing negative consequences on Nepal’s trade with Tibet. Nepal’s rejection annoyed the British and this animosity grew in such a manner that ultimately caused war between Nepal and East India Company in 1814 putting an end to Nepal’s territorial expansion campaign.
Military doctrine
Nepal’s diplomacy during the unification era was basically guided by military doctrine. Nepal during the unification era followed military diplomacy and had a little time to spare for other aspects of diplomacy. The concept of ‘ yam’ and ‘equidistance’ coined by Prithvi Narayan Shah was the diplomacy based on military doctrine, which was necessary at that time when Nepal was a military state. The ‘yam and equidistance’ concept has guided Nepalese diplomacy even today, although this concept has a little relevance in the 21st century’s democracy. But Prithvi Narayan Shah’s other ‘wise counsels’ continue to provide an important basis for Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy even today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nepal’s Diplomatic Renaissance

Yuba Nath Lamsal
In the anal of history, the period under the Malla dynasty is a national renaissance particularly in the areas of art, architecture, trade and diplomacy. Nepal takes pride in the superiority of art and architecture of the Malla period. Most national heritages and brilliant art works of Kathmandu Valley are the creation and contribution of the Malla period. Similarly, Nepal, during the Malla period, was economically prosperous due primarily to its trade with Tibet. The economic prosperity had also enlarged Nepal’s political and diplomatic clout in all its vicinity. But this clout faded after Yaksha Malla divided his kingdom into different states among his sons and daughters. All the economic activities and trade with Tibet were then limited to the three kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley. The relationship with Tibet was based on trade while relationship with China was more of a political nature.
Exchange of missions
There is one particular incident of historic significance in Nepal’s diplomatic relations with China and Tibet. During the reign of Jayabhimdev Malla, a team of Nepali artists led by Balabahu (Araniko) was sent on a project to Tibet and China at the request of Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan. According to Satyamohan Joshi, Araniko reached Lhasa in 1260, where he accomplished the task of building a golden pagoda style monastery in 1261. Upon reaching Peking in 1264, Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan, impressed by his genius, appointed Araniko in the imperial service with the responsibility of supervising the construction of temples and pagodas in China. Araniko soon became famous in China and his talent and reputation enhanced the image of Nepal, thus, leaving a significant imprint in the diplomatic history of Nepal. The relations between Nepal and China remained cordial and friendly for many years, which were marked by exchanges of missions and gifts between them as a sign of respect to one another. Leo Rose in his book ‘Nepal Strategy for Survival’ says, “In the period between 1384 and 1427, five Chinese missions and seven Nepali missions were exchanged between Nepal and China”.
Nepal, however, experienced a friction with its neighbours both in the north and the south, particularly, during the reign of Ratna Malla. The Tibetans and Bhutanese with the support of locals tried to destabilise Nepal. According to historian Balchandra Sharma, Ratna Malla, using his diplomatic acumen, sought help from Tirhout of India and Palpa to settle the problem.
In the 16th century, the Mugals had already established their powerful empire in India with their capital in Delhi. They were further expanding the empire. If the Mugals had moved to the north, Nepal definitely would have been its target. Sensing this danger, Mahendra Malla sought to better relations with Delhi and kept the Mugals at a distance through diplomacy. Perceval Landon says, “Mahendra Malla sent a mission to Mugal Emperor Humayun with a white swan and several falcons as token of respect from Nepal and Humayun, accepting Nepal’s friendship offer, sent some silver coins to Nepal’s king in return”. This was Nepal’s shrewd diplomacy to safeguard its independence and territorial integrity. The gift in the form of silver coins given to Nepal by the Mugal emperor also marked a historic event as it inspired Mahendra Malla to start minting silver coins in Nepal.
Tibet and China had relations with other states of Nepal apart from Kathmandu Valley’s kings as Nepal had been divided into many tiny states. Vijaya Kumar Manandhar in a book ‘A Comprehensive History of Nepal-China Relations Upto 1955 AD’ says, “Bali Raja was the king of Jumla, the biggest of the Baise (twenty-two) principalities around 1404 AD”. Manandhar has pointed out a reference about the Chinese government promising to give Bali Raja seven ‘dharnis’ (about 17.5 kilogram) of gold, good horses, brocades etc as well as the signing of a religious treaty between them. He also mentions a reference about ‘king Mahipal of Sinja (Jumla) signing a treaty with the Chinese Emperor and sending many horses to him”.
The Malla kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley (Kantipur, Bhadgaun and Patan) used to supply silver coins to Tibet, and in return they would get gold and silver from Tibet, which was very profitable business for Nepal. Thus, these kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley had been desperately competing to control business with Tibet. Also there used to be periodic row with Tibet on issues of trade and purity of silver coins supplied by Nepali kingdoms.  The disputes sometimes led to war. When Tibet was weakened due its internal conflicts, and Kathmandu Valley’s three kings were also preoccupied in their bitter rivalries, Ram Shah, the king of Gorkha, invaded Tibet and took control of Kerong and the areas as far as Kukurghat of Tibet. The advance of Gorkha troops forced Tibet government to sign a treaty, thereby giving the Gorkhalis control over a main trade route between Nepal and Tibet, which was until then under the control of Kathmandu. The new treaty between Gorkha and Tibet served as a blow to Kathmandu. With Gorkha’s control over main trade route of Kerong, Kathmandu lost revenue from Tibet trade. However, Kathmandu’s king opened new trade route to Tibet via Kuti under the command of Bhim Malla in the period between 1645 and 1650.  A new treaty was negotiated to a greater advantage to Nepal. Upon return to Kathmandu, Bhim Malla, however, was rather greeted with insult as his enemies complained with the king against him. Being influenced by them, the king ordered Bhim Malla’s assassination, despite his patriotic works accomplished during his Tibet mission.
Fragmentation and unification had been the continuous process in the making of Nepal, which continued in all dynasties that ruled Nepal. There were many small principalities and kingdoms within the territory of present day Nepal. But the Kathmandu Valley represented the mainstream politics of Nepal. During Yaksha Malla’s reign, Nepal’s boundary had been extended far and wide in all directions but this glory lived short as he divided his kingdom, paving the way for fragmenting Nepal into more than 50 different principalities.
Tricks and tactics
Historian Surendra KC has categorised these principalities into six boarder groups on the basis of their nature and their interrelationship. These groups include: 1. Palpa League—Palpa, Jajarkot, Rishing, Ghiring, Arghakhachi and Gulmi. 2. Lamjung League—Lamjung, Kaski and Tanahu. 3. Bhirkot League—Nuwakot (West), Paiyu and Garahu 4. Parbat League— Parbat, Malebam and Galkot. 5. Pyuthan League—Pyuthan, Musikot, Isma, Khungri, and Bhingri and 6. Family League—states having close family relations like states ruled by Sen kings (Palpa, Butwal, Tanahu, Rishing, Makwanpur, Rajpur, Bijayapur and Chaudandi), states ruled by Shah kings (Gorkha, Kaski, Lamjung, Lasargha, Garahu, Satahu, Dhor and Pallo Nuwakot) and states ruled by Malla kings (Kantipur, Bhadgaun and Patan). Relationship among these states had never been cordial. KC further says that relationship among these states had been mainly characterised by jealousy, rivalry, groupism, treachery, attacks and counter attacks. Each state used to suspect the other even though they were bound by matrimonial and family ties. It was the basis of diplomacy of that time. Based on these tricks and tactics, the states tried to defend themselves from the potential invaders and intruders.
These states often waged wars against each another and at the same time entered into peace accords depending upon the situation. More rivalry was among states ruled by Shah kings namely Gorkha, Lamjung, Tanahu and Kaski. Similarly, the state of relationship among the Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley was also marked by animosity and suspicion. The Sen states were also not an exception and there had also been wars and conflicts among themselves. Prithvi Narayan Shah took advantage of this rivalry between different states and brought them under Gorkha’s control, thereby laying the foundation of a unified Nepal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Non-Aligned Movement Roles And Relevance

Yuba Nath Lamsal
As the 17th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was underway in Margarita Island of Venezuela on September 13-18, a real debate started outside on the role and relevance of the NAM in the changed global scenario. The NAM was created 55 years ago at the height of the Cold War marked by a stiff superpower rivalry and division of the world into two rival camps each led by a super power. The NAM was necessary at that time as many countries of the ‘Third World’ could not afford to side with any of the two rival blocs but chose to remain neutral. The NAM, therefore, became an appropriate forum for the countries wishing to have equal partnership and friendship with all countries irrespective of their ideological orientation and strategic alignment. But the international situation and scenario are markedly different at present. Now a question has arisen in the international forums and debates:  Is the NAM necessary in the present situation or is it just a waste of resources, energy and time?
Common platform
The founding principles of the NAM were anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, which appealed to many countries in the world that had either recently been liberated or were still waging national liberation movements to free themselves from the yoke of colonialism and imperialism. The NAM, thus, became a common platform for them to push forward their common agendas as specter of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism continued to hang around and afflict the countries around the world, more particularly the developing nations.

Immediately after the World War II, the global power scenario changed. Until the World War II, the United Kingdom was the center of international power as it used to boast that the sun never set in its empire. The fundamental bases of British power and wealth were its colonies. But after the war, the national liberation movement across the globe intensified so rapidly that the erstwhile colonies were liberated one after another, heavily weakening British power. As British power diminished, the United States emerged to fill the vacuum in the international power politics and became the dominant global power, while Soviet Union suddenly came into the international scene as a rival power challenging the domination of the Western powers.

In the juggling for influence and power in the international arena, two distinct rival camps emerged with the capitalist United States leading the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the communist Soviet Union commanding another rival block called the Warsaw Pact. The rivalry between these two blocs was so intense that the proxy wars between the two rival blocs were more dangerous than the traditional wars fought ever in the history of mankind. This was a period called as the ‘Cold War’ during which many inter-state and intra-state wars were fought killing more people than the number of people killed in  five years during the World War II.

This new scenario caused dilemma to many developing countries. It was more dangerous situation than that of the past. Against this background, the non-aligned movement came into existence. An international conference of 25 developing countries in Belgrade of erstwhile Yugoslavia in 1961 formally gave birth to the NAM, and this gathering was dubbed as the first summit of the NAM. But the NAM did not come so easily and overnight.

There had been quite a lot hidden and otherwise exercises before than that. The Bandung Conference of Indonesia in 1955 was, in fact, a beginning of the NAM as 19 participating countries felt the necessity of an organisation of the neutral countries.  Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia were the mastermind behind this movement in which Nepal later joined as one of the founding members.

The Bandung Conference not only drew an outline of the NAM but also set some fundamental principles governing the new international organisation, which were later called as the “Ten Principles of Bandung”. However, the ‘Ten Bandung Principles’ were later modified in the first NAM Summit in Belgrade and shortened to five points, which are famously known as the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence’ or ‘ Panchasheel’ as the fundamental basis of international relations.

The non-aligned movement was initiated at a time when the colonial system was in decline and independence struggles raged across Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions of the world, which provided a hope of a better international world order for hitherto oppressed and exploited countries. Started humbly with 25 countries, NAM has now 120 members, although the organisation appears to be more in name rather than in action especially after the end of the Cold War.

Nepal is a founder member of the NAM. It participated in several rounds of formal and informal discussions on the need and modality of the NAM and its formal announcement in the Belgrade summit in 1961. The participating countries in the first NAM Summit were: Nepal, Afghanistan, Algeria, Yemen, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yugoslavia.

Nepal strictly adheres to the principles of the non-aligned movement in the conduct of its foreign policy, international relations and diplomacy. The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has incorporated these principles as the basic guiding principles of Nepal’s foreign policy. This, in itself, is the testament of Nepal’s unflinching faith and commitment to the NAM and its principles. Moreover, the fundamental principles of NAM or ‘Panchaseela’ are more important for Nepal as these principles have their original roots in Nepal. Lord Buddha, who was born in Nepal, propounded the ‘Panchasheela’ consisting of five codes of human conduct and international relations some 2500 year ago.
Lost charm
The NAM is, perhaps, the first international organisation that advocated the rights and interests of the oppressed and exploited countries of the South and raised voice against the countries of the north. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War, there is no dearth of analysts both in the developed and developing countries alike who raise the question on the role and relevance of the non-aligned movement. The NAM has, of course, lost its original charm and but not its relevance.

The world and international balance of power definitely changed over the years and decades. The world is no longer bipolar nor will the present state of unipolarity stay forever. The world scenario has changed and is bound to keep on changing, continuously and steadily, in future, too, which is the law of nature.  Several poles are slowly emerging challenging the US-led unipolar state, thus, requiring even stronger international movements to bring the developing countries together into a common forum for collectively safeguarding their common and shared interests refraining from siding with any of the poles, groups and blocs.

The NAM may appear irrelevant at present given the state of global order, but situation will not always remain as it is now and different world order is sure to emerge in which the NAM may be more relevant. But Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) requires reforms in itself with newer strategies and concepts to work better in coping with the newly emerged international situation and in achieving the shared objectives of the member countries.