Saturday, July 02, 2005

Nepali Congress Slumber Party

The Nepali Congress looks like headed towards a convention. The reports are not all that encouraging. If the party that fancies itself the soul of Nepali democracy is about to inch towards internal democracy and internal reforms, it has not shown any signs yet. Massive irregularities have been reported as members gear towards renewing their memberships and electing representatives to their district committees.

The price the NC will pay is of ending up a shrunk party. I think its days as the largest party in the country are permanently over. The glory days are behind it. Primarily because it messed up the 1990s.

But despite its defects, and despite its arrogance on the issue of a respectful, sustained dialogue with the Maoists, and despite its continued chauvinism towards the smaller parties, the NC continues to be a major element of the seven-party coalition. The NC cadres are energized, most actually have turned republican, leading to a major disconnect between the leadership and the bases.

Girija Koirala has the inflexibility of a freedom fighter who has recently tried his hands at the flexibility of a political operative, not with much success. Old habits die hard. He is a mixed bag for the party by now. He continues to be the most visible person among the democrats. On the other hand, he has not kept with changes in ground realities. The "market" is fast shifting away from the large "company."

What do I mean by flexibility? Finally coming around to the idea of a Constituent Assembly, that is flexibility. You have to remember, for weeks after 2/1, the NC was still against the idea of a Constituent Assembly. If the NC had gone for the Assembly idea back in 2000, the country would have been spared much turmoil.

So what do I mean? Well, flexibility towards the king. Girija has turned the parliament revival issue into a prestige issue. He is going to rub the king's nose in the dust. That is not statesmanship. That is warlord mentality. Another issue is of the existence of the monarchy. No matter what, the king is nowhere close to what the apartheid whites were in South Africa. But look at how Mandela negotiated a peaceful transition with them. He did not try to rub their nose in the ground.

At the risk of sounding egotist, I keep coming back to my Proposed Constitution. The seven parties are in this erroneous mentality that once the country has a Constituent Assembly, suddenly all will be okay. All will not be okay. There will be major political action within that Assembly. Major dialogue, major give and take. Major heartburn, disagreements, dissent, squabbles. That is how it will work when it will work.

There was a JFK quote I bumped into a long time ago that I have tried to locate again but without success. But let me par
aphrase that. It goes something like this: Always put yourself in your opponent's shoes, look at the world through his or her eyes, always assist to save face.

JFK tried this approach on Khruschev. It might have saved the world a nuclear war. The warlord approach would have been to not realize that Khruschev is not this all poweful head of a monolithic state, but someone who fell to an internal coup.

And the Girija-Gyanendra dynamic is not exactly the proportion of a JFK-Khruschev dynamic.

Think a few steps ahead. I don't think the king sees himself as someone trying to take over. He sees himself as someone trying to survive, trying to save the monarchy from extinction. He feels like a cornered cat.

He gets blamed for the October 2002 dissolution of the parliament. That was Deuba. More accurately, that was where the country was at the time. Even if the parliament had not been dissolved, once it expired, the Maoists would not have allowed another elections for another parliament under the existing constitution. Progress depends on realizing the 1990 document is dead.

These are the kinds of innovations you see if you are engaged in dialogue with your opponents. I think the king and the leaders should talk. I think the Maoists and the leaders should talk. On a sustained basis. Never end the conversation. Pick up the phone and talk whenever you feel like it. The telephone has been around over a hundred years.

Speed things up: talk!

In The News
  • Nepal's king hit by fallout from royal coup World Peace Herald, DC Gyanendra is facing consequences he did not expect when he carried out a royal coup Feb. 1 ..... Gyanendra had been flexing his muscles against the democratic parties since becoming the king in June 2001..... Riding on the bandwagon of the Bush administration's "war on terror" ... his own fight against Maoist "terrorists." ..... Gyanendra went on a political-diplomatic tour to Indonesia and China in April and to the Persian Gulf countries in June seeking legitimacy for his regime....... support from major donors -- Washington, London, Brussels and New Delhi -- is still on hold ..... Support from the seven-party alliance for the Maoist agenda of a Constituent Assembly, however, is not unconditional: They want the rebels to lay down their arms and join the mainstream....... Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as "Prachanda," described the alliance proposal as "double-edged and seeking credit without collateral." But he also welcomed it as a "step forward," and urged his cadres to support any struggles by the alliance against the monarchy...... Baburam Bhattarai and Krishna Bahadur Mahara -- to New Delhi, where they reportedly assured Nepali parliamentary leaders that the Maoists are also committed to multiparty democracy...... met Indian leaders secretly to tell them of their commitment to multiparty democracy ...... the country has clearly tilted toward the idea of a Constituent Assembly as proposed by the Maoists, which had been unacceptable for the parliamentary parties before the Feb. 1 royal coup ...... Gyanendra is digging his own grave. ..... the country is heading toward abolishing the monarchy ..... part of the Indian intelligentsia increasingly discounts the threat of a Maoist takeover in Nepal to India's security ..... "Should [the Maoists] come to power as a result of our denial of arms to the king, they are unlikely to be unfriendly to us." ..... the idea that a king-party alliance can defeat the Maoists..... the Maoists had disabled the government even when the king and parties got along before the October 2002 dissolution of parliament ..... Gyanendra, who does not see monarchy's future in a constitution drafted by a Constituent Assembly, remains uncompromising..... how private companies could supply arms to landlocked Nepal without India granting them use of its air space...... "soldiers who were suspected of involvement in extrajudicial executions have subsequently benefited by being deployed on U.N. peacekeeping duties." ...... Since the RNA began to "fight the guerrilla like a guerrilla," armed soldiers travel in civilian buses in contravention of the laws of war, and the PLA has begun blowing up civilian buses that might hold troops....... In the five months of Gyanendra's direct rule, the violence has taken the lives of more than 1,100 people, mostly civilians killed as "suspected Maoists" ...... Despite government propaganda claiming that the Maoists are weakening and that the RNA is gradually re-establishing its position, press reports say the guerrillas, despite losing some battles, have become bolder. In June alone, PLA battalions inflicted heavy casualties on the RNA in seven armed encounters around the country and captured several dozen automatic weapons...... in post-monarchy Nepal, the Maoists will have no choice but to respect multiparty democracy and participate in politics.
  • Nepal: The True Obstacle To Reconciliation (press release) Camp clearly suggested that the real priority for Nepal was to ensure that the Maoists lay down arms and return to the peace talks..... a delay in a shipment of 4,000 M-16 rifles pending further moves toward democracy by King Gyanendra ..... U.S. military assistance to Nepal – in place since 2002 -- has included training in such areas as the rules of engagement, investigating alleged human rights abuses and battlefield medical skills...... conflicts and contradictions within the political establishment. The king’s three-year roadmap begins with elections to municipal bodies within a year culminating in parliamentary elections....... Clearly, the monarch is seeking a greater political role for himself. ..... between 1990 and 2002 ... The people had the right to complain, but their leaders seemed to exercise a greater right not to listen...... The monarchy was expected to bear silent witness to the political class’s self-serving machinations....... Nepalese leaders began believing in Indian “blessings” more than in their own constituents’ trust.With the entire political class making a beeline to New Delhi, the Indian Embassy became a major power center. Through rampant politicization of the bureaucracy and police, the Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxist-Leninists monopolizing maintained a stranglehold on the system....... Advocates of a “constructive” monarchy, like this writer ....... Chinese officials have repeatedly stated that the open Nepal-India border represents a threat to their country’s security by among other things, exposing China to drug traffickers and the worst forms of criminals. ...... an unstable Nepal could become a base for Islamic separatists active in China’s north-western Xinjiang region...... the principal obstacles to reconciliation come from the seven-party alliance, which has Nepal’s priorities wrong..... The mainstream alliance demands the revival of the last House of Representatives, dissolved by the last elected prime minister exercising his constitutional prerogatives. The Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the dissolution. A political class whose endless bickering prevented a single House of Representatives since 1991 to complete its full five-year term is struggling to define how reviving the legislature would help end the conflict......
  • Nepal army to get assistance: US official:- Webindia123 Camp said Gyanendra's takeover Feb 1 was a "bad move".... Democracy is the only idea powerful enough to overcome division, hatred and violence.
  • Colgate-Palmolive pulling out of Nepal?:- Webindia123, India started operating in Nepal in 1997 and the next year commissioned a state-of-the-art factory, is planning to relocate the manufacturing facility to either Thailand or Himachal Pradesh in India .... the factory was likely to down shutters within a month..... Last year, an indefinite blockade called by the guerrillas resulted in the firm temporarily suspending operations due to the scarcity of raw materials..... The economic policies of subsequent governments, red tape and procedural problems have also added to the difficulties...... also been affected due to its leaning heavily on export activities. Unlike its competitor Unilever Nepal, it has not tried to integrate with the local market and cater to it...... With the company's factory ruling the landscape in the Hetauda industrial area, if it does make an exit, investor confidence in Nepal is going to take a further toss.
  • Colgate Palmolive discontinues toothpaste production at Nepal India
  • With Rebels Roaming Nepal, Tourism Plunges New York Times, NY Amber Manners got a practical tip. If you see guerillas on the road, she was warned, do as they say, even if they ask you to get off your bus. "If they burn your bus," she recalled being told, "they'll ask you to get off first." ..... When a man came walking up behind her, she mistook him for a local resident, peddling tourist kitsch. "Excuse me, excuse me," he said, as Ms. Manners recalled. She replied "No, no, we don't need anything." Then he said, "We are with the Maoist party." ...... In exchange for the requisite tax that the Maoists impose on trekkers - she paid $1.50, at 65 Nepali rupees to the dollar - Ms. Manners returned from her trek with a receipt from the rebels: it was stamped with portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and, of course, Mao...... If Nepal once marketed itself as a land out of time .... If a bandh is called, do not travel during it and keep an extra low profile until it is over ..... Small clashes continue, and the Maoists continue to deploy their key weapon - strikes that can shut down huge swaths of the country for tourists and locals alike..... The Maoist insurgents, who have been fighting the government since 1996, officially welcome foreign tourists..... A hotel chain owner reported to having paid close to $9,000 in 2003 as extortion money to the Maoists. In short, there is no question that local people are at far greater risk than any visible foreigner...... Peace Corps activities were suspended last September. Nonessential members of the United States Embassy's staff pulled out of Katmandu last September, but began returning the following month..... "It's not like going to Iraq." .... There are no front lines in the war between the Royal Nepalese Army and the Maoists, and there are few firefights anyway between the warring parties. Vast swaths of the countryside are effectively no man's land, where the rebels or government troops may be present..... "We went to the hotel, and they said, 'Pick a room.' Every room was open." .... "It was like being in a western." ..... "It's hard to convince people that the system that works in their country doesn't necessarily work in this country."
  • UN makes grim projections for 14 Asian countries Daily Times, Pakistan Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and East Timor .....Better access to international markets could prevent this .... these countries are often ignored amid spotlights on African poverty and the image of a new prosperity sweeping Asian nations like China and India. ...... explode a certain myth — that Asia is a happening place ..... I’m not saying: ‘ignore Africa.’ I’m saying: ‘Do not ignore Asia...... suggested the removal of import duties and other trade restrictions against these countries to help them fight poverty. .... accounted for some 260 million people. . ..... China and India, together accounting for nearly 40 percent of the world’s population and ranking among the fastest-growing countries ...... Afghanistan’s forests are likely to be gone in 20 years, and in Bangladesh, about half of all citizens aged 15-24 will be illiterate in 2015...... “Global zero-tariff market access is a critically important issue,” the report said. In 2003, “import duties on apparel exported from Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal to the US amounted to $520 million, more than three times greater than net disbursed bilateral aid of $150 million received by those countries.”
  • Humpty Dumpty in Kathmandu, AZ ...... the professed bewilderment is nevertheless diverting because the predictions of Kathmandu street gossip were apparently more accurate than the acute calculations of so many seasoned diplomats .....a certain gentleman, recently surfaced from exile, who insisted that if anything constructive was to be undertaken there was time only till February ...... His analysis is also not the kind that will be entertained by pedestrian diplomats who lack the capacity to accommodate too many variables that demolish their petty theorems about the architecture of Nepali polity and society ..... compelling enough to motivate a loose group of individuals to form a systematic international information and advocacy network and set up a website that has, despite the current blockade of news, become one of the primary channels of non-official communication out of Nepal ..... An outcome that could not be precluded eventually transpired, and after the event the international community confesses that it did not know what even the fruit-vendor on the Kathmandu side-street knew...... According to the reigning formula, in force since May 2002, the palace and army control the country, cunningly masked by a front office manned by one or more of the political parties. This tripartite combine of real and nominal forces is to be the foil against the red menace in Nepal. Ordinary Nepalis were not expected to penetrate this tattered disguise...... a monarch restrained by few scruples in the exercise of his highly developed political skills. But since October 2002 there has, for all practical purposes, been no constitution in Nepal...... In the period that the king's three main international supporters increased the level of financial and military aid to him, he managed, simultaneously, through brute force and diplomatic assistance, to gain complete ascendancy over the parliamentary forces and lose half his kingdom to the Maoists...... The more territory passed from the kingdom to the republic the more a vindictive brutality was unleashed on the countryside, so that the loss of real power was compensated for by exponential increments in apparent power over a demoralised civilian populace, or "my subjects", as he is fond of calling them..... In this fictional narrative, the king as the lynchpin of the campaign against the Maoists requires the united obedience and support of the political parties, whose perpetual wrangling has been responsible for the reverses suffered by the army. In this fiction, too literal an interpretation of personal rights and too close an examination of the military's human rights record are also impediments to the efficient prosecution of the war. Periodically, the Chinese red herring, the ISI, the ULFA, the Naxalites and the insurgent corridor from Nepal to Andhra, were thrown in for good measure. Pol Pot, no less, has also shown up from time to time. Given time, Al Qaeeda too could join the party....... diminishes the possibilities of rolling back totalitarian monarchy...... The odds are that the coup will be legitimized in due course. South Block may fret, but all it takes is for the US to recognise the regime on grounds of 'counter-terrorist' expediency and everyone else will humbly follow suit...... The king cannot offer the Maoists more than what he was not willing to give the parliamentary parties..... the movement for the constituent assembly to decide, among other things, the king's own future, has been crushed with jackboots, stenguns and the hail of bullets from helicopters...... the plot is thicker than it looks ...... an incompetent army with a quasi-hereditary command structure ..... Fighting a non-conventional war requires skill, competence and morale of a very high order. ...... 12 January ... the military spokesman conceded that the war against the Maoists was unwinnable .... the scintillating intellects in charge of directing firepower against socio-economic grievances...... the defenseless Nepali citizen who will bear the brunt of this bleeding war
  • Nepal parties lay down conditions for talks with govt, Maoists Press Trust of India, India Shrestha's remarks came after member of the Royal Council and former Army chief Sachit Shumsher Rana called for declariing political parties as anti-national elements accusing them of joining hands with Maoists. He also alleged the political parties' leaders were operating under the direction of "foreign elements", without naming any country.
  • Parties set conditions for talks with king, Maoists Kathmandu Post Pari Thapa, leader of Peoples' Front Nepal, said reinstatement of parliament would be the beginning of the constitutional process.
  • In its drive to eradicate democracy, royal Nepal regime has one ... United We Blog, Nepal In autocratic Panchayet days, parties were banned and were called Ata (Nepali acronym for non-nationalistic elements or Arastriya Tatto). Rana is not only a former chief of the Royal Nepalese Army but also a pro-king activist. This member of Rajparishad Standing Committee, the king’s advisory council, has been strongly advocating for the king-should-be-active-and-take-charge-of-everything campaign initially initiating by a small group of ultra-royalists..... the attack was started when the parliament was dissolved without the knowledge of the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in early 2002.... I will not be surprised if this regime formally banned the political parties within next few weeks.
  • ‘Parties should be declared anti-national’ Kathmandu Post Sachit Shumsher Rana, member of Rajparishad Standing Committee and former Chief of Army Staff ...... "Why shouldn't political parties, who join [hands] with the Maoists and dance to the tunes of foreigners, be declared anti-national elements?" ..... "Though Deuba was cleared in the Dashain allowance case, I believe, he will be caught in the Melamchi scam" ....
  • Maoists break legs of 2 civilians Kantipur after mercilessly beating two persons, including a 70-year-old, broke their legs..... elderly Harilal Dhakal of Kalimati village had his legs and rib broken in the incident.... The villages lie close to an army barrack in the district headquarters...... Attacks on civilians continue unabated despite the commitment expressed by CPN (Maoist) chairman "Prachanda" not to assault civilians under any circumstances ..... the Maoists have killed 24 civilians in as many days
  • FMs submit appeal to King on restrictions Kantipur Save Independent Radio Movement (SIRM) appealed to King Gyanendra .... The movement has also condemned the propaganda of state-owned print and electronic media directed at curbing the rights of FM stations...... radio workers have expressed surprise over the restrictions, which are contradictory to the letter and spirit of the royal address of February 1. Since government orders explicitly state that the ban on news is to be in place during the state of emergency, the appeal has argued that it is inexplicable why the ban is still in force while the state of emergency is no longer in place..... appeal has also cited the constitution, National Transmission Act, Supreme Court Verdict of 2001 and licenses awarded to the FM stations as bases for the lifting of restrictions...... radio workers have urged Panchayat-era "media experts" to go through those documents before passing their expert comments on FM stations..... FM stations aired the news of their appeal at 8:00 pm Saturday.
  • Law is the king of kings: Aryal Kantipur Former justice of Supreme Court Laxman Prasad Aryal on Saturday said that the state has been continuously imposing unconstitutional restrictions on the free press and civil liberties due to the absence of the rule of law...... "The law is the king of the kings; however, the king and his aides are defying this concept in the modern era," he added. Coming down heavily against ex-army generals for their definition of the constitution and the rule of law, he said, "They have been doing this for their petty interests."..... anyone from any level could take the initiative for a dialogue with the rebels to reach a peaceful solution.
  • Top Maoist leader killed in Andhra Pradesh Kantipur The rebels were holding a meeting when the police team surrounded their hideout. "Despite repeated warnings by policemen, the ultras did not surrender. Instead, they opened fire at policemen who retaliated in self-defense" ..... With Riyaz's killing, the prospect of reviving peace talks has further dimmed. "It was a clear case of fake police encounter. Our comrades were killed in cold blood," the Press Trust of India quoted former Janashakti emissary Chandranna as saying.

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