Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Emerging Realpolitik Contours" by Dipak Gyawali

This article deals with military matters and what the author refers to as the "facebook crowd". My comments below, which precede the article, focus on the latter.

I have highlighted the references to the "facebook crowd" towards the end of the piece. Having attended a number of rallies organised by this "crowd", which is really a coalition of youth groups unattached to any political party with the motto "My Nepal; My Responsibility", I cannot overemphasise its potential to really bring about change. 50% of the Nepali population is already between the ages of 10 and 35 and the future of this country lies in their hands, not in the ossified callous hands of the current political leadership.

I would urge all of you to befriend "Nepal Unites" in FaceBook, keep track of and participate whenever possible in its initiatives, and help it in any way possible. This piece ends with an exhortation to the "facebook crowd". This group, so far, may be limited to urban educated youth; but it has every intention to bring together all Youth of Nepal. The future must indeed be theirs if this country is to have any future. A "Facebook Spring" has begun in Nepal - may it continue to fruition.

p.s. Nepal Unites and the singer Abhaya Subba and her band have released a new song "Hami Sabai Nepali" (We are all Nepalis). Please buy the CD and listen to what Nepali Youth is saying. No matter your age, the song will inspire you.

p.p.s. My apologies for some of the uneven line breaks below. I received the article in an email, and though I have tried to format it as best I can, there remain some discrepancies. The full text, however, is there.


"Emerging Realpolitik Contours" (published in Spotlight)
by Dipak Gyawali

Nepali ship of state is adrift, rudderless on the political high seas, even as the rocky shorelines it is set to crash into loom ahead in ominous silhouette. Meanwhile those on the cabinet and Constituent Assembly decks are fighting over chairs and spoils as is their wont, but those antics will hardly have any impact on the drift to impending doom. What matters are the deep undercurrents that are roiling the ship on the surface. What are these dark upwelling forces from the deep? Some recent incidents give enough indications, even as the political adventurism of 2006 plays out its tragedy to its logical farcical end.

Sometime back the Chinese PLA chief came to Nepal, completely ignored the Nepali Maoists PLA and signed billions worth of support to its nemesis, the Nepal Army and not a squeak of protest was heard from the parties, their civil society mouthpieces, Maoist or otherwise, and even from the nosybody UNMIN failed EuroAmerican lefties that equated a national army with the insurgents. A few weeks ago, when the political leadership failed to end the deadlock over the future of Maoist combatants, the Nepal Army proposed its own modality รข€“ and all the leading lights of the 2006 movement against the King and his army, including the Maoists, lined up in the race to praise the army.

The Nepal Army has just these past weeks completed the one-year staff training course it runs in Shivapuri for its new crop of senior officers and among the graduating officers were foreigners from China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The graduating Indian Sardarji officer even received the best thesis award for his research on Indian Naxalites and their threat to India's security! It is said that the upcoming new batch will include Americans, Canadians and Malaysians. What makes Shivapuri so attractive to super and regional powers who have their own
West Points, Dehra Duns, Abbotabads and Sandhursts? Nepal's peace-keeping expertise abroad and counterinsurgency experience at home, said the army chief in his commencement speech.

There were news reports indicating that the Americans proposed a SOFA agreement with Nepal, essentially a treaty that allows extraterritorial right to members of the American armed forces in Nepal similar to the ones the US has with the allies it provides its security blanket to such as Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Instead of the Nepal government and the parties leading it deciding on such a momentous foreign policy issue, the draft was sent to the Nepal Army who said, Nepal is too politically unstable currently and now is not the right time to sign such
agreements. And that was that!

It is clear that a ceremonial army under the King has emerged in these five years to become a political army under Loktantra, and not just national political forces but also foreign ones are de facto recognizing it as such. What will this oldest, most disciplined Nepali institution do in August 28 as the self-perpetuating CA fails again, as widely believed it will, to deliver anything meaningful?

Another bit of forensic news was the Maoist leadership finally dispensing with the dual security they enjoyed, and sending their combatant-bodyguards and their weapons to the cantonments. What accounts for this unasked for alacrity when other even more critical issues of demobilization and constitution-making are deadlocked? The answer probably lies in the four rival factions that have emerged among the Maoists (five if you count the previous breakaways such as Matrika Yadav and others). Their hatred towards each other is more than what they feel about other parties including the monarchists. That they promise physical threats to rivals and deliver them effectively is something everyone in the politburo and central committee is only too aware of. Even a senior leader such as Baburam Bhattarai was threatened with liquidation at his very party headquarters recently, not that he is without previous experience in surviving such dangers. This intolerance of opposing views and the urge to destroy rivals before they destroy you is something that Leninist-Stalinist parties have genetically encoded in them as part of their historical upbringing. Could it be that the Maoist leadership that lived by the sword feels more threatened by its own sword-wielders than by its erstwhile foe, the disciplined and rule-abiding Nepal Army?

Against the backdrop of these undercurrents, the CA extended its own life, mercifully by only three months instead of the proposed twelve thanks to the Supreme Court's intervention. It pledged itself to a 5-point agreement re-agreeing to do what the parties agreed to do three, even six years ago with the 12-point Delhi deal. The prime minister, who put his signature to the deal promising to resign to clear the way for a consensus government, is now a lame duck. But consensus is an impossible mirage: even the interim constitution did away with the consensus
provision to allow for the political reality of a majority government. What unseemly circus will we see in the days ahead as this lame duck government proposes the budget for the coming year? Most of the 601 CA members slept away May 28 before their electorate, proving that they are no political leaders but initiative-bereft,
well-paid rubber stamps, to be used as desired by the roughly dozen party warlords who matter. Why does the civil society and facebook crowd demonstrate before this inept body to deliver a new constitution, when it should do so before the homes and party headquarters of these dirty dozen! One never expected much from the old, discredited civil society that is a prisoner of its highly partisan past, but one does hold hopes that the freshly political aware facebook crowd will put their stamp on coming events to stop the drift to doom. In doing so, they should first of all stop taking their lead from the morally sterile civil society and desist from flogging a dead horse that CA has become.

What is the CA deadlocked over in delivering new a constitution? The answers lies in the politically divergent philosophies that cannot be reconciled by the partisans themselves, and in Nepal's historical socio-political ground realities into which the imported Nineteenth Century utopian thinking of hirsute European males, or the narrow fancies of international interests, have run aground. Where should the facebook crowd start from? They may begin by looking at what worked, what were the strengths of the 1990 multiparty as well the 1962
Panchayat constitutions. Then they may look at the weaknesses and political failings therein to understand how the Panchayat failed to meet the broader mass aspirations after the 1980 referendum and how the votaries of the 1990 dispensation destroyed their system by self-inflicted infighting and corruption. Their cardinal sins were corruption that came from not sufficiently separating the executive from the legislature, as well as the failure to devolve development powers to the local village and district bodies. Can we just get at least those two structural mistakes corrected and move on? These political alternatives need approval by a higher body, the sovereign people of Nepal, through a fresh mandate, and not by an incompetent CA whose mandate has run out. The billion rupee question is: does the young facebook crowd have that staying power? If they do, the future is theirs.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Three Years After

The following was published in a weekly three years ago on the occasion of the King vacating the Narayanhiti Palace. It seems as relevant today as it was then. Whither "New Nepal"? As an ardent believer in multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy, I weep for my country...

"A Crown Forsaken"

The king departs the palace today
Unsung and unlamented some say
But the Crown remains where it belongs
In the hearts of true Nepalis

Misjudgments three years ago
Drove foes to coalesce
Foes of every colour
Seeking power, not the nation’s good

Jammed between two big powers
Hostage to one especially
We became a pawn
In the game of geopolitics

A bloated assembly supposed to be over six hundred
With twenty-six members glaringly absent
Declared the nation a republic
Sans debate, sans referendum, sans justice

The army stood by silently
Perhaps not called to save the crown
Perhaps bought off by all and sundry
But it did stand by silently

Peace, peace – everyone wants this
And peacefully has the king left
And at what cost peace?
Maybe by selling our nationhood

A New Nepal is the call of the day
So let us see the novelty of a new government
If they can only stop haggling for power
To give the people what they seek

Democracy, unity, independence, development
Will construct a New Nepal
Not the mindless demolition of a useful institution
But the crown remains where it belongs.

29 Jaystha 2065/11 June 2008

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thoughts on the 29 May Extension of the Constituent Assembly

(As published in People's Review Weekly, 2 June 2011)

My last published article was in People’s Review Weekly 10 months ago; and it was titled “Enough Politics - let’s talk development”. I have tried to keep my word and restrained myself from writing on politics these past months. But the events of the past few days have driven me to pen the following thoughts. As a citizen of this country I feel I have as much right as anyone to vent my disappointment, disillusionment and frustration.

The CA has been extended for 3 months with the following 5 provisos:
1. Completion of fundamentals of the peace process within 3 months.
2. Preparation of the first draft of the new constitution within 3 months.
3. Implementation of past agreements with the Madhesi Morcha by developing Nepal Army as an inclusive institution.
4. Extension of the CA term by 3 months.
5. PM’s resignation to pave way for formation of a national consensus government.

Already the Prime Minister and the NC leadership are wangling about whether a national consensus government is formed before or after the PM resigns. If the man had any honour and feelings towards his country, Mr. Khanal would resign his prime ministership immediately; but he is a mere politician not a leader or statesman. Surely the 3 Big Parties have already reached an agreement on which party the new PM will come from. Point 5 seems to be in trouble already.

Looking at Point 1, certain conclusions can be drawn even by a naive non-political neophyte like yours truly. The parties will most certainly start quibbling over what “fundamentals of the peace process” means. Nothing can be more vague. Does it mean the “logical” end (that over-used phrase which makes me laugh) -- no more Maoist ex-combatants in cantonments, all 19,000 (or whatever) integrated and rehabilitated, all arms from the cantonments with the government, and (dare we dream) all Maoist arms (the real functioning ones hidden all over the country, not the 3,000+ antiques in the cantonments) handed over to the government? If not, point 1 is null and void, placed there to fool the People and appease UCPN-M.

Point 2: interesting if this can be achieved without the Left and the so-called “democratic parties” quagmired again in the fundamental nature of the new polity.

Point 3: even with absolutely no military background, I daresay that no army worth its salt will get dictated to by unprincipled, unscrupulous cunning politicians (mind you, I did not refer to them as leaders). Were 10,000 Madhises and 5-8,000 (the number varies depending on who is talking) Maoist ex-combatants are to be inducted en masse into the Nepal Army without consideration for stringent army standards, not only would the size of the Army go over the one hundred thousand mark, but its efficacy would be doubtful, to say the least.

Point 4: the less said the better!

Therefore, in effect, this extension of the CA based on yet another (9th) amendment of the Interim Constitution - for whose benefit is it meant? The People’s or the CA members’? The masters’ or the servants’? You figure out who the masters and servants ought to be and who they actually are. Is the concept of “public service” even known to the CA?