Thursday, August 28, 2008

Prachanda’s China trip proves costly for Nepal

Aug 28th, 2008 By Sindh Today
Kathmandu, Aug 28 (IANS) Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s China visit has proved costly for the cash-strapped Himalayan republic, causing it financial, economic and diplomatic losses.
Barring a meagre $300,000 flood assistance from the Chinese government, the Maoist leader has returned home Wednesday not just empty-handed but also shrunk in stature and having ruffled its other giant neighbour India in the bargain.
On Saturday, Prachanda led an 11-member delegation to Beijing on an ‘informal’ visit, ostensibly to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Though pleased that the revolutionary chose to break with the tradition of Nepal’s prime ministers visiting India first, the protocol-bound Chinese government declined Nepal’s suggestion to give the virtually impromptu visit additional depth.
In June 2006, when Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala went to New Delhi soon after assuming office, he was met at the airport by his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in a rare honour.
India also issued a joint statement with Nepal at the end of the visit and pledged an economic package worth Nepali Rs.15 billion to accelerate the insurgency-ravaged nation’s economic recovery.
In contrast, Prachanda was received in Beijing by a vice minister and his much hyped meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao did not fructify in any concrete deals.
China, despite its earlier promise to positively look into the Nepali request for extending the Tibet railway to the border of Nepal, has not made any further commitment after Chinese experts advised the government that the fragile mountain soil in Nepal would make any attempt to construct tunnels extremely hazardous.
Hu also did not make any commitment on Prachanda’s request to help build a road connecting Kimathanka on Nepal’s northern border with China’s Dingri for better connectivity and trade.
However, Beijing managed to extricate a promise from the Maoist chief that his government would implement sterner measures to prevent anti-China protests by Tibetans in Kathmandu, that have been continuing since March, much to the country’s ire.
During the four-day visit, that has come under rising public criticism in Nepal as a wild junket the crises-hit country can ill afford, the Nepali delegation experienced an acute loss of face when it was asked by the authorities of the China World Hotel, where it was billeted, to pay its dues.
The room charge alone came to almost $500 per room and the frantic visitors were forced to ask the Chinese authorities for help.
Besides the unsatisfactory visit, the Maoist regime is now facing a coolness from its biggest trade partner and ally India.
New Delhi showed its displeasure by instructing the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, to skip going to the airport Wednesday to welcome back the prime minister.
India, according to diplomatic sources, had advised the new government to focus on pressing domestic issues first.
They include extending the cabinet, which is still being boycotted by the Maoists’ major ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, tackling the flood threat jointly and providing relief to a nation racked by food and fuel scarcities.
The flood, food and fuel scarcities especially relate to India and could have been tackled more effectively if Prachanda had made a business call to India instead of frittering away valuable time and money on his pleasure trip in Beijing, diplomatic sources told IANS.
Koirala’s trip to New Delhi in 2006 made the Indian government waive a large part of Nepal’s dues to its sole fuel supplier, Indian Oil Corporation, and improved fuel supplies to Nepal till the election in April this year.
Realising his error, Prachanda tried to offer an olive branch to New Delhi Wednesday saying while the China trip was an informal one, his visit to India would be his first political one.
However, New Delhi is not mollified and is likely to wait and watch first before it sits down for talks with the blow hot-blow cold Maoist chief.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nepal: Starting on the wrong foot

Nepal's Maoist guerrillas finally realize their dream of ruling the country, but the new government's debut is marred by the same old blemishes, Sudeshna Sarkar writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Sudeshna Sarkar in Kathmandu for ISN Security Watch (27/08/08)
As Nepal's first Maoist prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal enjoyed the spectacular closing ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing on Sunday, Manewa Ansari from Sunsari district in southern Nepal railed against his fate.
On Friday, the same day that Dahal - who still prefers to be called "Prachanda," the nom de guerre he used during the 10 years his formerly underground party fought a savage war against the state - was sworn in as the head of a new two-party coalition government, 32-year-old Ansari's house was swept away by the flooded Saptakoshi river.
Ansari was among the nearly 75,000 people who had become homeless due to the raging floodwaters in Nepal while in India's Bihar state across the border, the figure had risen to nearly two million.
"Ansari called me to his room," says Nepali legislator Sunil Babu Pant, who had gone to Sunsari to assess the situation, in a report. The "room" was a classroom in the Bhagwati Secondary School in the district's main town Inaruwa.
The school and other government buildings had been turned into makeshift relief camps. There was no bathing facility in the tin-roof school, while four shacks covered by sacks served as toilets for over 70 people. The same compound was also shared by the surviving cattle and the rising stench made it impossible to open the windows.
"No one has received any trauma-related counseling or orientation on hygiene and sanitation issues," Pant noted in his report.
When he asked the flood victims if the new Maoist government was doing enough, the answer was a stark "no."
"Many said the prime minister should have given priority to the epic struggle for survival instead of visiting China for the closing ceremony of the Olympics," the report said.
"The government should find their missing loved ones and provide food, proper shelter, clothes, medication and a long-term solution as their houses and land have been destroyed by the flood."
Choosing China
Besides the criticism at home, Prachanda's decision to head an 11-member delegation to Beijing within five days after taking oath of office also created a diplomatic maelstrom.
Traditionally, Nepal's prime ministers began their foreign visits with India, Nepal's biggest and most influential trading partner. In 2005, when Nepal's King Gyanendra seized absolute power with the support of the army, New Delhi forged an alliance between the then-banned Maoists and other major parties to throw a united challenge to the royal regime and cause its collapse.
This year, when debutant ethnic party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) said it would prevent the April election if the government did not uphold the rights of Madhesis - people of Indian origin - it was the Indian government once again that brokered a pact between the MJF and Nepal's ruling parties.
An Indian delegation visiting Kathmandu this month urged Prachanda to postpone his China trip, saying it would send "wrong signals" to India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been the first to congratulate Prachanda after he won the prime ministerial election this month.
In his message, Singh also invited Prachanda to India. However, the Indian invite went unanswered while the Chinese one was snapped up with alacrity, giving rise to speculation that the Maoists, much as deposed King Gyanendra had done, were trying to cozy up to China in a bid to squeeze out greater benefits and diplomatic concessions from India.
Though the Maoists deny that there is any political significance in Prachanda's China visit, their 9-day-old government has already struck other notes of discord in its relations with India, whose support or opposition in the past made or marred Nepal's governments.
The Maoists blamed India for the Saptakoshi flood, saying the Bihar government mandated by a 1954 treaty to maintain the barrage on the river had failed to carry out its responsibility.
Stung by the charge, the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu issued a stiff rebuttal, saying Nepal was to be blamed for not providing security to the Indian team of technicians who had come to repair the barrage.
"The Indian technical team mobilized required resources and has remained in readiness to carry out the required work to strengthen the embankment," the Indian statement said. "But it was prevented from reaching the site. As a consequence, thousands of people in Nepal and India have been forced to suffer a calamity that could have been avoided."
A promise to be kept
Besides the spat with India, the Maoist government has to assure the international community that it has truly laid down arms and plans on honoring all past commitments.
On Tuesday, the UN reminded the Prachanda government and its People's Liberation Army (PLA), that they needed to fulfill the promise they made while signing the historic peace pact two years ago.
There are still nearly 3,000 child soldiers in PLA cantonments and the UN has reiterated its call for their immediate discharge.
"The successful [April] elections signal that the people of Nepal are entering a hopeful phase for peace and prosperity," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswami said in a statement issued from New York.
"However, the promise of peace has not come to fruition for these children, whose lives have been adversely affected by the conflict. Today they are still in the Maoist cantonments […].They must be released immediately. UNMIN [UN Mission in Nepal] child protection advisers, UNICEF and its partners should have access to these children to make sure that they receive their rights to recovery and reintegration."
Coalition hanging in the balance
As Prachanda returns to Kathmandu today, his most immediate task, however, will be to make peace with a key ally.
Though the Maoists won the national election in April, they suffered a stinging defeat last month when Nepal's interim parliament held a vote to choose the country's first president.
The Maoist candidate was defeated twice by the common candidate fielded by three other major parties - the Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and MJF.
Cautioned by the defeat, the Maoists this month began wooing the UML and the MJF to win the prime ministerial race in which Prachanda himself contended.
An uneasy alliance between the three parties saw Prachanda defeat the NC candidate by a large majority. However, soon after the triumph, the Maoists locked horns with the UML over power-sharing.
"As the largest party, the Maoists were to hold the first position in the coalition cabinet with nine ministers, including prime minister," Bamdev Gautam, the UML leader who was to lead his party in the government, told ISN Security Watch. "As the second-largest party in the alliance, the UML was to have six ministries, including deputy PM.
"However, the Maoists insisted on the first slot as well as the second, relegating the UML to the third spot. That is unacceptable to us."
On Friday, before flying out to Beijing, Prachanda hastily swore in a mini eight-member cabinet in which only members of his party and the MJF participated. The UML boycotted the ceremony, saying they would sit in opposition if they were not given the deputy premier's post.
Prachanda might have to tread warily as a UML in opposition could mean a new alliance between the communists and the NC, which has already said it would not join the government.
"The NC has a reputation for toppling governments," says Gunaraj Luitel, former news editor of Kantipur, Nepal's biggest daily. "Since the Maoists did not get simple majority in the election, they have to forge a consensus with the UML and the MJF. If they can do that, there will be stability in Nepal and the main task - the drafting of a new constitution in two years - will be accomplished.
"However, if they fail to do so, the focus will be diffused, and the main agenda of the parties will be reduced to a game of forming and dissolving governments."

After China, Prachanda to visit US?

August 27th, 2008 - 7:13 pm ICT by IANS -
Kathmandu, Aug 27 (IANS) After his controversial visit to China within less than a week of assuming office as republic Nepal’s first prime minister, will Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda now snub India further and make the US his next port of call abroad?Even as a controversy rages in Nepal and India about the implications of the revolutionary choosing to break with tradition and visiting northern neighbour China first instead of southern ally India, there is new speculation that Prachanda’s next destination abroad could be New York and not New Delhi.
The 63rd session of the UN General Assembly begins in the Big Apple Sept 16 and it is felt that Prachanda, who was keen to attend the summit of regional bloc SAARC in Colombo last month, could head the Nepali delegation.
Should that be the case, then he would have precious little time to accept Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s invitation to visit New Delhi prior to the New York trip since a series of crises await him home after his return from Beijing Wednesday.
Prachanda’s immediate task would be to pacify his aggrieved ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML). The UML, despite backing him during the tough prime ministerial race earlier this month, refused to join the Maoist-led government and boycotted the oath-taking ceremony after the former guerrillas tried to grab the post of deputy prime minister as well.
Now with the UML threatening to sit in opposition, the Maoists face the grave danger of the communists once again joining forces with the chief opposition party, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), to defeat a Maoist-led government just as they had defeated the Maoist candidate in the presidential election in July.
Besides appeasing the communists, Prachanda has to also address the ravages wreaked by the flood in south Nepal, which left over 75,000 people in Nepal homeless and nearly three million more in the Indian state of Bihar across the border.
Nepal and India need to urgently prop up the tottering dam on the Saptakoshi river, woo the river back to its old course and rehabilitate the flood-hit.
Nepal also has to improve its relations with India, already strained by the natural calamity and Prachanda’s China visit.
Nepal’s political parties are blaming the Bihar government for the calamity, saying it failed to maintain the dam and repair the damaged supporting spurs in time. The UML issued a statement, saying the Indian government should be asked to pay compensation for the extensive damage in Nepal.
Upon his return to Kathmandu Wednesday, Prachanda began making soothing sounds to gloss over the rift created by his Beijing trip.
The Beijing visit was meant to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games and had no political overtones, said Prachanda, who however had met Chinese President Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao during his four-day trip.
Nepal’s state media also said he had invited both to visit Nepal, an invitation that is yet to be issued to the Indian PM or president.
“My first formal and political visit to India would be a political one,” Prachanda said upon his arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport. “We forged the 12-point agreement (with other political parties to bring down King Gyanendra’s regime in 2006) in India,” he said.
“Because of that and other geographic and cultural relations, my visit to India would have political connotation.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

China-Nepal link reopens to traffic(China Daily)

(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-08-26 08:38
The China-Nepal Highway, which was partially blocked by a massive landslide a month ago, was fully reopened to traffic Monday.

Escorted by officers and soldiers of the No 2 detachment of the China Armed Police Forces for Transportation, a convoy of 17 trucks early Monday passed through the repaired section of the highway.

It was blocked on July 25 by the worst landslide since 1965, a spokesman with the detachment, surnamed Chen, said.

The 827-km China-Nepal Highway links Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, with Friendship Bridge at the border.

It was opened in 1965 and is a key commercial link between China and countries to the south.

Zham Port, the largest in Tibet and on the Sino-Nepalese border, handles more than 70 percent of the region's trade. Last year, it was estimated to be worth $280 million.

The landslide deposited about 300,000 cu m of debris on the highway, about 2 km from Zham. It also affected more than 1,000 people living in the area.

Experts said the geological structure along the highway on the southern face of the Himalayas is fragile, and prone to landslides during the rainy season, from May to September.

More than 200 workers and police were sent to repair the highway.

Wang Dui, chief of the No 2 detachment, said: "Since the regional rainy season is not over, there is a danger of more landslides.

"The highway section that collapsed will be under 24-hour surveillance during the period."

Challenges and scope for China-Nepal relations

By Upendra Gautam (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-29 07:29

Sino-Nepali diplomatic ties duly re-established 53 years ago on 1 August, 1955 are poised for new challenges and opportunities. The time these ties were re-established was no less challenging either.

Challenges at that time basically pertained to conducting international affairs independently and in the sovereign manner. But the prevailing Cold War sought to expand aggressive designs and spheres of influence in the name of transferring ideology and establishing security bloc.

Relatively weak and small nations who were asserting independence to a fuller extent were more vulnerable to the Cold War machinations.

China's rise as a "People's Republic" and its immediate weak and small neighbors including Nepal and other countries with different social systems provided a major incentive to the Cold War powers and their allies to reach out to China's these neighbors in whatever expedient ways. In that context it was not easy for Nepal to move ahead in a planned way in re-establishing ties with China.

Reflecting over those times, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai said in his speech on September 30, 1950, "China shall never tolerate any foreign invasion nor shall watch it taking place in any neighboring country with folded arms."

Withstanding the challenges emanating from foreign aggressive designs and interference, China and Nepal were able to base the bilateral ties on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, including the principles of peaceful co-existence and non-interference in each other's internal matters.

Any matter which was prejudicial to China's territorial integrity such as status of Tibet or for that matter its "independence" were never raised during the re-establishment of bilateral ties as Nepal throughout in history - recent or past - never recognized Tibet as an independent state.

All treaties and agreements pertaining to Nepal's ties with Tibet were signed between the competent authorities of China and Nepal. Ample evidences to this historical fact are Sino-Nepali Treaty of 1792, Sino-Nepali Treaty of Thapathali of 1856 and the 1956 Agreement between China and Nepal on the maintenance of friendship and trade and transport between Tibet region of China and Nepal. The 1956 Agreement replaced the 1856 Treaty.

State leaders who contributed to developing stable Sino-Nepali ties were Nepali kings Mahendra (1955-1972) and Birendra (1972-2001), and prime ministers Tanka Prasad Acharya (1956-1957) and B.P. Koirala (1959-1960). G.P. Koirala, who occupied the seat of premiership for the most part of the Nepali multi-party politics from 1990 to 2008, happened to be more intricately circumscribed by political expediency.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that in the said period and in the backdrop of China's West China Development Strategy, it was he who was courageous enough to sign six cooperation agreements, including the second road link between the two countries in 2001 with visiting Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. From the Chinese side, Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice-premier Deng Xiaoping, Vice-premier Huang Hua and President Jiang Zemin not only nurtured China's Nepal ties with a personal touch but often evaluated it highly as a model of state-to-state relations.

The bilateral ties suffered a deep shock in June, 2001 when the entire family of King Birendra was annihilated in a Royal Palace massacre in Kathmandu.

In hindsight, the condemnable massacre brought to the fore a new Cold War already in the making in the region.

It is a "Cold War" because covert, tacit and subversive games are still its basic operational character. The old Cold War camp which could not deter the successful restoration of bilateral ties between Nepal and China in 1950s seems to have been at work to regroup itself in the new form with the comparative differences in abilities listed above.

This camp deliberately plays down independence, national interest and security of the weak and small nations not belonging to the camp in the name of the new Cold War consideration. This camp seemed to be shaken by unconfirmed reports that King Birendra was negotiating hand in glove with the anti-government force or the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). The CPN-M had since 1996 been waging a "people's war" for "equitable" changes and reforms in Nepal's domestic and international policies.

Whereas the CPN-M got started primarily as a home-grown outfit, the West projected it as a China - supported group. And to do so was in their new Cold War interest. China from the beginning denied any link and support to CPN-M. Mistaken scholarship in the West buttressed coloration of the CPN-M in the new Cold War interest.

The CPN-M, a mistaken identity in certain circles aside, continued ascending in state political power through a multi-party republican program agreed in New Delhi in November, 2005. This agreement is noteworthy but no less noteworthy is the fact that along with the CPN-M's ascendancy, forces of aggression and interference have also started making their marks in Nepali politics in an accelerated speed.

Consequent to the agreement, the CPN-M continuously scored political gains.

Wrong reading of history and misrepresentation for divisive political interest however seem to have unwittingly inspired the groups of indigenous people in Nepal and its southern neighborhood to assert their cultural roots, political identity and economic rights.

Groups of various indigenous people in Nepal who have always been a foundation of the Nepali nation and economy suffered long in the hands of powerful landed aristocracy of predominantly external origins.

Conscious people in the Nepal understand well that imposition of a divisible political superstructure in the name of state restructuring primarily serves foreign motives.

The story does not end here. A separatist group in the name of the "Tibetan refugees" in Nepal in close collaboration with the "Tibetan government-in-exile" in India started violating and undermining Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity with daily demonstrations.

Though this group's planned anti-China demonstration at this time clearly speaks of its immediate intention of giving a bad name to China vis--vis the Beijing Olympic Games, a closer look at the same time informs that these demonstrations in the longer term inherently target Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity in Kathmandu, the seat of Nepal's central authority.

History is witness to the fact that whenever China and Nepal narrowly defined their national interest, each suffered by the machinations of the aggressive and interfering forces. So it happened, for example, in 1814-16 when Nepal alone had to fight the invading Britain, and, Tibet did not receive help from Nepal when British India engineered armed expedition to Tibet in 1904.

Now climbing down the Mount Qomolangma and, proactively addressing foreign aggression and interference against national integrity and harmonious development, China and Nepal need to promote a comprehensive framework of cultural diplomacy.

Contents of this diplomacy should be entrepreneurially strategic, and the guiding principles should be mutual trust and co-existence characterized by courage and devoid of any appeasement. Chinese people have a saying, "Ivory can not grow on a jackal's mouth."

The author is secretary-general of the China Study Center in Nepal

Monday, August 25, 2008

Red carpet for Prachanda - First trip to China, bypassing India, a break from tradition
Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda (right) with wife Sita Dahal in Kathmandu on Saturday, before leaving for Beijing. (AFP)
Beijing, Aug. 24 (PTI): Nepali Prime Minister Prachanda today vowed to continue supporting China on Tibet and won promises of “every possible help” for his country’s development.
Prachanda was given a red-carpet welcome when he arrived last night in the Chinese capital on his first trip overseas after being sworn in on August 18.
By flying to Beijing, the Maoist Prime Minister has departed from tradition — in the past, India would be the first port of call for most top Nepali leaders.
The promises of help for Nepal’s development and stability came during separate meetings Prachanda held with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Hu thanked Kathmandu for its support on Tibet and described China and Nepal as “good neighbours, good friends and good partners”.
“Mr Prime Minister has come to the Beijing Olympics’ closing ceremony a week after being sworn in. This demonstrates the great attention Nepal attaches to relations with China and its friendship with the Chinese people,” he said.
He welcomed Prachanda to the closing ceremony and thanked him for Kathmandu’s support to the Games. The Nepali leader returned the compliments, saying the Nepalese “felt proud for the Chinese”.
Prachanda also assured the President his country would stick to its “one-China” policy and never allow activity detrimental to Beijing’s interests in Nepal.
He described China as a “reliable friend”, saying Nepal expected more help to achieve permanent peace and economic development, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nepal was willing to cement the co-operation and take bilateral ties to a new high, he added.
The Chinese government is ready to continue providing “every possible help” in Nepal’s economic and social development and to promote the long-term development of neighbourly partnership, Hu responded.
The two countries should maintain close communication and co-operation to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China added.
Beijing respects the social system and path of development chosen independently by the Nepalese people and supports their efforts in safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity, Hu said.
Tibet also came up during the talks with Prime Minister Wen. Prachanda repeated that Nepal would always support China’s efforts to maintain territorial integrity. The allusion was also in part to Taiwan.
Wen said he believed Nepal would achieve political stability and economic development through the joint efforts of all political parties under Prachanda’s leadership.
Prachanda said the friendship between China and Nepal had “endured the test of time”.
Historic changes were taking place in Nepal, he added, with the government and the people striving for stability and economic development, and sought China’s support.
Prachanda is accompanied by information minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and senior officials on the five-day visit.

Nepal ‘snub’ worries Delhi

New Delhi, Aug. 24: Nepali Prime Minister Prachanda’s decision to go to Beijing ahead of a customary visit to New Delhi is being seen as a snub and a setback by India.

Though Prachanda’s visit is not strictly bilateral — he has accepted an invitation for the Olympics closing ceremony — foreign office sources here said that in breaking the tradition of New Delhi being the first foreign port of call for any Nepali head of government, the Maoist leader was “effecting his promise of creating a New Nepal which will maintain equidistance and equiproximity” with China and India. This means a significant shift in Nepal’s external outlook and has New Delhi worried.

“Prachanda is probably also making his displeasure with India clear,” a source said. “Ever since they won the elections, they have nursed a sense that India was unhappy with the outcome of the polls. They also believe that New Delhi tried (unsuccessfully) to upstage the Maoists and help G.P. Koirala retain prime ministership in the political confusion that followed the splintered verdict.”

The sources were keen to emphasise that India had maintained a “strictly hands-off” policy in Nepal since the elections and wanted “Nepali democracy to take its own course” after the abolition of constitutional monarchy. The Maoists, though, continue to harbour political grudges against India.

The latest provocation for them was a series of high-level meetings that caretaker Prime Minister G.P. Koirala was able to hold in New Delhi on his way back from the Saarc summit in Colombo earlier this month. Koirala tried to indirectly project these meetings — UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leader of Opposition L.K. Advani were among those he had discussions with — as indication of “Indian support” to his premiership claim. That irked the Maoists, too.

New Delhi’s disappointment over the “alacrity” with which Prachanda accepted Beijing’s invitation is perhaps even greater because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had personally requested his newly elected Nepali counterpart to visit. “

Our Prime Minister was among the first to congratulate Prachanda so it isn’t as if we have been averse, or even cold, to the Maoist leader assuming office,” a source said. “Technically, it could be said he has only gone to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games but it is also true that an invitation from New Delhi was on Prachanda’s table. In bypassing it on his way to China, he is surely sending a message.”

Diplomatic circles in Kathmandu are putting an even larger interpretation in Prachanda’s Beijing move. “This is not so much a signal from Prachanda as it is from China,” a Kathmandu-based western diplomat told The Telegraph over telephone. “Getting Prachanda to Beijing before he went to New Delhi is the Chinese way of putting India on the alert in the region.”

The backdrop to this, the diplomat explained, was India’s increasing affinity with the West, particularly the US.

“With the nuclear deal being pushed hard by the US, the Chinese imagine a US-Japan-India axis in the region. They are subtly letting India know it should be mindful of potential trouble in its backyard because it becomes an enthusiastic member of the anti-China formation in these parts.”

Nepal PM Prachanda choses China over India

24 Aug 2008, Indrani Bagchi, Times of India

NEW DELHI: Nepal's new Maoist PM, Prachanda, has made his choice clear. Within a week of taking office, he is breaking bread with the Chinese leadership at the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing, preferring it over meeting the Indian leadership in New Delhi.

The political overflight of New Delhi has not gone unnoticed here — Prachanda would be the first Nepalese leader to make Beijing his first stop and not New Delhi.

However you look at it, it's a snub, particularly since New Delhi had invited him to visit much earlier. It doesn't begin the new government's ties with India on a promising note. Prachanda even chose to ignore signals from India that it would not be "helpful" in relations with New Delhi.

There will be little comment from South Block, but it might be a while before Prachanda visits New Delhi. It's more likely that the new Nepal president, Ram Baran Yadav, whose invitation to India is already in process, may make it here first.

Prachanda swore in his new government on Friday, and was off to Beijing on Saturday with an 11-member delegation. However, the Maoist minister for law and justice, Dev Gurung, said Prachanda's visit to China cannot be regarded as directed against India. He said the Maoist-led government has vowed to follow the policy of "equidistance" from India and China.

Prachanda's actions, said sources, follows his earlier statements where he wanted to review the India-Nepal friendship treaty, because it was "unequal". This has been his way of showing that it would no longer be business as usual between India and Nepal, and henceforth, Nepal will be overtly open to Chinese overtures.

And there was no dearth of that in Beijing. According to reports, Prachanda met both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. Hu was reported as saying that China and Nepal were "good neighbours, good friends and good partners". Hu noted that "the two countries have established a good neighbourly partnership and enjoyed friendship generation upon generation".

Hu added, "This fully demonstrates the great attention Nepal attaches to relations with China and its profound friendship with the Chinese people. We highly appreciate that."

Clearly, Prachanda is building up China as a hedge against India, much in the manner of all of India's other neighbours. Which, in its own way, is not cause for alarm in New Delhi, except for what it might bring in its wake, in terms of greater Chinese access into Nepal. China has also promised a lot of assistance to Nepal, which widens its choices, from being dependent on India, a dependence that has ramifications in its domestic politics.

On the other hand, Beijing was never a supporter of the Maoists, and in fact, during the jan andolan, it had taken the side of the now deposed monarchy. Even now, China remains worried about Tibetan protesters continuing their protests in Nepal. The effects of a Chinese hug will soon be felt in Nepal, because China can be quite single-minded in advancing its interests rapidly. New Delhi has floundered with the Maoist victory and is yet to strike the right notes with the new formation there.

Despite the popular linkages between India and Nepal, more hard-nosed approaches may now become the norm between India and Nepal, said sources.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Prachanda Visit To China, Response Of Indian And Chinese Media

Chinese premier meets new Nepali PM
BEIJING, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met here on Sunday with new Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, discussing bilateral relations and the Beijing Olympic Games.

Congratulating Prachanda on his swearing in as prime minister, Wen said China respected the social system and way of development Nepal had chosen according to its situation.

He believed it would realize political stability and economic development through joint efforts of all political parties and under the leadership of Prachanda, who was here to attend the Games closing ceremony on Sunday evening.

China and Nepal were good neighbors and China was satisfied with the current development of bilateral relations, Wen said. He noted China would work with Nepal to further the reciprocal cooperation in various fields and benefit the two peoples.

Prachanda said the friendship between China and Nepal had endured the test of time. Historic changes were taking place in Nepal's domestic situation. The Nepali government and people were striving for national stability and economic development, and hoped to get support and cooperation from China.

Nepal would, as always, supports China's efforts to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Prachanda said.

Prachanda’s China trip will send negative message to India: Yadav
Aug 20th, 2008 By Sindh Today Pakistan
Kathmandu, Aug 20 (IANS) Maoist chief and new Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s visit to China Saturday is going to send a negative message to India, an Indian politician has warned the former guerrillas.

Sharad Yadav, leader of the Janata Dal-United party who headed a delegation of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Forum to Kathmandu Monday to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the new Nepali premier, suggested to the Maoist party that Prachanda should defer his trip to Beijing.

Chandra Prakash Gajurel, a Maoist lawmaker and chief of the party’s foreign affairs cell, says he had two meetings with Yadav, who requested that Prachanda postpone his Beijing trip.

‘To go to China so soon after assuming office will send negative messages to India,’ Yadav reportedly told Gajurel. ‘Prachanda should defer his trip.’

Asked if it was the Janata Dal-United’s feeling or that of the Indian government, Gajurel told IANS: ‘Yadav met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before coming to Nepal. So his suggestion is likely to have greater implications.’

However, despite the Indian ’suggestion’, the Maoists said Prachanda will not cancel his Beijing trip.

‘It is not a political visit,’ Gajurel said. ‘China had also invited President Ram Baran Yadav to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Olympic Games. (He could not go) due to the political situation in Nepal. Now that they have asked the prime minister to attend the closing ceremony, we feel he should attend it.’

On Sunday, a day before Prachanda took oath of office, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Zheng Xianglin, called on the Maoist chief to offer his congratulations as well as convey his government’s invitation.

The invitation came before the invite extended by Manmohan Singh Monday when he congratulated Prachanda on becoming Nepal’s new prime minister.

While Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala had made India his first port of call abroad after assuming office, Prachanda will start his foreign trips with China.

One of the reasons a coldness developed in the past between India and Nepal’s Shah kings was their close proximity to Beijing.

Hu Jintao meets Prachanda
Hindu, India
Beijing (PTI): Chinese President and General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party Hu Jintao on Sunday met Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda, who is here on his maiden foreign trip.

Hu met Pushpa Kamal Dahal or 'Prachanda', who is here to attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games scheduled for later this evening in the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest.

Details of their meeting were not available. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is also scheduled to meet with Prachanda, who is also chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Prachanda became the first Nepalese premier to tour China, in a departure from tradition where India has been the first port of call for most previous top leaders.

The China trip is Prachanda's first foreign trip since taking over as Prime Minister on August 18.

Prachanda is accompanied by Minister for Information and Communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara, senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Prime Minister and his delegation are scheduled to return to Kathmandu on August 27.

PM Prachanda`s visit to China may raise eyebrows in India
Zee News, India
Kathmandu, Aug 18: Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda is set to visit Beijing this week in a sharp departure from tradition where India has been the first port of call for top Nepalese leaders after assuming office.

Prachanda, who was today sworn-in as the first Prime Minister of the post-monarchy Nepal, had earlier expressed his desire to implement a policy of "equidistance" in relations with its giant neighbours China and India.

Prachanda’s predecessor Koirala had made New Delhi his first port of call abroad after assuming the reins of government.

The Maoist leader is set to leave for China on Saturday where he will attend the concluding ceremony of Beijing Olympic. It will be his first foreign tour as Prime Minister.

"It is rare for a Nepali prime minister to choose a country other than India for his maiden foreign tour," an online said in a report.

The former insurgents have earlier accused India of trying to prevent the Maoists from forming the government in Nepal, and hinting that New Delhi favoured outgoing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress.

The CPN-Maoist leader had also publicly demanded the revision of the 1950 Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship treaty, describing it as an "unequal" pact.

India today was the first country to invite the new Nepali premier. A four member team of Indian politicians led by President of Nepal-India Parliamentary Forum Sharad Yadav attended the swearing-in-ceremony and handed Prachanda Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation for a tour to New Delhi, the report said.

Prachanda had expressed his desire to visit the village of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, whose philosophy inspired Nepals Maoist guerrillas.

China has been concerned over the continuing anti-China protests in Kathmandu by Tibetans refugees. Though Nepal has vowed to prevent anti-Beijing activities on its soil, the communist state would be looking for renewed pledge from the new leader in this regard.

Reports have indicated that China wanted Nepals communist parties to unite and form a single party to strengthen its hold on the government.

Chinese president meets Nepali prime minister
BEIJING, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao met here on Sunday with Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda", who is here to attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games scheduled for Sunday night.

Hu welcomed the newly-elected prime minister to the Beijing Olympics' closing and expressed thanks for the Nepali government's support for the Beijing Games.

The Chinese president also congratulated Prachanda on his election as Nepali prime minister.

"Mr. Prime Minister has come to the Beijing Olympics' closing ceremony within a week after being sworn in," said Hu. "This fully demonstrates the great attention Nepal attaches to relations with China and its profound friendship with the Chinese people. We highly appreciate that."

Prachanda thanked Hu for his remarks and congratulated the Chinese people on the successful hosting of the Beijing Games.

The Beijing Olympics Games has left a glorious chapter in the Olympic history and Nepal feels proud for its neighbor China and the Chinese people for their success, said Prachanda.

Prachanda’s China trip will send negative message to India: Yadav

Aug 20th, 2008 By Sindh Today Pakistan
Kathmandu, Aug 20 (IANS) Maoist chief and new Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s visit to China Saturday is going to send a negative message to India, an Indian politician has warned the former guerrillas.

Sharad Yadav, leader of the Janata Dal-United party who headed a delegation of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Forum to Kathmandu Monday to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the new Nepali premier, suggested to the Maoist party that Prachanda should defer his trip to Beijing.

Chandra Prakash Gajurel, a Maoist lawmaker and chief of the party’s foreign affairs cell, says he had two meetings with Yadav, who requested that Prachanda postpone his Beijing trip.

‘To go to China so soon after assuming office will send negative messages to India,’ Yadav reportedly told Gajurel. ‘Prachanda should defer his trip.’

Asked if it was the Janata Dal-United’s feeling or that of the Indian government, Gajurel told IANS: ‘Yadav met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before coming to Nepal. So his suggestion is likely to have greater implications.’

However, despite the Indian ’suggestion’, the Maoists said Prachanda will not cancel his Beijing trip.

‘It is not a political visit,’ Gajurel said. ‘China had also invited President Ram Baran Yadav to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Olympic Games. (He could not go) due to the political situation in Nepal. Now that they have asked the prime minister to attend the closing ceremony, we feel he should attend it.’

On Sunday, a day before Prachanda took oath of office, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Zheng Xianglin, called on the Maoist chief to offer his congratulations as well as convey his government’s invitation.

The invitation came before the invite extended by Manmohan Singh Monday when he congratulated Prachanda on becoming Nepal’s new prime minister.

While Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala had made India his first port of call abroad after assuming office, Prachanda will start his foreign trips with China.

One of the reasons a coldness developed in the past between India and Nepal’s Shah kings was their close proximity to Beijing.

Nepalese prime minister appeals for co-operation from former foes

Daily Times, Pakistan
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s new Maoist prime minister, a former rebel who fought the state for a decade, appealed to former foes on Saturday to forget the past and work with the new government in his first state address.

The Maoists are now Nepal’s most powerful political party after scoring a surprise win in April elections for an assembly that abolished the world’s last Hindu monarchy.
“I appeal to the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, Nepal Police and National Investigation Department to forget the bitterness of the past and extend their support for national unity to make a new Nepal,” the premier said.

“There will be no prejudice from our side,” said Prachanda, who prefers to go by his nom-de-guerre which means “the Fierce One.”

The Maoists were elected after promises to radically change the caste-riven, impoverished Himalayan country and Prachanda admitted they faced massive tasks ahead.

“While we have a world of opportunities on one side, we have a mountain of challenges on the other,” the ex-school teacher said in his address on state-run television to the world’s newest republic.

Problems include tackling fuel and food shortages as well as ensuring a two-year-old peace process that ended a decade-long civil war remains on track.

The Maoist-led government also has to write a new constitution for the country, formalising its shift from Hindu kingdom to secular republic.

Prachanda’s speech came after Nepal swore in its first post-royal government on Friday, ending weeks of political deadlock.

“We need the support and co-operation from the army, police, the administration, the international community and the general public to meet the challenges,” said Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

He became Nepal’s top politician when he was sworn in last week, marking a remarkable climb to power for a man who, until the 2006 peace deal, led the Maoist insurgency that claimed at least 13,000 lives.

Leaves for China: Prachanda left Kathmandu soon after the speech to make his debut on the international stage to attend the Olympic Games closing ceremony and meet China’s President Hu Jintao during his five-day official visit.

Prachanda pledges Panchsheel ties with India, China

Economic Times
23 Aug, 2008, 1204 hrs IST, IANS
KATHMANDU: Nepal's first Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda says his government's priority would be to protect the republic's sovereignty and bring lasting peace and to foster friendly ties with neighbouring countries, including India and China.

In a 15-minute message telecast by the state television agency that in the past used to refer to the Maoists as terrorists, the new prime minister outlined the focus of the government that was sworn in Friday, saying it would follow the Panchsheel principles with Nepal's neighbours.
Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful co-existence were formulated in the 1950s and in 1954 resulted in a pact between India and China. They include mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence.

The pledge comes even as there are growing allegations in Nepal about India's negligence being responsible for the breach of a barrage in south Nepal that rendered over 75,000 people homeless.

There are also accusations of India encroaching on Nepali territory and interfering in Nepal's internal matters, including the recent elections.

Before coming to power, the Maoists had pledged they would review all unequal treaties with India and take the initiative to have them scrapped or reviewed.

Urging the international community, especially the neighbouring countries, to provide "moral and physical" support during the "historic transition", the Maoist chief said his government wanted friendly relations with its neighbours.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as Prachanda was previously known, led the guerrilla People's Liberation Army that waged a 10-year civil war that resulted in the killing of over 13,000 people. He appealed to the security forces, the arch enemy of the former rebels in the past, asking them to put the past bitterness behind.

"I appeal to the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and National Investigation Department Armed Police Force to forget the bitterness of the past and extend support for national unity," the revolutionary leader said.

"There will be no prejudice on our side."

Acknowledging that the people had high expectations of the new government, Prachanda said the first priority was protecting national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
"If Nepal does not exist, then there is no meaning for anything else including the republic," he said.

He also emphasised the importance of strengthening national unity by creating equality among Nepal's mountain, hill and plain communities.
The new prime minister has also promised democracy, press freedom, rule of law and protection of human rights.

Prachanda, whose party fought a "People's War" to install a pro-people constitution, said his government's main task would be to draft a new constitution within two years and take the ongoing peace process to its logical conclusion.

Once anti-capitalism, the Maoists are now wooing the business community to bring about an economic transformation of Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world.

"Our attention will be concentrated on addressing socio-economic issues such as poverty and unemployment," he said in the address. "We will work to bring about modern industrial economy for which private-public-partnership model will be followed."

Prachanda also said the new government would encourage foreign investment in priority sectors, which included agriculture, tourism, water resources and infrastructure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Great Energy Confusion,By Robert J. Samuelson

Forget about a candid national conversation on energy. As John McCain and Barack Obama campaigned last week, that much seemed clear. To lower oil prices (which were already dropping), Obama proposed releasing 10 percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is an atrocious idea. The SPR was intended as insurance against a catastrophic loss of oil from wars, embargoes, terrorism or natural disasters. It should not be manipulated cynically for political advantage. Earlier, McCain suggested suspending the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax; that was another bad and expedient idea.
No doubt Obama and McCain want to relieve Americans' discomfort at the pump. The trouble is that Americans should feel discomforted. We want a return to cheap, secure oil; we want painless pathways to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. These are fantasies; they should not be indulged.
In 2006, coal, oil and natural gas provided 85 percent of U.S. energy. In 2025, regardless of what we do, they will almost certainly remain the leading energy sources. We will still import huge volumes of oil and face global disruptions. And any serious effort to curb oil use and greenhouse gases will require high energy prices -- whether imposed by the market or taxes -- to induce conservation and conversion to nonfossil fuels.
Judged by their rhetoric, you might conclude that McCain and Obama differ dramatically on energy. Actually, their agendas overlap substantially. Both advocate a "cap and trade" system to reduce greenhouse gases; that's essentially a tax on fossil fuels, though neither describes it that way (candor grade for both: D). Both hold out, in similar language, the vision of resurgent American technology riding to the rescue.
To be sure, some contrasts are glaring. McCain and most Republicans support more offshore drilling for oil and natural gas; most Democrats don't (Obama has said he might consider more offshore drilling). The Democrats are deservedly getting pounded on this. Of course, "we can't drill our way out of this problem." But if we don't increase drilling, import dependence will worsen as production from mature fields ebbs. Since 1990, U.S. oil production has dropped 23 percent, while imports have gone from 42 percent to 58 percent of consumption. Greater exploration is common sense, as more Americans recognize (Democrats' candor grade: F).
McCain proposes achieving "strategic independence" by 2025 -- a seductive but empty phrase. In 2025, oil would still represent a third or more of total energy use (it was two-fifths in 2006), with more than half imported, forecasts the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although these figures could change, dependence on foreign oil is unavoidable. The projection already assumes big gains in fuel efficiency (the average for new vehicles goes from 25 miles per gallon now to almost 37 mpg). But the gains are diminished by a 25 percent increase in cars and light trucks, mainly reflecting population growth. Even if oil imports came mostly from Canada and Mexico, flows could still be affected by global disruptions (McCain's candor grade: D).
It's easy to exaggerate how quickly new technologies can improve our situation. Obama says that we can have a million plug-in hybrids averaging 150 miles a gallon on the road within six years (plug-in hybrids run on electricity and gasoline). Sounds impressive. But that would be less than one-half of 1 percent of all vehicles, and the forecast is probably a stretch. The battery technology required for plug-in hybrids is still not competitive, adding $7,000 to $10,000 per vehicle, says Brett Smith of the independent Center for Automotive Research. Obama would address this problem by providing a $7,000 tax credit (in effect: a rebate) on plug-in hybrids. These subsidies might go mainly to upper-middle-class buyers, permitting them to flaunt their "green" credentials (Obama's candor grade: C).
We are not powerless, and some policies would help more than others. A straight carbon tax, for instance, would be better than a complex cap-and-trade program. But with a growing population and the existing stock of vehicles and buildings, even good policies and technological breakthroughs will only gradually shift our energy consumption. In the government's projection, renewable energy (wind, solar, some biomass) grows seven times faster than average energy use; still, it's only 7 percent of total consumption by 2030.
All this can be seen as the messy process by which democracies reach consensus. "Crises are the only times when we are capable of making difficult decisions," says former Democratic representative Phil Sharp, who heads the think tank Resources for the Future. High pump prices, he says, "are drawing both parties toward the center": Republicans will be more open to regulation, Democrats to offshore drilling. The next president will find it easier to act. Maybe. But the preamble has involved so many exaggerations and simplicities that it's uncertain whether the ultimate response would make us better off -- or worse off.

Russia’s War of Ambition

Editorial, (12th Aug, 2008)
Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, foolishly and tragically baited the Russians — or even more foolishly fell into Moscow’s trap — when he sent his army into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia last week. The Bush administration has alternately egged on Mr. Saakashvili (although apparently not this time) and looked the other way as the Kremlin has bullied and blackmailed its neighbors and its own people.
There is no imaginable excuse for Russia’s invasion of Georgia. After pounding both civilian and military targets with strategic bombers and missiles, Russian armored vehicles rolled into Georgia on Monday, raising fears of an all-out assault on the capital and Mr. Saakashvili’s democratically elected government.
Moscow claims it is merely defending the rights of ethnic minorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have been trying to break from Georgia since the early 1990s. But its ambitions go far beyond that.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (who has shouldered aside Russia’s new president, Dmitri Medvedev, to run the war) appears determined to reimpose by force and intimidation as much of the old Soviet sphere of influence as he can get away with.
Mr. Saakashvili — with his pro-Western ambitions and desire to join NATO — has particularly drawn Mr. Putin’s ire. But the assault on Georgia is also clearly intended to bully Ukraine into dropping its NATO bid and frighten any other neighbor or former satellite that might balk at following Moscow’s line.
The United States and its European allies must tell Mr. Putin in the clearest possible terms that such aggression will not be tolerated. And that there will be no redivision of Europe.
Given Russia’s oil wealth and nuclear arsenal, the West’s leverage is limited, but not inconsequential. Russia still wants respect, economic deals and a seat at the table, including membership in the World Trade Organization and a new political and economic cooperation deal with the European Union. Moscow is also eager to complete a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United States that could be worth billions.
There can be no business as usual until Russian troops are out of Georgia, fighting has ended and all sides have agreed on a plan for calming the tensions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. At a minimum, that means international mediation, more autonomy for both regions and the stationing of truly neutral international peacekeepers — not Russian troops.
Mr. Saakashvili will have to abandon his ambitions to reassert control over the two regions. Because of his miscalculation, his army has been routed and his country badly damaged.
The United States and Europe also need to take a hard look at their relationship with Russia going forward. Neither has protested loudly or persuasively enough as Mr. Putin has used Russia’s oil and gas wealth to blackmail its neighbors, throttled Russia’s free press and harassed and imprisoned opponents.
The Bush administration has made Mr. Putin’s job even easier, feeding nationalist resentments with its relentless drive for missile defense. The Europeans, who are far too dependent on Russian gas supplies, have deluded themselves into believing that they alone will be safe from Moscow’s bullying.
The West wants and needs Russia as a full responsible partner. For that, Russia needs to behave responsibly. And the United States and Europe must make clear that anything less is unacceptable.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Will Russia Get Away With It?, By William Kristol

In August 1924, the small nation of Georgia, occupied by Soviet Russia since 1921, rose up against Soviet rule. On Sept. 16, 1924, The Times of London reported on an appeal by the president of the Georgian Republic to the League of Nations. While “sympathetic reference to his country’s efforts was made” in the Assembly, the Times said, “it is realized that the League is incapable of rendering material aid, and that the moral influence which may be a powerful force with civilized countries is unlikely to make any impression upon Soviet Russia.”

“Unlikely” was an understatement. Georgians did not enjoy freedom again until 1991.

Today, the Vladimir Putins and Hu Jintaos and Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world — to say nothing of their junior counterparts in places like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea — are no more likely than were Soviet leaders in 1924 to be swayed by “moral influence.” Dictators aren’t moved by the claims of justice unarmed; aggressors aren’t intimidated by diplomacy absent the credible threat of force; fanatics aren’t deterred by the disapproval of men of moderation or refinement.

The good news is that today we don’t face threats of the magnitude of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Each of those regimes combined ruthless internal control, a willingness to engage in external aggression, and fervent adherence to an extreme ideology. Today these elements don’t coexist in one place. Russia is aggressive, China despotic and Iran messianic — but none is as dangerous as the 20th-century totalitarian states.

The further good news is that 2008 has been, in one respect, an auspicious year for freedom and democracy. In Iraq, we and our Iraqi allies are on the verge of a strategic victory over the jihadists in what they have called the central front of their struggle. This joint victory has the potential to weaken the jihadist impulse throughout the Middle East.

On the other hand, the ability of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas to get away with murder (literally), and above all the ability of Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions effectively unchecked, are setbacks for hopes of peace and progress.

And there is no evidence that China’s hosting of the Olympics has led to moderation of its authoritarianism. Meanwhile, Russia has sent troops and tanks across an international border, and now seems to be widening its war against Georgia more than its original — and in any case illegitimate — casus belli would justify.

Will the United States put real pressure on Russia to stop? In a news analysis on Sunday, the New York Times reporter Helene Cooper accurately captured what I gather is the prevailing view in our State Department: “While America considers Georgia its strongest ally in the bloc of former Soviet countries, Washington needs Russia too much on big issues like Iran to risk it all to defend Georgia.”

But Georgia, a nation of about 4.6 million, has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation that we were sponsoring for NATO membership a few months ago.

For that matter, consider the implications of our turning away from Georgia for other aspiring pro-Western governments in the neighborhood, like Ukraine’s. Shouldn’t we therefore now insist that normal relations with Russia are impossible as long as the aggression continues, strongly reiterate our commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, and offer emergency military aid to Georgia?

Incidentally, has Russia really been helping much on Iran? It has gone along with — while delaying — three United Nations Security Council resolutions that have imposed mild sanctions on Iran. But it has also supplied material for Iran’s nuclear program, and is now selling Iran antiaircraft systems to protect military and nuclear installations.

It’s striking that dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes — whatever their differences — seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the United States and its democratic allies. So Russia helps Iran. Iran and North Korea help Syria. Russia and China block Security Council sanctions against Zimbabwe. China props up the regimes in Burma and North Korea.

The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.

When the “civilized world” expostulated with Russia about Georgia in 1924, the Soviet regime was still weak. In Germany, Hitler was in jail. Only 16 years later, Britain stood virtually alone against a Nazi-Soviet axis. Is it not true today, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, that delay and irresolution on the part of the democracies simply invite future threats and graver dangers?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing Olympics Celebrate The Capitalist Market And Nationalism, By John Chan

Tonight’s Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing has been carefully prepared by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime over the past seven years to showcase China’s rise as a new economic power. Like previous Olympics, but only on a grander scale, the event is a lavish $US43 billion party, this time for China’s new capitalist elite to celebrate their arrival on the world stage.

The ceremony has been timed to include as many “8s” as possible—8.08 p.m. on August 8, 2008—shamelessly reflecting the slogan of Chinese capitalism: “Get rich, get rich and get rich!” Not long after Deng Xiaoping initiated market reforms in 1978, the number “8” (pronounced “ba” in Chinese) became the lucky number for attaining wealth, due to its similar pronunciation to the Chinese word for prosperity (“fa”). The aim is not just to send a clear signal to the local capitalist elite but also to global corporate leaders: if you want to be rich, come to China—it is the place for investment and business opportunities.

Choosing the hot month of August, however, rather than moderate autumn months of September and October, means that authorities have to deal with heavy smog, which is particularly severe in summer. Despite draconian measures to stop the use of millions of cars, and the shutdown of factories in Beijing, blue sky can barely be seen. Rather than promoting China’s international image, this simply reminds the world that China already has the title of the world’s No. 1 emitter of carbon dioxides thanks to the unfettered operation of the capitalist market.

Amid the global economic fallout from the collapse of US subprime mortgage loans a year ago, the Beijing Olympics also provides a distracting event for the leaders of global capitalism to temporarily divert attention from economic slowdown, inflation and growing social discontent. No less than 80 world leaders, including US President George Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, will attend the opening ceremony.

Their arrival has reportedly caused nightmares for Beijing air traffic authorities as many private jets carrying the chief executives of the world’s most powerful corporations land at the same time. Like their political servants, the global CEOs are keen to share in China’s economic success.

Indeed, China seems to be the only place where capitalism is still thriving. A massive fireworks show and spectacular opening ceremony, directed by well-known filmmaker Zhang Yimou, seek to showcase not just China’s traditional culture, but the country’s growing economic prowess. As shown on South Korean television, which leaked a rehearsal, one of the scenes showed many buildings springing up from scratch, demonstrating China’s rapid expansion. From 1978 to 2007, China has grown 40-fold—taking it from a miserably poor country to the world’s fourth largest economy.

The ultra-modern Olympic architecture, from the main “Bird Nest” stadium and the oval Grand State Theatre to the twisted CCTV headquarters in Beijing, all designed by leading international architects, aims to impress foreigners with China’s striving for modernity and progress. The expansion of Beijing international airport is colossal. Its Terminal 3 alone is larger than the five terminals of London Heathrow combined.

Twelve multinational corporations have paid up to $US200 million each to become Olympic global sponsors in order to advertise their products to the 4 billion people around the world who are expected to watch the events. All up, the sponsorship totals $866 million, one third more than the 2004 Athens Games. This does not include the estimated advertising revenue of $1.5 billion by the global sponsors or the costs for partnerships paid by dozens of other multinational and Chinese corporations. Adidas alone has reportedly paid $80 million for using the Olympic logo for its products selling in China.

“One World, One Dream” is the slogan of the Beijing Olympics. But the feelings in Washington, Tokyo and the European capitals toward the rise of China are rather more complex. On the one hand, major corporations around the world now depend on the super-exploitation of the Chinese working class, the largest in the world. On the other, there is unease about China’s rapid emergence as a new rival to the established powers in the struggle for raw materials, markets and geopolitical influence.

Despite Chinese President Hu Jintao’s appeal not to politicise the Olympics, some Western leaders have raised Beijing’s human rights record or its repressive rule in Tibet. Last week, President Bush received exiled leaders of the Chinese “democracy” movement in the White House. The US House of Representatives then passed a resolution almost unanimously demanding that China improve human rights.

Before his departure for the Olympics, Bush told Asian reporters in Washington that the US was committed to its allies in Asia, amid criticisms that the Iraq war had allowed China to increase its influence at the expense of the US. Warning Asian countries not to get too close to Beijing, Bush declared: “A lot of times, if you’re friends with one, you make it hard to be friends with another.” Before going to Beijing, Bush stopped at Bangkok and delivered a speech urging the Beijing regime to provide “freedom” to Chinese citizens.

A Chinese government spokesman, Liu Jianchao, branded the US Congress resolution an attempt to “sabotage” the Olympics, and said Bush “rudely interfered with China’s internal affairs and sent a seriously wrong message to anti-China hostile forces.” Behind this nationalist rhetoric, which is largely for domestic consumption, Beijing is well aware that Bush resisted calls to boycott the Games.

In fact, Bush is the first US president to attend an overseas Olympics. Even more cynical is French president Sarkozy, who had earlier threatened to boycott the ceremony over Beijing’s crackdown in Tibet. Sarkozy then announced he would not meet the Dalai Lama. Now he has declared that the Chinese government “deserves a gold medal” for preparing the Games. “My presence in Beijing will confirm it once more: the friendship between France and China is a fundamental axis of France’s foreign policy,” he told Xinhua news agency.

“Harmonious society”

Beijing is exploiting the opportunity to promote Chinese nationalism. After openly embracing the capitalist market over the past 30 years, the CCP’s claim to be socialist is absurd. Increasingly the regime rests on its record in promoting China’s growth and prestige, appealing to a layer of the middle class who have benefited as a result. The lavish spending on the Olympics—1.5 times more than the five previous Olympics combined—is to underscore the point to a domestic audience as well as advertise the benefits of China to the foreign corporate elite. At the same time, nationalism is used to divert attention from the deepening social chasm between rich and poor in China.

In order to hide China’s staggering social inequality, some four million people, mainly poorly-paid migrant workers, including those who built the Olympic facilities, have been driven out of the city. Thousands of petitioners, who came to fight for their grievances to be heard by top government officials, have been dragged away by the police. Many have been locked up in detention centres. Some of the urban poor used to live in cheap motels and basement apartments where rooms could be rented for less than $1 per day but these facilities have been shut.

Wang Lijun, a petitioner demanding a pension for his father, told the Los Angeles Times: “They say we create a negative image. They treat us like refugees and criminals.” Another woman, Li Li from Shanxi province, who has been petitioning for seven years over her husband’s sacking from a steel factory, explained: “They are cracking down on us more than ever before. They regard us as enemies who will disrupt the stability of the country.” Then she added: “They ask us to embrace the Olympic Games, to love the country, love the party. But they don’t love us.”

In the name of preventing terrorism, the police-state apparatus has been fully mobilised to protect the world leaders and the Olympic venues. There is a 100,000-strong anti-terror force made up of paramilitary police, troops and special force units, plus several hundred thousand ordinary police officers, security guards and volunteer patrols.

Among the security forces are 34,000 troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including the Sixth Armored Division, now stationed outside Beijing. The division commander told the mass media that the heavily armed units would move quickly into the capital in an event of “sudden incident”. The last time that tank columns rolled into the streets of Beijing was in 1989, to crush the protesting workers and students in Tiananmen Square.

The military has also deployed 74 fighter jets, 48 helicopters and 33 naval ships, as well as anti-aircraft missiles and biochemical units. TV footage has shown military training exercises, including pilots firing missiles at aircraft intruding into the no-fly zones above Beijing.

According to Tian Yixiang, the director of the Armed Forces Work Department of the Olympic Security Command Center, the security forces will target “Eastern Turkistan” militants from Xinjiang, Tibetan separatists, banned Falun Gong religious practitioners and the “democracy” movement. In Tibet, the police force has been doubled to ensure “absolute security” during the Olympics. The People’s Armed Police News declared in July that “hostile forces” and terrorists “are sharpening their blades and itching to act” in order to create an “international impact”.

Behind the regime’s belligerent statements is its immense fear of any disruption to the Games, which could damage China’s image as a reliable venue for business and investment. Rising inflation and unemployment, and signs of economic slowdown, have exacerbated the enormous social tensions in China. The oppressed national minorities such as Muslim Uighur in Xinjiang and the masses in Tibet have staged protests. Any of this discontent could erupt during the Games, as protestors seek to use the world media to draw attention to their grievances.

An East Turkistan Islamic group released videos, last month and yesterday, threatening to attack the Games, and it has also claimed responsibility for a series of recent bus bombings in China. On Monday, in another purported “terror” attack, a police station in Kashgar, Xinjiang was reportedly attacked with grenades, killing 16 policemen.

In order to downplay criticism of its heavy-handed measures, Beijing has released some well known dissidents. The authorities have set up three “protest zones” in the capital, well away from Games venues, but demonstrations must be approved well in advance. Chinese citizens who dare to seek approval will leave their identification records with the regime. After the world’s attention has shifted away at the end of the Olympics, they are likely to face harsh punishment. Foreign critics will also be silenced. At least seven British and American tourists have been detained after attempting to protest over Tibet or lack of religious freedom in China.

The massive police and military dragnet for the Beijing Olympics is a glimpse into the political conditions that enforce the brutal capitalist exploitation of the working class in China. The presence of Bush and other world leaders at the opening ceremony demonstrates the completely hypocritical character of their talk of human rights and the plight of national minorities. They are all well aware that without the police-state regime in Beijing, the world capitalist economy would be far worse off than it is now.


Monday, August 4, 2008

A Strategy for Pakistan

PAKISTAN'S NEW democratic government is committed to fighting al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamist movements -- and that may distinguish it from the country's other power centers. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ruled the country from 1999 until this year and remains president, has been an enemy of al-Qaeda but did little to disrupt bases of the Taliban, a onetime client of his army. The country's powerful intelligence service, meanwhile, has long nurtured jihadi groups and now stands accused by the CIA of collaborating in recent terrorist bombings in Afghanistan. The new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, who was in Washington this week to meet President Bush, says he is doing his best to convince his country that "this is Pakistan's war." But he seems not to have won the argument within his own government.

This complex situation calls for a careful and flexible response from the United States -- and, to its credit, the outgoing Bush administration is making a relatively good start at fashioning that response. For years, Mr. Bush blindly backed Mr. Musharraf, costing the United States the support of most Pakistanis without producing satisfactory results in the fight against terrorism. Now the administration is transferring its support to the new civilian government, promising more military and economic aid, training in counterterrorism and even help with rising food prices. At the same time, the administration has confronted Pakistani leaders with evidence of links between the intelligence service and Islamist militants. And it is not restraining action of its own when a military target of opportunity presents itself -- as happened Monday, when a U.S. missile attack was aimed at a senior al-Qaeda leader inside Pakistan.

The strike by a CIA Predator aircraft, which may have killed al-Qaeda's top chemical weapons specialist, came on the day that Mr. Bush met with Mr. Gillani, and it caused the latter some embarrassment. Such U.S. attacks invariably provoke a backlash in Pakistan, and government leaders invariably denounce them. Mr. Gillani argues that rather than acting unilaterally, U.S. forces should share intelligence with Pakistan so that it can strike al-Qaeda and Taliban targets. The problem is that, as the prime minister acknowledges, Pakistan lacks the capacity to act and is not likely to obtain it anytime soon. Moreover, intelligence provided to Pakistan may be misused: The CIA believes that some militants have been tipped to U.S. raids by Pakistani intelligence.

The worst thing that could happen to the U.S.-Pakistani relationship would be another large al-Qaeda strike against the United States staged from the tribal areas -- a possibility that is frighteningly real. It's in Pakistan's interest, too, therefore, for the United States to continue searching for and attacking al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan even as it steps up the effort to bolster the civilian government and to train Pakistani forces and support a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy in the tribal areas. Bipartisan legislation approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week would triple economic aid to Pakistan over the next five years and deserves White House support. Supporting Pakistan's fragile democracy while defending the United States against al-Qaeda will be a tricky balancing act -- but if the latter fails, the former will, as well.

Source: Newyorktimes

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Nepal: Wither SAARC? Or withering away?, By Anil Chatterji

This is the 15th South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation meet at Colombo. When SAARC was founded a major objective was economic cooperation. At present intra SAARC trade is just five per cent, what does Nepal have to gain by lowering of tariff and non-tariff barriers?

Firstly, Nepal does not have a slew of manufactures which it can export. So removal of non tariff barriers is not going to help it all that much on the export front. Further Pakistan has stalled any major agreement by linking the resolution of the Kashmir issue and has refused to grant most favoured nation status to India.

India has been erecting all sorts of economic barriers against Bangladesh, and on the other hand in this multilateral institution of SAARC it claims to be lowering barriers to trade. So SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Association) is still a non starter.

It has been announced that Nepal´s Prime Minister G P Koirala is looking for a meeting with Indian PM Manmohan Singh on the sidelines during the meet. What is he going to ask for? What is the continuity from the past?

Another agreement that India is looking for is in the area of terror. It will have to get Pakistan to agree to sign the document which mainly concerns exchange of information about terror activities and suspects.

What does Maldives and Bhutan also members of SAARC really have to do with terror? India could well have pursued the case bilaterally with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and possibly Afghanistan. Each country would have a different level of comfort dealing with India which is the main mover for this agreement.

Alternately India should look towards a general agreement under UN auspices to cover this area of terror and try for a 'Global Accord on Terror'.

Pakistan has been asking for the inclusion of China in SAARC, India does not want that. China will be able to bring in substantial funds and expertise into SAARC. Nepal would be well advised to support Pakistan in this venture. With China in it would act as a counterweight to India.
India on the other hand is supporting the inclusion of Myanmar, this is a good move for that country as it will start coming out of seclusion. But again it is a country with a very weak economy.

SAARC needs an injection of fresh blood, best in the form of China. Or else it will become an association of the weak which is rapidly turning into a battle ground and wither away in due course.

Nepal should weigh its options, at present the secretariat of SAARC is located in Kathmandu, the employment generated due to that is the main advantage it is gaining!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Can This Planet Be Saved? By Paul Crugman

Recently the Web site The Politico asked Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, why she was blocking attempts to tack offshore drilling amendments onto appropriations bills. “I’m trying to save the planet; I’m trying to save the planet,” she replied.

I’m glad to hear it. But I’m still worried about the planet’s prospects.

True, Ms. Pelosi’s remark was a happy reminder that environmental policy is no longer in the hands of crazy people. Remember, less than two years ago Senator James Inhofe — a conspiracy theorist who insists that global warming is a “gigantic hoax” perpetrated by the scientific community — was the chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.

Beyond that, Ms. Pelosi’s response shows that she understands the deeper issues behind the current energy debate.

Most criticism of John McCain’s decision to follow the Bush administration’s lead and embrace offshore drilling as the answer to high gas prices has focused on the accusation that it’s junk economics — which it is.

A McCain campaign ad says that gas prices are high right now because “some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.” That’s just plain dishonest: the U.S. government’s own Energy Information Administration says that removing restrictions on offshore drilling wouldn’t lead to any additional domestic oil production until 2017, and that even at its peak the extra production would have an “insignificant” impact on oil prices.

What’s even more important than Mr. McCain’s bad economics, however, is what his reversal on this issue — he was against offshore drilling before he was for it — says about his priorities.

Back when he was cultivating a maverick image, Mr. McCain portrayed himself as more environmentally aware than the rest of his party. He even co-sponsored a bill calling for a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions (although his remarks on several recent occasions suggest that he doesn’t understand his own proposal). But the lure of a bit of political gain, it turns out, was all it took to transform him back into a standard drill-and-burn Republican.

And the planet can’t afford that kind of cynicism.

In themselves, limits on offshore drilling are only a modest-sized issue. But the skirmish over drilling is the opening stage of a much bigger fight over environmental policy. What’s at stake in that fight, above all, is the question of whether we’ll take action against climate change before it’s utterly too late.

It’s true that scientists don’t know exactly how much world temperatures will rise if we persist with business as usual. But that uncertainty is actually what makes action so urgent. While there’s a chance that we’ll act against global warming only to find that the danger was overstated, there’s also a chance that we’ll fail to act only to find that the results of inaction were catastrophic. Which risk would you rather run?

Martin Weitzman, a Harvard economist who has been driving much of the recent high-level debate, offers some sobering numbers. Surveying a wide range of climate models, he argues that, over all, they suggest about a 5 percent chance that world temperatures will eventually rise by more than 10 degrees Celsius (that is, world temperatures will rise by 18 degrees Fahrenheit). As Mr. Weitzman points out, that’s enough to “effectively destroy planet Earth as we know it.” It’s sheer irresponsibility not to do whatever we can to eliminate that threat.

Now for the bad news: sheer irresponsibility may be a winning political strategy.

Mr. McCain’s claim that opponents of offshore drilling are responsible for high gas prices is ridiculous — and to their credit, major news organizations have pointed this out. Yet Mr. McCain’s gambit seems nonetheless to be working: public support for ending restrictions on drilling has risen sharply, with roughly half of voters saying that increased offshore drilling would reduce gas prices within a year.

Hence my concern: if a completely bogus claim that environmental protection is raising energy prices can get this much political traction, what are the chances of getting serious action against global warming? After all, a cap-and-trade system would in effect be a tax on carbon (though Mr. McCain apparently doesn’t know that), and really would raise energy prices.

The only way we’re going to get action, I’d suggest, is if those who stand in the way of action come to be perceived as not just wrong but immoral. Incidentally, that’s why I was disappointed with Barack Obama’s response to Mr. McCain’s energy posturing — that it was “the same old politics.” Mr. Obama was dismissive when he should have been outraged.

So as I said, I’m very glad to know that Nancy Pelosi is trying to save the planet. I just wish I had more confidence that she’s going to succeed.