Murari Sharma: Maoists, a destructive force in Nepal

Nepal’s political leaders have tabled a proposal in the parliament to impeach Lokman Singh Karki, Chief Commissioner for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Certainly, Karki has flaws, and the leaders knew it when they appointed him.

Then why the fuss now? Among many, the foremost reason is Karki was preparing to bring charges against several corrupt political leaders. According to one source, the Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is one of those against whom the charges have been prepared.

Anyone that must be brought to justice with priority is Prime Minister Dahal and his former and current lieutenants for their several crimes over the years.

Keeping the frequent disturbances caused by the Joint People’s Front aside, the Maoists have committed umpteen crimes. They have killed or helped kill more than 15,000 people, prevented development activities, and destroyed schools, roads, communication towers, water supply systems, etc. from 1996 to 2006.

Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai have committed treason by vowing to serve Indian interests in writing in exchange for Indian support for their armed insurgency. Do not take it from me. Read the book of SD Muni, an Indian Nepal expert and Bhattarai’s mentor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Muni had put Dahal and Bhattarai in touch with the prime minister’s office and Indian intelligence agencies of India and they committed in writing to protect Indian interest so they could freely harm Nepal.

Bhattarai has always proved his loyalty to India, including as prime minister through several controversial measures including the signing of the BIPPA. You may recall, his own colleague and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha had opposed the agreement as anti-national.

But Dahal has been more volatile. In his first stint as prime minister, he wore a mask of nationalism, and India maneuvered to pull him down.

In his second stint, Dahal has vowed not to repeat the past mistakes and enslaved himself to the neighbor. In his endeavor to please New Delhi, Dahal has undermined Nepal’s dignity, sovereignty and independence and stifled Nepal’s growth.

His record speaks for itself. The joint press release issued during his visit to India, Dahal validated Indian interference in Nepal’s new constitution, agreed to equate the Nepali government with the Indian embassy, and concurred to coordinate foreign policy issues with India.

If you recall, Nepal had opposed the inclusion of India’s displeasure with Nepal’s new constitution in the India-EU and India-Britain joint statements. Strangely, Dahal agreed to include that point in the Nepal-India joint statement.

Some disagreements exist over the constitution, but they are an internal matter for the Nepali people to resolve. No other country has any business to poke its nose in this process.

Dahal has reduced the Nepal government to the level of the Indian embassy in Kathmandu in the joint statement. He agreed to create a joint mechanism of the Nepal government and the Indian embassy to monitor the implementation of Indian-assisted projects in Nepal.

It reminds us of the 1950 Treaty that was signed by the prime minister of Nepal and the Indian ambassador. This is humiliating for Nepal.

What is more, Dahal agreed to coordinate Nepal’s position on major international issues with India. Countries do so in international forums to increase their weight, only where and when appropriate or possible. The joint statement has no such qualifying provision, which makes it mandatory.

As if the damages done by the joint statement were not enough, new alarming developments have occurred after Dahal’s India visit recently.

For instance, the Indian Oil Corporation, a state enterprise, has demanded, once again, the monopoly to supply petroleum products to Nepal for next 15 years, as a precondition for laying out the pipeline from the Indian border to Amlekhgunj. Nepal had rejected this idea long time back.

According to the Annapurna Post, India has demanded national treatment in Nepal for Indian nationals. It is demanding the implementation of this provision under the 1950 Treaty, which has been flouted by both countries for so long.

This is extremely troubling. India can implement this provision without much impact. But Nepal will lose its identity and character and be destroyed.

For instance, if half of the Nepali population obtains national treatment in India, it will be only 14 million people. If only 10 percent Indians seek national treatment in Nepal, it will be 130 million.

Similarly, India downgraded the Nepali Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat during his recent visit to New Delhi for the joint ministerial commission meeting. Citing External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj’s illness, a state minister worked as Mahat’s counterpart.

If Swaraj was sick, I wish her a quick recovery. However, my googling did not return any information on her illness this time. The google shows she was ill in April and had gone to hospital. Not this time. New Delhi has shown Nepal its new place.

Otherwise, the Indian government would have designated another cabinet minister as Mahat’s counterpart. That is the widely accepted diplomatic practice.

Finally, Dahal’s cabinet has declared the day the Indian President Pranab Mukharjee — and the Chinese president as well — will arrive in Nepal for a visit as a public holiday. Neither India nor China has such a provision for a visiting heads of state and government.

Why has Dahal slavishly subordinated Nepal’s sovereignty and dignity to India to such unprecedented levels?

There might be several reasons for it, but three of them scream out: Dahal’s greed for power, erosion in Nepal’s standing in the world, and India’s growing confidence.

The legitimate way of obtaining power in a democracy is winning elections. But in Nepal, political parties often use dirty tricks, including Indian influence, to undermine the legitimate system. Dahal is only the latest and most egregious example.

Dahal’s party is the third in the house. He has acquired undeserved power by kowtowing to India and the Nepali Congress, who supported him to spite the CPN (UML) and its leader and former Prime Minister KP Oli, who had defied New Delhi.

Dahal is trying to retain power by selling the country’s soul to India and his own honor to NC.

Nepal has lost its international standing by becoming the sick man of South Asia politically, economically and socially. Since 1994, the government has changed 23 times. Political instability has bred corruption among politicians and bureaucrats.

Political fluidity, corruption and the resultant lack of rule of law have stifled Nepal’s growth. They have discouraged private investment, bled public resources, and undermined public investment.

The Maoists have shattered Nepal’s social cohesion and given room for external powers to play in its internal matters. They drove a wedge between races, ethnic groups and communities first to garner support for their insurgency and then to build their ethnic vote banks.

India’s confidence has increased over the last decades due to its accelerated economy, growing military strength, strengthening USA-India strategic relations and burgeoning international respect. India now feels more confident to humiliate and micro-manage its neighbors.

In brief, the Maoists have always been a destructive force in Nepal. They, more than any other force, have caused woes for Nepal and humiliated the country outside its borders after 1990.

Lokman Singh Karki’s impeachment drama is Prime Minister Dahal’s strategy to divert public attention from his, his party’s and his government’s wrongdoings.


Murari Sharma: Political Rhetoric Matters

What politicians say matters a lot. Jean-Paul Sartre has rightly said, “Words are loaded pistols.” A case in point is the sharp increase in hate crimes in the United Kingdom and the United States now and in Nepal in the wake of the Madhesh Movement.

Xenophobic and Europhobic words of British leaders inspired the nearly 50 percent rise in hate crimes in Britain. Several British leaders campaigned for Britain’s exit — Brexit — from the European Union deploying bigotry, xenophobia and Europhobia — Britain for British people, British jobs for British workers, illegal immigrants go home, immigrants are a burden on British schools and hospitals, and the like –for the referendum held in June this year.  The majority opted for Brexit validating the worst human instinct.

It gave license to the bigots to use their mind, mouth and muscle against minorities. The situation has become so toxic that six impressionable teenage boys beat the Polish immigrant to death, when they heard him speak in his native language. The man was stabbed in Rochdale because he was from a minority group. British bigoted extremists have beat up hundreds of other people from minority groups and hurled racial slurs at them.

In the United States, hate crimes have risen significantly thanks to the words and the incitement of the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Trump’s anti-Islam, anti-Mexican, anti-Chinese, anti-immigrant, anti-opponent rhetoric has encouraged the white supremacists and other bigots into violence. Trump has gone to the extent of assuring that if his supporters beat up his opponents, he would foot any legal bill arising out of such violence.

Predictably,  the Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University Research Project, reports that since the bid for the White House started in March 2015, there have been approximately 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence, including 12 murders and 34 physical assaults. Trump’s supporters knocked off the turban of a Sikh man in an apparent mis-identification as a Muslim, punched him in the face and cut his hair in the Bay area of California recently.

Similar incidents have occurred in Germany, France, and other European countries thanks to the anti-foreigner tirade of the far-right political parties and outfits.

The xenophobic and bigoted politicians in both these democracies have framed their arguments in a binary dualism: “We” the good versus “They” the bad. Narrow nationalism good and broad nationalism bad. Immigrants are bad, their money that flows to us is good. “They” are taking our jobs and economic opportunities. And so on. The natural outcome of such political rhetoric could not be anything but “We” hating and hurting “Them.”

Naturally, such bigotry is always accompanied by misinformation and ignorance, which makes it even more toxic. For instance, in Britain, despite the warnings by experts otherwise, the pro-leave politicians said Britain outside the EU was going to be richer and stronger. Since Prime Minister Teresa May took the time to indicate whether she was going to pull Britain out of the single market, there was no major impact of the Brexit vote other than a huge plunge in the value of the British pound. The pro-leave politicians gloated that they were right and the experts wrong.

But the tide has turned proving the experts right, as soon as May indicated in the Tory annual conference at the end of September that she was going to invoke in the next few months Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows two years for the exit process to complete. Now the British pound has tumbled down to the lowest level in three decades, at one point hitting $1.14. Some people have suggested that the US dollar and the British pound could be at par sometime in 2017.

According to Price, Waterhouse, Cooper, an accounting firm, British growth will slow down from 2 percent in 2015 to 1.6 percent in 2016 and 0.6 percent in 2017 due to the Brexit. Banks and other companies have started making plans to move out of the United Kingdom.

If Britain ends up with a hard Brexit, which means getting out of the single market, it is likely to bring not just a major short-term recession, but also a long-term economic disaster — decline in jobs, incomes, and revenues, public expenditure, and services.

In both the UK and the USA, statistics prove immigrants have been net contributors to these economies.

According to a study by the University College London, the European Economic Area nationals paid 34 percent more taxes than they received in benefits and other immigrants 2 percent more than they received in benefits. The British people, however, received 11 percent more in benefits than they contributed to taxes in the period 2000-2011. Similarly, immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45 percent less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than the UK natives in the period 2000-2011 and 3 percent less likely to live in social housing.

In the USA, the situation is similar. A Treasury Department note says the immigrants pay more in taxes than the cost of services they use in aggregate and over the long-run,  12 percent immigrants own 16.7 percent businesses and 25 percent venture-backed US public companies.

The aging societies of the UK and USA cannot maintain their prosperity and draw their pension without a steady stream of young immigrants. If these politicians had their way, the UK and USA could go right back to the middle ages, in the cesspool of poverty and prejudices.

In Nepal, leaders of the Madheshi parties vomited the anti-Pahadi venom during the 2007 Madhesh Movement. Their supporters killed some Pahadis, burned the houses of other Pahadis and chased many Pahadis from their areas. There too, the Pahadis were, and are, the net contributor to the economy of the Madhesh.

While liberal leaders might not always be right in disregarding the concerns of the people who fear liberal immigration policy and unguarded globalization, the conservatives could not be more wrong in their prescriptions in a competitive world. What they say matters a lot. Therefore, both liberal and conservative leaders need to be careful with their rhetoric if societies they intend to lead have to remain peaceful, manageable, and prosperous.

There is no time or place when and where intemperate words do not hurt society. The damage the narrow-minded leaders have done to racial harmony in the UK, USA and Nepal is going to take a long time to repair. So leaders must use words as carefully and responsibly as a loaded pistol.

Murari Sharma: Dahal has sold his and Nepal’s soul

During his recent India visit, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal seems to have sold his own and Nepal’s soul, in breach of the fundamental objective of foreign policy. The latest example, the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which Nepal has acted like a state of India.

As a rule, every country, big and small, seeks to promote their national interest. They sometimes fail to achieve their objectives, but they never abandon their quest. Nepal’s efforts have often been geared to promoting the specific interests of individual leaders than the national interests.

A high-ranking official of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs candidly mentioned it to a group of Nepal journalists some time ago. He said Nepali leaders visit New Delhi and speak only of their personal interest, and seldom of Nepal’s national interests.

There is a plethora of circumstantial evidence to prove it. I have personally been privy to Nepali leaders often requesting their Indian counterparts for personal favors in their all-important one-to-one conversations. They ask for support to obtain and retain power and for scholarship and free medical treatment for their relatives and supporters. The matters of national interests are often left only for the official talks, so they are covered by the media and consumed by the public.

As it appears, Dahal’s visit to New Delhi last month exactly fits that pattern. He had no agenda, no special occasion, no progress to record or report on the existing accords, no serious problem to resolve, and no impasse to break. He still visited India and compromised national interests on several counts to win a personal favor from India. He had earned India’s disfavor after he regined as prime minister in 2009 and engaged in anti-India tirades.

I have covered several of them in my previous post (18 September) in these pages. Therefore, I wish to focus on only two main points this time: Dahal’s pledge to coordinate Nepal’s foreign policy with India’s and to grant a monopoly to India on petroleum supply to Nepal.

First, according to the Joint Statement issued in the middle of his India visit, Dahal has agreed to coordinate Nepal’s foreign policy outlook with India’s on matters of their common interests. Prima facie, this provision does not look problematic. Actually, it would not be problematic at all if it were agreed by two symmetric countries, where coordination remains voluntary. But Nepal and India are hugely asymmetric, which makes this provision subject to coercion from the latter.

The Peace and Friendship Treaty 1950 between Nepal and India is a case in point. Although the text of the treaty is equal in every respect, its signatories and outcomes are unequal, reflecting the asymmetry in power. Those who have not read the treaty tend to wrongly believe that the text is unequal. It is not. The signatories are unequal: prime minister from Nepal and ambassador from India. Though unpleasant, it is not biggest the worry for Nepal.

The biggest worry is the treaty’s unequal implementation and unequal outcome. As for the implementation, the treaty stipulates that no country would allow its territories to be used against the other. India has never respected it. India allowed and, even encouraged, virtually all political parties of Nepal to use Indian territories to undermine the regime of the day in Nepal since 1950.

In contrast, New Delhi forced Kathmandu to hand over Sucha Singh Bassi, who had killed the former Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon and fled to Nepal, in the 1960s. Indian police come deep into Nepali territories almost every week in a hot pursuit of criminals and dissenters and apprehend them. Nepal cannot do anything about such things. You can imagine what India would do if the Gorkhaland activists were to launch their anti-Indian activities from Nepal’s soil.

Another example, under the treaty, both countries are supposed to view aggression against one as aggression against the other as well and to consult each other when such things happen. India has fought several wars with its neighbors but seldom consulted Nepal about them. Incidentally, the 1950 treaty itself does not bring Nepal under Indian security umbrella. It is the letter signed in 1965 as part of the treaty that has effectively done it.

As for the unequal outcome, let me cite one example. The treaty stipulates equal treatment for each other’s nationals in their territories in matters of residency and economic opportunities. If 10 percent of the Nepali population decides to migrate to India, it would be 2.7 million people; if 10 percent of the Indians come to Nepal to settle, it would be 130 million.

Second, Dahal seems to have agreed to grant a monopoly to India as the sole supplier of petroleum products to Nepal. This became clear when India recently insisted on such a monopoly to lay down the Raxaul-Amlekhganj pipeline, something that had been already rejected by Nepal. This provision will nullify the Nepal-China agreement under which the latter could supply up to 30 percent of petroleum products required in Nepal.

Dahal seems to have been blinded by his personal interests so much that he did not even take into account the 5-month long unannounced economic blockade after Nepal promulgated in 2015 its new constitution that India did not like. The main instrument of pressure was the severe reduction of petroleum products on which Nepal relied on India entirely.

As a matter of fact, as soon as Dahal became prime minister this time, he has been pursuing only his personal interests with India. For one thing, he sent his deputies to New Delhi and Beijing without any preparation, just to tell Indian leaders that he had changed and become their friend. If he had national interest in his mind, he would have prepared for their visits properly.

For another, Dahal himself visited India virtually at a moment’s notice.  It takes months for a meaningful visit of a foreign country by any head of government. Obviously, Dahal went to New Delhi without adequate preparations on the existing and new agendas just to demonstrate his loyalty and friendship. He perhaps wanted to prove that he was a better friend of India than his former deputy and now his nemesis Baburam Bhattarai or his other political rivals.

Yet another, the MOFA’s statement on the postponement of SAARC sounds like a statement coming from Patna or Lucknow, not from a sovereign country. As chair of SAARC and as an independent country, Nepal should have maintained its traditional neutrality.

Dahal had sold his soul once before — during the armed insurgency led by him — by vowing to Indian intelligence agencies that he would protect Indian interests in Nepal. He has done it again this time as prime minister.

We often wrongly blame India for doing its bounden duty, that is to protect and promote its national interest. But the blame solely lies with Prime Minister Dahal and other Nepali leaders who have sold their own and Nepal’s soul to curry Indian favor in order to promote their personal interests.