Murari Sharma: A momentous week with serious implications

The last week was one of the most momentous ones with terrible consequences for the world.

US President Donald Trump withdrew America from the landmark Paris climate change accord, undermining the global efforts to protect the environment. With this, America has become the third country in the world, together with Syria and Nicaragua,  to stay out of the agreement.

The former US Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey pushed the US President Trump a few steps closer to impeachment. Comey told a Senate hearing how the president sought to stop the FBI investigation into Russia’s role in influencing the American presidential elections in 2016. Though Trump might not be impeached by the Congress controlled by his party, for now, what will happen after the midterm elections in 2018?

British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority in the parliament in the snap election. She ran on despair and lost her slim majority in the dissolved parliament. Though her party is still the largest, she will be considerably weakened both at home and at the Brexit negotiations.

China seems to have decided to set up its military base in Pakistan, cementing its economic and strategic surge. It is an integral part of the Chinese ambition to become a strategic force in West Asia and Africa.

Several Arab countries spearheaded by Saudi Arabia imposed an embargo on Qatar, which was blamed for supporting Sunni Islamist terrorists in the Arab world.

Terrorists killed 12 people in Iran and 7 in the United Kingdom, the one in the UK was second such attack in as many weeks.

Back in Nepal, several important developments took place. Sher Bahadur Deuba replaced Pushpa Kamal Dahal as prime minister under an understanding between the two leaders. The ruling coalition withdrew the impeachment motion it had filed against now the former Chief Justice Sushila Karki. And the second round of local elections was postponed to 28 June 2017 to accommodate the Madheshi parties.

These are only a few representative examples. But the message is the world is in turmoil. What does it all mean for the world and Nepal?

Let us start with the world. The US withdrawal from the Paris accord has set back the potential progress in taming climate change and environmental degradation by decades. It means some island countries will move a few steps closer to extinction and many coastal countries will see their coastal areas under water.

The political turmoil under a bully authoritarian president will weaken democratic institutions in the United States and other countries. It will also weaken the US economy and the global economy.

China’s plan to establish its military base in Pakistan will further destabilize the already unstable South Asia. Besides, it will embolden Beijing to assert itself more vigorously in the South China Sea, where it has claimed a large ocean territory, and lead to a major conflict there.

Ganging up by several neighbors on Qatar has destabilized West Asia further,  already the most volatile region in the world. While Qatar’s support for terrorists must not be denounced, this norm must also apply to other backers of terrorism, including those that have pulled out the dagger against Qatar. There are no good or bad terrorists.

Once again, terrorism is raising its head. After the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soared the tempers to the stratosphere had somewhat subsided, global terrorism also had somewhat receded. But the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have pushed it to a new height.

That brings me to Nepal which has been, and will be, bearing the impact all these global developments as well as its own internal turn of events.

For instance, the impact of climate change is real for Nepal. The Himalayas have lost their snow cover. Glacial lakes have been filling up fast, threatening to burst, which will wipe out millions of people and animal and inundate the downstream fertile land. Several species of flora and fauna have become extinct or near extinct.

Any increase in tension in South Asia will directly affect Nepal. Sandwiched between China and India, the country is already suffering from its neighbor’s conflicting ambitions. Instability in the US will embolden either one or both of our neighbors to do foment the tension which they would otherwise avoid.

The turmoil in West Asia will affect Nepal seriously. It has frightened more than 2 million Nepali people working in the region, particularly the Gulf countries. It might also adversely affect the supply of petroleum products in Nepal, making life hard and holding development activities back.

Terrorism remains a scourge for Nepal. Some Maoist groups have continuously resorted to terrorism as their favored weapon to frighten people and to bend the government to their wishes. Similarly, some Madheshi groups have also taken to terrorism to have their way, as the Maoist had in the wake of their armed insurgency, 1996-2006.

True, the change of the prime minister might not mean much if the policy stays the course, but one must wonder about the new prime minister and the timing. Every time Sher Bahadur Deuba has taken the helm, the country has suffered a major political disaster.

The first time, the Maoist started their armed insurgency, in 1996. The second time, Deuba irrigated the culture of corruption in the political class by buying and selling members of parliament, offering expensive vehicles and other facilities. More seriously, he handed democracy to King Gyanendra’s palace on a gold plate to remain in power just for a few months, in 2001-02.

The third time, Deuba proved unable to prevent King Gyanendra from dismissing him and assuming direct power, in 2005.

Besides, the timing of the change is not propitious either. Half of the country has had local elections under the previous prime minister while the remaining local elections, as well provincial and federal elections, need to take place under Deuba in next seven months. Given Deuba’s tainted past, one cannot be sure whether he will take the country over a political precipice, as several commentators have feared.

The most troubling for Nepal was the impeachment motion moved by the ruling parties against the just-retired Chief Justice Sushila Karki for the Supreme Court’s decision against the government. The motion has frightened judges to dispense justice without fear or favor, which is a recipe for destroying democracy. The Madheshi parties’ fear to join the local elections could have long-term consequences for the country’s integrity.

Vladimir Lenin says, “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience.” You do not have to agree with his ideology to appreciate the truth contained in Lenin’s quote. Let us hope that our politicians do not give us in the future such terrible weeks as the last one.

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