Apr 19, 2013

The Rise of China’s Reformers?

Foreign Affairs, April 17, 2013

Why Economic Change Could Come Sooner Than You Think

With China’s political transition now complete, the country — and the world economy — is left with a pressing question: Does the new team in Beijing have the vision and the political will to revive stalled yet crucial economic reforms? Few observers are optimistic about the answer.

A growing chorus of pessimists, in China and elsewhere, has coalesced around three central arguments. The first group, call them the “economic cynics,” argues that the bar for reform is just too high. This is because several underlying economic problems, including a real estate bubble, have worsened at precisely the moment that China’s economic growth has slowed. Chinese officials’ traditional solution to economic slowdowns — accelerating exports — has become harder in light of declining demand in advanced industrial countries.

What is more, these pessimists argue, even if China’s new leaders want to undertake bold reforms, economic problems have become so dire that they will overwhelm the new team’s ability to forge consensus around a fresh approach. According to China’s National Audit Office, for example, provincial, county, prefectural, and municipal governments are some 11 trillion yuan ($1.8 trillion) in debt. This problem could lead to another round of exploding bad loans that would constrain the banking sector and forestall financial sector reforms.

The second group, call them the “social doomsayers,” argues that bad policies and poor governance are fueling unprecedented social unrest — with more than 100,000 protests taking place each year by some estimates. This group insists that since preserving political stability is Beijing’s top priority, the government will avoid undertaking reforms that risk short-term economic dislocation and might further exacerbate social discontent.

According to this group, China’s leaders are caught in a bind: if they reform too much, they risk opening the floodgates to more protests; but if they reform too little, they risk leaving intact the underlying causes of the unrest. Two oft-cited examples of the latter dilemma are environmental degradation and land seizures by local officials, which have been the major reasons that ever more Chinese have taken to the streets. But local governments are still focused on economic growth at all costs rather than cleaning up the environmental costs of this growth. Unless Beijing devolves independent fiscal authority to provincial and municipal governments — a very tough reform, by any standard — and changes the political incentives that reward growth above all other objectives, local officials will continue to seize and sell land to developers to raise revenue. So under either scenario, this group insists, political caution will constrain the new leadership’s options for reform.

The final group, call them the “political doubters,” questions the new leadership’s resolve to overcome powerful vested interests that will resist reforms, especially among China’s state-owned enterprises. These powerful corporate players, this argument goes, will obstruct the leadership’s well-intentioned goal of boosting household incomes, defeating efforts to force state firms to pay more dividends that can be redistributed into social welfare programs.

None of these three camps is entirely wrong. Each describes a certain facet of the considerable challenges China’s new leaders now confront. But their pessimism ignores a central lesson of China’s recent history — one that undoubtedly resonates with at least some members of the new policy team: reform is possible when the right mix of conditions comes together at the right time.

Indeed, China has had significant bursts of economic reform in the past, most notably in the late 1990s during the premiership of Zhu Rongji. That era proved that bold reform is achievable when three conditions are present: a crisis of political credibility at home, vulnerability to an economic or financial crisis abroad, and a leadership savvy enough to recognize the need for change.

Today, Beijing does face enormous obstacles, and the forces arrayed against reform are numerous and entrenched. But each of these three conditions is once again present in China, potentially boosting the prospects for real and enduring economic change.

Consider the first condition: a crisis of domestic political legitimacy. In the early 1990s, Beijing faced one of its toughest tests of popular support as it attempted to recover from a series of political challenges to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the tumultuous 1980s. At the time, Beijing was in the throes of both a political crisis and a revenue crisis as dwindling tax receipts remitted by provinces and cities to the central government hollowed out the central government’s coffers.

Throughout the 1980s, dizzying changes moved the country away from major elements of centralized planning toward greater reliance on market forces, including price liberalization. These changes ushered in a wave of inflationary pressures and rampant social discontent, which culminated in the protests of 1989.

In the aftermath of the political tumult, reforms were briefly shelved before being revived in 1992 as Beijing sought to restore economic momentum and win back popular support. By the late 1990s, a capable premier, Zhu, had begun to restructure China’s weak and unwieldy state sector and to reform the banking system, notwithstanding the destabilizing effects of laying off millions of Chinese government workers.

This period is instructive because today’s Chinese leadership — under pressure from rising expectations, social dislocation, and popular discontent — again finds itself trying to bridge a credibility gap with the Chinese public. And the new team, not least the new president, Xi Jinping, has publicly recognized that the stakes are high. With worsening social and economic inequality, abysmal food safety, corruption, and rising middle-class expectations, Chinese governance is being tested in unprecedented ways. And since merely delivering growth is no longer sufficient to assure the government’s mandate, the leadership has good reason to look to reforms as a means of addressing social cleavages and environmental degradation.

A second important factor that drove China’s reforms in the 1990s involved the aftereffects of the Asian financial crisis of 1997­–98, which exposed the inherent vulnerability of the Chinese economy to such shocks. Zhu and other Chinese leaders leveraged the moment of that crisis to move China toward its long-standing goal of membership in the World Trade Organization. They successfully pushed for a credible package of reforms that both prepared Chinese companies for global competition and opened the door to foreign capital inflows. Put simply, an external crisis enabled homegrown economic reformers to push forward serious economic and institutional changes.

That formative experience is especially pertinent today, as China continues to deal with ripples from the global economic crisis that began in 2008. Despite emerging from the crisis earlier and stronger than nearly any other major economy, China remains vulnerable in two ways: it can no longer rely on exports, and it lacks the flexible monetary and financial tools that could help it fight inflation and forestall the shock of another financial crisis.

Beijing has weathered the most recent storm largely because it injected huge sums of cash into the economy — about $600 billion in stimulus and billions more in other bank lending, both of which helped to stave off a wholesale collapse in economic growth. But the effectiveness of these tools will diminish in the years ahead. The government cannot simply rely on stimulus after stimulus, and such a strategy would only further deepen imbalances in China’s economy. In the five years since China achieved its peak GDP growth rate of 13 percent in 2007, its growth rate has dropped significantly and the leadership now targets a more balanced 7.5 percent.

Many of China’s reforms in the 1990s would not have been possible without a few hard-nosed leaders who not only correctly assessed the country’s economic ailments but also had the political will to take strong actions. Zhu, for instance, was known to berate local officials for their mistakes and inefficiencies — and his confrontational style was supported by a number of his colleagues in Beijing. It is already apparent that Xi and the new premier, Li Keqiang, differ from their immediate predecessors in both style and tone. But more than that, their programs and speeches suggest that, at minimum, they have accurately diagnosed the ills that currently beset the Chinese economy. And on paper at least, they have prescribed many of the right solutions. In March, Li invoked “reforms” nearly two dozen times during his first press conference as premier.

But translating rhetoric into credible actions will be more difficult. China’s new leaders have risen to the top only to inherit a growth model that is running out of steam, undermined by a combination of aging populations and weak consumption in developed countries. At the same time, many Chinese companies, especially in the state sector, remain uncompetitive or could face serious financial difficulties if state subsidies, including for energy and land, are withdrawn.

It is important to consider, moreover, why the last group of Chinese leaders seemed to overlook structural maladies in the Chinese economy. Despite a recognition that, in former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s words, the economy was “unbalanced, uncoordinated, unstable, and unsustainable,” previous leaders could rest easier in the knowledge that China could still mostly grow its way out of its immediate problems. In fact, growth was so stellar in the 2000s that the leadership cohort under former President Hu Jintao judged that it could probably afford to coast on the reform dividends of previous decades.

But although China’s economy grew rapidly throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century — largely on the basis of investment and soaring exports — it did not grow much stronger in a fundamental sense. It remained relatively exposed to disruptions in global demand because domestic demand in China was too low, and it reflected new inequalities and imbalances. The costs of the capital-intensive and export-led growth model are now so obvious and startling that they can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug. For instance, recent estimates have put the environmental cost of China’s growth at at least $230 billion, or about 3.5 percent of China’s GDP in 2010.

So it is beyond doubt that Xi and Li understand, and even acknowledge, that reform is no longer a choice but a necessity. The scope, scale, and depth of those reforms, however, will ultimately depend on whether the new team shows some of the nerve and sense of timing that yielded the ambitious decisions of the 1990s.

What are the signposts of real economic reform? Several indicators will be important to watch over the next year and a half. One major indicator will be the degree to which Beijing reduces the state’s role in the economy by devolving fiscal and budgetary authority to local officials. Steps in this direction would include passing off the power to approve infrastructure projects to local governments, cutting unnecessary administrative red tape, and prohibiting ad hoc administrative fees levied by local governments.

Some form of decentralization will also likely take place on the fiscal side. Many provinces have seen their fiscal coffers wither in the years since 1994, when a major tax overhaul redirected revenues toward the central government in Beijing. Local governments now depend on transfers from the central government to pad their budgets. And when these transfers prove insufficient, as they usually do, they often turn to selling land to developers and relying on debt financing through shadowy lending channels to secure the revenue they need. Given that China lacks a well-developed municipal bond market or a strong independent local tax base, it is easy to see how a local fiscal system in disarray — one that provides incentives to sell land for housing development — has contributed to the country’s overheating property market.

Another area ripe for reform is energy pricing. Throughout China’s economic boom, Beijing has artificially suppressed energy prices because energy is a critical input in China’s capital-intensive growth model. So with Beijing’s persistent fear of spiraling inflation, the government has often intervened to ensure that the prices of electricity and coal, among other energy sources, remain stable. But the fact that energy is cheap means that Chinese industry has little incentive to improve efficiency. Instead, the country’s companies have turned into energy guzzlers and decimators of the environment. Raising the price of energy to reflect its true cost would force Chinese businesses to improve efficiency and develop cleaner production methods.

A third area to watch is China’s social welfare system, particularly health care and pensions. Beginning with reforms in 2009, China’s broken health-care system has been gradually stitched back together and will likely enter a new stage under the new government. Similarly, the fragmented and woefully inadequate pensions system will also need to move beyond its current state as a large-scale unfunded mandate. Both reforms are necessary if Beijing is to deal with an aging society and to support consumption by drawing down precautionary savings.

In isolation, each of these reforms would be modest. Yet their cumulative effect could be enormous. It is worth noting, however, that expectations for economic reforms should be tempered by the reality of China’s present economy — an $8.3 trillion behemoth that is more complex and mature than it was 15 years ago. In this sense, windfalls from today’s reforms will likely be more limited in scope than when the country was starting from a lower base in the 1990s.

But that is what the new leadership confronts — a wide-ranging set of reform alternatives that include, but are not limited to, the options noted here. The constraints on reform in China have never been intellectual — there are plenty of good economists in the country pushing a wide array of creative ideas. The principal obstacles remain political. The lesson of the 1990s is that it takes the right mix of domestic and external challenges, combined with a healthy dose of bold leadership, to induce significant reforms.

But those conditions are again present today. And recent statements suggest that a longer-term reform agenda is likely in the works and could be unveiled during the CCP’s third plenum this fall. (Capital market reforms, such as an expanded use of corporate and government bonds and a further relaxation of restrictions on foreign institutional investors, are thought to be probable.) If Chinese leaders do choose the third plenum as the place to announce new reforms, it will be because it is pregnant with political symbolism: it was at another third plenum, in 1978, that Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s market reforms, won consensus around the vision that set China on its course to becoming the world’s second-largest economy.

It would be impossible for any Chinese economic reform program to be completed expeditiously and without resistance. Reform, by definition, will rearrange the playing field for powerful political and economic interests. But if the new team is serious about revitalizing China’s economy and realizing its much-touted “Chinese dream,” then deeper economic reforms are necessary. Beijing would do well to heed the words of Li, its new premier: “It’s useless screaming about reform until you’re hoarse. Let’s just do something about it.”

Courtesy: Foreign Affairs, April 17, 2013

Apr 17, 2013

Nepal: US design is weakening rival Beijing by any means availaable

By Deepak Gajurel
Assistant Professor, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

TQ1: So how have you been analyzing the new trend being observed in Nepali politics of late?
Gajurel: Nepali politics has a very gloomy picture. There will be no ‘Sahamati’ among these ‘Loktantrik Ganatantrabadi’ politicians. The political imbroglio of the last seven years clearly shows that Nepal is going to be ruled by 'Gun' which will precede a devastation, in terms of human lives and national property, dwarfing the 10-year long killings and destruction of nation's property. And I don’t think that 'Gun' is going to be of the Maoists.

TQ2: As a student of political science, do you think that political theories that guide a country’s politics are being observed in Nepal?
Gajurel: In a single word, no Political theories, democratic norms being observed elsewhere in a civilized society have been made a complete mess and mockery in Nepal that too is done in the name of ‘Democracy.’ What a pity!

TQ3: You often claim that Nepal will soon become a play ground of the foreign powers. But how will they poke their nose in Nepali affairs and make their presence felt in Nepal?
Gajurel: That major powers are poking their noses in Nepal’s affairs are evident in the everyday speech made by the politicians themselves. One should understand that external forces are not here for Nepal’s interests; rather they serve their own interests through overt or covert means. A high level foreign official working in Nepal had publicly said that Nepal is going to have an 11-member cabinet of independent persons. And lo! Nepal got exactly that in around one month of that ‘prediction.’ Don’t you understand what does this mean? Is there any need for details of modus-operandi?

TQ4: More often than not you write stories which tentatively indicate that a fresh India-China war was round the corner. What is the premise of such an assessment?
Gajurel: There are clear indications, in more than one form, that large scale conflict, one sort or another is brewing up in the Himalayan Asia region, the region covering South Asia and China.

Recent developments in Af-Pak area, Nepal’s continued political entanglement, intensified Tibetan assertiveness in Nepali and Indian soils, growing tensions in South China Sea, major US military shift in Asia-Pacific from the Atlantic, and grooming, but still in the fetus stage, tensions in the Indian Ocean, are some of the indicators, if one can read between the lines, of a fresh conflict. That’s it.

TQ5: New Chinese President and Prime Minister have said that China will accord top priority to her relations with Nepal. What do all these statements indicate? Is China ready to face any challenges to its soil from Nepali landmass?
Gajurel: From the realist approach, I see this as an indication of China’s realization of Beijing’s past misapprehension in handling Nepal policy. To be specific, China mishandled the 2006 political change in Nepal, which has resulted into heightened anti-China drifts in and from the Nepali soil.

Yes, China now seems ready to take any challenge from Nepali soil. And this is what I fear a situation of ‘hot-spot’ for Nepal, where all major world powers would clash for their respective antagonistic interests. The net result: Nepal will become a helpless sick man fractured by more than one blows.

TQ6: President Jimmy carter apparently instructed Nepal government to ease restrictions on Tibetan refugees. Why the US authority in Nepal talked of China? Three countries got involved. What say you of Carter’s statement?
Gajurel: This is a clear signal of Nepal becoming a hot-spot for international power struggle. Washington’s strategy is to weaken its potential rival Beijing, by overt or covert means. As you know, covert measures work better than the other way round.

TQ7: You have written very freshly that the Maoists and the then SPA inking the 12 point agreement would bring in about a sort of political disaster in Nepal? Will the disaster be a home grown or alien manufactured?
Gajurel: As a student of International Relations with special focus/study in realpolitik and power equation, I have been, since the signing of 12-Point Delhi Agreement between the Maoists and SPA, projecting so far correctly, that this course would take Nepal to disaster for sure. .
On record, in the media, print as well as in electronic medium(s), I had pointedly projected that CA would not promulgate any constitution, which turned out to be true. One week prior to the last CA elections, I had projected that the Maoists would gain by and large simple majority seats in the CA, which came true, notwithstanding some 14 to 20 seats projections, to Maoists, by various opinion polls at that time.

Your questions speak themselves. SPA and Maoists were brought into partnership by Delhi, despite open opposition from Washington and concealed disagreement from Beijing. Remember then US Ambassador’s statement immediately after 12-point agreement?  Was  James F. Moriarty an independent single person or was he speaking as envoy of the lone Super Power, when he said, ‘This (Delhi agreement) will take Nepal nowhere?’

TQ8: The US has ignored its long time ally - Pakistan and embraced the Indian regime which have had signed a peace and security treaty with the then USSR. Why the US may have chosen to sideline its longtime friend? Will not this push Pakistan closer to China under compulsion? Or what?
Gajurel: You have correctly projected. However, we have to remember that Pakistan was Beijing’s long time strategic partner, despite US’s continued military and other supports of various types of regimes in Islamabad.

After the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War, Beijing has been pushing strategic moves into the Indian Ocean, in general, often portrayed as String of Pearls’ by some analysts and in Af-Pak area in particular.

Here I take note of a Chinese South Asia expert speaking to an international TV broadcast, three years back, had said, ‘Pakistan is our Israel.’ This in itself gives a clear picture of what Himalayan Asia is going to realize in the days to come; only one has to understand the things in its entirety.

TQ9: You are taken as an expert on Asia-Pacific region. How are the things there at the moment? Will China succeed to distance US from that very area?
Gajurel: Currently, the obvious tension is in the Korean Peninsula. Nevertheless, we have to look at the broader picture to understand the things brewing up in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States has been, since the end of the World War II, concentrating its major military projection into the Atlantic. This was in pursuance of two aspects, first, obliterating any recurrence of West European conflicts, and second, containing the Soviet Union from entering into West Europe.

Now the things have changed with the end of Cold War and Washington does see little importance of its presence in the Atlantic, in military terms. New arena for the United States is the Asia-Pacific, as mentioned, in an article in Foreign Affairs in 2010, by then US Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton. By declaring itself ‘a Pacific power,’ US has already decided to shift sixty percent of its military power into the Pacific, which obviously will reduce the US strength in Atlantic, which played the important role of protecting Europe for more than half a century.

This could have grave consequences, first, a new cold war would erupt in the Asia-Pacific region, second, Western Europe will be left on its own, and endangering it engulfing again into European conflicts, as pre-World War II situation, third, Russia would seek to fill the vacuum by penetrating into European affairs. Some indications already have surfaced on the rift in the EU.

No matter what situation would come up in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, this will have serious implications for China and the countries of South Asia. China evidently has to take the new challenges coming from the Asia-Pacific, which is not going to be easy to handle, or discard off.

TQ10: We have heard of the existence of Indo-US Axis. What political impact may this Axis have in this part of the world-Himalayan Asia, as you have coined, and also tell us as to what are the inner designs of this Axis?
Gajurel: I don’t see any Indo-US Axis, in terms of power rivalry or power alignment. Of course, Washington has been working for eliminating any potential rival, anywhere in the globe. US nuclear agreements with India, signed in 2008, might have long-term impacts in terms of regional power equations and rivalry, such as, possible Indo-Pak and/or Sino-India conflicts.

TQ11: You claim that soon Nepal will be ruled by Gun. It will be India made or donated by the Super Power? Or will it be that the US will supply guns and Kathmandu will have those Guns imported from India? But who will take the lead? Which revolutionary party will come to the front with Guns to kill their own people?
Gajurel: You call ‘revolution’ or ‘Loktantra’ when you kill thousands of people and destroy billions of rupees worth of national property. It makes no difference where you buy guns from. In the foreseeable future, I don’t see any political stability or ‘Loktantrik Ganatantra’ institutionalized in Nepal.

The seven-year long alliances between SPA and the Maoists have so far been proved unnatural and unworkable, whether they themselves accept this or not. Everyone wants to subvert the other, by hook or by crook. This obviously will lead the nation to a chaos, against all democratic norms. This is evident in 11-point agreement among 4 parties and 25-point declaration by the President that amended the Interim Constitution. What you expect when a few people possess the authority even to amend the fundamental laws of the land?

TQ12: You have also predicted recently that parliamentary parties like the Nepali Congress and the UML will eventually vanish. But why and how? Which force will gulp these two parliamentary parties?
Gajurel: The picture is transparent. You have no constitution, as one sees in view of a democratic society. The judiciary has been brought under the command of the whim of a person, politics has been criminalized and crime politicized.

Maoists have achieved what they have been seeking for long. NC, UML, some Madhesis and former Panches (read RPP and RJP) are towing the path what and where Maoist supremo wants. Currently, Nepal does not have legislature, judiciary has been brought under Prachand’s will, as this communist party has been trying in the Constituent Assembly. Now, where is the place for NC and UML and so forth? Where is their ‘Loktantra?’

TQ13: Chairman Dahal is in China trip. Why the Chinese central leadership may have invited him knowing that his political credentials are not that strong. Is it that China wants something to get it done through the assistance of Chairman Prachanda?
Gajurel: As you know, Dahal has become the pivot of Nepali politics, for; this nation runs at his will. Beijing cannot be expected to be unaware of this. So, Beijing leadership will certainly try their cards. However, we have to wait and see for the outcome.

Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com
Published in The Telegraph Weekly April 17, 2013.

Apr 12, 2013

Choking on China

Choking on China

Choking on China

The Superpower That Is Poisoning the World
By Thomas N. Thompson

Foreign Affairs, April 8, 2013

China is the world’s worst polluter — home to 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Recent headlines have been shocking: 16,000 decaying pig carcasses in Shanghai’s Whampoa River, dire air quality reports in Beijing, and hundreds of thousands of people dying prematurely because of environmental degradation. Most recently, the country has been shaken by a mysterious virus, H7N9, which has already killed six people and has spurred health authorities to order the slaughter of thousands of pigeons, chickens, and ducks thought to carry it. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has begun work on an H7N9 vaccine.

The dangers of China’s environmental degradation go well beyond the country’s borders, as pollution threatens global health more than ever. Chinese leaders have argued that their country has the right to pollute, claiming that, as a developing nation, it cannot sacrifice economic growth for the sake of the environment. In reality, however, China is holding the rest of the world hostage — and undermining its own prosperity.

According to the World Bank, only one percent of China’s 560 million urban residents breathe air considered safe by EU standards. Beijing’s levels of PM2.5s — particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and can penetrate the gas exchange regions of the lungs — are the worst in the world. Beijing’s 2012 March average reading was 469 micrograms of such particles per cubic meter, which compares abysmally with Los Angeles’ highest 2012 reading of 43 micrograms per cubic meter.

Such air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. The unrelenting pace of construction of coal-fired power plants is only making matters worse. In his recent monograph, Climate Change: The China Problem, environmental scholar Michael Vandenbergh writes, “On average, a new coal-powered electric plant large enough to serve a city the size of Dallas opens in China every seven to ten days.” The lack of widespread coal-washing infrastructure and scrubbers at Chinese industrial facilities exacerbates the problem.

Carbon dioxide emissions from cars in China are also growing exponentially, replacing coal-fired power plants as the major source of pollution in major Chinese cities. Deutsche Bank estimates that the number of passenger cars in China will reach 400 million by 2030, up from today’s 90 million. And the sulfur levels produced by diesel trucks in China are at least 23 times worse than those in the United States. Acid rain, caused by these emissions, has damaged a third of China’s limited cropland, in addition to forests and watersheds on the Korean Peninsula and in Japan. This pollution reaches the United States as well, sometimes at levels prohibited by the U.S. Clean Water Act. In 2006, researchers at the University of California–Davis discovered that almost all of the harmful particulates over Lake Tahoe originated in China. The environmental experts Juli Kim and Jennifer Turner note in their essay “China’s Filthiest Export” that “by the time it reaches the U.S., mercury transforms into a reactive gaseous material that dissolves easily in the wet climates of the Pacific Northwest.” At least 20 percent of the mercury entering the Willamette River in Oregon most likely comes from China. Black carbon soot from China also threatens to block sunlight, lower crop yields, heat the atmosphere, and destabilize weather throughout the Pacific Rim.

China’s use of fresh water resources also threatens those beyond its borders. As Mark Twain reportedly said, in reference to California in the late nineteenth century, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” The sentiment holds true in modern-day Asia as well. Asia’s per capita fresh water availability is less than half the global average. China and India, for example, are home to 40 percent of the world’s population but make do with ten percent of the world’s fresh water. China is guzzling and polluting this limited resource at an alarming rate. The country has dammed every major river on the Tibetan plateau, including the Mekong, the Salween, the Brahmaputra, the Yangtze, the Yellow, the Indus, the Sutlej, the Shweli, and the Karnali, and there are large-scale plans to dam others. Of the 50,000 largest dams in the world, more than half are in China. As a result, China now controls the river water supply to 13 nearby countries but so far has refused to sign any treaties or cooperate with other countries on water issues. Beijing also voted against the UN attempt to regulate water sharing in the region. China’s former minister of water resources, Wang Shucheng, described China’s water policy as “fight for every drop of water or die.” This philosophy, combined with China’s unabated pursuit of economic development, will have profoundly destabilizing consequences for the region, both politically and environmentally.

Unfortunately for China, compromising the environment and health in pursuit of economic growth is not a sustainable strategy. The threat of water scarcity and the adverse domestic health effects of pollution darken China’s future. Pollution-related illnesses are soaring. A recent social media campaign led by locals and international activities shed light on the growing phenomena of “cancer villages” — areas where water pollution is so bad that it has led to a sharp rise in diseases like stomach cancer. China’s own Ministry of Environmental Protection has concluded that 70 percent of the country’s major waterways are heavily polluted. According to Scott Moore of the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, pollutants have even seeped into the country’s subsurfaces, with more than half of monitored wells deemed unsafe to use for drinking water. The China Geological Survey now estimates that 90 percent of China’s cities depend on polluted groundwater supplies. Water that has been purified at treatment plants is often recontaminated en route to homes. China has plundered its groundwater reserves, drilling massive underground tunnels that have even caused some cities to literally sink.

China has also completely botched its waste-removal efforts. Eighty percent of the East China Sea, one of the world’s largest fisheries, is now unsuitable for fishing, according to Elizabeth C. Economy, a China and environmental expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. Most Chinese coastal cities pump at least half of their waste directly into the ocean, which causes red tides and coastal fish die-offs. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the country is now the largest polluter of the Pacific Ocean.
The economic costs of pollution have been the focus of various government-backed studies in China. A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning found that environmental damage to forests, wetlands, and grasslands shaved 3.5 percent off China’s 2012 GDP. The World Bank puts the total cost of China’s environmental degradation in the late 1990s at between 3.5 and 8 percent of GDP. China’s pollution problem is holding back its economy — and poisoning its own people and the rest of the world in the process. The international community should push China to realize that if it continues to ravage the environment, it will be unable to secure its future health and prosperity — or avoid a global disaster.

Courtesy: Foreign Affairs

Leaked US cable of 2008 points to shift in India’s China policy

By Rajeev Sharma

It is no secret that the tortuous India-China negotiations on the vexed boundary dispute have remained logjammed. However, a leaked diplomatic cable of the United States by Wikileaks accords authenticity to this widely held perception.

Though the leaked cable is dated 8 February 2008, the situation hasn’t changed much since past 62 months and the cable gives a good idea of a tectonic shift in India’s policy towards (i) Arunachal Pradesh, (ii) India-China border areas, and (iii) India-China relations.

Incidentally, the cable also throws up ignorance of the American diplomat who has written the message meant for the State Department, the CIA and a host of other American entities as the author of the cable repeatedly mentions India-China as “Indo-China”. Obviously the cable author is unaware of the fact that Indo-China is the name of the region that lies close to both India and China and the term Indo-China cannot be a substitute for India-China. In fact, Indochina refers to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
The leaked cable, that originated from the American consulate in Kolkata, gives a laserbeam focus on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh on 31 January 2008, barely two weeks after Singh’s visit to China. Singh’s two-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh was the first prime ministerial visit in a decade to the state which China claims in entirety.

China was livid with Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and made noises, only to be ignored by the UPA government that has become increasingly assertive, even combative, with China. The US cable detailed how Manmohan Singh showered Arunachal Pradesh with Central government-funded developmental projects worth $ 2.5 billion.

After detailing the schemes and projects announced by Manmohan Singh for giving a major push to Arunachal Pradesh’s infrastructural growth story, the diplomat-writer of the cable gives her own prognosis of the India-China relations and analyses the state of India-China boundary dispute talks.

The relevant portion of the US diplomat’s analysis of India-China relations in the wake of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh is as follows: “Singh’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh so soon after his visit to China may be an indication that India’s border negotiations with China are not going well and that the PM felt the need to shore up India’s presence in the state. The visit apparently served several goals, as: 1) a signal that India regards the state as strategic Indian territory; 2) a reminder to China of India’s view on where the border stands; and 3) a public promise that the GOI is committed to the people of Arunachal Pradesh by developing the poor infrastructure and economy. The lack of progress on border talks has led to an uneasy stalemate, as both sides remain hesitant to finally settle the dispute and instead, continue cross-border troop ‘incursions’.

India has left Arunachal Pradesh underdeveloped in the misguided hope of having the mountainous state serve as a natural, physical buffer against the Chinese. However, ethnically and geographically removed from mainland India, Arunachalis may be feeling some growing bonds with China as their awareness of greater development (and economic opportunity) across the border increases. Therefore, Singh’s trip reflects a belated recognition by India that it must pay greater attention to Arunachal Pradesh or potentially face gradually losing the state to China simply through its growing economic attraction.”

The American diplomat has put her finger right on spot by talking about the shift in India’s policy towards its northeast as well as China. India started focusing on development of the hitherto-ignored border regions of the northeast in 2006. The then foreign secretary Shyam Saran even visited the Indian North-East to make an on the spot assessment of the ground situation in the border areas and what needed to be done. Saran submitted his report to the prime minister after returning from this visit, underlining urgent need to develop infrastructure in regions in the northeast that border China.

The American diplomat has also got it right when it comes to the changing policy of India vis a vis China. India had indulged in some clever diplomatic symbolism in January 2011 when the then Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited India. In the customary Joint Statement at the end of the visit, India refused to reiterate its commitment to One China in an obvious tit-for-tat response to a host of irritants from China.

This was perhaps the first time when India had taken such a bold stand and conveyed to China in categoric terms that Beijing can no longer take New Delhi for granted.

As far as the India-China boundary dispute is concerned, it has failed to throw up any concrete results despite the two sides discussing the issue at the upgraded level of Permanent Representatives. The only concrete deliverable on the boundary dispute came almost a decade ago when the two sides exchanged maps in the Central Sector. But that is hardly an achievement as the Central Sector was least contentious anyway.

Courtesy: firstpost.com


Is world big enough for India, China?

This week is “Indian Water Week,” with New Delhi emphasizing efficient water management amid concern that China's construction of three dams on the Yarlung Zangbo River — the name of the Brahmaputra in Tibet — may reduce the flow of water into India. 

The Indian government has tried to allay public apprehension by repeating assurances offered by the Chinese that they are only constructing run-of-the-river hydropower projects that will not divert the Brahmaputra's waters.

The issue was raised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he met the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa.

The Indian leader asked China to set up a mechanism so that the two countries can jointly assess Chinese construction projects on the Brahmaputra, which originates in the Himalayas. Xi said that China would consider the proposal.

India wants to be consulted before China makes such construction decisions. However, it was not even given advance notice of the three dams and found out about the projects only after the Chinese government announced that they had been approved.

China and India are the world's two most populous countries and their relationship has been characterized by frequent high-level meetings. Over the last decade, Prime Minister Singh has met over 10 times each with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, China's president and prime minister, respectively, until last month.

Such frequent meetings are likely to continue. The Indian leader has been invited to visit China by his new Chinese counterpart, Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

Chinese officials like to describe China and India as “partners in win-win cooperation, not rivals in competition.”

However, Singh more candidly told Indian reporters accompanying him that the relationship “has elements of coordination, cooperation and competition.”

One arena of competition is Africa, where the two leaders met. China is substantially ahead, with US$198 billion in trade, but India is a big player also, with US$33 billion.

Last year, when the Indian leader talked about a “new era in African-Indian relations,” he pointedly said that India “wanted to employ local labor,” a clear allusion to China's much criticized policy of bringing its own workers to Africa.

In the latest Chinese-Indian summit, Xi said the world was big enough for both countries to develop, and added that China regarded ties with India as one of its most important bilateral relationships. Prime Minister Singh, meanwhile, assured China that India would not be used as a tool to contain China.

He added that Tibetans in India would not be allowed to conduct activities against China. Despite such mutual pledges of good will, suspicions linger and may well be growing.

On Sunday, the Hindustan Times, citing a classified Indian defense ministry document, said an increasing number of Chinese submarines venturing into the Indian Ocean posed a grave danger to India's security interests. 

This bolsters Indian fears that China is developing a “string of pearls” at ports in countries along India's periphery, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

New Delhi feels increasingly hemmed in by Beijing, which has developed close relations with virtually all of India's neighbors.

Interestingly, Xi said at the meeting with Singh that the two countries should strive for a resolution of their border dispute which is acceptable to both sides. This is not something that China has said to Japan, with which it also has a territorial dispute regarding islands in the East China Sea.

China and India have been trying to develop a relationship of trust. When India in December signed a big contract to buy Russian weapons, the Chinese foreign ministry indicated it had no concerns.

“China welcomes the development of friendly relations between Russia and India, which we hope and believe will be conducive to peace and stability of Asia and the world at large,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Presumably because the Chinese have a close relationship with Russia, they said “we hope and believe” that improved Indian-Russian relations would be conducive to stability.

The Chinese government chooses its words carefully and it is worth noting that when commenting on relations between India and Vietnam, the words chosen were different.

Asked about Vietnam's suggestion that India play a bigger role on the South China Sea issue, the Chinese Foreign Ministry commented: “We hope that the cooperation between India and ASEAN will be conducive to regional peace, stability and development.” The word “believe” was missing, instead they simply “hope.” China, clearly, is not enthusiastic about India playing a bigger role in the South China Sea.


Nepal: Beijing diplomatic feat?

Nepal: Beijing diplomatic feat?

Nepal: Striking diplomatic balance?

Nepal: Striking diplomatic balance?

Apr 5, 2013

The Next Korean War

By Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press
Foreign Affairs, April 1, 2013

Conflict With North Korea Could Go Nuclear -- But Washington Can Reduce the Risk

As North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un issues increasingly over-the-top threats -- including intimations that he might launch nuclear strikes against the United States -- officials in Washington have sought to reassure the public and U.S. allies. North Korea, they say, may initiate cyberattacks or other limited provocations, but the leaders in Pyongyang wish to survive, so they are highly unlikely to do anything as foolhardy as using nuclear weapons.

Despite those assurances, however, the risk of nuclear war with North Korea is far from remote. Although Pyongyang’s tired threats are probably bluster, the current crisis has substantially increased the risk of a conventional conflict -- and any conventional war with North Korea is likely to go nuclear. Washington should continue its efforts to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula. But equally important, it must rapidly take steps -- including re-evaluating U.S. war plans -- to dampen the risks of nuclear escalation if conventional war erupts.

Ironically, the risk of North Korean nuclear war stems not from weakness on the part of the United States and South Korea but from their strength. If war erupted, the North Korean army, short on training and armed with decrepit equipment, would prove no match for the U.S.–South Korean Combined Forces Command. Make no mistake, Seoul would suffer some damage, but a conventional war would be a rout, and CFC forces would quickly cross the border and head north.

The risk of nuclear war with North Korea is far from remote.

At that point, North Korea’s inner circle would face a grave decision: how to avoid the terrible fates of such defeated leaders as Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Qaddafi. Kim, his family, and his cronies could try to escape to China and plead for a comfortable, lifelong sanctuary there -- an increasingly dim prospect given Beijing’s growing frustration with Kim’s regime. Pyongyang’s only other option would be to try to force a cease-fire by playing its only trump card: nuclear escalation.

It’s impossible to know how exactly Kim might employ his nuclear arsenal to stop the CFC from marching to Pyongyang. But the effectiveness of his strategy would not depend on what North Korea initially destroyed, such as a South Korean port or a U.S. airbase in Japan. The key to coercion is the hostage that is still alive: half a dozen South Korean or Japanese cities, which Kim could threaten to attack unless the CFC accepted a cease-fire.

This strategy, planning to use nuclear escalation to stalemate a militarily superior foe, is not far-fetched. In fact, it was NATO’s strategy for most of the Cold War. Back then, when the alliance felt outgunned by the massive conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact, NATO planned to use nuclear weapons coercively to thwart a major conventional attack. Today, both Pakistan and Russia rely on that same strategy to deal with the overwhelming conventional threats that they face. Experts too easily dismiss the notion that North Korea’s rulers might deliberately escalate a conventional conflict, but if their choice is between escalation and a noose, it is unclear why they would be less ruthless than those who once devised plans to defend NATO.
Even if the United States and South Korea anticipated the danger of marching to Pyongyang and adopted limited objectives in a war, nuclear escalation would still be likely. That’s because the style of conventional war that the United States has mastered over the past two decades is highly escalatory.

The core of U.S. conventional military strategy, refined during recent wars, is to incapacitate the enemy by disabling its central nervous system -- its ability to understand what is happening on the battlefield, make decisions, and control its forces. Against Serbia, Libya, and Iraq (twice), the key targets in the first days of conflict were not enemy tanks, ships, or planes but leadership bunkers, military command sites, and means of communication. This new American way of war has been enormously effective. But if directed against a nuclear-armed opponent, it would pressure the enemy to escalate a conflict.

Preventing escalation in the midst of a war would require convincing North Korea’s leaders that they would survive, and so attacks designed to isolate and blind the regime would be counterproductive. Once airstrikes began pummeling leadership bunkers and severing communication links, the Kim regime would have no way of discerning how minimalist or maximalist the CFC’s objectives were. It would face powerful incentives to make the CFC attacks stop immediately -- a job for which nuclear weapons are well suited.

The sliver of good news is that North Korea may not yet have the capabilities to carry out this strategy. It may not be able to tip its ballistic missiles with a nuclear payload, and its other means of delivering nuclear weapons remain limited. Given the rate of progress, however, if the regime does not have these capabilities today, it will soon.

What can be done? First, Washington and Seoul must make every effort to avoid war in the current crisis. The United States is undoubtedly (and appropriately) quietly reinforcing U.S. forces in the region, and the CFC is understandably considering what red lines might trigger a pre-emptive conventional strike. But the fact that war with North Korea probably means nuclear war should temper any consideration of limited pre-emptive strikes. Pre-emption means war, and war means nuclear.

Second, U.S. and South Korean planners need to develop truly limited conventional military options for the Peninsula -- limited not merely in their objectives but also in terms of the military operations they unleash. Perhaps the greatest danger of all is if the U.S. president and the South Korean president incorrectly believe that they have limited military options available; they and their senior advisers may not fully appreciate that those supposedly limited options in fact entail hundreds of airstrikes against high-value targets, such as leadership, command-and-control systems, and perhaps even against nuclear-weapons sites.

Third, American and South Korean leaders should urge China to develop “golden parachute” plans for the North Korean leadership and their families. Leaders in Pyongyang will keep their nuclear weapons holstered during a war only if they believe that they and their families have a safe and secure future somewhere. In the past, China has been understandably reluctant to hold official talks with the United States about facilitating the demise of its ally. But the prospect of nuclear war next door could induce Beijing to take more direct steps, including preparing an escape plan now and revealing it to Kim as soon as a first shot is fired.

More broadly, the strategic dilemma Washington faces today extends beyond the current standoff with North Korea: how to run a network of global alliances when nuclear weapons allow enemies to nullify the United States’ superior military might. American officials used to extol the ability of nuclear weapons to stalemate powerful enemies. Now the shoe is on the other foot. There is every reason to believe that North Korea has adopted NATO’s old strategy. As the current standoff is making frighteningly clear, deterring escalation, especially during conventional wars, is not last century’s concern; it may be the single toughest strategic problem confronting the United States for decades to come.

Courtesy: Foreign Affairs

Nepal’s Failed Democracy

By Dr. Gyan Basnet

Nine months after the failure of the Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution, major political parties of Nepal have agreed to form an election government led by sitting Chief Justice (CJ) Khilraj Regmi with the aim of holding new Constituent Assembly elections by mid-June. People now are expressing doubts and asking what guarantee there is that a CJ-led government will be able to complete its mission on time. The formation of their new government under the CJ in fact fulfils the long-standing demand of the opposition parties — primarily the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML — for the Bhattarai government to make way for an election government. With the demise of the Constituent Assembly on May 27 last year, the political process became stuck over government formation, eclipsing the larger constitutional issues, especially those related to federalism. Dr Bhattarai’s proposal for an election in November was rejected outright by the opposition parties, whereupon President Ram Baran Yadav failed in several attempts to set a deadline for the formation of a national unity government.

Since he was proposed as Prime Minister to lead the election government, the CJ, now Chairman of the interim electoral government, has been at the centre of political debate across the country. He revealed his selfish attitude and hunger for power by wishing to hold the posts of PM and CJ at the same time: the nation as a whole was dumbfounded. Should he not himself have been ashamed even to consider it in the first place? Where were his professional ethics and his morality? There are fears, therefore, that the CJ-led government will now even further complicate the situation in Nepal since the political decision of the four major parties is opposed by many smaller parties as well as by legal groups, and there are widespread protests.

In the first place, Maoist Supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda advertised the post of PM at his party’s conference, and later other political parties gave their consent. Did these actions of the political parties not make the post of PM look cheap, rather like goods for sale in the market? Have democracy and the political parties truly failed in Nepal? The republican and democratic character of their Constitution demonstrates that all power ultimately stems from the people. The political parties should be the pathfinders for the nation highlighting milestones along the road to true democracy. Why then did they force them to accept as a PM someone from a non-political background? Should the political parties not justify this now to their people? Should they not be forced to admit their own failures publicly? The people demand a justification.

The formation of a council of ministers by a bunch of bureaucrats and with the CJ as Chairman to lead an election government is a blunder aimed at cheap political consensus. It is a gross violation of the popular will, and it runs counter to established democratic norms, principles and values. Rather than accept the CJ as PM by breaching such principles, the political parties should, as a hard option, have joined the Bhattarai-led government, which effectively was the successor of the last government before the demise of the Constituent Assembly.

I have a few points to illustrate why the political parties should have made this choice:

Firstly, finding an alternative to Dr Bhattarai as PM was a matter of national urgency that was much in demand. It was the vital departure point for seeking a solution to the present political deadlock. However, that alternative should have been sought from other branches of government: it needed to come from within the existing political forces. The parties failed to offer a candidate for the post, and they were unable to remove Dr Bhattarai. Blind acceptance of the CJ instead seriously undermined constitutional and democratic principles. Joining a Bhattarai-led government would, in theory at least, have helped to continue the democratic norms and protect the basic values of constitutionalism. What the other major political parties need to understand is that neither Dr Bhattarai nor Prachanda decides the fate of ther nation or the outcome of any election: it is the people, who are sovereign, expressing their will through the election itself. The political forces should not have feared to knock on the doors of the people: which party leads the election government is not as vital as ensuring that the election itself takes place.

Secondly, by joining the Bhattarai-led government the various political parties would have shared power and at the same time countered the monopoly and ‘Hitlerism’ of the Maoist-led government. As ‘iron cuts iron’, the political parties could not only have been part of the greater political decision-making process but also have defeated the evil attitude of the Bhattarai-led government by actually becoming part of that very government. They could have gained a forum, and street politics would have been avoided. This should really have happened nine months ago. It was wrong to assume that the post of PM was everything. The PM alone cannot drive the vehicle, and there are many departments that could have been divided among the parties if they had joined a broad political consensus.

Thirdly, there is an important question being asked in the country today: have democracy and the political parties truly proved to be failures in Nepal? Had the political parties joined the Bhattarai-led government not only would they have conveyed a positive message to the people that democracy was still on track, but also that the political parties, the true drivers of democracy, had in over eighty years of history not failed us yet. At the same time they would have conveyed the message to the international community and all well-wishers of our country that we are still capable of solving major problems on their own.

Finally, the CJ-led election government is absolutely no solution to the present crisis. Mr Regmi may complete his given task successfully, but a questionable political tradition will now have been established in the country. Will the nation not in future be committed to more dependency on the Apex Court even in small matters of national interest? History shows that the thirty-year Panchayaty system killed off our fledgling democracy and put them decades behind in terms of economic, social and political development. The horrendous ten-year civil strife put them even further behind, killing and displacing thousands and destroying public and private properties. Through the acceptance of a CJ-led government by breaching rules and established principles, a whole generation is sure to suffer in the future. There is no guarantee that this government will be able to achieve the fresh election sought and lead the nation towards its future.

There are many important issues to mull over in these matters. ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ What happens then if the present Regmi-led government does not complete its given task, and he, like a leech, clings to power and even desires to be a new ‘king’ like Dr Bhattarai? Would that start new street protests demanding his resignation? Is there no ending to this vicious cycle in Nepal? Is it also not wrong then for the popular will to be subjected to the mercy of the judiciary?
The solution should have been sought from within the political parties. The essence of politics is discourse, dialogue and compromise among the political forces in order to achieve positive political outcomes. A broad political consensus on power sharing was more vital than ever before. The nation demanded it as the alpha and omega of overcoming the present political deadlock. However, their political parties failed them. The political parties, the so-called vehicles of democracy, have seriously failed to perform in the political theatre of their country. In the name of political agreement, they have grossly breached established principles and practices, and once again they have deceived the people and destroyed their hopes for political stability and peace.

Nepal has been lurching from crisis to crisis for years. Dr Bhattarai has left his position as a failed Prime Minister and failed leader, and the political crisis that remains is even more chaotic and messy. It is good that he has gone, but I seriously doubt that the Regmi-led government will be able to clean up the mess that he has left. I fear that the Regmi-led government will serve the interests of the country less than the petty interests of those who conspired to achieve this takeover.

The existence of the new election government makes a mockery of democracy, and of established rules and principles. It exists by artificial arrangement, and it does not represent the general will of the people. Truly, people of Nepal have lost, the essence of democracy has been killed and the agendas of the evil ones are the winners. Today, a pertinent question confronts us all: when shall they be able to establish ‘a government of laws and not of men’ in their country?

Courtesy: Eurasia Review, April 04, 2013

Apr 4, 2013

अब निशानामा न्यायपालिका

अब निशानामा न्यायपालिका

Nepal: US excitement!

By N. P. Upadhyaya Nepali

Kathmandu: Nepal as a nation-state has reasons to be happy that her friends near and far, wish to make this country a prosperous one with an institutionalized democratic system in place.

For example, India-the traditional friend is always at the back of Nepal and has been supporting (though is being held suspect more often than not) Nepal beginning early 1950s and has tentatively assumed the guardianship of this nation which needs no further explanations. The wearer knows where the shoe pinches.

The United States of America, one of the oldest and reliable friends of Nepal, too has been extending its support to Nepal which, pleasingly (?), has taken a new dimension of late for some mysterious reasons. Yet the analysts do not suspect the US credentials. Benefit of doubt to a far flung country.

Similarly, the countries belonging to the European Union were Nepal’s declared development partners and have poured in money into this country, under this or that pretexts, like anything. A section in Nepal though is not happy with EU’s assistance for a variety of reasons. Beauty of democracy.

As of China, its ‘quiet diplomacy’ somehow or the other doesn’t allow her to extend its helping hands in Nepal for various reasons which could match with the support being provided by other nations. But formidable challenges remain in the pipeline for Beijing in the days ahead. President Carter has already taken the lead.

All in all, the countries both near and far, appear to institutionalize everything, including their own grand presence, which is what has been paining a section of Nepali leaders and academicians alike who take such more than needed love and honor as a ‘grand design’ to further strike at the foundations of Nepal and keep this country in an overly stretched chaotic state so that their respective core interests could be served. Is this a presumption only?

Definitely, each country extending its “valuable” support to this fractured nation may have their respective interests which are not unnatural.

Analysts believe that some countries may have their design to keep Nepal under their firm grip and similarly some others may have their preference to make Nepal a real football ground from where they could tease Nepal’s neighbors under any pretext that may suit to their political interests.

In sum, scores of countries from across the globe have centered their eyes on Nepal for a variety of reasons, it is widely believed.

To come to the point now.

That United States of America favors early election in Nepal got reflected on March 28, 2013, early evening when the suave US Ambassador, Peter W. Bodde, while greeting a sizeable US-Nepal exchange program alumni suddenly appealed his audience gathered at his official residence saying that “it was time for the Nepali people to go to the poll as the poll were the most essential elements for a functioning democratic system”.

In saying so Ambassador Bodde was not wrong. He spoke what he had to. However, what was surprising is that Ambassador made this fervent appeal much ahead of what should have come from, as a matter of fact, the mouth of the Election head Council-Justice Khil Raj Regmi.

Thanks that after some two days of the US statement, Justice Regmi made the same appeal to the Nepali population. Told to do so or…?

How much US cares Nepal got evident from Ambassador’s clarion call? Nevertheless, Ambassador Bodde did not talk of the constitutional procedures that had been completely ignored while elevating Justice Regmi as the election head? Analysts would have taken the US timely appeal that was made on that evening in a beaming manner had he also touched upon the trampling of the notion of ‘constitutionalism and separation of power’ theory which too, Ambassador Bodde must recognize, while elevating Justice Regmi as the country’s new election Prime Minister.

To recall, a democratic system functions only when these two basic fundamentals, the ‘constitutionalism and power separation theory’, are strictly honored. Khil Raj Regmi has two feathers in his cap even as of today.

Ambassador Bodde’s statement made on that evening must be honored but the US envoy while appealing the Nepali population to embrace the poll must not have missed to talk on the lines stated above. After all the US is the champion of democratic system.

Moreover, the manner the US envoy appeared excited, and the excitement was a real one, provided some space to some to faintly think that the US too in some way or the other was involved in giving a full shape to the new government headed by Justice Regmi or else why the excitement?

Yet analysts would give some plus point to the US envoy that he spoke in favor of the election much ahead of what should have come from Justice Regmi’s statement.

The US did its job. No qualms.

Yet something more remains to be said.

Ambassador Bodde makes an appeal to the Nepalese to participate in the poll whose dates are yet to be announced. (This he demanded from the same platform).

Just three days after US envoy’s call for election, former US President, Jimmy Carter talked to the local media men and suggested the government authorities that election in Nepal be held in November/December. Why? And why the UML leader, Jhal Nath Khanal and Maoists Chairman Prachanda too prefer the election in November/December? Other leaders will expectedly follow the suit.

Most thrilling is President Carter’s declaration that “Nepal was being pressurized by the Chinese government on issues related with the Tibetans residing in Nepal”?

Now the question come to the mind of the analysts as to whether President Carter had landed in Nepal to encourage the Nepali population to embrace the poll or had he come to Nepal to exert (undue) pressure on Nepal government to ease the presumed restrictions imposed on the Tibetan refugees stationed in Nepal?

Understandably, the Indo-US axis favors to tease Beijing from the Nepali soil. This remains no longer a secret. President Carter is now in the forefront.

The question is also as to how long the Indian regime tolerates the increasing US influence in Nepal? Sooner than later, the US will notice that India would not prefer the US grand presence in Nepal for long. For India, Nepal is its lap-dog. 

China is not that fool, let’s presume it to be so, not to have understood the impending plans of the Axis.

Though China is a back bencher in Nepali politics but should the situation so demand then Beijing, analysts predict, may emerge as a formidable force in Nepali affairs which so far has remained under the mercy of the Indian regime. China, analysts claim, has that potential.

China is beginning from scratch to make its inroads in Kathmandu’s politics. The new Chinese Ambassador is doing all he can to secure his country’s space but problems galore. How he takes steps in the days to come will apparently shape the Nepalese politics.

If one were to believe in what Dr. Shekhar Koirala said while talking to one national daily then not only India, but the US and the entire countries of the European Union have already made their grand presence in Nepali politics and that if the impending Nepal CA poll is held under their instructions then that would bring in a sort of political catastrophe.

The constitution, as and when it is drafted under alien pressure, says Dr. Koirala, may not be honored by the majority of the population.

Dr. Koirala says the friends of Nepal should limit their excitement just to the level of what he calls a “good will one”.

Interestingly, Dr. Koirala doesn’t mention the name of China. Should this then mean that he prefers the overwhelming presence of Beijing in Nepal as a political deterrent? Keep on guessing. 

Published in the Telegraph Weekly, April 3, 2013.