Saturday, May 12, 2018

‘Prime Pilgrim’ Modi in Nepal And the India-China Reset

By Sanjay Upadhya

May 12, 2018

It was always going to be impossible to view Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s May 11-12 visit to Nepal outside the prism of India-China relations. The defining feature, however, is not the rivalry between the Asian giants but their latest efforts at rapprochement.
Although Modi described himself as having arrived on his third visit to Nepal in four years as ‘Prime Pilgrim’, the two-day trip contained all the trappings of traditional diplomacy. Be they temples, felicitation ceremonies, or official talk venues, Modi used the right words and gestures to win over Nepalis still bruised by the unofficial blockade India had imposed in 2015-2016.
Officially a state visit, Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Oli deployed the full administrative machinery to ensure that Modi felt welcome. Modi left with abundant pledges of support to Nepal – in terms of specific projects and more general commitments.
While many in India and Nepal viewed Modi’s visit as part of an effort to shore up his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s prospects ahead of crucial national elections next year, the trip embodied the dynamics of politics, religion, economics and culture that have traditionally linked the two countries.
From this perspective, Modi’s affirmation that Nepal remained the first neighbor in India’s ‘neighborhood first’ policy sounds innocuous. However, it’s full current import can be gauged only when viewed against the triangular India-China-Nepal relationship that has been evolving since 2006, when Nepal began the process of transforming itself from a unitary Hindu monarchy into a secular federal republic.
 Most of those dozen years have witnessed an intensification of the traditional rivalry between India and China for influence in the Himalayan state. India has customarily considered Nepal falling within its exclusive sphere of influence. That assessment has had to contend with the reality that Nepal was the last tributary to the Qing Dynasty.
By most measures, China has outpaced India in the race for influence in Nepal. Oli himself is emblematic of the transformation. Once considered the most India-friendly communist leader in Nepal, he has projected an image of a staunch nationalist, largely based on pro-Chinese public expressions and policy platforms.
It was during Oli’s last tenure as prime minister that Nepalis faced the unofficial trade embargo. While the ostensible trigger was New Delhi’s displeasure over Nepal’s political transition pertaining to bordering regions, the wider spark was Oli’s eagerness to embark on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Himalayan Moment of Truth
The weeks-long military standoff between India and China in the Himalayan border outpost of Doklam in 2017 marked a turning point in India-China relations. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, Indian analysts were quick to proclaim that China blinked. At some level, it was almost as if India had avenged its humiliating defeat in the 1962 war with China.
Yet post-Doklam developments have demonstrated the limits of hyperrealism in New Delhi’s and Beijing’s approach to one another. Of the three prongs underpinning their relations, both China and India have recognized the virtues of relegating confrontation behind cooperation and competition.
The uncertain role of the United States in Asia’s regional security environment has only been accentuated under the administration of President Donald J. Trump, allowing neither India nor China to make comfortable assumptions.
During the Doklam crisis, New Delhi witnessed the extent of loneliness it would have to endure if it decided in earnest to take on the world’s second-largest economy in place of cooperating with Beijing globally in feasible areas.
The Modi government’s polite curtailing of the more overtly political activities of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile which India hosts almost coincided with official Chinese media’s friendly counsels to Nepal to improve relations with India.
No less wary of the disruptive potential of American capers in an era of global flux, China has realized the downside of seeking to advance relations with countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh without taking India into confidence.
It may be a stretch to suggest that the Chinese may be toying with the idea of putting Nepal (and Bhutan) last in its South Asia policy, at least for now. That suggestion could be put to the test during Oli’s expected visit to China shortly. It would be wise to watch for how energetically Beijing reiterates – if it does so at all – its pledge to safeguard Nepali sovereignty and independence.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Xi, Modi and the Rest of Us

By Sanjay Upadhya

April 26, 2018

The hastily convened informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan has produced its predictable dose of analyses.
The commentariat has generally zeroed in on the wisdom, timing and possible outcomes, while also veering into questions of motives and relative strengths/weaknesses of the interlocutors.
The two Asian giants, however, have long illuminated the futility of that kind of thinking, as far as their bilateral relationship was concerned. New Delhi and Beijing have recognized the rudiments of competition, cooperation and – yes –confrontation that underpin relations between such civilizationally self-assured aspirants to great-power status.
As China and India rise together, it is in their mutual interest to make the ascent peaceful. Yet each recognizes the precariousness of that yearning. Satisfied that the basic logic of their bilateral relationship has taken the desired course, Beijing and New Delhi are now focused on securing that validation from external spasms.
When Xi and Modi look around their wider world, what they see must not be altogether pretty. Third countries may have complementarities here and convergences there that China and India can hope to benefit from individually. But those have to be weighed incessantly against the risks third parties can pose to the orientation of the Sino-Indian relationship.
A renewed commitment to resurrecting the Quad or rechristening the Asia-Pacific as the Indo-Pacific may have the power to annoy or even alarm China – but only up to a point. Granting concession after concession to China on fundamental matters amid tepid arm-twisting on matters India deems tangential can only encourage New Delhi to be more realistic in its expectations from others.

When ‘strategic patience’ meets ‘strategic autonomy’
The Chinese may be vociferous about their century of humiliation. Indians, while reticent to talk about it, are conditioned by a longer legacy of colonialism. So when Beijing’s ‘strategic patience’ meets New Delhi’s ‘strategic autonomy’, it can only animate their existing bilateralism.
When third countries mock Xi’s decision to extend his tenure or Modi’s Hindu-nationalism-inspired subsuming of the once proudly secular Indian state, neither needs to be outraged. For them, the best adjudicators are their own domestic constituencies.
Nor are Xi and Modi under any obligation to revise their definitions of constitutionalism, legality, sovereignty, nationalism, borders, a rules-based world order and the like based on which U.S. party happens to be in the White House or on the prevailing cultural milieu in the wider West. However, if the dysfunctions spilling over even start showing signs of upsetting the orientation of the Sino-Indian bilateral relationship, the imperative for action is clear enough.
The Wuhan summit may or may not yield anything tangible. But the Modi-Xi message to the rest of the world has been clear and its reiteration may be enough.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Maybe China And India Blinked Together – For Now

By Sanjay Upadhya
August 29, 2017

The official Chinese posture on the agreement by Beijing and New Delhi to ‘disengage’ from their weeks-long standoff in Doklam on Bhutanese territory makes it sound like Beijing has scored a decisive triumph.
The flurry of commentary immediately following the Indian Ministry of External Affairs brief tweet making that announcement seemed to suggest that New Delhi had finally exorcised the ghosts of the 1962 border war.
Then, prominent Indian voices began stressing the obvious: Since no one knows enough yet about what led to this apparent resolution, it is futile to obsess over the winner-loser paradigm. The new narrative? Diplomacy prevailed on both sides.
This, to be sure, raises its own set of questions, ranging from the obvious to ones bordering on the realm of conspiracy theory.
What form of diplomacy prevailed now that so defied us in the past, including those conducted on the sidelines of international summits leaders of both countries attended. Plucky old patience? Lord luck?
Or did the imperative of preserving the sanctity of the BRICS format prevail on both sides – no doubt with pressure from the other members?
The Indian urgency to depict this agreement as an outright win is understandable. The brief 1962 border war took its toll more on the Indian psyche than on the battlefield. So the notion that India proved to be the only country who has successfully stood up to China carries its own resonance.
Since the Chinese have been relatively subdued on the definition of victory, it becomes tempting to read deeper.
Was the spur for Beijing US President Donald Trump’s announcement of his long-awaited Afghanistan (and, by extension, South Asia) policy? New Delhi welcomed Washington’s efforts at ensuring India’s greater engagement in Afghanistan despite New Delhi’s insistence that the US still had not taken its concerns adequately.
In other words, did Beijing already see big enough holes in a putative US-India alliance against China? Have the Chinese detected in the prospect of India becoming bogged down in Afghanistan along with the US enough reassurance regionally?
What all this boils down to is the living reality that India-China tensions have subsided until the next flare-up. The Asian giants have bound themselves into a complex relationship that reaches for the promises of the future without their having resolved the perils from the past.
Sidestepping their border dispute in the interest of substantive progress on newer areas is deft diplomacy, as long as the border remains calm.  The substance and consolidation of the bilateral relationship will depend on how China and India manage and overcome old and new challenges.
Specifically, as they continue to rise in power and influence, China and India will continue to struggle to devise a bilateral framework that provides enough room for cooperation, competition and, yes, confrontation.
So maybe both sides blinked on Doklam. The expectation is not one of no new tensions: there could be another flare-up anywhere, anytime over anything.
Yet if both sides could pull themselves back from the brink after having come so perilously close to war, perhaps they do have what it takes to coexist relatively peacefully.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

India-China Standoff: Better Learn To Live With It

By Sanjay Upadhya
July 25, 2017

WITH China and India having juxtaposed their war rhetoric with a fervent commitment to dialogue for over six weeks, the Asian giants seem to have perfected the model of coexistence they inaugurated in 1985.
For every analyst predicting the outbreak of a full-blown conflict, there is another cautioning us how far the two countries have come since 1962, when they fought their last war.
Regardless of whether Beijing and New Delhi actually end up trade blows along their Himalayan frontier or resolve their current tensions peacefully, history and geography will not let them – or the rest of the world – sit back and relax.
Ever since the latest bilateral tensions erupted over a Chinese road-building project in the small Himalayan plateau of Doklam, both sides have been digging in their heels. This contested region, where Bhutan, India, and China share an ambiguous frontier, has merely provided the pretext for the inevitable.
Beijing’s precondition is that New Delhi remove the 300 troops it has moved to the border, some 150 meters from similarly strong contingent of Chinese soldiers. That precondition is far from palatable for India, which considers the Chinese road as a potential threat to India’s ability safeguard its northeastern states.
New Delhi’s fear that Beijing could sever the “Chicken Neck,” a narrow strip of land connecting India’s seven northeastern states to the rest of the country, may have impelled its hard line. The broader reality is that the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to back down on home turf at a time when it is espousing vast global aspirations.
This week’s security dialogue among BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in Beijing was seen as an opportunity for high-level talks on a face-saving resolution. However, China on Tuesday ruled out the possibility that any discussions on the Doklam Plateau with visiting Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval – if they are held at all – would help resolve the issue. One hardline Chinese newspaper editorial went to the extent of calling Doval as “a main schemer” behind the standoff.
More broadly, the Chinese media have been warning India not to forget the “lessons of 1962”. New Delhi, however, has drawn its own lessons from a war in which its defeat caused a national mood of humiliation. The aftermath also spawned a community of ‘hyperrealists’ who lament India’s seeming inability to forge a coherent response toward what they see as China’s consistency in maintaining an aggressive and unfriendly posture against their country.
Instead of continuing to appease Beijing, these Indian hardliners argue, a durable settlement of the disputes with China would require a resolution of the Tibet issue. If the Chinese do not prove to be tractable on the border question or on the Kashmir question, such Indians maintain, New Delhi should remind Beijing that it could raise the cost in Tibet. Adding Taiwan to the arsenal might serve to fortify New Delhi’s bargaining position.
Another chance for high-level dialogue could present itself during a summit of BRICS leaders in Xiamen, China, in September. Whether President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi will seize that opportunity would depend on what happens in during the intervening period. For now, New Delhi is intent on whittling away Beijing’s influence in the neighborhood.
The Modi government has begun wooing the new president of Mongolia, perceived as a China skeptic. Similarly, the Indian prime minister is planning to visit Nepal, where Beijing has made political, economic and security inroads in a nation New Delhi has traditionally seen as its zone of influence.
Both sides feel time is on their side. But for how long? Neither side seems to know.

Friday, July 14, 2017

पुस्तक समीक्षा: सामरिक प्रतिस्पर्धाको चेपुवा

- प्रेम खनाल

मंगलवार, चैत्र २९, २०७३

पुस्तक : नेपाल एन्ड दी जिओ–स्ट्राटेजिक राइभल्री बिटविन चाइना एन्ड इन्डिया
लेखक : सञ्जय उपाध्याय
प्रकाशक : रुटलेज
मूल्य : १२०० रुपैयाँ

छिमेकी राष्ट्रहरू भारत र चीनमा पछिल्ला दिनमा निकै ठूला आन्तरिक परिवर्तन भएका छन् । अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय राजनीतिमा पनि दुवैको प्रभाव बढ्दो छ । दुई ठूला भूगोल, जनसंख्या र सैन्य शक्तिबीच रहेको नेपालमा दुवैको प्रभाव पर्नु नौलो विषय रहेन । अझ, पत्रकार सञ्जय उपाध्यायको विश्लेषणमा त यो मञ्जुश्रीको पाला अर्थात् नवौं शताब्दीदेखि नै कायम छ । र, त्यस्तो प्रभावले आधुनिक नेपालमा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय बहसको रूप पाउँदै आएको छ । विश्वशक्तिउन्मुख चीनसँग एक हजार चार सय १५ र भारतसँग एक हजार सात सय ५१ किलोमिटर सिमाना जोडिएको छ, नेपालको । ‘स्वतन्त्र तिब्बत’का लागि अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय आन्दोलन तथा भू–राजनीतिक चासोको केन्द्रमा रहँदै आएको छ ।
बीबीसी रेडियो, दी टाइम्स लन्डन, वल्र्ड पोलिटिक्स रिभ्युजस्ता अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय सञ्चारमाध्यममा काम गरेको अनुभव बटुलेका पत्रकार उपाध्याय नेपालको राजनीति र कूटनीतिमा विशेष दक्खल राख्छन् । ‘नेपाल एन्ड दी जिओ–स्ट्राटेजिक राइभल्री बिटविन चाइना एन्ड इन्डिया’ शीर्षकको पुस्तकमा उनको त्यही विज्ञता प्रतिबिम्बित हुन्छ । नेपालको राष्ट्रिय राजनीति र अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय सम्बन्धका तथ्यहरूको सूक्ष्म अध्ययन, अनुसन्धान र विश्लेषण गर्दै ऐतिहासिक पृष्ठभूमिका साथ माधवकुमार नेपाल प्रधानमन्त्री रहेको समयसम्मका घटना क्रम केलाएका छन्, उनले । २२३ वटा पृष्ठमा नेपाल, तिब्बत, चीन र भारतको बहुआयामिक सम्बन्धबारेका १२ वटा लेख छन् ।
आधा शताब्दीभन्दा बढी समयदेखि निर्वासनमा रहेका तिब्बती धर्मगुरु दलाई लामा र उनका दशौं हजार समर्थकलाई भारतले चीनसँगको सम्बन्धमा रणनीतिक स्वार्थ पूरा गर्ने साधन बनाएको लेखकको विश्लेषण छ । सन् २००८ मा बेइजिङ ओलम्पिकको समयमा काठमाडौंमा तिब्बती शरणार्थीले ‘स्वतन्त्र तिब्बत’ आन्दोलन चर्काएको विषयलाई ‘नेपालको तिब्बत चुनौती’का रूपमा उपाध्यायले विश्लेषण गरेका छन् । चीनबाट आएका मञ्जुश्रीले काठमाडौं उपत्यकामा बस्ती बसालेको, १७ औं शताब्दीको मध्यमा बुद्ध धर्म तिब्बतमा फैलिएको तथा नेपाल र चीनबीच सीधा हिमालयन रुट स्थापना भएको उल्लेख गर्दै दुई मुलुकबीच धार्मिक र व्यापारिक सम्बन्ध रहिआएको पुस्तकमा व्याख्या छ ।
भारत बेलायती उपनिवेशमा रहेको समयमा नेपाल र तिब्बतबीच पटक–पटक युद्ध भयो । नेपालले आफ्नो स्वतन्त्र पहिचान कायम राख्दै सन् १९१२ मा बेइजिङ र ल्हासाबीच सम्बन्ध सुधार्न कूटनीतिक मध्यस्थकर्ताको भूमिका निर्वाह गर्‍यो । ‘ट्रेल्स अफ ट्रुथ एन्ड ट्रेड’ शीर्षकको लेखमा मन्जुश्रीको योगदान, बौद्ध धर्मको फैलावट, किराँतकालमा नेपाल–चीन सम्बन्धबारे उल्लेख छ । चौथो शताब्दीमा लिच्छवी राजाहरूले धर्म, कला र संस्कृतिको विकास गरे, जसप्रति चिनियाँहरू आकर्षित भए । चिनियाँ पर्यटक र भिक्षुहरू त्यसपछि नै हो नेपाल आउन थालेका, जसले काठमाडौं र लुम्बिनीको यात्रा गरी बौद्ध धर्मलाई आफ्नो भूमिसम्म फैलाए । तिब्बतको आक्रमणबाट बच्न लिच्छवी राजा अंशुवर्माले छोरी भृकुटीको विवाह त्यहाँका शक्तिशाली राजा स्रङचङ गम्पोसँग गरिदिएका थिए ।
मल्लकालमा अरनिकोे नेतृत्वमा ८० जना कलाकार कुब्लाई खाँको निमन्त्रणामा मूर्ति बनाउन तिब्बत गए र उनीहरूले बेइजिङसम्म प्यागोडा शैलीको विश्वव्यापी प्रचार गरे । १८औं शताब्दीको मध्यतिर गोर्खाली राजा पृथ्वीनारायण शाहले काठमाडौं कब्जा गरेपछि व्यापार र सिमानाको विषयमा द्वन्द्व भयो । ‘बबलिङ बिटविन बोल्डर्स’लेखमा तिब्बतसँगको व्यापारमा ब्रिटिस इस्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीको चासो समेटिएको छ । त्यसका लागि मार्ग दिन आग्रह गर्दै काठमाडौंमा उक्त कम्पनीले दूत पठाएकामा पृथ्वीनारायण शाहले मल्लकालदेखि उपत्यकामा बस्दै आएका विदेशी व्यापारी र इसाई मिसनरीहरूलाई देशनिकाला गरेर जवाफ दिएको पुस्तकमा उल्लेख छ ।
तिब्बतमा चीन र भारतीय उपमहाद्वीपमा इस्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीको प्रभाव बढ्दै जाँदा पृथ्वीनारायण शाहले नेपाललाई ‘दुई ढुंगाबीचको तरुल’का रूपमा व्याख्या गरेका थिए, जसलाई उपाध्यायले सही ठह¥याएका छन् । एकीकरणको क्रममा रहेको आफ्नो मुलुकको भू–राजनीतिक अवस्थितिमाझ सबैभन्दा मुख्य चुनौती दक्षिणतर्फबाटै रहेको पृथ्वीनारायण शाहको विश्लेषण थियो ।
‘कन्टेन्मेन्ट एन्ड कार्नेज’ शीर्षकको तेस्रो अध्यायमा राणाहरूबीचको झगडाका कारण तत्कालीन राजा रणबहादुर शाह निर्वासनमा बनारस गएको समयमा नेपालको आन्तरिक राजनीति कमजोर रहेको खुलाएका छन् । त्यही मौकामा इस्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीले सन् १७९२ को व्यापार सन्धि पुनरावलोकन र काठमाडौंमा आवासीय दूतावास खोल्न प्रयास गरेको तथ्य उल्लेख छ । नेपालको आन्तरिक सन्तुलन बिग्रिएको मौकामा विदेशी शक्तिहरूले आ–आफ्नो प्रभाव विस्तार गर्ने पुरानै प्रचलन सम्झाएका छन्, उपाध्यायले ।
जस्तो : त्यसबेला काठमाडौंमा आवासीय दूतावास खोल्न सफलता पाएको इस्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीले डब्लुडी नक्सलाई त्यसको प्रमुख बनायो । उनको काम नेपाल, नेपाली सेना र नेपाल–चीन सम्बन्धबारे जासुसी गर्नु थियो । सिमाना र व्यापारमा असमझदारी हुँदा नेपाल र इस्ट इन्डिया कम्पनीबीच सन् १८१४ मा युद्ध भयो । सन् १७९२ को शान्ति सन्धिअनुरूप चीनले सैन्य तथा राजनीतिक सहयोग नगर्दा नेपाल आफ्नो एकतिहाई भू–भाग गुमाउँदै सुगौली सन्धि गर्न बाध्य भयो । ‘क्राउन एन्ड एम्पाएर’ लेखमा जंगबहादुरको बेलायत भ्रमणको मुख्य उद्देश्य बेलायतलाई नेपालको सार्वभौमिकता स्वीकार्न लगाउने तथा बेलायती महारानी र राजनीतिज्ञहरूसँग सीधा सम्पर्क स्थापना गर्ने रहेको उल्लेख छ ।
राजनीतिक रूपले नेपाल स्वतन्त्र रहे पनि अनौपचारिक हिसाबमा ब्रिटिस शासकहरूले नेपाली सेना र व्यापारमा प्रभाव जमाइसकेको तर्क उपाध्यायको ‘गेम्स ग्रेट एन्ड स्मल’ लेखमा छ । त्यसको उदाहरण पहिलो विश्वयुद्धमा नेपाली सेनाको सहभागिता र योगदानलाई मानेका छन् । राजा महेन्द्रको परराष्ट्र नीतिबारे ‘न्यु किङ, न्यु आउटलुक’ लेखमा विस्तृत उल्लेख छ । नेपालले संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघको सदस्यता पाएको, चीनसँग दौत्य सम्बन्ध कायम गरेको, प्रधानमन्त्री टंकप्रसाद आचार्यको चीन भ्रमण तथा नेपालले भारत, चीन, अमेरिका, रुस, फ्रान्सलगायत मुलुकसँग सहयोग लिन सफल भएको कुरालाई उपलब्धिका रूपमा व्याख्या गरेका छन् ।
यस्तै, ‘रिफर्म एन्ड रिक्रिमिनेसन’मा राजा वीरेन्द्रको शान्तिक्षेत्र प्रस्ताव, इन्दिरा गान्धीसँगको सम्बन्ध, खम्पा विद्रोह र वीरेन्द्रको चीन भ्रमणको समयमा तत्कालीन चिनियाँ राष्ट्रपति झु इलनले नेपालमा वैदेशिक हस्तक्षेपविरुद्ध आफ्नो मुलुकले सघाउने आश्वासन दिएको उल्लेख छ । नेपालले चीनसँग हतियार खरिद गरेको विरोधमा तत्कालीन भारतीय प्रधानमन्त्री राजीव गान्धीले नाकाबन्दी लगाए । नेपालले सन् १९५० को शान्ति तथा मैत्री सन्धि उल्लंघन गरेको गान्धीको आरोप थियो । राजा वीरेन्द्रले त्यसलाई सार्वभौमिकतामाथिको हस्तक्षेप ठाने । र, राष्ट्रिय हितविपरीतको भारतीय प्रस्ताव अस्वीकार गरिदिए । उपाध्यायले यिनै प्रसंगहरू समेटेर वीरेन्द्रलाई राष्ट्रवादी राजाका रूपमा व्याख्या गरेका छन् ।
तथापि, भारतले पटक–पटक नाकाबन्दी लगाएर संकट सिर्जना गर्दासमेत नेपाली शासकहरू चीनतिरको सहज पहुँच बढाउन उदासीन रहँदै आएका छन् । ‘रियल पोलिटिक्स टु रेजिसाइड’ लेखमा सन् १९९० को राजनीतिक परिवर्तनपछिको नेपालको विदेश नीति, माओवादी विद्रोहको शुरुवात र चिनियाँ राष्ट्रपति जियाङ जेमिनको नेपाल भ्रमणबारे उल्लेख छ । ‘माओ भर्सेस मोनार्की’ मा दरबार हत्याकाण्ड, ज्ञानेन्द्रको शासनकाल, माओवादी विद्रोह, आतंकवादविरुद्ध अमेरिकी युद्धको नेपालमा प्रभावलगायत विषय समेटिएका छन् ।
राजतन्त्रको अन्त्यपछि चीनले नेपालमा राजनीतिक दलसँग सम्बन्ध बढाएको, विस्तृत शान्ति सम्झौता र सशस्त्र द्वन्द्वको अन्त्य तथा लडाकु समायोजनका लागि राष्ट्रसंघीय मिसन अनमिनको प्रवेशबारे ‘स्क्र्याम्बल फर न्यु एलिज’ मा विश्लेषण छ । सन् २००६ को परिवर्तनपछि नेपालमा चिनियाँ प्रभाव बढेको विश्लेषणका साथ अनमिनमा आफ्ना प्रतिनिधि नरहेकामा चीनले राष्ट्रसंघसँग गरेको गुनासो उक्त लेखमा समेटिएको छ । सार्कमा चीनको पूर्ण सदस्यता, मधेश राजनीतिमा चिनियाँ चासो, नेपाली सभासद्हरूले दलाई लामासँग गरेको भेट तथा तत्कालीन प्रधानमन्त्री पुष्पकमल दाहालले पहिले नयाँदिल्ली जाने परम्परा तोडेर बेइजिङ ओलम्पिकमा सहभागिता जनाएकामा भारतीयहरूले आपत्ति जनाएको विषय उक्त लेखमा समेटिएको छ ।
‘वियोन्ड टिबेट’ लेखमा म्यानमार, बंगलादेश र पाकिस्तानमा बढ्दो चिनियाँ प्रभावबाट भारतमा छटपटी पैदा भएको उपाध्यायले लुकाएका छैनन् । र, चीन–भारत, चीन–अमेरिका तथा भारत–अमेरिका सम्बन्धको जटिलताबारे व्याख्या गरेका छन् । प्रशस्त सन्दर्भ सामग्री तथा धेरै व्यक्ति र स्रोतसँगको कुराकानीका कारण पुस्तकका लागि उपाध्यायको मिहिनेत झल्किन्छ । पुस्तकका हरेक अध्याय उत्सुकता पैदा गर्ने प्रकृतिका छन् । यसमा केही तथ्यगत कमजोरी पनि छन् । र, नेपाल–भारत सम्बन्धमा मुख्य व्यवधान मानिँदै आएको सन् १९५० को सन्धिबारे व्याख्या, विश्लेषण गर्न छुटाएका छन् ।
चीनको चासोमा तिब्बती शरणार्थी मात्र रहेको बुझ्न सकिन्छ, यस पुस्तकको अध्ययनबाट । भारतको भने बहुआयामिक स्वार्थ औंल्याएका छन् । दुवै छिमेकीसँग असल सम्बन्ध र उनीहरूका जायज चासो ख्याल गर्दै आफ्नो राष्ट्रिय स्वार्थमा केन्द्रित हुनु नै नेपालको हितमा रहेको उपाध्यायको सुझाव छ ।

साभार: अन्नपूण टुडे राष्टि्य साप्ताहिक

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Birth Of A Republic: Stories Behind The Story

By Sanjay Upadhya

The idea that the deep unpopularity of Nepal’s last monarch became the greatest catalyst for republicanism has an alluring pithiness. But tight headlines and terse nut-graphs cannot tell what is, by any measure, a far more complex story. The Nepalese political discourse has been dominated by incessant criticism – justified as well as inflated – of the palace. This singular obsession with former king Gyanendra’s “excesses” and the monarchy’s inherently “anti-democratic” proclivities creates a warped picture of the past. More importantly, it obstructs the extrapolation of valuable pointers for an increasingly uncertain future.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the monarchy was not always the preponderant national institution during its 240-year existence. The death of Prithvi Narayan Shah, seven years after the founding of the Nepalese state, led to a weakening of the monarchy. A succession of minor kings left rival royal factions competing for power. The loss of a third of the nation’s territory in a debilitating war with the British only fueled the feuds. From the bloodletting rose the Ranas, who oversaw the eclipse of the monarchy for over a century.
Nepal’s foray into modernity in the 1950s revealed the new contradictions the monarchy would reign atop. The overthrow of the Rana regime, hailed as the dawn of democracy, ended up consolidating the monarchy. The inauguration of Nepal’s first elected government precipitated a battle of wills in which the palace prevailed over the Nepali Congress. Royal preponderance reached its zenith during the three decades following King Mahendra’s dismissal of Prime Minister B.P. Koirala’s government and abolition of multiparty democracy.
The incongruity of an impoverished nation having to finance an expensive institution was ideologically anathema to the communists. Yet the communists, whom the palace considered a counterweight to the Nepali Congress, prospered the most during 30 years of palace-led nonparty rule. The Nepali Congress, for its part, saw a constitutional monarchy as a bulwark against a preponderance of the left. Yet it made attempts on the lives of two kings.
The restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990 was expected to put Nepal irrevocably on the path of democratic modernity. Barely six years later, an avowedly republican Maoist insurgency helped the palace to gradually consolidate its position. International and regional powers, mindful of such internal contradictions, considered the palace the fulcrum of stability. India and the United States – the world’s two most prominent democratic republics – joined communist China to support the monarchy.
That compact was shaken – more internally than internationally – by the June 2001 Narayanhity massacre. The carnage dealt a grievous blow to the monarchy from multiple directions. It ended any halo of divinity surrounding the monarchy. The notion that the king was the guardian of the nation exploded with the bursts of gunfire. Nepalis were reminded of the history of bloodshed and machinations associated with palace politics.
The shady reputations of the new monarch and the heir apparent, coupled with swirling suspicions of their role in the palace massacre, could hardly provide a promising beginning. Yet the political parties lay discredited by their own performance and the Maoists had little to offer politically. A wary political class as well as public watched King Gyanendra’s moves to strengthen the palace’s role. Still, the royal interventions of October 2002 and February 2005 failed to rouse the people into vigorous opposition. Within Nepal, the two events were considered part of a continuum. Geopolitically, they were different. The contrast revealed an essential truism of Nepalese politics. International and regional powers, with their competing interests in and expectations from Nepal, have precipitated political changes.
When King Gyanendra dismissed an elected prime minister in 2002 for failing to hold elections on schedule, India and the United States seemed generally content. China maintained its characteristic silence. Over the preceding years, Western governments and international donors had been growing increasingly critical of the infighting, corruption and mismanagement that had gripped the polity. Their representatives in Kathmandu had become increasingly explicit in voicing those concerns.
The 2005 royal takeover, on the other hand, instantly infuriated the Indians and Americans, while the Chinese, again, professed non-interference. Yet Beijing’s anxiety was clear. A series of palace-appointed premiers had failed to quell the Maoist insurgency, prompting greater Indian as well as American military involvement. New Delhi’s own discomfort with American activism was palpable. Allowing the Maoists to triumph over the state would have grave implications for India’s Maoist insurgency.

Cautious China
Chinese apprehensions ran deeper. The Nepalese rebels’ wholesale discrediting of Mao Zedong’s reputation was intolerable enough, something Beijing expressed with great candor. It was not hard to fathom how a total Maoist triumph could energize restive populations in the Chinese hinterland deprived of a part of the post-Mao economic miracle. The prospect of Nepal’s inexorable drift toward the Indian-American camp carried grave implications for China’s soft underbelly, Tibet. On the eve of the 2005 royal takeover, Nepal shut down the local offices of the principal Tibet-related organizations. The event was thus cast as a pro-Chinese initiative.
Far from extending full support to the royal regime, however, the Chinese remained cautious. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao skipped Nepal during his South Asian tour, sending his foreign minister to Kathmandu instead. King Gyanendra’s anticipated visit to China to mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties did not materialize. The Indians succeeded in preventing the Americans from striking a separate deal with the palace. New Delhi, for its part, was negotiating with the king. It bailed out Nepal from massive censure at the UN Human Right Conference in Geneva and dangled the promise of a resumption of military – and perhaps even political –assistance.
A section of the Indian establishment always considered the monarchy the problem and found a conducive political alignment in New Delhi. The communist parties backing the ruling Indian coalition took the lead and moved swiftly to bring the Maoists and mainstream parties in an anti-palace alliance. The Indian army and internal security apparatus, insistent on helping the king and the Nepalese army, was not pleased, as a series of leaks in the Indian media showed. This conflict emboldened the royal government, which sought to internationalize its fight against the Maoists by linking it to the global war on terror. On the ground, it went after the mainstream parties without being able to dent the rebels. New Delhi checkmated the king by facilitating a ceasefire on the eve of his attempt to raise the insurgency at the United Nations General Assembly.
The monarch responded by spearheading a campaign to secure China’s position as an observer in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. The move came amid China’s drive to block India from regional initiatives in East Asia. In New Delhi, the palace’s brazen flaunting of the “China card” hardened critics and alienated the remaining supporters of the king. The Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoist rebels hurriedly signed the 12-point pact to bring down the royal regime.
The collaboration energized the Nepalese masses. The opportunity for peace and stability after years of bloodletting and instability was too enticing to squander. As anti-palace demonstrations picked up speed, India sent a royal relative, Karan Singh, as an emissary. The king’s invitation to the SPA to form the next government won instant praise from New Delhi, Washington and London. It failed to quell the protests. For the republican camp within Nepal and outside, the public defiance served to expose the depth of anti-monarchism.
The collapse of the royal regime led to a swift and systematic clipping of the palace’s powers. Still, a republican Nepal was not a done deal. The next phase – the suspension of the monarchy after the enactment of the interim constitution – morphed in line with a careful power play. A precipitous de-monarchization of the nation was precluded by the imponderables involved. The true nature of Nepalese public opinion vis-à-vis the monarchy, the loyalty of the army and the Maoists’ real commitment to the democratic process remained unknown. What was obvious was not inspiring: the mainstream parties’ poor record of governance.
Yet for India, mainstreaming the Maoists had become a matter of national security. The insurgency launched by Indian Maoists, or Naxalites, was spreading fast. The Naxalites were in no position to overwhelm the state, but they risked exacerbating India’s already grave internal security challenge. Engaging the Nepalese Maoists in the peace process through incremental carrots was tied to India’s plan to tame the Naxalites.

Faith-based Initiative?
For influential international quarters, King Gyanendra became too much of a liability. He continued to insist that he had seized power in good faith, adding that the effort failed because of “several factors”. The caveat could not have been lost on India. For the democratic West, the monarch’s overt tilt toward China was inexcusable enough. His espousal of the Hinduism mantle, with a fervor surpassing that of any of his predecessors, was tantamount to insolence. While Christian organizations had not listed Nepal high on the list of persecutor nations, many called it one of the most unreached nations for the Gospel. A Hindu monarch in a secular nation was far from tenable.
There were scattered reports of contacts in Delhi between the Maoists and Christian groups – some suggesting financial transactions – but they mostly emanated from the Hindu nationalist spectrum of the Indian media. Given the Maoists’ record of successfully using secondary adversaries to accomplish their immediate ends, the convergence of interest was plausible.
Had Crown Prince Paras enjoyed a better public image, forcing King Gyanendra to abdicate in favor of his son might have been an option. Passing the crown to Paras’s son, Hridayendra, would have mollified royalists. For the country, it meant a return of regency. King Gyanendra, more than anyone else, understood what this would mean for the monarchy. He dismissed calls for abdication made by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and others.
Publicly, the international community shunned the monarch. Privately they maintained channels. One reason was China’s swift move to build ties with the Maoists. The arrival of a modern high-speed train to the Tibetan capital Lhasa had greatly improved China’s access to Nepal. Nepal’s open border to the south exposed the Indian heartland to what many analysts there considered an enhanced military threat from China. The Terai erupted in violence against centuries of injustices inflicted by the hillspeople. The specific assurances foreign governments sought from the palace in exchange for the retention of some form of monarch remains unknown.
Clearly, the second amendment to the interim constitution, which declared Nepal a republic subject to an elected assembly’s ratification, was intended as a carrot and a stick for the palace. The monarch found more time to reconsider his options. To pre-empt any royal assertiveness, the statute also provided for the removal of the monarchy by two-thirds majority of the interim parliament. This ultimatum failed to influence the king but vitiated the political climate for the palace.
Previously, the Maoists and the mainstream parties – for their own interests – had made a distinction between the institution of the monarchy and individual kings. If Mahendra and Gyanendra were denounced as autocrats, Birendra and Tribhuvan, in their estimation, fared better as liberals. But now statues of Prithvi Narayan Shah were being demolished. Paradoxically, those committed to preserving Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity viewed the state as the culmination of unjust wars of aggressions. Supporters of some form of monarchy in the Nepali Congress attempted to frame the discussion in different ways. The fear of being perceived as royalists in a ruling alliance heavily dominated by republicans dissuaded them. Moreover, royalist parties like the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and the Rastriya Janashakti Party had become monarchy neutral.
Opinion polls up to the run-up to the elections showed that half the country wanted to retain some form of monarchy. A referendum would have put the issue to rest. Victory would have permitted King Gyanendra to recreate the monarchy in his own image. A defeat would have allowed him to depart as a democrat.
Many expected the king to resist the republic declaration. The inability of the ruling alliance to agree on the precise structure of the presidency as well as power sharing up to the first meeting of constituent assembly suggested as much. Whether royal defiance would have succeeded is a different thing altogether. Ultimately, the ex-king saw the overwhelming assembly vote in favor of a republic as the best expression of the popular will under the circumstances which he and his predecessors always invoked.
The monarchy had been central to the policies of the three major international stakeholders in Nepal. The Maoists took in royalists reportedly on the advice of the Chinese to bolster a nationalist front. A Maoist-UML alliance could go a far way toward mollifying Beijing. For New Delhi, the Nepali Congress and the three Madhesi parties could provide succor. Washington, which began its own rapprochement with the Maoists after their electoral success, perhaps sees the military as the backbone of a non-communist front.
The presence of the ex-monarch within the country would probably help stabilize politics in the same way the return of Zahir Shah, Afghanistan former king, helped the Hamid Karzai government find its footing. With the end of the monarchy, a new quest for internal and regional equilibrium has begun.

(A version of this article appeared in the August 2008 inaugural issue of Global Nepali)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Precarious Premise Of Peacemaking

By Sanjay Upadhya

The grins, quips and all the other breezy displays of optimism surrounding the post-Dasain phase of the peace process have dissolved in the somberness of the indefinite postponement of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA)-Maoist talks.
Given the murkiness of the enterprise, however, another phase of ebullience and enthusiasm could bounce back with surprising speed. The “homework” hiatus should afford the country an opportunity to reflect on the predicaments on both sides.
For the Maoists, blaming the palace and foreign powers for conspiring to keep them out of power would help energize the base and thwart the prospect of serious discontent over the political leadership’s capitulation to the machinations of the mainstream.
When the rebels continue to ascribe to the palace the ability to torpedo the peace process, they are virtually negating the finality of the “historic” proclamation the House of Representatives adopted in May. Yet the SPA – at least the sections of the two Nepali Congress parties that seem to be propelling the ruling alliance – does not seem too bothered.
The Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and the other communist constituents may be too busy protecting their own turfs against the imminent influx of their more radical cousins to challenge Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s deepening affection for the monarchy. The mainstream communists, like the republican wing of the Nepali Congress, have evidently recognized the asset a sufficiently and certifiably tamed palace could prove to be.
The two factors supposedly holding back the breakthrough that was so tantalizingly close – the monarchy and Maoist arms – have brought out the painful predicaments of peacemaking. The government’s annoyance with the Maoists eagerness to maintain simultaneous access to their arms and political power – in defiance of international pressure – is understandable.
No less so is the Maoists’ bafflement over the government’s refusal to “suspend” the monarchy, when, for all practical purposes, the House proclamation has already done that.
Introspection is in order. Considering the approaching anniversary, it should begin with the 12-point SPA-Maoist accord reached in New Delhi last year. The reality that the accord stands on flimsier ground than the 1951 Delhi Compromise rests not on the absence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the preponderant player.
The real distinguishing feature is that Jawaharlal Nehru represented India far more credibly than the current Congress premier – and perhaps any future leader of the world’s most populous democracy – can expect to.
The fragility of the peace process becomes more ominous when Maoist chief ideologue Dr. Baburam Bhattarai praises India for facilitating the accord and then blames it for conspiring to keep the rebels out of power, almost in the same breath. If the adroit hair-splitter is making a distinction between those in the Indian Left who mediated the talks with the SPA and the “official sources” who leaked reports to the media that Indian intelligence agencies were “chaperoning” him around New Delhi, then he needs to be more explicit about those negotiations.
The question is, can he? When UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal traveled to Lucknow in November 2003 to meet with Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai, there was palpable mix of outrage and embarrassment in both sides of the border over the ease with which the leader of the opposition could meet “terrorists” on Indian soil.
Those sentiments obscured the more relevant story: Dr. Bhattarai’s candid acknowledgement that the Maoists, like any other political organization in Nepali history, could not advance their objectives by criticizing India. The Indians, for their part, must be equally baffled by how the Maoists, who have vowed to launch massive peaceful urban protests in case the talks fail, could still keep their broader pledge to turn South Asia into a flaming field of Maoist revolutions.”
Such fiery rhetoric cannot obscure the flexibility behind the Maoists’ growth. An organization that took up arms against both the monarchy and parliamentary democracy – more vigorously against the latter until the June 1, 2001 royal palace massacre – has now allied with one.
A 40-point list of grievances heavily targeted against India has now been distilled into diatribe against the 238-year-old monarchy. The obfuscation and prevarication that has gone into justifying such shifts are not helpful. Yet the Maoists persist.
Providing revolutionary ardor to Prithvi Narayan Shah’s famous counsel, the Maoists describe Nepal as a dynamite between two boulders. The yam metaphor of the first Shah king may have contained traces of weakness – as the Maoists allege -- but it still pulsated with a quest for life.
The notion of self-destruction – and its wider devastation -- inherent in the dynamite analogy may not have alarmed many Nepalis. The international community has taken notice. No wonder U.N. General Assembly members on Monday refused to be taken in by the peace-and-democracy platform in Nepal campaign for a two-year seat on the Security Council.

Originally posted on October 16, 2006