A tell-tale rel­e­ga­tion and an in­cu­ri­ous me­dia

People's Review - - OP-ED - BY M.R. JOSSE

KATH­MANDU: Amid pop­u­lar pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with, and ex­cite­ment over, the FIFA World Cup, 2018 foot­ball car­ni­val now well underway in Rus­sia, not very many may have no­ticed that Prime Min­is­ter K.P. Sharma Oli's on­go­ing China visit had been rel­e­gated from a ma­jes­tic ' state visit' sta­tus to the more plebian one of 'of­fi­cial visit'. Though in a num­ber of pre­vi­ous col­umns yours truly had been draw­ing pointed at­ten­tion to the less-than-en­thu­si­as­tic fer­vor in Bei­jing to the Oli visit, an up-beat as­sess­ment had been pro­jected by main­stream me­dia that for days had in­formed all of its "state visit" rank­ing. REL­E­GA­TION In­deed, Kath­mandu Post in an early news item on the visit (June 8) re­ferred to it as a "five-day state visit"; in another story ( June 11), it de­scribed it as merely an "up­com­ing visit". From June 13 on­ward, all news re­ports be­gan to de­scribe it as an "of­fi­cial" visit. What is no less in­trigu­ing is that in an itin­er­ary of the trip pub­lished by the Hi­malayan Times (June 14), there was no spe­cific men­tion of any meet­ing be­tween Oli and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. Though I would bet that there will be a cour­tesy call on the Chi­nese pres­i­dent, that there was no spe­cific men­tion of such a meet­ing therein, or even whether it would take place on June 20 or only on the fol­low­ing day, can­not just be shrugged off. Even more sig­nif­i­cant is that spec­u­la­tion of a Xi visit to Nepal in the near fu­ture - not too long ago, a sta­ple item in pub­lic commentary - has fallen off the Sino-Nepalese radar! I leave you, faith­ful reader, to make what you will of that omis­sion. Only slightly less ed­i­fy­ing is that in an op-ed in The Ris­ing Nepal (June 17), a colum­nist de­tailed sev­eral ref­er­ences to how sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal ges­tures by Nepal to China in the past con­trib­uted to greatly so­lid­i­fy­ing the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, but then fought shy of con­fid­ing to his read­ers that all the good stuff hap­pened dur­ing the Pan­chayat era, un­der the aus­pices of the monar­chy! In­ci­den­tally, I was equally struck by this fas­ci­nat­ing claim: "Un­der Prime Min­is­ter K.P. Sharma Oli, In­dia has stopped bla­tantly in­ter­fer­ing in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of Nepal as re­flected in the joint state­ment is­sued dur­ing his In­dian visit two months ago." While I stoutly main­tain that deeds on the ground are more im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nants than mere words in a joint com­mu­niqué, I am puz­zled whether he was sug­gest­ing that In­dia has only stopped "bla­tantly in­ter­fer­ing" - while con­tin­u­ing to do so in a less-than-bla­tant fash­ion? CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER In any case, is it not amaz­ing that the free me­dia in a fed­eral, sec­u­lar and re­pub­li­can Nepal should be so in­cu­ri­ous as not even to ed­u­cate its read­ers/view­ers/lis­ten­ers about the pos­si­ble sig­nif­i­cance of the rel­e­ga­tion of the Oli visit to China from "state" to "of­fi­cial" level? Mind you, even our in­trepid re­porters cov­er­ing the For­eign Min­istry or sundry so-called 'ex­perts' have not deigned to ed­u­cate us on this score. In fact, I have not come across any rel­e­vant news item that has even re­ported that, ear­lier, the Oli ex­cur­sion to China had been dubbed a "state" visit. Such sin­gu­lar­i­ties apart what is most re­veal­ing is that, on the eve of the trip, there seemed to be a wellorches­trated at­tempt to tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions by monotonously re­peat­ing this mantra: the fo­cus of the Oli mis­sion would be on "im­ple­ment­ing past agree­ments". To my mind, that is sim­ply just another way of say­ing that there is to be no for­ward move­ment on the Sino-Nepal re­la­tions front! Has that any­thing at all to do with as­sur­ances that may have been given to In­dia in re­cent months by Oli? By the by, I couldn't help note a story in Ratopati.com that re­ported that for­mer In­dian am­bas­sador to Nepal, K.V. Ra­jan, had come up to Kath­mandu for as­sorted meet­ings just days be­fore Oli's de­par­ture for China. A mere co­in­ci­dence, or what? TRUMP'S S'PORE FLING Here's my take on the his­toric Don­ald Trump-Kim Jong Un sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore, June12, 2018. First, de­spite it be­ing short on de­tails, North Korea's com­mit­ment to work­ing on "com­plete nu­cle­ar­l­iza­tion of the Korean penin­sula" can hardly be dis­missed off-hand as worth­less. Sec­ond, Trump's com­mit­ment to pro­vide "se­cu­rity guar­an­tees to the DPRK" is equally note­wor­thy - though this, too, has been anath­ema to his de­trac­tors. They seem to imag­ine the North Korea would be pre­pared to, uni­lat­er­ally, sur­ren­der its nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­siles at the urg­ings of a state with which it has been in a state of war since 1953. Third, Sin­ga­pore rep­re­sents very first step in what is bound to be a long and bumpy ne­go­ti­at­ing road, the ma­jor mile­stones are likely to fo­cus on cap­ping, rolling back, and, fi­nally, elim­i­nat­ing DPRK's com­plete arse­nal of nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­siles. Nat­u­rally, cred­i­ble ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the above must go side-by-side with a phase-wide soft­en­ing and elim­i­na­tion of US sanc­tions and a ta­per­ing off of Amer­ica's present hos­tile mil­i­tary pos­ture vis-à-vis Py­ongyang, in­clud­ing, at some stage, re­moval of US troops from South Korea and - even­tu­ally - her nu­clear um­brella over South Korea and Ja­pan. Fourth, com­par­isons with the Iran nu­clear deal, nixed by Trump, are faulty in that North Korea al­ready has nu­clear weapons and the ca­pa­bil­ity to de­liver them whereas Iran did not. Fifth, while Trump's tri­umphant as­ser­tions about the suc­cess of his Sin­ga­pore fling are preg­nant with hy­per­bole it can hardly be de­nied that the rap­port seem­ingly es­tab­lished be­tween Trump and Kim has taken the world back from the precipice of nu­clear war. Sixth, noth­ing was dis­cussed about the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in North Korea; to have gone down that path would have sunk the sum­mit. Fi­nally, pen­ning this after the 'trade war' ini­ti­ated against China by Trump, and the tit­for-tat re­sponse from China, may it not stymie the goal of rid­ding the Korean penin­sula of nu­clear weapons, given China's close re­la­tions with DPRK, in­clud­ing be­tween Xi and Kim?

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