BIMSTEC-IV spin-off, Prachanda's pere­gri­na­tions and other stuff

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

KATH­MANDU: Three weeks ago, this colum­nist ven­ti­lated some mot­ley views on the then im­pend­ing two-day BIMSTEC1V sum­mit in Kath­mandu con­clud­ing that it was not only an in­con­gru­ously con­sti­tuted group­ing but one that didn't have much to show by way of con­crete achieve­ments in terms of "tech­ni­cal and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion."


Now, in the wake of the ful­mi­na­tions in the chore­ographed com­ments in the In­dian me­dia di­rected at Nepal's non-par­tic­i­pa­tion at BIMSTEC's post-sum­mit mil­i­tary drill in Pune, it is abun­dantly clear that In­dia's real in­ten­tion is to sur­rep­ti­tiously con­vert BIMSTEC into a re­gional se­cu­rity out­fit in­di­rectly aimed at Pak­istan and China. Else, how does one ex­plain that the an­gry out­pour­ing against Nepal - with­out first estab­lish­ing how mil­i­tary drills fit into the frame­work of a "tech­ni­cal and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion" re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tion? Be­sides, not one In­dian me­dia pun­dit thought it nec­es­sary to point out that a pro­posal by the In­dian prime min­is­ter - or any other head of state - does not, ipso facto, trans­late into a BIMSTEC com­mit­ment! To be noted, amidst all the fire and brim­stone hurled at Nepal, are con­cur­rent at­tempts to sub­vert Sino-Nepalese ties. The cu­ri­ous thing is that, on the one hand, we have been told re­lent­lessly that, post-Wuhan, Sino-In­dia re­la­tions are as fra­grant as roses and, on the other, that In­dia has no quar­rel any more with Nepal and China deep­en­ing their mu­tual re­la­tion­ship. Only a nin­com­poop or a con­gen­i­tal op­ti­mist will 'buy' that spu­ri­ous line of ar­gu­men­ta­tion, es­pe­cially af­ter read­ing the ab­surd, ill-ed­u­cated com­ments of Gen. Bipin Rawat, In­dia's army chief, as re­ported in Times­news. com and re­pro­duced by the New Spot­light mag­a­zine here. Speak­ing on the side­lines of the joint drill men­tioned above, Gen. Rawat as­sev­er­ated that Nepal's align­ment with China was only tem­po­rary. In his sparkling prose: "Coun­tries like Nepal and Bhutan have to be in­clined to­wards In­dia be­cause ge­og­ra­phy fa­vors in­cli­na­tion to­wards In­dia and as far as al­liance (with China) is con­cerned, it is only a tem­po­rary thing." Of course, the good gen­eral does not ad­mit - or does not know? - that Nepal and China are in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound by moun­tains and rivers, in­clud­ing the Ever­est ( Sa­gar­matha/ Quol­ung­mafeng) and Koshi. Ac­tu­ally, not only do most of Nepal's rivers that even­tu­ally flow south into In­dia have their ori­gins in Ti­bet/China but so do a whole plethora of rivers that phys­i­cally and cru­cially con­nect In­dia with China. Just as well that Rawat does not dwell on his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural and re­li­gious ties/con­tacts be­tween Nepal and China! They are le­gion.


Talk­ing about China, one is in­evitably re­minded about Prachanda's lat­est pere­gri­na­tions: that time to China, en fam­ily. While this col­umn has for some­time at­tempted to fathom the pur­pose of such fre­quent shut­tling around, I have noted that, this time around, it seems that the co-chair­man of the Nepal Com­mu­nist Party, and for­mer prime min­is­ter, has given Bei­jing a pass. Also noted it that while ear­lier breath­less re­ports by the of­fi­cial news agency men­tioned that Prachanda would meet with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, it would ap­pear that that's not hap­pen­ing - one knows not why. Though he did shoot the breeze with Modi on a short foray to In­dia not long ago, one re­calls that his south­ern trip had been on, then off and then on again. Also, it is in­trigu­ing that Prachanda scrubbed an ear­lier an­nounced trip to the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of North Korea - to take part in cel­e­bra­tions in Py­ongyang mark­ing the 70th an­niver­sary of that coun­try's found­ing. In­ci­den­tally, one can­not but won­der whether Prachanda's foray across the Hi­malayas to China - co­in­ci­den­tally com­ing a day af­ter NCP spokesper­son Narayan Kazi Shrestha jet­ted off there and days ahead of a big Nepalese del­e­ga­tion led by VicePres­i­dent Nanda Ba­hadur Pun set off, also to China - will make the movers and shak­ers of 'Naya Dilli' apoplec­tic. Doubt­less we shall know, ere long.


Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of course is in the news all the time, as be­fits the head hon­cho of the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. Only slightly be­hind, per­haps, is DPRK's boss­man, Kim Jong Un. Last week, while both hom­bres made plenty of news in­de­pen­dently of one an­other, to­gether they once again stunned the world. How? Well, first there was Kim's outof-the-blue let­ter to Trump, de­scribed as "very pos­i­tive", seek­ing a fol­low-up meet­ing to their his­toric June12 sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore which had raised prospects of a break­through in cur­tail­ing North Korea's nu­clear pro­gramme. Though the White House has pointed to a num­ber of achieve­ments in the wake of the Sin­ga­pore pow-wow - such as the re­lease of U.S. hostages, the repa­tri­a­tion of war re­mains be­lieved to be of U.S. ser­vice mem­bers and a pause in Py­ongyang's mis­sile and nu­clear tests - there is still a great deal of skep­ti­cism how far, and how fast, North Korean de­nu­cle­ariza­tion will be achieved. Fur­ther­more, on the North Korean side, it was made plain that Kim was frus­trated at out­side skep­ti­cism about his dis­ar­ma­ment in­ten­tions. He has de­manded that his "good­will mea­sures" be met in kind by the U.S. and oth­ers. Still, it was gen­er­ally con­sid­ered a good omen that no long-range mis­siles were on dis­play at Py­ongyang's mil­i­tary pa­rade Septem­ber 8, cel­e­brat­ing North Korea's 70th birth­day, even as a mas­sive pha­lanx of goos­es­tep­ping sol­diers, col­umns of tanks and a ver­i­ta­ble sea of chant­ing crowds wav­ing flags and flow­ers, passed a re­view stand where its supreme leader Kim sat with a spe­cial en­voy from China and other vis­it­ing for­eign dig­ni­taries. I should men­tion that while Trump thanked Kim for his ges­ture in not dis­play­ing his in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal mis­siles, his press sec­re­tary did not an­swer when an­other Trump-Kim sum­mit would take place, merely say­ing "we'll let you know when we have fur­ther de­tails." I have a hunch that such a sum­mit meet­ing will take place just be­fore the Amer­i­can mid-term elec­tions to help Trump do­mes­ti­cally, so as to in­crease his sub­se­quent po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­abil­ity. Kim wants re­la­tions with the U.S. to be nor­mal­ized by the end of Trump's first term.

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