BIMSTEC-IV spin-off, Prachanda's peregrinations and other stuff
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.
TRUMP-KIM SUMMIT, AGAIN?
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.