Nepali Times
State Of The State
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Chief of Army Staff Chhatra Man Singh Gurung is on an official visit to India where he was conferred Honourary Rank of General of Indian Army this week.

The Joint Secretary of India's external affairs ministry Satish Mehta has decided that an army airstrip at Surkhet and the resumption of non-lethal military supplies are the two most important needs of Nepal. Chief of Army Staff Chhatra Man Singh Gurung is leaving today for India for a week-long visit. For the Indian security establishment, the imperilled peace process of Nepal has suddenly become a low-priority issue. Security cooperation rather than political interactions is going to be the focus of Indo-Nepal relations in the coming days.

These days, few Nepali politicians can access top-rung Indian leaders. They have to go through featherweight politicos like D.P. Tripathi, who was here some time ago to bolster the resolve of the anti-Maoist coalition in Singh Darbar.

Officers of the Nepal Army, however, can boast of high-profile batch mates from Sandhurst, West Point or the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun. General Gurung is an alumnus of the latter and will be attending a graduation ceremony there during his visit, but he will also have a crucial meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's national security advisor M.K. Narayanan.

Meanwhile, the Chinese sent a team under Gen Shu Yu Tai, its deputy force commander in Tibet, to assess ways of enhancing military assistance. Another Chinese team is likely to arrive soon to discuss the modalities of improving security along the 1400km Nepal-Tibet border, much of which remains impassable throughout the year anyway. The agenda for Premier Madhav Kumar Nepal's scheduled visit to Beijing from December 26 is thus more or less set: there may be some development assistance thrown in to sweeten the deal, but he will be asked to accept security assistance first and foremost.

With friendly neighbours like these competing with each other to militarise the Nepali state, democrats and peaceniks in Nepal need no enemies. But that doesn't mean they don't have to contend with more friendly advice from further afield; everyone seems to have designs for the vulnerable, geopolitically strategic state of Nepal.

The Eurozone is still a marginal player in global affairs, often playing second fiddle to Uncle Sam. But individual European countries wield considerable clout in the capital cities of the Third World, where the academic elite and the INGO/NGO sector are important actors in national politics.

This sector may be naturally more comfortable with the suave social elite than with the rustic political class. The problem arises when opinion leaders begin to play favourites with the transfer and promotion of officers in the Nepal Police or the Nepal Army at the instigation of their sponsors at various aid agencies. Playing politics with the defence establishment is a bigger cause for concern than even militarisation.

Till the early 1960s, the India Desk at the State Department in Washington looked after its interests - meagre as they were back then - in Nepal. With Af-Pak emerging as a global hotspot, the concept of the India Desk may yet see a revival. But if the experiences of the past are anything to go by, there is nothing to cheer in the decision of the Embassy of the United States in Nepal to develop American Centers in four different towns in the country. Intelligence gathering rather than strengthening of democracy will probably be their priority.

It seems Nepalis will have to learn the ropes of democracy on their own. All foreign aid is invariably aimed at strengthening the establishment, of which the military is the most prominent part. Hillary Clinton affirmed this viewpoint by vowing to restore American leadership through a 'smart power' mix of diplomacy and defence at her Senate confirmation as the US Secretary of State earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the queues at the KFC and Pizza Hut outlets, to say nothing of the booming sales of Coke and Pepsi, will ensure that Americans taxpayers needn't worry about the source of funds that go in the name of aid to Nepal.

We're with you - FROM ISSUE #481 (18 DEC 2009 - 24 DEC 2009)

1. jange
Part of the reason why we are in this situation is that writers like CK Lal and papers like NT were so easily repeatedly duped by the Maoists' so called revolutionary slogans. Only when the Maoists attacked their own offices that they seemed to have seen the true character of the Maoists. They had high hopes that the mayhem created by the Maoists would make it easier for them to further their own political agendas. Now that this dream has crashed their frustration is showing. While personal contacts may make things easier they are no substitute for sound policies. Dr. Lal would do us all a service by concentrating on political analysis rather than gossip.

2. pashupati
Can Mr CK Lal explain that Nepal-China boarder or Nepal- Tibet boader is Nepal's national interest? For the Sake of clarity, Nepal has adpoted one China policy for a long time. Therefore, it is Ck Lal's style of bashing China, by saying Nepal- Tibet boarder. I would rather go Nepal- China boader for the sake of Nepal's Interest. I know it may hurt Tibetans, and perhaps unfair for Tibetans, may be Mr. CK Lal is righly saying Nepal- Tibet boarder. For the Nepal sake, we nepalis have to go for Nepal- China boarder policy.

3. Bibek Koirala
This is one of the least biased articles that CK Lal has ever written and, hence, it is his one of his best as well. I can understand why he writes such Madhesh-centric articles as in these "ethnically-charged" times, one can't expect too much different from journalists who are but mere mortals. In such a scenario, the best one can do is to agree to disagree. Anyway, re foreign aid the bottomline is : in today's world, nothing comes for free - you gotta pay for it one way or the other. Hence, the myth of "foreign aid" must be busted ASAP. It is nothing but a capitalist's suave way of cuddling the poor while fleecing him/her a hundred times more!

4. Sargam
How long such outbidding over Nepal will serve Chinese politicking as a folding screen to intimidate India? The proximate cause of angst for us Nepalese with our maladroit diplomacy is a sudden escalation of antagonism between these two neighboring mastodons takes place as China is alleged to be fanning communal strife through the intermediary of their ally Maoists in Nepal (see ethnicity imbroglio). Bluntly put, if India realizes that China is too busy with bringing her frontier guards from Kodari to Birganj and Jhapa then the clash between these aforesaid countries will be the end of Nepal as an independent state. Chinese policy has been always to add fuel to the flames of conflict among their neighbors and look at the demolition of their hopes and integrity going down the drain. If China wants to be respected let Burma go free to establish democracy, let two Korea (North and South) unite, and don't have the policy of encouraging the Sudanese president to practice ethnic cleansing in his country; Next, China most probably requires a border conflict if their economy doesn't keep pace with the annual GDP of more than six to seven percent because the Western countries would tolerate no more the dumping of cheap goods pouring in to their countries creating everyday more and more jobless people. It is a guarantee of their survival, and Nepal will pay the bill. Last but not least, what is more stimulating for a country like China to exist other than to make the populace leap a bandwagon of patriotism to keep them busy with, thereby creating a seeming border conflict with India, the designated great South Asian rival!?!

5. gauel hero
For better or for worse Nepali Army (NA) has been the only institution in the country that has remained intact and functional in 250+ years of turbulent history of modern Nepal. In my view, it has been able to achieve such feat because it has allied and co-opted the powers to be - first the Shah kings, then Rana oligarchs, and then Shah kings again. NA is the weather-vane of Nepali politics and how it allies itself portends the nature of power-politics in the country. The fact that NA refused to co-opt Maoists and instead turn to foreign benefactors suggests that the true power in Nepal is determined in foreign capitals rather than in Kathmandu. Current events tend to support NA's view/bet; Nepalese political leaders cannot seem to come with any initiative or compromise without first trekking to Delhi, Beijing and/or DC. So much for Mr. CK Lal's wish, "Nepali democracy really will have to be home-grown."

6. madi
Would Mr Lal recall that the Nepalese Army has been at the forefront of development of infrastructure in Nepal? It has also been the only agency that has been capable of delivering food to the needy and of rescuing the people of Nepal in times of calamities. Hence, strentgthening the Nepalese Army would essentially mean giving it more teeth in all these vital functions too. Building an airstrip would enhance these very vital functions for sure. Enhancing the engineering capabilities would speeden up development activities at a time when the Maoists have used their might to stop all development activities. Any true friend of Nepal would wish to see Nepal improve her abilities in providing these core functions of the government.

7. Raja
Rambaran is going to handover Nepal to army. So friends of Nepal want to aid Nepal. So what is your problem Mr. Lal? Or should I say Comrade Lal?

8. Subash Shrestha
Being a buffer state -and that too between forefront emerging countries-, Nepal, sure is of concern to US, China, and India. Building airstrip in Surkhet is nothing but reinforcing the Indian strategic defense policies. This proposed idea will not be able to put into the ground work of paving runways without China's consent and will likely to remain in stalemate. We are better-off not contemplating on building airstrip, but rather using NA for building national infrastructures and revamping NA logistics. Any NA military reinforcement that seems compatible with our neighbors' strategic defense policies- like airstrip(s) - would be a potential invitation to calamity in the long run.

9. pweoda
Lal has it right - Nepal's only hope to sustain is by keeping a strong army. Good thing that it didn't suffer the fate of palace and with Katwal, has shown quite a set of skills in domestic and international maneuvering. Also good thing that some politicos are coming to this realization too. Only well kept force can counter hooligans masquerading as a political party such as the maoists.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)