Nepali Times
My Take
Against the wind


SALZBURG, Austria - The world is debating how to narrow down differences among countries and get essential work done on trade and business and cooperation on important matters like climate change. Meanwhile, the largest party in parliament here in Nepal, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), is conjuring up ways to drive a wedge between China and India, two of Asia's rising and dominant powers.

At a recent seminar on 'The Future of Asian Integration and Security in the 21st Century: Sharing Experience on Multilateralism and Institution-Building from Europe', scholars, foreign ministry officials, and experts from Asia, Europe and the US discussed on minimising the tension in the South China Sea, narrowing the growing animosity between China and Japan, and avenues for cooperation in ASEAN as well as South Asia. Of course, it was not unusual to see national positions being restated by scholars from 'rival' countries. But there was a willingness to explore and debate ideas and honest attempts to analyse what ails Asia, particularly its south, east and southeast regions (the Middle East was not discussed). After all, Japan and China, and India and China, are still doing business despite existing territorial disputes.

For us Nepalis, the growth of our neighbours - China and India - should be a wake-up call to the fact that we are lagging behind, and seriously. Their economies, growing so robustly, are the envy of the world. Their bilateral trade (expected to exceed US$60 billion in 2010) has defied all expectations. And the party in Nepal that is touted as being strategically and tactically brilliant seems not to recognise the significance of this.

It's worth recalling a conversation that some former colleagues and I had with a senior Indian diplomat last year. "You Nepalis overestimate your importance when it comes to ties between India and China," he told us. "Nepal does not count when it comes to bilateral relations between my country and China."

It was a blunt thing to say, but true. It's foolish to try and put ourselves between the two regional powers and think we can influence their bilateral relations on our account. In which world are the Maoists living? Lessons have not been learnt even after losing out as a neutral venue for India-Pakistan track II diplomacy talks (now the two countries' interlocutors meet elsewhere). Can we host India-China track II talks, if at all? Hardly, since the two countries are talking directly and more openly than in the past. Can we do anything to bring them closer and reap the dividends from their awesome progress? We can think about it.

The two countries are talking about how to intensify the process of business connectivity, working together at international forums like the G20, and presenting a united stance on climate change. But they are also thinking of working together on projects in other countries. "We even talked about the possibility of cooperating in certain subjects in other countries, whether three-party or four-party collaborative projects in the economic field as well," said Yang Jiechi, China's foreign minister, during a visit by India's National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to China in July this year.

These projects and areas of third country-collaboration have not been identified but the intent is there. This could be crucial to our efforts to generate energy. Apart from hydropower, the two countries could work together on roads and environmental conservation in Nepal.

We need to talk about trade and economy, jobs, infrastructure building, and how to get the best out of the two giant neighbours whose goodwill we can easily tap into. Instead, we are trying to pit India against China. It may only be one party's strategy, but since it is the most powerful party in Nepal right now, it does have an impact. This is a futile, and counterproductive exercise (for us).

"China attaches great importance to this relationship (between China and India),"Yang emphasised on that occasion. It's clear which way the wind is blowing. Instead of going against it, it would be prudent to go with the flow.


Step it up, EDITORIAL
Better, not good, PRASHANT JHA

1. Arthur
blah blah, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), is conjuring up ways to drive a wedge between China and India," blah, blah...

Does this writer have ANYTHING interesting or even mildly plausible to say about ANYTHING?

2. Nepali Soldier
What kind of weak journalism is this? The write should go fly a kite. Of course Nepal can affect the bilateral relations between China and India. You attended a liberal seminar in Brussles and suddenly have become an authority. Is this the best Nepal Times can offer? I thought journalism is supposed to be one of the main pillars in society.    

3. reader
arthur, i've been wondering about this for a long while now. your comments on every article i have read in the nepali times are overwhelmingly negative and contemptuous. clearly you think nepali times is full of terrible, uninformed, biased writing. you are either right or wrong, right?

if you are wrong, then you are uninformed and biased yourself.
if you are right, then why waste your time reading such crap?

i am seriously interested in your answer. thank you.

4. Arthur
reader #3,

Many people prefer to read only views they agree with. I mainly read views that I disagree with. This is partly because not much is published that I agree with, but mainly because I prefer trying to understand the views of people I disagree with and get bored reading things I already understand.

I read Telegraph, MyRepublica, eKantipur, NepalNews and (less often) Himalaya Times as well as Nepali Times, to learn about Nepal. But I read almost every article only in Nepali Times and I regularly comment only in Nepali Times.

This is partly because Nepali Times really does encourage comments (eg by prominent display together with the articles) and it is more possible to get into a dialogue since the articles and comments are easily available for a full week so there can be two or three alternating comments and replies on the same article during the week (or even more). Also a weekly is naturally more inclined towards serious analysis than a daily and the quality of english language writing is much better here. The audience seems to have a higher proportion of Nepalis outside Nepal, so my participation as a foreigner is less out of place than in the more local papers.

I don't comment on majority of articles, eg on "lifestyle" etc but regularly comment on the political editorial and opinion columns.

I often disagree with Prashant Jha but I am usually not contemptuous of his views (except when he was running a series of personal attacks on Prachanda, which eventually stopped).

I am always contemptuous of Damakant Jayshi because each of his columns so far has been empty talk.

I am more positive towards Indu Nepal.

I generally don't find much interesting from Rabi Thapa, but was surprised to find a good article from him this week.

If you understood the comment I made to that article you would understand what kind of writing I find worthwhile and what kind I find contemptible. But perhaps you have not seen Sargam's comments.

I sometimes find C K Lal excellent and at other times very bad. Often I have a feeling that I don't quite understand him because of my lack of understanding of Nepal (rather than because he is writing badly). I don't comment when I don't understand.

The editorials are almost always just empty anti-Maoist platitudes so naturally I am contemptuous.

The ass has managed to be so asinine that there is usually no point even commenting.

BTW one can be wrong, without being uninformed and biased. A good way to find out if one is wrong is to write a comment and see whether others are able to refute it or can only abuse it.

I am obviously and openly biased, but not uninformed. Naturally nobody can think that they are wrong until AFTER they no longer hold the views that they now think are wrong. Adding "I may be wrong" instead of simply saying what one thinks is not necessarily a sign of greater humility or awareness, but can just be empty talk.

I have tried to answer carefully as your question is reasonable.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)