States often crave recognition. A visit by a leader of a more powerful state; a seat at the high table; an invitation to a summit; or an appointment in the global governance structure are all essentially symbolic Ė considered important by those who make it their business to conduct diplomacy. But why the Nepali state, or the earlier Madhav Nepal-led government to be more precise, thought it useful and necessary to back Kul Chandra Gautam in the UNGA presidential race at this juncture defies rational calculation.
There are essentially two arguments made by those who have been at the forefront of backing Gautam Ė it is Nepal's turn, and Gautam is the best candidate Nepal could ever have.
Nepal is an old member of the UN; it has contributed a lot to peace keeping operations; and this is our chance to be recognised. All of this is factually true. But it is important to demystify this business about our 'contribution' and our 'chance'.
The UN needs us and our armed personnel put themselves at risk to keep the peace in distant lands. But peacekeeping is a mutually beneficial relationship. It is among the relatively low-risk, high-return options involving military operations. And for the Nepal Army, it is a crucial safety valve that goes a long way in addressing the growing aspirations of officers and soldiers. It adds to the financial muscle of the military, and it exposes our forces to military practices outside our borders, making them more professional. No one is doing the other a favour here.
But let us, for a moment, stick to the conventional parameter of seeing peacekeeping as Nepal's contribution. Aren't there other ways we could use that 'bargaining chip' to extract more than a UNGA presidency? Could we have used our claims of not having been represented to get a position in other bodies, or additional resources, which would have a tangible benefit for the Nepali people? And at a time of deep domestic crisis, is claiming the UNGA presidency really a national priority? In this case, the state invests scarce political capital and resources in the race, but only the individual benefits. He can do little to use the position for Nepal's benefit, except by giving a sense of 'pride' to a few in the diaspora and a few of his friends back in Nepal.
And that brings us to Kul Chandra Gautam.
Gautam is a pleasant man, humble and polite with all irrespective of hierarchy. He was a successful international professional, and in a Nepal starved of icons, a section of the media played an instrumental role in portraying him as the pinnacle of Nepal's achievement globally.
Since Gautam's return to Nepal, he has wanted to contribute to national affairs. This is laudable indeed, but the other way to put it is that he has yearned for a formal role. There was a campaign, which he did not inspire but was taken in by, to elect him as Nepal's first president. The Kathmandu grapevine was then rife with rumours about his interest in heading a Peace and Reconstruction Commission, or being ambassador at large. Whether true or not, what was clear was his desire to cosy up to the powers that be. Just read his speeches introducing Pushpa Kamal Dahal in New York on different platforms, or look at the photographs where he almost looks like a supplicant to the Maoist supremo. But the politics here are more relevant than the person.
When Dahal resigned, Gautam was quick off the mark to praise the president's action and hailed Ram Baran Yadav as the best thing to have happened to Nepali politics. He played a distinctly partisan role in the polarisation in 2009-10, being one of the Madhav Nepal government's key cheerleaders. He was also consulting and presenting papers on integration at conferences organised by an NGO, headed by PM Nepal's foreign policy advisor. All of this obviously helped him build a political relationship with those at the helm of the Nepali state since May 2009. The government backed his nomination, and he was then appointed as an advisor to the PM to shore up his status. These details are important because it gives us the background to understand the political quid pro quo behind the nomination, and why the country is investing resources in this case.
Irrespective of whether Kul Chandra Gautam succeeds in adding another designation to his CV, there is little Nepal will gain out of this exercise.
So who exactly does Mr. Jha propose as a candidate? It's not like Nepal is spoiled for choice. The purpose of running in an election is to win it. If Dr. Gautam's biggest flaw is that he¬†cozies up to politicians, then I think we should feel pretty damn comfortable with him as our candidate.¬†¬†
25 FEB 2011 | 9:25 AM NST
It is the best chance Nepal ever had to be on this top position.
It is unfortunate for Nepal to ignore such talent in political arena.
good luck for the election.
25 FEB 2011 | 9:45 AM NST
3. Chandra Gurung
Now this is pathetic. This is really pathetic, Prashant.¬†
Gautam is one of the best candidates around. And yes, he praised Upendra Yadav in Los Angeles, Prachanda in New York, but they were all meant to be gracious. At his heart, he has always been a democrat and the most patriotic and professional person I have ever seen.
25 FEB 2011 | 10:41 AM NST
4. Syakar Adiga
Prashant, It would have been good if you could have√ā¬ mentioned√ā¬ alternative personalities who could have been nominated instead of KCG.√ā¬ I doubt you could have done√ā¬ any better than mentioning Suk Dev Shah. I also do not see how KCG√ā¬ being nominated for Nepal's presidency√ā¬ maligns his UNGA candidacy at all. I still don't get your logic in mentioning the issue at all. I also think it is deceptive at worst and a bad stretch at best for you to√ā¬ cite his photo ops with PKD at NYC as√ā¬ proof√ā¬ of his opportunistic behavior.√ā¬ I am quite sure that you were awed- and had a silly smile on your face-√ā¬ when PKD appeared overground at that press conference. No Nepali, whether engaged√ā¬ in foreign diplomatic service or domentic journalism would have escaped the euphoria and the urge to get to see from up close√ā¬ Prachanda the elusive. Finally, on the flip side, it is quite surprising to note your omission of√ā¬ KCG's vehement opposition of the Maoists often expressed through a number of op-eds including your own NT over the last few years . Rather than√ā¬ limiting your writing in analyzing KCG's appearence in pictures, wouldn't your time, NT's print run as well as√ā¬ Dixits' monies been better utilized through such analyses?√ā¬ At least we√ā¬ could have talked about how√ā¬ it may end up√ā¬ affecting the UN's role in the Nepal peace process in terms of the pros and the cons.
25 FEB 2011 | 12:53 PM NST
5. Mahadev But why the Nepali state, or the earlier Madhav Nepal-led government to be more precise, thought it useful and necessary to back Kul Chandra Gautam in the UNGA presidential race at this juncture defies rational calculation.?
Oh, no. The calculation is very rational. KUL got the nomination for the same reason that made UML chose Binod Chaudhary a representative of Madheshis in the Constituent Assembly. Politics is good, but cash is best.
25 FEB 2011 | 2:23 PM NST
From his op-eds Kul Chandra Gautum seems to be one of those "smooth" representatives of the completely useless Nepali elite who would expect some prominent position appropriate to his "status".
In many countries such people are often shipped off to symbolic positions with "international prestige" in order to prevent them causing problems in more important positions at home.
But this one seems to be unable to even make a nuisance of himself at home, so it is indeed a puzzle.
25 FEB 2011 | 4:32 PM NST
Another sad example of a Nepali pulling the legs of another Nepali. Sad but entirely expected. I suspect that party politics is mainly to blame. Prachanda-bhakts like PJ think that it is their duty to oppose anything the earlier government did. As a madhesi, he probably suspects a Pahade should not be nominated for such a prestigious position because that person should come from India if not from Madhes. Then New York based Nepali diplomats are also angry because either they or their relatives were not nominated. So these superior types start criticizing KCG's candidacy even before any non-Nepali delegate had the chance to do so.¬†
What qualification does anyone at the UN have, for pete's sake? The honorable ban-ki-moon cannot even speak a proper English sentence. The Americans nominated him because they knew he would be their reliable ally a.k.a puppet. The only qualification one needs at the UN is to know who the top power brokers and bullies are and then work according to their wishes. As an ex-bureaucrat, KCG can do that very well.
Unless of course Nepali Times has been offered to publish a Kuwati edition just as TKP now does. In that case, I nominate Jha to lead NT's Kuwati team.¬†
25 FEB 2011 | 6:35 PM NST
This is¬†Jha at his vindictive, petty worst and this is precisely why Nepal will never move ahead because whenever there is one Nepalese who has a really good chance to make it in the international arena, there will be people like Jha who want to drag him down. As far as I can see the only reason Jha doesn't want Mr Gautam as candidate is because he is not a Madhesi. Also because he has been such a champion of non-violent politics and Jha lately has become an apologist for Maoist fascists. I admired you once, Prashant Jha, for your principled stance and nuanced style. Now I will stop reading you, and I am sure a lot of other Nepalese will too.
25 FEB 2011 | 6:45 PM NST
lets not look at it from such a realist point of view...its not question what interest it would serve for Nepal....it is the question of if he is the right person for the post..or if he deserves it....if supporting him does no good to nepal, it also does no harm....
25 FEB 2011 | 7:43 PM NST
¬† A very well pondered analysis of the topic as a whole. Well, I don't think Prashant is being less patriotic with this analysis. Obviously, Kul Chandra Gautam has experience in goodwill ambassadorship, I think the kind of explicit support he gave on President's move speaks the lack of political vision that the disputed post demands and i agree even If he wins there is little he can give in return though there is no doubt over his good intentions. I as a fellow nepali all I can say: let the best win the battle in this case.
25 FEB 2011 | 7:52 PM NST
11. Gargi Sharma
Prashant, I don't know whether its the way you present your arguments or the way you beat around the bush, or what, but you end up misunderstood.¬†
The criticism in this article is against 1. the justification for KCG's election with Nepal's "contribution" to the UN 2. the implication that KCG's election will tangibly be beneficial to Nepal.¬†
Also people, there's nothing wrong in ¬†critically analyzing public figures. As for talking about how the election would effect Nepal's peace process and what the benefits will be(Syakar Adiga), I don't see the point of such speculative and hypothetical thinking.¬†
25 FEB 2011 | 8:33 PM NST
12. Ambika P. Adhikari
Mr. Kul Gautam is the best candidate we have.¬† His win will be a win for all Nepalis and not just for some Diaspora and his friends. He has all the qualities required for the job, and his success will be a pride for Nepal. We can endlessly debate who is good or bad, and whom we like; it is a matter of taste.¬† Many Nepalis are quite stingy in bestowing compliments, and ignore that the world is big enough to make everyone successful.
25 FEB 2011 | 11:10 PM NST
I don't think Prashant Jha would have spent so much energy in nitpicking if the person nominated were a Madhesi.¬† Pure and simple. He is just cheerleading a distasteful editorial put out by Kathmandu Post yesterday...
25 FEB 2011 | 11:26 PM NST
States don't crave recognition. State is a concept. It is an inanimate thing.
26 FEB 2011 | 7:48 AM NST
#4 Now you are being pathetic and seems that you have communal hatred towards madhesis when you are bringing up Sukhadev Sah's name here. When Mr. Sah was nominated for the post of Ambassador, whole Pahadi intelligentsia and diaspora launched a fierce campaign and maligned him personally but when a madhesi Journalist rightly questions the timing of the candidacy, you guys get offended. Kul Gautam may have been a genuine person before being co opted by the "sambhrant's" of Kathmandu but his closeness to a particular political class certainly deserves criticism. He was part of the conspiracy for untimely ouster of UN mission in Nepal, the UN for which he worked for so long and he knew how DPKO works. Well done Prashant for daring not to be part of the populist propaganda.
26 FEB 2011 | 10:03 AM NST
It is not that we have lots of alternatives to choose from but didn't the Ministry of Foreign Affairs propose somebody else for Nepal's candidate-someone who was the only one who met all the requirements for the candidacy??
26 FEB 2011 | 10:12 AM NST
You lost the Race and One good friend too, Torajon¬† failed in inerternational deplomacy also.
26 FEB 2011 | 11:01 AM NST
Shame shame on Nepali Times and shame on Jha.
26 FEB 2011 | 11:52 AM NST
Now folks, retain yourselves. Your guffs serve nobody because Gautam lost to Qatar fellow.
What is hilarious to note is some of you guys really have started walking on your heads instead of ¬†walking on your feet. Which is why you guys see everything blurred and upside down.
You must go for some treatment if you want to be normal. Because great ideas are born from silence.
26 FEB 2011 | 12:54 PM NST
20. Lesson Master
So, Prashant, what does Kul Chandra Gautam's candidacy tell us about the Nepali state that we do not know? Seriously, what?
You may be interested to know more about the Qatari state. Here are the main points (copied and pasted from wikipedia):
:- Absolute monarchical state (i.e. not a democracy)
:-¬†has been ruled by the al-thani¬†family since the mid-19th century¬†
:-¬†In 1995, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani became Emir when he seized power from his father, whom he accused of stealing state funds
:-¬†¬†It has allowed American forces to use an air base to send supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan.
:-¬†Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world (money talks)
:-¬†Qatar has the highest¬†per-capital carbon dioxide¬†emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person in 2005.
:-¬†No foreign missionary groups operate openly in the country.
:- Expatriates¬†form the majority of Qatar√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs residents - nearly three quarters of the population.
:-¬†Qatar explicitly uses¬†Sharia¬†law as the basis of its government
:-¬†Qatar is a destination country for men and women from South and Southeast Asia who migrate willingly, but are subsequently trafficked into involuntary servitude as domestic workers and laborers, and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation.
Behind the scenes quid pro quo is common in politics everywhere. That's nothing new.¬†
26 FEB 2011 | 3:47 PM NST
Prashant (writer), would also be so kind upon us to let us know how we could have won the election? What mistakes did we commit, and how could we have rectified them? It's very easy (and cheap) to talk negative on the day of the election. Nepal announced its candidacy in 2001, and filed its nomination in 2010. Why did this realization dawn upon you so late? Were you stupid till yesterday, and suddenly became enlightened today? Wow !
26 FEB 2011 | 4:35 PM NST
Another great one, Prashant. Brilliant¬†and well-informed Nepalis such as yourself¬†should do this more often: name them, pin them down, dissect them, show us the cogs and wheels of this awful machinery.¬†We are all tired of¬†mundane overviews and¬†unhelpful generalities --¬†this neta bad, that neta bad, all netas bad, etc.¬†An analysis as¬†specific as this is a rare treat. I could name at least a dozen respectable men (not netas) off the top of my head whose profiles you could write as sharply as this one, but I'm sure you don't need me to write them here.
26 FEB 2011 | 5:50 PM NST
23. Ajay Pradhan, Vancouver
Mr. Gautam proved himself to be worthy for the president of the UN General Assembly, when he praised then prime minister Prachanda:
"You√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺre doing a tremendous job, Mr. Prime Minister, to convince the Nepali people and friends of Nepal abroad about your conviction and commitment to peace, to democracy, to respect for human rights, and rapid socioeconomic development. We hope you are equally successful in convincing and transforming your own party organization to act like true democrats." (Source:¬†http://southasiarev.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/comments-by-kul-chandra-gautam/)
Mr. Gautam is as genuinely appropriate for this position as Prachanda is committed to "peace, to democracy, to respect for human rights..."
Nepali people should resist being dazzled by glamorous names.
Mr. Gautam is a talented and accomplished man. But he's as appropriate for UNGA President's position as Prashan Jha himself would be.
26 FEB 2011 | 9:35 PM NST
The post was non-executive. He lost. It was a wishy-washy campaign.¬†
The effort maybe used up energy and resources that could have been utilized somewhere else?¬†
First, how does having one Nepali elected to a post with no true power give Nepal international recognition? Second, what is the use of seeking international recognition without¬†¬†solid¬†internal¬†strength and legitimacy?
The diplomacy that matters in this country right now is domestic, not international. The institution that we should pay more attention to is the CA, not the UN.¬†
26 FEB 2011 | 4:19 AM NST
25. Rajesh Mishra
Job well done. It took extra couple of Bud-Lights¬†for my poor wallet while defending your point of view.
I was hitting my favourite bar at NYC less than 500 yards from UN bldg. and the counting was going on.¬†I had a bunch of kaangresis, emaales and even maoist supporter friends from¬†my Himalayan ex-kingdom. They were of the opinion that your "UN-KOOL" was sort of an ornament to show off¬†(regardless, to whom? I asked) "The world, stupid," (actually they didn't use the word stupid, but you know how we nepalis act after a couple of american bottles!!!)
And then, there was the result..Google, that's what we do here for everything. Your UNCUL's defeat didn't catch me by surprise. Matter of fact, it was obvious.
Those¬†niggers in Kathmandu should¬†better know that one has to fix his own backyard before jumping¬†to mend neighbor's driveway.
Cheers!! Just don't sing ooh..la..la..and keep writting anticurrent stuff. By the way, how many of your "sabhasads", you think, can read "Angreziii?"¬†¬†
27 FEB 2011 | 9:39 AM NST
His give away line in NYC introducing Prachanda is this -¬†
'For those of us who have had the privilege to listen to the Prime Minister at the UN today and the [inaudible] Society a few days ago, the BBC interview in Nepali ‚Äď you come out, Mr. Prime Minister, as a very articulate, very thoughtful, very balanced leader with a clear vision for Nepal's future and Nepal's place in the world.'
27 FEB 2011 | 1:33 PM NST
"Niggers"¬† ????¬† Hmmm...
"Those¬†niggers in Kathmandu should¬†better know that one has to fix his own backyard before jumping¬†to mend neighbor's driveway."
You live in New York, and so you should know it better.¬† Be careful in using the word "niggers"...¬† How would we feel the words like "hey Bahadur"¬† or " tu Madhise."¬†¬† It is much worse than that...¬† Be sensitive...
27 FEB 2011 | 10:05 PM NST
28. Sagar Onta
I think Prashant made an error in this article by focusing on Kul ji. Whether it was Kul ji or any other person, the main point is that Nepal made a mistake by competing for the position without having an idea what kind of diplomatic¬†maneuvering¬†is required to be successful. That's been a problem with Nepal in many areas, like passing laws just for the sake of passing laws, without knowing its full impact or how to implement it. So its not Kul ji's problem, but problem with Nepal diplomats, leaders and bureaucracy not to understand the gravity of the situation.¬†
27 FEB 2011 | 2:38 AM NST
THE WINNER IS NEPALI BY HEART, GLOBAL HUMANITARIAN HOW LEADERSHIP TAKE INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY DEPENDS ON INFORMATION TO THEM AND THEIR WISDOM.
28 FEB 2011 | 10:43 AM NST
Jha, can you elaborate on your statement, "Could we have used our claims of not having been represented to get a position in other bodies, or additional resources, which would have a tangible benefit for the Nepali people"¬† What additional resources could we have asked for?¬† UNMIN has already been here and gone.¬† UNICEF does its thing with the children while WHO helps us plug the food gap. We're a veritable lab for the UN.¬† What exactly did you want us to do?¬† Ask the UN to build the second east west highway for us?¬† Build us a dam?¬† Give us gold?¬† You're great at attacking low-lying fruit but you never back it up with alternatives.
28 FEB 2011 | 12:47 AM NST
Mr Kul and his supporters have shown a keen ability to believe their own rhetoric. Any other dimwit could see that the (expensive and inept) campaign was doomed from the start, not least because¬†there was no campaign, other than people swanning around and grinning about what a great guy he was. There was no hard-sell of the concept in NY, no attempt to counter the sense that this was not Nepal's moment in the UN, what with the peacekeeping scandals and vicious clawing at UNMIN (the charge led often by Mr Kul himself), and finally, no real explanation of why the candidate was so great. He was at the top of the middle level of the UN bureaucracy. Big deal.¬†
Arthur, you're right in describing him and his ilk as useless, but not in saying that he doesn't have an effect here. How else does a UNICEF functionary, his days spent measuring out how much baby formula a starving child gets and how much he can skim off for himself, become an expert on integration and security sector reform?¬†
No doubt Mr Gautam and his supporters will feel hard done by now, as clearly the whole world is against them. By extension the whole world must also therefore be in favour of the Maoists capturing the Nepali state. Oh no! Phone Delhi! Trot out the President! Maybe we need the army? The King? Aaaaa.....,
01 MARCH 2011 | 6:42 AM NST
32. Lesson Master
You are a day late and a rupee short. Your comments would have been interesting, even insightful, last Thursday. Now it's merely a collection of "I told you so" smugness that you and your ilk are known for saying things¬†ex post.¬†
Suggestion:¬†Be sure to apply "search and replace" command to reprint the same comments above in May when constitution does not get drafted.¬†¬†
01 MARCH 2011 | 10:58 AM NST
33. Arthur Chameli #31, yes, I was wrong to say he is so useless he isn't even able to make a nuisance of himself in Nepal. People like Kul Gautum do have a (negative) effect, as you say.
01 MARCH 2011 | 3:56 PM NST
Chameli, you should get a check up, the bile you are oozing is obviously caused by ulcers. How much more cynical can one get? It's one thing to be against Kul Gautam's candidacy for GA but to belittle UNICEF's work in child nutrition and survival and insinuate that Mr Gautam skimmed off money? May you rot in hell with your puss-filled intenstines have infected your brain. The GA has lost the chance to have a compassionate president who would have tried to redefine human security in terms of child and maternal survival also, and not just military might.
02 MARCH 2011 | 7:02 AM NST
Totally agreed with every thought of Prashant on this one.
03 MARCH 2011 | 2:22 AM NST
here is a typical UN tenure that its bureaucrats experience in a new country posting
stage one: year one is all about learning the emergency evacuation of themselves in the event of a natrual calamity such as floods, earthquake, or some sort of political unrest that may happen in the country of posting
stage two: in the second year of tenure, the UN bureaucrat is usally kept busy trying to figure out where and who to work with in the the national system.
stage three: by the third year, s/he is busy preparing for the the "search" of the next available posting
So the point being...what does it matter that Kul Gautam is nominated to such a useless organization anyway. good riddance I say
14 MARCH 2011 | 7:16 AM NST
I totally disagree with the write on his argument that the UN's top post is less important than some other assistances from UN. Well may the the UN's¬†presidency¬†has only symbolic meaning but wouldn't it be great to have a small and poor and unnoticed nation like Nepal to have somebody as a UN president? People around the world would have turned to google maps if they find out some cool guy is president of UN, the top organization of the world that do important work.
Of course¬†we could have gotten some more money for something else than contesting in the president post. But that would be a temporary thing right. The recognition Nepal would have got would be much more valuable. It would have also signified that UN is a inclusive body that have a president from such a nominal country.
Now the question would be, is Kul Chandra the right person? Who else than? So what, he praised Prachanda and Upendra Yadav, it is called diplomacy. What would you expect from a person to be nominated for the post of UN, to sideline with NC only and denounce everyone else. The ability to work with everybody is a key requirement for the post. He is, to my knowledge, the best nepali with international exposure to match the requirements of the top post and it was the asia's turn this time around. What should have Nepal done in such a case? To forget it for now and to recruit some child picked up by a lottery, to take up the top post after 50 years from now? Nepal had the best chance and the best candidate whom we should be respecting.
And we should also focus on why he lost. Not because he is not able. Just because the other Qatari guy have so much oil money he can pump and bargain around.
We Nepali, in general, have a tendency to pull legs of people climbing up. And we love to give a good¬†laugh¬†to a person who is falling. This national attitude is the sole reason for the downfall of this nation, at least in the political arena. We can not rise above until we learn to help the other guy climbing up, to appreciate others, and to encourage others.