Nepali Times
State Of The State
Uncle Sam’s nephews


Even though it is the Indians who are arming us to the teeth (the latest Advanced Light Helicopters landed in Gauchar this week), it is the Americans who get all the credit. The American contribution is insignificant in comparison to what the army has sourced from India, Belgium, Britain, Belarus, South Africa and China.

In fact, American help has been confined to the services of 'consultants'. Let's face it, a country bogged down in a Mesopotamian quagmire can't have much to teach us about counterinsurgency.

Influence can be peddled by pushing an ideological line, by leverage or through linkages. Relationships between asymmetrical states are like those between magnets and iron filings. The filings gravitate towards the poles. In a bipolar world, this was fairly straight forward. Today, the filings have only one choice.

With Soviet Union gone for good from global affairs, Beijing and New Delhi are falling over each other to humour the neocon hawks who run Washington. Littler countries like Nepal have even less room to maneuver. They have to go along with the hyperpower, or its proxies, or be left out. King Gyanendra seems to have realised this reality rather well.

Despite popular perception to the contrary, neither China nor India seem to be overly worried about the ever increasing influence of Americans in Kathmandu. In an ironic twist to the Maoist legacy, China has left it up to the market. The Nepali middle-class can't imagine a life without the cheap Khasa goods and for that they are eternally grateful to China. As for the guerrillas who are fighting in their Great Helmsman's name, the Chinese dismiss them as 'anti-government forces'.

The Europeans, including the British now, rely on the 'system' (the palace-military-bureaucracy combine) to implement diplomatic policies. Outside the charmed circle of top brass, important topis and a few NGO biggies, they exercise little influence in Nepal. But being big donors, they can afford to manipulate aid to exert influence.
New Delhi has traditionally depended on Indo-Nepal linkages to influence policies here. From a soldier in the Royal Nepal Army to its Supreme Commander-in-Chief, almost everyone here has a relative, a friend, an offspring or a contact in India. Linkages of the business community are even stronger.

But Indians appear to have realised that personal linkages, like currency, may be more readily devalued by abundance than scarcity, as in the old adage of familiarity breeding contempt. Hence, they have begun to use leverage acquired through small grants directly administered by the embassy in Kathmandu.

The smartest have been the Americans who don't need to put their money where their mouth is anymore. They have no need for leverage or linkages and have replaced the Soviets in pushing the ideological line. This time it is the mantra of neo-liberal free market capitalism. Which means they really don't have to put the money on the table any more.

Antonio Gramsci used to say that hegemony has intellectual, moral and political dimensions. The Americans have an unchallenged monopoly over all these in Nepal by assiduously cultivating academia, media, professions and 'civil society'. The moral leadership has been acquired by harping on democratic ideals, despite the double standards in its application. The political agenda set by Bretton Woods Sisters keep the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance perennially on tenterhooks.

No wonder the Maoists and al- Qaeda detest America so much-it is a serious challenge to their own ideological bigotry.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)