Nepali Times
State Of The State
The war dividend


Singha Darbar's unqualified support for the Iraq war is unwarranted. Like most small countries, Nepal should have kept its faith in the United Nations system. Any attempt to undermine the world body should have been condemned by Shital Niwas.

Faced with the diplomatic dilemma of either deserting a just cause or inviting the ire of the most powerful nation on earth, keeping mum would have been the smartest thing to do. But, no, we had to shoot our mouths off. There was really no reason for us to support open aggression so blatantly.

But there seems to have been a slight attempt at cushioning the impact of our words. It wasn't Foreign Minister Narendra Bikram Shah who welcomed the coalition invasion, but the self-proclaimed foreign relations guy in the Chand government, the redoubtable Information Minister, Ramesh Nath Pandey. Perhaps he was just returning the favour for Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Christina Rocca, speaking approvingly of the Nepal ceasefire to the House of Representative in Washington last week.

According to the ancient doctrine of jus ad bellum (When is it right to make war?), any war must satisfy at least seven conditions in order to be called just. First, the war must be waged for the protection and preservation of commonly shared values. The war must have a just cause.

If there was any strength in the argument that the West Asian war is being waged to advance the cause of democracy and the rule of law, George W Bush and Tony Blair should have first aimed for a regime change in Saudi Arabia. It is therefore quite logical to conclude that this war is not about weapons for mass destruction, but oil for mass consumption.

The second condition requires that the right authority must wage war. Since the Americans have chosen to ignore international law, this war is illegal. Third, the intention of aggression is power, and hence it fails to meet the criterion of right intention.

The criterion of proportionality of ends holds that the harm caused by the war must not be more than its positive effects. Television images of devastation of Baghdad on the very next day of the air raids are enough to show that this is a grossly asymmetrical war. The fifth condition is that the war must be the option of last resort. It wasn't. The CIA was still working with the UN arms inspectors when the Pentagon pulled them out.

The sixth criterion that there should be reasonable hope of success is also suspect. Nobody knows the long-term impact of this Anglo-Saxon Crusade. Unintended consequences can never be fully worked out, but when the intention itself is suspect America may well have to reap the whirlwind.

The seventh and the last criterion of a just war is that its aim must be that of establishing international stability and peace. Washington's intention is being read in completely different ways all over the Islamic world, and it has already exacerbated anti-American feeling worldwide-especially among Muslims. We are not asking that Singha Darbar oppose the war for these ancient rules of combat. Even national considerations should have inspired the good minister to say nothing. This war is disastrous for Nepal. First, the 300,000 Nepalis working in West Asia are directly at risk, there are six thousand in Kuwait alone. Gulf economies will be hit, reducing the need for migrant workers. The fuel crisis has already affected Nepali consumers. The tourism industry across Asia has been devastated.

For small countries like ours, no good can come of any war. It's just that this particular war in West Asia couldn't have come at a worse time for Nepal. The only silver lining in the dark war clouds may be that the Maoist comrades may now have to rethink the "objective conditions" of regional geopolitics.

So, as long as the Iraq war lasts, Comrade Prachanda perhaps will have to cool his heels in a neighbouring country. And it's going to take a while before Matrika Yadav can get to don his labeda-suruwal and grey coat. Dr Baburam Bhattarai can remain fashionably hirsute for a while longer. And Krishna Bahadur Mahara may get time to deliver more homilies on the supposed merits of the free market.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)