Nepali Times
The art of diplomacy


I hope the kind editors called Ambassador Keith Bloomfield and yelled "IINNNCOMMINNNGGG Your Excellency" prior to the barrage of letters (#259) responding to his attempts at defining terrorism. The fact that Tony Blair was announcing that very moment that human rights laws might be changed in the United Kingdom must not have helped. This wasn't just your run-of-the-mill bent-out-of-shape reader or two sending in letters to Nepali Times. This was a multiethnic, multinational, coalition-style assault that must have had him reaching for the Guinness.

His Excellency evidently forgot-IJBTSTHUST. No, it's not Russian for 'Come hither my burly babushka' but the first rule of diplomacy and stands for It's Just Better To Shut The Hell Up Sometimes. He also seemed to have forgotten the second rule-JBYAYAKIMK. This rule is derived from the wise Hawaiian Kings (evidently before they did away with all those pesky consonants) and stands for Just Because You're Ambassador You Ain't King In My Kingdom. Failure to follow above rules has caused many a diplomat unnecessary grief.

So the INSAS rifle controversy is now out in public and it took the loss of so many brave and under appreciated soldiers of the RNA for this to become an issue. What do these fine soldiers have to do to get credit? When you're building a road in the most remote part of the country you're not doing it for the 'Royal Government' or the 'Imperial White Army' or violating human rights, you're doing this for the country. When you ambush and kill these fine people you're not liberating anyone or getting rid of feudalism, you're wiping out skilled workers and soldiers and stoking your own creepy pathologies.

Actually, the INSAS assault rifle is really a cool-looking assault rifle. The weapon is what is known in stodgy military parlance as, well, sexy. Its transparent plastic ammo clip is particularly attractive: a quick look lets you see if you have enough bullets left without actually having to keep count. A very handy feature in battle, I am told.

On the other hand, even for casual students of firearms like myself, transparent plastic clips have, ahem, a clear disadvantage to hardened steel ones seen in other assault rifles. Besides holding just ammo, the steel clips are tougher and are excellent substitutes as garlic and ginger mashers-so you can always have that evening curry just right while in the field.

But nothing apparently goes right in battle. Weapons jam, weather doesn't cooperate, air support's late, you forgot to bring enough ammo, someone forgot the base plate for the mortar, some goofball brought too much wai wai noodles-tom yum flavour-when the troops like the new mutton flavour and so on.

So maybe the whole thing is only the age-old tussle of style over substance: see-through cuteness versus multi-functional ruggedness, tomato versus tomaatoe, Catmandu versus Kathmandu, lungees versus shalwar kamij.

But if it does turn out that the INSAS isn't really that lethal, maybe the rifles can be packaged together with all the other approved non-lethal aid that Nepal is currently receiving. That should keep our activists happy. It's a win-win situation.

Nepalis have one of the least precise cultures. We have alleys in place of roads, the concept of forming a queue is still a Neanderthalish exercise and chairs for wedding receptions are arranged as if for concert seating. But when it comes to getting a drink at a bar, no one-not even rocket scientists or atom splitters-can beat the precision of our Nepali bartenders in pouring the 30 ml or the 60 ml shot of liquor.

In my own little survey (not sanctioned by Nepali Times) of a statistically representative sample of Kathmandu bars, results indicate that most bartenders in Kathmandu are unemployed chemists with a cruel bent. Even when enticed with a massive tip and/or grovelling they will refuse to serve a molecule more than what the shot-measuring glass holds.

Whatever the bar owners are doing to keep these guys in line, we need to immediately bottle and extrapolate across our entire culture for really important things-like correcting the goofy seating arrangements at wedding receptions.

Before I go, let me raise a toast to IJBTSTHUST and JBYAYAKIMK.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)