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A sorry, tell-tale anniversary in post-quake Nepal

By MR Josse GAITHERSBURG, MD: Penning this on the anniversary of Nepal’s devastating quakes of April-May 2015 – estimated to have killed nearly 9,000 people and wrought damage worth $ 7 billion – one is obliged to assert that their most salient collective feature is their damning verdict on the pernicious nature and priorities of ‘naya’ Nepal.
ELOQUENT VERDICT
Thus, although a year has elapsed since the awful tremors, and despite the fact that the detritus and rubble they brought in their awful train have been removed, precious little has been done to build habitable quarters for the large number of hapless victims, or to otherwise alleviate their prolonged suffering.
To recall, external intervention rose to new heights as foreign countries jostled with one another for long term political/strategic gains in Nepal – in the name of earthquake relief work.
The blunt fact is that loktantra-era politics have kept Nepal in a state of ruination, even when the situation on the ground is so dire and the urgency of remedial measures so incontrovertible.
Before venturing any further, could I mention that historical accounts refer in glowing terms to rehabilitation and recovery efforts post-the 1933 quake – during Maharaja Juddha Shumshere’s rule – when all victims were taken care of within three months and myriad taxes waived?
But, although the sheer enormity of the existential challenge that the 2015 tremblers had suddenly thrown up underlined a clear and urgent imperative to prioritise post-quake rehabilitation and recovery work, setting aside, for a time, the divisive politics of constitution writing, that was not to be.
In hindsight, that was simply asking for too much from loktantra-era politicos whose knee-jerk reaction was to shove pressing humanitarian tasks to the back-burner and, instead, rush headlong and recklessly into completing the complex and charged political process of drafting a secular, republican, federal constitution that had stymied the nation for years.
True, that resulted in the nation getting a CA-written constitution, even one endorsed by an overwhelming majority. But, as events on the ground have proven, it is virtually dead in the water. Already, due to extraneous force, particularly from an India that has backed the Madeshis to the hilt, there has been significant back-peddling.
Will there be more of the same in the future? If so, what will the reaction of other groupings be, as the constitution as adopted is incrementally altered? If not, how will the Madeshis, their cohort and international backers – visible and invisible – respond? And, while these crooked political games and intrigue go on, how much attention will crucial earthquake rehabilitation and recovery efforts receive?
One might be tempted, in such circumstances, to speculate whether another ‘jana andolan’ – if not a ‘jana yuddha’ – is not around the corner? And when – if ever – will the curse of loktantra-generated instability, dissent, dissonance and disequilibrium stop? Another unanswered question is this: whether politics trumping relief work was facilitated because the quakes affected the hills – and not the Madesh?
Will Nepal’s never-ending turmoil be extinguished wholly by indigenous political means or will it eventually spark a conflict between India and China – Nepal’s two immediate neighbours who not only continue to have a serious unresolved border dispute but who actually came to blows in the Fall of 1962, with China clearly emerging the victor?
Speaking of India and China, I wish to recall a Beijing-datelined story in the Hindustan Times headlined, “China seething after India issues visa to Uyghur ‘terrorist’.” The gist was the Beijing reacted with anger after India issued a visa to Dolkun Isa, a Germany-based Uyghur activist, branded a terrorist by the Chinese government, to attend a conference on Democracy And China, in Dharamsala later this month.
Coming as it did in the wake of separate visits to China by India’s defence minister Manohar Parrika and India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval, it clearly demonstrated the limits of faux Sino-Indian bonhomie. What happens if China issues similar visas to those branded as terrorists by India, whether in Jammu and Kashmir or in her troubled northeast?
AMERICAN POLITICS
The politics of America’s presidential race are getting nastier and increasingly turbid, though, on the surface, it would appear that while Donald Trump continues to surge happily ahead on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton appears increasingly as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
That indeed is how things appear on the eve of the primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island where the two frontrunners are expected to make a clean sweep. There are however some new wrinkles: mainly, on the Republican side, it is the announced understanding between Senator Ted Cruz, who trails Trump, and Ohio Governor John Keswick, to team up to slow Trump in the next round of contests in Indiana, Oregon and New Mexico.
Cruz has given up asking Kasich to quit; Kasich has stopped criticism of Cruz who has given up hope of getting the magic number of 1,237 delegates himself and is now focused on stopping Trump from reaching that score, before the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland. No one is surprised that Trump has reacted strongly, dubbing the Cruz-Kasich deal an act of desperation.
Senator Bernie Sanders has not muted his attacks on Clinton and promises to campaign all the way to the bitter end. That has the Democratic party patriarchs worried, even as they fret how Sanders’ bitter rhetoric will affect Clinton’s prospect in the general election.
Clinton has increasingly cast herself as the party nominee and is now mainly attacking Trump. She is also underlining her closeness to President Obama whose recent visit to Saudi Arabia was not a very warm one and those to the UK and Germany lacked the fervour of previous trips.
Interestingly, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Rinzi, in a TV talk programme came out in favour of Clinton, although he said he was saying that as his party’s representative, not the government’s. Will others do so, too?

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