By Prabasi Nepali
After the Indian President Visits Nepal
After the president’s visit, Nepali Congress (NC) president SherBahadurDeuba addressed the 3rd India Ideal Conclave organized by the India Foundation in Goa, India. He claimed that India was Nepal’s “closest” neighbor as both were linked by religion, culture, language and fraternity. Furthermore, “Nepal-India relations date back to time immemorial and are too (sic) broad and comprehensive.” To this can be said that Deuba’s sweeping classification and unmitigated praise of Indo-Nepalese relations does not reflect the true state of the bilateral relationship. It may express the Nepali Congress party’s fawning attitude towards the Indian political establishment, but this is not what the general Nepalese public opinion and above all the intellectual class view the current state of the relationship. Deuba and the NC may have an extremely short memory, but the majority of Nepalese have not forgotten the extreme hardships borne by them in the India-imposed blockade (abetted by the Madhesi political parties) only last year, and so close after the devastating earthquake.
Relations between two countries can be exceptionally close, as those between Germany and Austria, or between the United States and the United Kingdom, without having to forget the real differences even in the face of ‘a special relationship’.Deuba goes too far, crossing the ‘red line’ of Nepal’s proud history of an independent existence since ancient times (which cannot be said of India, i.e. Bharat or ‘Hindustan’), especially since he characterizes the bilateral relationship as “strong, unshakable, unique and incomparable.” The fact is that ever since its independence, India has striven to push Nepal into a dependent association as it also did with the other Himalayan kingdoms, Sikkim and Bhutan. On assuming power, Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi had proclaimed his policy of “the neighborhood first”, but this now lies in tatters.
Deuba is definitely out of tune with the current Nepali mood. Nepal has learnt its lesson the hard way. It rejects all Indian attempts to ‘micro-manage’ our internal affairs, and in our foreign policy, we are firmly committed to ‘equidistance from both New Delhi and Beijing’. Our long term survival and sustained development depend on it.
ISIS on the Defensive in Iraq
Iraqi special forces launched a two-pronged assault deeper into Mosul’s urban centre last Friday, unleashing the most intense street battles against IS militants since the offensive to retake the ISIS-held city began nearly three weeks ago.This took place under heavy US-led coalition air support. The operation to retake Mosul is expected to take weeks if not months. Some 1 million civilians still remain in the city, complicating the advance. IS militants have driven thousands of residents deeper into the city’s built-up areas to be used as human shields. In addition, satellite images have shown that the extremists have set up formidable defences designed to bog down advancing forces, including rows of concrete barricades, earthen banks and rubble blocking key routes leading to the city.
A US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters have also begun a long-awaited operation to capture the Islamic State group’s de facto Syrian capital Raqa. The operation was dubbed “The Wrath of the Euphrates” (one of the two main rivers of Mesopotamia, the other being the Tigris) and would involve some 30,000 fighters from Raqa itself and also Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen factions.
US Presidential Elections
At the close of both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns, it was anybody’s guess who would win – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Forecasts had given the 69-year old Democrat an edge over the 70-year-old real estate magnate ahead of Tuesday’s vote (because of the time difference, Wednesday in Nepal). The deciding factor will not be a majority of the popular vote countrywide, but reaching the magic number 270 of the votes in the Electoral College (the various states of the union have differing number of ‘electors’ depending on the number of their representatives in Congress).
At the time of writing, Hillary Clinton led Republican Donald Trump by 5 percentage points among likely voters – 44 percent to 39 percent –, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, one point less advantage the Democratic nominee held before a FBI announcement that reignited the controversy about her email practices while she was still Secretary of State. The opinion poll was conducted after FBI Director James Comey notified Congress two weeks back that his agency would examine newly discovered emails that might pertain to Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was still in office.
Comey categorically said he did not know whether the emails were significant and released no information other than that they existed. His announcement drew outrage from Democrats, including President Obama, who voiced concern it would unfairly influence voters so close to Tuesday’s election. Trump and other Republicans seized on the revelation to revive questions about Clinton’s credibility.Coney’s notification poisoned the political atmosphere against Clinton without any justification. This was the (in)famous October surprise.
Two days before the election, the FBI sprung another revelation. Comey now announced that the FBI’s decision not to charge Clinton would remain unchanged after the agency’s review of the newly discovered emails, so that the Democratic candidate was now fully in the clear. Hillary Clinton could thus head into the final day of the tight race with new momentum.
After the FBI scandal, Trump saw new possibilities opening up for him, as a growing number of states appeared potentially within his grasp. But to win, he would have to take nearly all of them. He was encroaching into Democratic strongholds. However, at the beginning of this consequential week, the political map suggested that Clinton could lose several key states long assumed to be in the Democratic fold and still reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. In short, Clinton held a broader path to victory than Trump. There were also signs that Clinton may have started to recover from her setback after the FBI-bombshell.
Of major significance is not only the presidential vote. The election will also decide the control of the US Senate, where the Republicans are defending 24 seats, compared with 10 for the Democrats. Trump’s performance at the top of the ticket will also determine whether Democrats can pick up the five seats needed to regain majority. There are indications of this possibility, and leading Republicans concede that the matter is on the razor’s edge.
Republicans were also bracing to lose seats in the lower House of Representatives, which would diminish the largest majority they have held there since 1928. However, neither side expects a wave large enough to restore control to Democrats who lost it in the 2010 midterm elections.
As the race for the President of the United States (“POTUS”) reached its final mile, on the road to the 270 electoral votes to clinch victory, unlike Trump, Hillary Clinton had several paths. Trump needed a dramatic final-stretch boomerang in states where the Democrats had the upper hand. The last Associated Press analysis of the Electoral College map rated states accounting for 278 electoral votes as safely Democratic or leaning Clinton’s way. To triumph, Trump needed not only to win all of the states rated as toss-ups, but also those leaning towards Clinton. But nothing is impossible, and pundits – and polls — have been wrong before.
Trump needed a run of victories in states now viewed as a toss-up. Republican Mitt Romney (who has not backed Trump) won North Carolina in 2012, but Clinton had a 7-point edge. Clinton also had an advantage in Nevada with its large Hispanic population. In New Hampshire, the state’s politics are disproportionately influenced by women – the state’s governor, the two US Senators and the majority of the state senators are women! Arizona was also leaning toward Clinton. In Utah, the GOP (Republican) candidate is very unpopular with the state’s influential Mormon population. Regarding Texas, a political scientist from Houston remarked: “Donald Trump is so off the charts, he’s wiped out 20 years of [GOP] outreach not only to Latinos, but Texas’ growing Asian vote. The New York Times summed up the general mood at campaign’s end – there was optimism from Hillary Clinton and darkness from Donald Trump.
Thus, all other things remaining equal, on the eve of the momentous vote, it looked as if the next US administration would not have a FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States)!
US Presidential Election Grips the World
By Prabasi Nepali