By Prabasi Nepali
Nepalese Diplomacy in the Doldrums
The Maoist-Nepali Congress government claims that it has been very successful in the honeymoon period of a hundred days, but in the field of foreign affairs, it has been an abject failure. It has unnecessarily given primacy to relations with our southern neighbour, and sacrificed the supremacy of the external affairs tenet of “equidistance from both New Delhi and Beijing”. Pushpa Kamal Dahal (“Lotus Flower”) and SherBahadurDeuba (“Brave-Hearted Tiger”) have between them managed to ruffle the feathers of the foreign affairs/security establishment of our northern neighbour, who have again accused Nepal, i.e. the current government from deviating from the sacrosanct ‘One China Policy’. The much vaunted state visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee turned out to be a ‘lot of sound and fury’ denoting nothing. In the meantime, the state visit of China’s powerful President Xi Jinpin which should have taken place even before the Indian president’s and would have benefited the country enormously, is now in limbo. Not for nothing has Dahal been lampooned as ‘MurkhaJi’ (=Mister Idiot, a play on words to Mukherjee)!
The current government has also been incapable of appointing envoys to 12 countries smoothly, some of them vital to our economic development. It had previously rescinded the proposal of 14 ambassadors put forward by the former K.P. Sharma Oli-led government of CPN-Marxists-Leninists and Maoists. It managed to reappoint Deep Kumar Upadhya, the former ambassador to India to the same post (Nepali Congress quota), and the former chief secretary Leela Mani Paudyal (Maoist quota) was appointed for China. However, Nepalese embassies in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Denmark are forlornly without mission chiefs of ambassadorial rank.
Ambassadorial appointments have unfortunately become the bone of contention among the political parties, with each party pushing its own candidate without considering aptitude. Many capable contenders from the foreign service cadre have been brushed aside. The government’s dilly-dallying has given a very unfavorable impression to the concerned countries with ‘headless’ Nepalese missions. It signals that Nepal is not serious about its bilateral relations with these countries.
In this and other matters the current government is most opaque and has virtually lost the trust of the citizens. Thus, the people cannot at all understand how it could officially sanction Rs. 5 million from the state coffers for the private medical treatment of Ms. SujataKoirala, a former minister and Nepali Congress Central Committee member. This is an insult to millions of ordinary Nepalese who have no access to basic health care, and to millions of hard-working citizens whose taxes have been blatantly misused. When will the government stop misusing public funds as their own private ‘dhukuti’ (=treasury)?
This government has also regularly failed to protect its citizens’ fundamental rights from the authoritarian, violent and self-serving ‘bandh’ enforcers.
India : Demonetization
PM NarendraModi’s plan to cancel 500 and 1000 Rupee notes is facing fierce opposition. The outstanding old notes make up 86% of total outstanding Rupee notes by value. While the demonetization of these notes can be seen as a bold move against corruption and tax evasion with approx. 40% of the population outside the formal banking system and banks facing logistical challenges in exchanging the old notes invalidated as of 9th November economic activity has been brought to a standstill. It remains to be seen whether going through with this plan turns out to be PM Modi’s downfall or his great legacy.
Massive Protests in South Korea
At the present time, we urgently need to have an envoy in Seoul to report first-hand on actual developments there. After all, we have a robust trade relationship with South Korea which is sympathetic to our development agenda and is open to receiving our migrant workers.
Unfortunately, the country is in the throes of the largest anti-government protests ever seen in the capital. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and even children are demanding that President Park Geun-Hye resign over a snowballing corruption scandal. The scandal engulfing Ms. Park for the past three weeks revolves around her close friend Ms. Choi Soon-Sil, who is currently under arrest on charges of fraud and abuse of power, without having a regular government post. The two friends also allegedly participated in esoteric acts.
The president’s approval ratings have plunged to five percent – a record low for an incumbent president. She has also been made a scapegoat for the country’s current ills.
Europe in Uncertainty after Trump’s Triumph
The European Union’s (EU) founding fathers believed that its unity would be forged in crisis, but after the UK’s Brexit and the astounding election of Donald Trump as US President, the 28-nation organization looks very unstable. With popular movements of the right on the rise, Russia posing an increasingly menacing presence in the east, the immigration crisis and the endless fallout from the Eurozone debt crash, many fear perpetual turmoil. The impact of a US president-elect that has questioned the relevance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) – the decades-old transatlantic pact to defend the continent – has shaken up the entire EU-leadership. They are completely in the dark about what to really expect.
EU-President Donald Tusk has said that the events of 2016 were a “warning sign for all who believe in liberal democracy,” and urged Europe to “finally get our act together”. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned US President-elect Donald Trump that “going it alone” is not an option for the US or Europe. He also said the West faced its greatest security challenge in a generation.
US Presidential Election
Republican Trump in Upset Victory
The unthinkable has happened in the US presidential election. The Republican candidate Donald J. Trump triumphed over the favored Democrat Hillary Clinton in the votes in the Electoral College. All the political pundits and the pollsters were proved wrong. The vote for change trumped politics as before, a rank outsider beat the political establishment. A challenger with no political or government experience beat the most experienced candidate to date.
Just as an earthquake or tsunami is unpredictable, so has Trump erupted in the highest arena of American politics, confounding all experts. It has now become clear that the masterful wave surfer surged to victory on the backs of millions of dissatisfied and disgruntled, mostly white Americans ‘forgotten’ by both the Republican and Democratic establishments. They perceived their lot as unfavorable vis-à-vis immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans and Asians, and believedthat they had been given a raw deal by globalization and international trade agreements. They felt that they had been economically left behind. They also felt out of touch in their new environment, and there was sense of social and political alienation. Like the Britons who voted for ‘Brexit’, these disenchanted Americans wanted their ‘imagined’ country back, and, therefore, Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” resonated greatly with them. To change their personal situation, they were fully willing to forget or even forgive Trump’s rash statements and opinions.
These ‘silent’ and ‘forgotten’ supporters of Trump, however, await a rude awakening. US democracy will now face the greatest – domestic and international – challenges in its 240 years history. The greatest con artist in the realm of politics will now become the most powerful man in the world. Will he act of his own volition (for this he is most inadequately equipped), or will he be dependent on ‘minders’ and be swayed by puppeteers from behind the scenes? In a sense, is he a ‘Manchurian candidate’? Clearly, the leopard cannot change its spots, and Trump’s triumphal victory was a black day for US democracy, for the potential dangers to American society and the repercussions in the international arena. The inherent ‘checks and balances’ of the American political system will also not function since the Republicans control both houses of Congress, and a President Trump will soon name a diehard conservative justice to the Supreme Court, which will then have an arch conservative majority.
In the modern era, the American presidency has evolved into a powerful political institution, and been able to function even in the face of legislative recalcitrance. If Trump attempts to put into practice only some his wild and impractical policies, domestic and international politics will face major challenges. Moreover, he has too much political baggage to be successful. He will not be able or capable of delivering on key issues and will retract on others – fully disappointing his supporters.In fact, Trump and his key advisers have already backed away from some of the most sweeping pledges that he made on the campaign trail suggesting that his administration may not deliver on promises that were important to his most fervent supporters.
On major issues – climate change (which he considers a hoax), immigration, health insurance, international trade – Trump will be an abject failure, and after four years of ‘Trumpism’, it will be like a bad dream, and the United States will again be ripe for progressive change. It is also quite possible that after only two years, the Democrats will again wrest control of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, traditionally unfavorable for the incumbent political party and president. There is another (possibly) worst case scenario for Trump the Deplorable, with the impending debacle of his ‘Trump University’, and after only one year in office, he could resign as a result of extreme political frustration and depleting personal fortune, or be impeached for grave current and present danger to the Republic.
The World in Shock after Trump Victory
By Prabasi Nepali