By Prabasi Nepali
Nepal’s Foreign Policy in the Doldrums
There has been some public discussion about the role of the great King Prithivi Narayan Shah in nation-building and the need to re-establish ‘Poush 27’ as ‘National Unity Day’. However, it seems that the debate is largely confined to the print media, and has not caught on in the social media. The two large parties in the current coalition government of strange bedfellows are more engaged in pushing through the Indian promoted agenda of constitution amendment with the support of the Tarai-based parties. Strangely, it now seems that the CPN-UML has now taken on the mantle of promoting national values, and KP Sharma Oli has emerged as the unlikely champion for preserving our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The leaders of the Janjatis and the Tarai-based parties have their own agenda (Indian dependence) and are not interested in promoting an independent foreign policy.
The basis was laid down by the great Prithvi Narayan – now fully ignored by the leaders of the present government. When he stated that ‘Nepal was like a yam between two stones’, he fully recognized Nepal’s geo-political situation. He promoted close friendship with both the then powerful neighbors to the north and south. It was not necessarily a position of weakness, as the foreign policies of the Shah kings and the Rana maharajas perspicuously demonstrated. King Mahendra was the head of a quasi-autocratic regime, but his foreign policy took full cognizance of Nepal’s geo-strategic realities – which the present crop of leaders are unwilling or incapable of comprehending or even putting into effect. King Mahendra’s foreign policy was buttressed by sound domestic policies, and he took the cue from his illustrious ancestor who considered himself the caretaker of a flourishing garden (realm) in which many flowers blossom (ethnic groups living in harmony).The great king was also cognizant of the dangers from the south — ‘Mughlan’— and expressly warned his people.
King Mahendrawas after all the architect of the ‘East-West Highway’ and the ‘Arniko Highway’ linking Nepal to Tibet — then objected to by both India and the United States. In addition he established the 14 zones (which were models of national integration), mostly in a north-south axis, comprising the mountains, hills and plains. The so-called democratic and republican leaders destroyed the old, but were unable to create something new and sustainable. The present state model is hell-bent in promoting national disintegration and advancing Madhesi demands (under Indian pressure, which prioritize fissiparous tendencies) at the cost of national unity.They have adopted a lopsided foreign policy, leaning to the south, instead of equidistance from both Beijing and New Delhi. It is remarkable that China is quite comfortable with Nepal’s ‘equidistance policy’, but India is not. This is because India considers Nepal within its sphere of influence (disparagingly even ‘backyard’), with the inherent right to meddle in its internal affairs, to the extent of even micro-managing domestic matters! Unfortunately, against the wishes of the majority of the people, we have quislings and collaborators — posing as leaders — who are willing to sacrifice the country’s sovereignty.
Trump Ignores U.S. National Interest
In a remarkable development, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a sweeping, all-inclusive order requiring politically appointed ambassadors (i.e. not those from the professional cadre of the State Department) to leave their foreign posts before the inauguration of the new president, i.e. January 20. This is most unusual (or ‘unpresidented’, to use Trump’s mistaken, but apt use of ‘unprecedented’) as it breaks with decades of precedent by refusing to provide even the briefest of grace periods. This is slap in the face to the Obama administration and is prompted by spite, without consideration for vital US interests.
The injunction was issued “without exceptions”, according to a terse State Department cable sent on December 23 (and thus a thoughtful Christmas present for the envoys involved?) was equivalent to a diktat. This unnecessary hasty action threatens to leave the US without Senate-confirmed ambassadors for months in very close countries like Germany, Canada and the UK, or in geo-strategic regions like the Czech Republic. In the past, US governments have usually granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of envoys to remain in place for weeks or months, until new ones were confirmed by the Senate.
Trump is apparently in a hurry to dismantle many of Obama’s signature domestic and foreign policy achievements, but without considering the effects on vital US national interests.
Russian Interference in U.S. Elections?
In an assessment, US intelligence agencies have claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an intense endeavor to assist Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump electoral chances by discrediting Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. The heads of the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) have also reported to president-elect on Moscow’s alleged interference. Trump now has developed a jaundiced view of the matter. While he held fast to his rejection of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia influenced the election, he grudgingly accepted the possibility that Moscow was involved in hacking various US targets including the Democratic National Committee.
Trump’s difference of approach is absolutely untenable since US intelligence agencies are convinced that the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, used intermediaries such as WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and Guccifer 2.0 persona to release emails that it had acquired from the Democratic National Committee and leading Democrats as part of this insidious effort. The disclosure of the emails led in fact to intense and embarrassing media coverage for the Clinton campaign and even led to the resignation of the DNC chief. In the face of such evidence, Trump cannot claim that Russian hacking had no effect on the outcome of the presidential election. Russian manipulation was even known to the Obama administration in the summer of 2016, but the President chose not to intervene because of ‘political correctness’. It should not be forgotten that Trump clinched his victory through the electoral votes through razor-thin margins in three crucial states. In the end, the Electoral College did not function in the way the fathers of the American Constitution had envisaged. This is borne out by the fact that Clinton’s majority in the popular vote is nearly an unprecedented (or ‘unpresidented’ [sic] to use Trump’s parlance) 3 million! There is no denying the fact that right from the beginning Trump’s presidency is deeply flawed and his mandate questionable. But because of this or in spite of it, he is already showing authoritarian tendencies.
Trump offered no direct acceptance of the intelligence chiefs’ conclusion that Moscow in fact staged an unparalleled attempt to impact the 2016 presidential race by hacking and leaking documents that also aimed to boost Trump’s campaign.He insisted: “While Russia, China, and other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.” This statement is in direct contrast to the report by the Director of National Intelligence which said categorically that Putin personally ordered a campaign of hacking and media manipulation to undermine the Democratic candidate, Clinton, who had widely been expected to win the November 8 election. In the face of the intelligence agencies’ assessment, Trump’s stance is clearly untenable: “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
President Barack Obama took belated retaliatory action last December, expelling 35 Russians he said were intelligence operatives, and placing sanctions on a number of other Russian officials and entities. He laid out very clearly: “I think that what is true, is that the Russians intended to meddle and they meddled.” At the same time, he regretted the unnecessary difference of opinion among Americans on a clear matter: “One of the things I am concerned about is the degree to which we’ve seen a lot of commentary lately where there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats.” If Trump turns out to be Putin’s poodle, God Help America!
Small State & Super Power both Ignore National Interests
By Prabasi Nepali