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Soft Power & Strategic Perspective

By Prabasi Nepali
Neighbours
India
India has long been a source of inspiration for many Nepalese, and its government right since its independence the fountainhead of guidance for most Nepalese leaders. Unfortunately, for many uninspired countrymen who have not seen the light, it has remained the “Mughlan (since the time of the supposedly great, but petty king of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan) — the source of unwholesome ideas. Many of these backward Nepalese, and at times the country as a whole have — from the hallowed and progressive viewpoint of ‘Big Brother’ — have had —regrettably — to be taught a lesson, to bring them and the country at large to their senses. One such lesson was the exemplary ‘chakka jam’ (or prohibition of vehicular traffic) on the border to the holy land on the south. Although the leaders of Tarai had made it amply clear that this commendable action was to lower air pollution, many country bumpkins insisted that it was a border blockade to bring the country to its knees. This was not only a whopping lie, but a bigger one was that India had a hand in this. In fact, India was instrumental in lifting the ‘chakka jam’ immediately after the air pollution was reduced, and that after the negligible period of only 5 months with no hardship whatsoever to the ‘bahadurs’ and ‘bahadurnis’ of the tinpot republic of fools!
It is, therefore, necessary to take lessons from what happens in the great republic to the south. We have gathered some exemplary events which happened recently and culled from the establishment daily “The Times of India.”
It has been disclosed that officers of the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) based near Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir, sell fuel and food provisions meant for the personnel to outsiders at half the market rate. Videos on social media supplemented accusations of shady dealings by paramilitary officers, particularly those posted to border areas. This wheeling-dealing also involves furniture. A dealer said that officers while placing orders for elegant furniture for their officers, “take a commission that is more than what we earn.” He added that officers even compromise on the quality of the items.
This was not an exceptional incident and should inspire the officers of the Nepal Police and the Nepal Army, if it has not happened here already. After all, the officers are of paramount importance for the security forces and there should be no compromise on the quality of their lives when they are on duty.
In another development, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has urged PM NarendraModi to order liquor ban in all BJP-ruled states in order to create a ‘favourable environment’ for total alcohol prohibition in the entire country.A start had been made by the PM praising the enforcing of prohibition in the state of Bihar, and Kumar himself had paid tribute to Modi for effectively implementing liquor ban in his home state of Gujarat during his 12 years as chief minister. Thus, after this mutual appreciation, India, i.e. Bharat as a whole could soon become completely “dry” and be a beacon of inspiration for the whole of South Asia and prove its ‘soft power’.
International
World Holds Breath as Trump Takes Power
If US President-elect Donald J. Trump continues to utter outrageous policy statements completely in contrast to his nominees in the principal government departments, America and the world must be prepared for unpleasant surprises. During his presidential campaigns and even after his nomination, Trump has insisted that he favours torture to obtain information from terrorist suspects. He has a bromance with Russian president Vladimir Putin and is emphatic that Russia is not a threat to American interests. He still vows to build a wall on the US-Mexican border to effectively control illegal immigrants and drugs and make Mexico pay for its construction — the infamous ‘Trump Wall’. He has not given up on his pet project on enforcing a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the US. He still thinks that climate change is a hoax. Fortunately (for the world), and unfortunately (for Trump), his most significant policy declarations made before his dubious assumption of the executive office in the White House have been contradicted by his very nominees.
On major policy matters, Trump has not only placed himself outside orthodox Republican positions, but also the general trend of US national interests, especially in the area of national security. James N. Mattis, a former Marines Corps general, who has been nominated as defence secretary (minister), had already signaled his opposition to torture. Moreover, at his Senate confirmation hearings last week, he categorically stated that he supports the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump vehemently denigrates: “When America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.” In stark contradiction, Trump had said that the Iran negotiations resulted in “one of the dumbest deals ever”. [!] There will be no real hurdle for the Senate to approve Trump’s choice shortly after he is sworn in. This underscores concerns over the President-elect’s acute lack of military and foreign policy experience as well as the bipartisan respect Mattis cultivated on Capitol Hill during his 44 years in the military. He won the support from Democrats who believe he’ll be bulwark to a Trump they fear will carry his impulsive, bombastic style to the White House. “Mad Dog” Gen. (retd.) James Mattis has also stated, he would tell Islamabad in no uncertain terms the need to “expel or neutralize”externally-focused militant groups operating with impunity within the country.
Rex W. Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, who has had close dealings with Russia and even been decorated by Vladimir Putin, and who is Trump’s choice for secretary of state (foreign minister), has parted ways with his future boss on a wide range of issues in his Senate confirmation hearings. He expressly castigated Putin/Russia as a regional and international threat and underlined that he should be countered with “a proportional show of force.” In total opposition to Trump, he also repudiated a total ban on Muslim immigrants and characterized the US commitment to NATO as “inviolable”. He also did not support Trump’s previous comments that Japan should perhaps acquire nuclear weapons. He told Senators that he was in favour of remaining a party to the global climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015: “It’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table with the conversations around how to deal with the threats of climate change.”
Trump has not been very supportive of the work of US intelligence agencies, in fact he has belittled their work and questioned their effectiveness. Now his choice to head the CIA, Republican House Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas has strongly supported their functioning.
In spite of their strong words, it remains to be seen whether Trump will eventually prevail. According to the presumptive White House press secretary: “At the end of the day, each one of them is going to pursue a Trump agenda and a Trump vision.” This could prove to be not only extremely detrimental to US national interests, but catastrophic to the world at large.
U.S.—China Confrontation in the South China Sea?
The presumptive new secretary of state, Rex W. Tellerson’s remarks on the South-East Asia has raised consternation in both the US and China. During his confirmation hearing, he flatly called for China to be denied access to its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Should this become official American policy, an unnecessary confrontation between the world’s two largest economies and militaries would be just on the horizon. He told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that China’s multi-billion dollar island-building in the (presumed) oil-and-gas-rich sea was illegal according to international law and “akin to Russia’s taking of the Crimea.”
Tillerson’s remarks have already had an impact on mutual relations. First, Trump talked of enacting new tariffs on Chinese goods. Then, he broke decades of protocol by accepting a congratulatory phone call by Taiwan’s president — clearly questioning the ‘One China’ policy laid down by President Richard Nixon. The tough stance by the prospective secretary of state can only exacerbate an already troubled relationship.
Last Friday, the “Global Times”, an influential Chinese state-run tabloid reacted in an editorial that the US would have to “wage a large-scale war” in the South China Sea to prevent Chinese access to the islands. The paper is known for writing strongly-worded, hawkish and nationalist editorials, which do not always reflect official Chinese policy. The editorial also wrote that Tellerson may have wanted to curry favour with senators and increase his chances of being confirmed by intentionally adopting a tough stand toward China.
This January 20, 2017, Trump will be sworn-in as the president of the still and only super power on earth. A century ago, the last Czar Nicholas II of Russia wrote in his diary: “The year 1916 was cursed; 1917 will surely be better!” (It was the beginning of the end of three empires — the Russian, German and Ottoman-Turkish).If Trump does not change course on many fronts, we cannot say that 2017 will be any better. In all likelihood, Illusion is the mother of disaster, and hopefully, the above date will not turn out to be a ‘Black Friday’!

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