NEPAL GOES DOWN - ADVANTAGE CHINA
- Nepal's founding myth comes with a sting in its tail --- an old curse condemns the Shah dynasty to ten generations. King Gyanendra, who seized executive power and imposed a state of emergency this month, is the tenth generation. Even if the monarchy comes through the current crisis intact and prevails over the Maoists and abolitionists, it may not survive to the next generation; not least due to the rank unpopularity of Crown Prince Paras Shah, tales of whose misdemeanor are legion.
- While the Maoist rebels seized the opportunity to attempt to form an alliance against the monarchy, Nepal's much-maligned politicians discharged themselves admirably by rebuffing the offer.
- Civil and political rights have been suspended, communication links severed and media censorship is in place. Mainstream newspapers have been publishing tongue-in-cheek commentaries about the political situation. There are very few bloggers reporting from Nepal; Blogdai's NepalNow, Wagle's United We Blog and Radio Free Nepal are among the active ones.
- International reaction has been on predictable lines --- India, Nepal's ally by treaty, reacted sharply to Gyanendra's move, calling off a scheduled South Asian Summit in Dhaka, and threatening to cut off military assistance to the King. The United States, Britain and a host of European countries recalled their ambassadors for consultation.
- China and Pakistan did not criticise the King, choosing instead to declare their policy of non-interference in Nepal's domestic affairs. But it is unlikely that King Gyanendra could have pulled off this move without blessings from China; significantly, the Dalai Lama's office in Nepal was closed down by the Nepalese government a few days before the emergency. Blogdai suspects that China has been in on this for some time.
- India has played key roles in Nepal's previous political transitions --- in 1950 it helped free King Tribhuvan and his family from the grip of hereditary prime ministers who had usurped de facto power by the twentieth century. Some constitutional reforms were introduced but executive powers remained vested in the King. Again in 1989 India intervened in support of a popular demand for democracy that resulted in the King's powers largely reduced. While King Gyanendra, like General Musharraf, has committed himself to a timeframe to introduce democracy, how India plays its cards will determine whether it will help finish the process towards Nepal's democratisation that it started half-a-century ago.
Other Issues Include: Bangladesh slows down - advantage who?; The Kashmir bus speeds up; Khan celebrates his first year in retirement; India - a million matinees now
BANGLADESH SLOWS DOWN - ADVANTAGE WHO?
- Bangladesh was not terribly impressed with what it saw as India's high-handed refusal to attend the South Asian summit, resulting in a lost opportunity for Bangladesh to showcase itself on the international scene. That India cited security concerns in Bangladesh only made feelings worse. Dhaka had invested time, money and political capital in hosting the summit. Wamy, for instance, recommends that Bangladesh recall its ambassador from India and press for damages.
- The opposition lost a respected senior leader to another political assassination. Like a previous assassination, this attack too was carried out using Arges grenades. Since the killing of Shah AMS Kibria, Bangladesh has been more or less under a state of constant hartals (general strikes) called by the opposition.
THE KASHMIR BUS SPEEDS UP
- India and Pakistan agreed to commence a bus service connecting parts Kashmir they control, following an agreement on the type of travel documents passengers need to carry. The move was welcomed by Kashmiri people and scorned by jihadi terrorists.
- Pakistan has decided to take its case over India's construction of a hydro-electric project at Baglihar in Kashmir to the World Bank for arbitration. The Indus Waters Treaty has survived wars, proxy-wars and nuclear standoffs; and Pakistan's move will take it into uncharted waters. One question is: what makes an expert truly neutral?
- In India's Jammu & Kashmir state municipal elections attracted strong turnouts, even in insurgency hit areas, delivering a snub to election-shy separatists.
PAKISTAN - KHAN CELEBRATES A YEAR OF RETIREMENT
- A Q Khan celebrated a year in retirement; Time magazine's cover story though overlooked a couple of things. CIA director Porter Goss's statement to Congress suggested that it is rather hard to get him to spill all the beans.
- The political mess in Balochistan deepened. Then there was natural disaster --- floods destroyed a number of small dams in Balochistan claiming hundreds of lives. Pakistan's armed forces helped in rescue and relief work.
- Pakistan's stock market is booming and its macro-economic indicators are looking good. While Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz claim credit for their economic stewardship, the politicisation of the economic recovery has fuelled domestic criticism. Bizarrely, Musharraf asked foreign investors to put their money in Pakistan to help save themselves from terrorism.
- You can read about all this and much more when General Musharraf publishes his memoirs next year.
- Head on to the Posigator if you want to read good news about Pakistan.
INDIA - A MILLION MATINEES NOW
- In what is the most significant step forward in the growing strategic relationship between the United States and India, reports have emerged that decks are being cleared for the sale of Patriot-2 missiles to India.
- The Congress party-led government's commitment to fight Naxalite terrorists was called into question again when police commandos were asked to stand down and allow top leaders to escape.
- Opinions differed on whether India was right to bring about the cancellation of the South Asian summit.
- India's skies have opened. India's top-level internet-domain names have opened. And one entire issue of the New Scientist opens to India. Britain's Prince Charles may be pleasantly surprised when he opens his wedding gifts.
- Plans for a $40 billion redevelopment of the city formerly known as Bombay received a jolt thanks to a cynical political move.
- Pakistan's cricket team will visit India; they will bring along 10,000 fans.