In Nepal, we agreed that the Maoists should abandon violence, and that the King should reach out to the political parties to restore democratic institutions.
-George W Bush, President, The United States of America, at 13:10 P.M. NST, Mughal Garden, Hyderabad House, New Delhi, India. Source: The White House.
By D Wagle, in Kathmandu, of course.
That was the sentence that was. A big full stop right after that. They AGREED. And that single sentence has sent a tremor in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Thaha payeu, Bush le Nepal bare bolyo ni! Okay, that was what a colleague enthusiastically told me this evening: Did you know that Bush spoke about Nepal? I am sure someone must have told the occasional residents of Ratna Palace in Pokhara the same sentence with same level of enthusiasm. Well, not enthusiasm but with anxiousness, I guess. I am also sure that the Bush Sentence will find a plum space on the front pages of all national dailies (yes, including Gorkhapatra, I think) tomorrow. Already serious efforts of decrypting that sentence appears to have begun. “It’s really a big news,” one scribe said. “Bush speaks about Nepal.” President Bush is a master summarizer. He must have gotten full marks in that skill. He presented a solution in Nepal in a single sentence (with 25 words, two commas and a full stop, according to a White House transcript of the proceeding of the joint news conference made available at their official web site).
Bush is in India and the heat of his visit has been felt in Kathmandu via that sentence. A sentence is sufficient enough to cerate discussions and make headlines in Nepal just like a 3-day US Presidential visit is for Indian media and intellectual circle. I am simply amazed by how the Indian media and political/intellectual circle is reacting to the Bush trip. Bush’s India visit reminded me of Indian Prime Ministers’ Nepal visits. We start taking about the visit, the Prime Minister, his kurta, his mustache, the Indian influence. We also express our concern about what out government might “sell” to India, how Indians will make us fool in certain deals, how our national sovereignty will be undermined etc etc etc. We talk, debate and discuss about the visit to the extent that almost all important space of the major media outlets is consumed by the issue. And to be honest, we are not alone. Indian media and intelligentsia is does the same when an American President visits their country. Yes, America for India is what New Delhi is for Kathmandu.
I have been following the Indian media (newspapers TVs and web sites) and I would have definitely been overloaded by the information that they have been feeding to their audiences had I not been aware of the importance of America in India and rest of the world. The other day, Times of India ran a front page banner news telling us what would bring Bush in India and went on detailing the widely available information about the Air Force One. I told my brother Email to ignore the TIO report and instead turn the computer on and look for a How Stuff Works file that I saved in the hard disk three years ago. TOI report contained no updates on the plane. Yes, Indian media are talking about Bush and the visit just like Nepali media talk about an Indian premier prior to his visit to Nepal. “President Bush has landed” is the banner headline of Indian Express though the daily’s coverage of the visit is disastrous compared to that of, say, Hindustan Times.
“HE’S A FRIEND” declares HT on it’s front page citing a survey conducted by an agency for the daily that provides insights about Indian feeling to America. Is Geroge W. Bush a friend of India? 45% say YES and 41% NO. And will Indians Invite Bush to their homes for dinner? 45% YES, 43% NO. In the second main news on the front page, HT asks a question via the headline: Why is this visit important? This is exactly the same question that Nepali media asks every time an Indian Prime Minister lands at Kathmandu’s International Airport. “Before, US presidents used to let 20 years or so slip by before visiting India,” says the daily. “George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the first examples of successive Oval Office residents to come here. This reflects the changed dynamic of th Indo-US relationship.”
Aaj Tak, a TV network is suing the tagline “Aaa Gale Lag Jaa” (Come, hug me) while NDTV is saying, today, Bush huwa Khus! (Bush is happy). The talk is focused on the nuclear deal. Critics are talking about Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh undermining the national sovereignty of India by letting America it’s hand into Indian nuclear power plants where as the establishment is trying to console itself by saying that the government successfully convinced America to, as HT put it, “symbolically end 40 years of the US trying to keep India off the high table of power.”
Anyway, we are yet to see so many sound bites and headlines out from the Bush trip in Indian media. But before ending this blog, I would like to quote President Bush that demonstrates how he loves Indian mango!
“And, oh, by the way, Mr. Prime Minister, the United States is looking forward to eating Indian mangos. Part of liberalizing trade is to open up markets. And as a result of your leadership, and our hard work, we are opening up markets. Our agricultural knowledge initiative is an important initiative for both countries, where we’ll fund joint agricultural research projects.”
>>>You might want to follow the White House link provided above for more juicy quotes from President Bush.