India-Pakistan Talks: Nepali Viewpoint

Neighbours talk. Kathmandu Post.
Click to enlarge

By Dinesh Wagle

May be they should have installed a closed circuit TV camera inside the hall sending live feeds over the Web. That could have saved millions of people from confusion. No one knows for sure what exactly happened inside Hyderabad House, a New Delhi landmark, where foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan held talks on Thursday. After the talks held out of the media glare were over, the leaders of the delegations went to address the press separately to provide conflicting details of the talks. Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said the discussions were mainly focused on the issue of terrorism and briefly touched Kashmir while her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir stated the exact opposite. The same contrast was splashed all over the front pages of newspapers of both countries on Friday with Indian media persons blaming the Pakistani side for trying to score points over the talks and their Pakistani counterparts stating that no progress was made at the meeting as India “engaged in a game of doubletalk, saying one thing while meaning the other”.

Nothing different was expected, in fact, from both sides as we know they have very different concerns and priorities. While terrorism is an issue of the topmost importance to India, Pakistan can’t put Kashmir aside. India wants Hafiz Saeed, a man it thinks plotted and executed the Mumbai attack, to be arrested and tried in Pakistan. India said that it submitted three dossiers to Pakistan detailing anti-India activities of terrorists based in Pakistan. Maintaining that the talks shouldn’t be limited to the issue of terror, Pakistan, on the other hand, wanted to discuss India’s violations of the Indus Water Treaty that concerns sharing the water of six rivers that flow into Pakistan through India’s Jammu and Kashmir. Continue reading India-Pakistan Talks: Nepali Viewpoint

Royalists want referendum on monarchy and Hinduism in Nepal

Earlier this week they organized a protest program that partially shut down Kathmandu (see at the end of the post about that). They were demanding a referendum on the monarchy and Hinduism in Nepal. They are using religion as a tool to further their political interest and it seems ultra rightist groups in India are quietly supporting them. The fact is duly elected constituent assembly (and parliament) did away with monarchy by declaring Nepal a republic and the parliament restored after the April 2006 people’s movement declared Nepal secular a month after. Royalists, wiped out in the election, are slowly raising their voices. A monarchist and ultra rightist party called Rastriya Prajantra Party Nepal (RPPN) is spearheading the movement. But that’s the beauty of democracy that they are able to speak their mind and stage protest. They denied us the same rights that democracy is providing them now. UWB publishes a statement issued by several fringe pro-monarchy groups supporting the aforementioned cause in its full length:

Joint Press Release in Support of a Referendum on the Monarchy and Hinduism/Restoration of the Constitution of 1990

The Global Hindus and Nepali nationalists endorse the demand of referendum raised by RPP-N to decide on Federalism and Secularism.  Acting in concert with other patriotic and nationalistic institutions, we are committed to the causes of Dharma, Nationalism and service to the Nepali people.  In that context, we are closely monitoring the rapidly unfolding events in Nepal along with the changing political awareness of the Nepali people themselves.  Presently, the conduct of national affairs has been hijacked by a cabal of corrupt political leaders and parties who purport to act in the name of the people’s freedom, democracy, republicanism, and secularism. Continue reading Royalists want referendum on monarchy and Hinduism in Nepal

Nepal Notebook: When corruption is part of the culture…

An inconvenient truth: Nepal has the dubious distinction of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

By Surendra Phuyal

That question is asked by all in the Himalayan nation — everyone from international visitors, who have to deal with bribe-taking officials right at Kathmandu’s international airport, to the hapless citizens of this country of approximately 30 million.

In July 2009, Nepal’s anti-graft body, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), came up with a smart idea to discourage staff at Kathmandu’s international airport from taking bribes. CIAA suggested top officials at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) make “pocketless” pants mandatory for all staff.

The suggestion came after widespread reports and complaints by airline passengers about petty corruption, such as bribery and theft, by staff of CAAN, various airlines, customs and immigration, and even by security personnel posted at the airport. CIAA’s pitch made international headlines, but it seems the plan served only to make a mockery of Nepal’s corrupt officialdom. The suggestion even prompted CAAN officials to discuss the idea, but they failed to come up with a concrete plan of action.

The result: The “pocketless” pants are nowhere to be seen, complaints from airline passengers haven’t stopped and bribery continues at the Kathmandu airport, if reports in local media are accurate. Continue reading Nepal Notebook: When corruption is part of the culture…

Maoists in India and Nepal

ब्लगमान्डू: राष्ट्रपतीय भ्रमणका अनौपचारिक कुरा

Many Indian newspapers today are filled with reports about the Indian police’s charge-sheet against Indian Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy containing a reference to a meeting with Nepali Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in 2006 as if Ghandy did a crime by meeting a leader who had, by then, left behind the underground politics for peace in Nepal. Nepali Maoists have obviously objected to the charge-sheet saying it had no relevance to the present situation. The question is: so what if Ghandy met Prachanda? They are both Maoists and its but natural for them to meet. When the meeting occurred, their parties were not declared terrorists by their respective states. Moreover, the biggest irony is, Nepali Maoists were in DELHI, New Delhi, even when they were the ‘most wanted terrorists’ in Nepal. India provided them with shelter. India brought the then terrorists Maoists of Nepal and other political parties together in Delhi to broker what became famous as 12-point agreement.

Delhi Police: Ghandy met Prachanda

The Delhi police on Friday filed a chargesheet against the banned CPI (Maoist) leader Kobad Gandhy saying that he had met Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda abroad and knew about the abduction and killing of Jharkhand cop Francis Induwar.

Filing the chargesheet before chief metropolitan magistrate Kaveri Baweja, the special cell alleged that Ghandy was involved in anti-national activities and was in Delhi to create a base for Maoist activities before his arrest in September last year. The police, in its 700-page chargesheet, informed the court that Ghandy had gone abroad to countries like Germany, Belgium and Nepal, where he met Prac-handa, to discuss the activities of his organisation. (contd.)

Continue reading Maoists in India and Nepal

Shyam Saran, Nepal expert, Quits Indian PMO

Saran’s exit marks the departure of the last Indian player in the Indian establishment who was behind the ground-breaking 12-point agreement that initiated the process of ending conflict in Nepal

By Dinesh Wagle in New Delhi
The Wagle Notes

shyam saran with nepali officials
Shyam Saran as India's ambassador to Nepal with Nepali officials in Kathmandu in 2004. Pic by Bikas Rauniar

Shyam Saran, former ambassador to Nepal and the man who once played a crucial role in Nepali peace process has on Friday (yesterday) announced resignation from the post of Indian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the India-U.S. nuclear deal and climate change. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) accepted the resignation to be effective from March 14.

Despite holding a position that has little to do with Nepali politics Saran is said to be providing his inputs on India’s Nepal policy informally because of his deep understanding of the Nepali politics. He hasn’t publicized the reason for resignation but news reports have speculated that he fell out with India’s pro-active Environment minister over India’s approach to international climate change negotiations. Some reports say he was unhappy with the latest development at the PMO that saw Shiv Shankar Menon, a former foreign secretary three years junior to him, elevated to the post of National Security Adviser to the PM with Minister of State status. Whatever the reason, Saran’s exit marks the departure of the last Indian player in the Indian establishment who was behind the ground-breaking 12-point agreement that initiated the process of ending conflict in Nepal. Continue reading Shyam Saran, Nepal expert, Quits Indian PMO

Analysis: Nepal President’s India Visit

president yadav returns home
President Yadav arrives at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu

The president wasn’t accorded similar levels of hospitality on all fronts: India rejected his request to supply more sugar to Nepal.

By Dinesh Wagle
The Wagle Notes

President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav returned home on Thursday (yesterday) completing his four-day visit to India. It was a mixed bag. To his supporters, New Delhi not only expressed solidarity with the budding Nepali republic but also demonstrated strong support for the president for his hardline position against the Maoist-led government. His detractors, especially the Maoists, could argue that it was but natural for Delhi to accord the president a warm welcome. Delhi, to this group, gave him a ‘thank you’ for doing what he was asked to do: revoke the Maoist-led government’s decision to sack the then-Army chief Rookmangud Katawal.

Some Nepal-watchers here say New Delhi has no illusion about the ceremonial status of Nepal’s president. “After all, it is the political parties, including the Maoists, who have to come together to complete the work on the constitution,” said an Indian analyst insisting anonymity. “Indians know they can back the president only so far. If they push more than what is seen as undermining the democratic process in Nepal, they will be facing the wrath of the Nepali people as it happened in the 2006 movement.” New Delhi changed tack as Nepalis continued with the movement ignoring Delhi’s initial efforts to bring together monarchy and political parties and restore democracy. Continue reading Analysis: Nepal President’s India Visit

India Maoist Attack: Nepali-speaking Gorkhas Die

Of the 24 policemen killed in a Maoist attack in Silda, West Bengal, on Monday evening (15th), most were Nepali Indians.

This is an irony. The Nepali-speaking people of Darjeeling hills, the Gorkhas of India, who are fighting for the separation of the region from the West Bengal form the majority of those who died in the Maoist attack. They were fighting on behalf of the Bengali government against which their non-police folks are waging a political war. Maoists want to overthrow the Bengali and the Indian government to establish their own proletariat regime.

Here’s a report from Darjeeling: The mood swung between grief and anger as thousands of Gorkha men, women and children lined the streets of Darjeeling in the biting evening cold on Wednesday (yesterday), waiting for the bodies of 13 of the Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans slain in the Silda Naxal attack two days ago. For 24 hours, the state withheld names of those killed, putting thousands of families, whose kin are in EFR, through torment. On Wednesday, families knew who died but no one was telling them when the bodies would come back. Of the 24 EFR jawans killed, most were Nepali-speaking residents of Darjeeling, from where the Frontier Rifles are mostly drawn. At 9pm, the bodies were still an hour’s drive away from Siliguri, which meant it would be midnight by the time they reached Darjeeling. This delay scuppered Gorkha Janamukti Morcha’s plan to keep the bodies for public viewing. GJM that has been spearheading the agitation demanding separate Gorkhaland state has called a bandh tomorrow in memory of the dead. But the Bangla Bhasa Bachao Samiti, a Bengali group, has vowed to oppose the bandh.

The Indian Express presents a story of a Nepali Indian who died in the attack:

By Madhuparna Das

Silda : Suraj Bahadur Thapa of the Eastern Frontier Rifles — one of the 24 West Bengal policemen killed by Maoists on Monday evening — had a premonition of death. So in the days, perhaps hours, before the attack on the camp, the lonely policeman started to write to the most important person in his world — his wife. Continue reading India Maoist Attack: Nepali-speaking Gorkhas Die

From Nepal to India: Busy Day for a President

Nepal President visits India
President Yadav holds meeting with chief of India's ruling alliance Sonia Gandhi. Pic by Dinesh. Rest of the pics by Chandrakishore

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

In the most important and busiest day of his four-day maiden visit to India, President Ram Baran Yadav on Tuesday (today) met several top Indian leaders including counterpart Prativa Patil, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh and Indian National Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Gandhi, unarguably the most important leader of present day India, went to the Taj Palace hotel to meet the visiting president in the evening.

Before Gandhi, several key cabinet ministers and vice president Hamid Ansari called on the Nepali leader in the hotel. Foreign minister SM Krishna, Finance minister Pranab Mukharjee, Home minister P Chidambaram met the president separately. A new appointment was added in the schedule in which India’s new national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon paid a courtesy call on the president. Commerce minister Anand Sharma and chief of the Congress party’s international department Dr. Karan Singh accompanied Gandhi.

In all of the meetings, UWB has learned, the Indian leaders expressed their concerns on the progress being made in drafting a new constitution in Nepal. They asked whether the constitution writing process would be completed on time, according to President Yadav’s press adviser Rajendra Dahal. Likewise the Indian leaders also keenly inquired about other aspects of the peace process including the governing alliance’s efforts in bringing the UCPN Maoist into confidence. The President is learned to have said that all 22 political parties who supported his controversial move to revoke the then PM’s decision to sack the then Army chief are still undivided and all the political parties in the CA including the Maoists might come together in future as the agenda of change belongs to them. [The Indian side, as it happens in all such occasions, tried to seek assurances from the Nepali side that Nepali land would not be used for anti-India activities.]

Indian media may have ignored the Nepali presidential visit but the warm and high-level welcome that the President got from the Indian political leadership was noteworthy. Some may interpret it as India’s strong approval of the President’s anti-Maoist stand back home.

Prior to the marathon meetings in the hotel the Indian president formally welcomed the Nepali guest in a ceremony in the presidential palace with a 21-gun salute. National anthems of both countries were played during the colorful ceremony. Later in the day, the Prime Minister had lunch with President Yadav in Hyderabad House that is near to the Prime Minister’s office. All key members of the Indian cabinet were present. Nepal and India signed on a new air service agreement and three memorandums of understanding related to development of railway infrastructure in five bordering points and construction of polytechnic institute in Hetauda and a city hall in Birganj. None of the issues are new though.

The Indian press, busy in covering the aftermath of Pune blast, the Maoist attack in West Bengal and impending India-Pakistan talks, didn’t care much about the Nepali presidential visit but the warm and high-level welcome that the president got from the Indian political leadership was noteworthy. This will be interpreted in some quarters in Nepal as India’s strong support to the new Republic in Nepal especially in the context of recent visit by ex-king Gyanendra during which he met some top leaders including Sonia Gandhi. Or, in some other quarters, it could be interpreted as India’s strong approval of the President’s first year in office in which he angered the UCPN Maoist, the largest party in the constituent assembly, that resulting in the former rebel’s exit from the government and the political chaos that exists in Nepal now.

Meanwhile, the President seemed to portray his visit as one far from controversy and one of the regular trips that every Head of State of Nepal is supposed to make. “Nepal-India relations are confluence of political, economic, and unique ties at people-to-people level,” said the president while addressing the dinner party hosted by his Indian counterpart. “It cannot be defined by only one element, let alone be confined to one dimension. These multifaceted and multidimensional relations have been nurtured by frequent contacts and interactions at various levels. I am confident that my first visit to India as the head of state of a new Republic of Nepal will contribute to further consolidating our mutually beneficial close relations.”

Pune Students Recall Their Visits to German Bakery

Students of Pune’s Bharati Vidyapeeth (Masters in Social Work) say life is uncertain.

Plus: Mourning a Nepali waiter who died in the blast

It was during the New Year eve; I had visited that place and had interacted with the cashier of the German bakery. When I came to know about the blast in the same place, I was really shocked. Suddenly, I went to watch the news channels. The place shown in the T.V. was really terrifying and disheartening. May god give strength to the family and their relatives of those who lost their life and got injured. May their soul be rested in peace in heaven. by Pratiksha Shrestha

It is rightly said that future is uncertain, so we should make the best of our presence. I am saying so, because today staying in the city of Pune where bomb blast took place and witnessing all the chaos feels really terrifying. Today I recalled that day when I and my friends visited German bakery on the new year eve to celebrate and today the same place has been destroyed and many innocents have victimized, but, I would just pray to god almighty to save the people and give strength to those people who have lost their near and dear ones and may the soul rest in peace who are no more amongst us. by Fatima Sayed

I am deeply shock with what happen in German bakery. I along with my friends used to visit that place once in a while. I am doing my research project on Nepali people and I was to go there for my data collection, but unfortunately, this happened. Our life is so uncertain. Anything can happen to us at any instant. So, at this hour of distress, I would like to express my heartfelt condolence to the family who have lost their dear ones and speedy recovery to those who are injured. May the departed soul rest in peace. by Abani Dhewajoo

‘Full of life, Gokul wanted to return home to Nepal’

By Anuradha Mascarenhas in the Indian Express
It was only a day before the bomb blast that 57-year-old Shunyam van Steveninck, a Dutch painter, had met her friend Gokul Nepali (Padewa), a waiter at German Bakery. Gokul had given her his address in Bagmati zone of Nepal and wished her a good life. That was the last time they met. The 19-year-old was among those killed in the blast; the bomb went off as he touched the unclaimed bag lying below a table at the eatery.

Shunyam, who has been visiting Osho International Meditation Centre for the past 26 years and been a regular at the eatery, says, “I’ve made several friends here and no terror attack will ever make me bid adieu to my second home.”

She visited the morgue to pay her last respect to Gokul. “My husband Vigyano and I were trying to locate Gokul at three to four hospitals on Sunday only to discover that his body is now lying in the morgue. No one has claimed it so far and I hope the police get in touch with his family in Nepal,” says Shunyam.

Shunyam also visited Shrikrishna Thapa and Paras Rimal, Nepali waiters at the bakery, admitted in a city hospital with injuries. Thapa, who has completed 10 years at the bakery, remembers Gokul as a hardworking boy. “Yes he is married and wanted to go back to Nepal. But his family is very poor,” says Thapa.

Shunyam reiterates, “I just met him a day before the bomb blast at the bakery where he works and he was so full of life and waiting to go back to Nepal to meet his wife.”

“He shook our hands and wished my husband and me a good life. He even gave me the address of his native place in Nepal and told me to visit his wife,” she says. “I cannot believe Gokul is dead.”

She now plans to meet his other Nepali friends who stay near ABC farms at Koregaon Park so that they can inform his wife.

Related link:

1. When India suffers, Nepalis share the pain: Blast at German Bakery, Pune

First President of Republic of Nepal Arrives in India

First foreign trip of the First President of the Himalayan Republic

President Yadav with LK Advani
With Advani

Dr Ram Baran Yadav has started his first foreign trip (to India) as the first head of the state of the republic of Nepal on Monday (today). President Yadav, who landed in Delhi’s IG International Airport this afternoon, started discussions with Indian leaders at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel where he is staying. Top opposition leaders Lal Krishna Advani and Sharad Yadav paid courtesy call on the president.

“I asked the President his assessment of the situation where writing constitution is not completed in time,” said Advani who is a towering personality in the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. “The president will be meeting the Prime Minister of India, Foreign Minister and possibly chairperson of the Congress party. I am sure that they would like democracy to be strengthen in Nepal. So is our party and NDA’s (National Democratic Alliance) interest.”

Asked if his party still had reservations about Maoists coming to power in Nepal, Advani replied: “That’s the feeling of many democrats even in Nepal.”

Asked if he raised the issue of Maoist’s ‘anti-India’ agitation in Nepal, Advani said: ” I didn’t raise the issue as that’s not what I am supposed to do. But I said that we would like Nepal’s religious, cultural and political relation with India as farm and strong as they have always been.”

In his meeting with the President, Sharad Yadav, leader of Janata Dal United, asked if the constitution would be written on time in Nepal. He also inquired about the challenges for the completion of drafting a constitution on time.

“The president said that the work is on right track,” said Rajendra Dahal, press adviser to the president. “But it’s slow, he said. The problem is political and the president said Nepal expects best wishes from India reminding India’s role during the time of conflict by helping to bring the Maoists into mainstream.”

Leader of ruling Nationalist Congress Party, D P Tripathi, also paid a courtesy called on the President. Similarly Indian foreign secretary Nirapuma Rao also met the President in the evening.

The president is scheduled to meet his counterpart Prativa Patil, Prime Minister Manmonah Singh, Foreign Minister SM Krishna and other leaders including United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday.

Air Service Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding with India on constructing Railway infrastructure will be signed at the ministerial level on Tuesday. Similarly two other Memorandums of Understanding on constructing a Polytechnic institute in Hatuda and a Friendship Building in Birganj will also be signed at the secretary level. The railway infrastructure MOU is about extending Indian railway links to five border points with Nepal.

President will go to Haridwar on Wednesday. State Minister for External Affairs Praneet Kaur had received the president at the airport. The president attended a dinner party hosted by the Nepali ambassador to India Rukma Shumser Rana at the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi in the evening.