American Embassy on Wikileaks Cablegate and Nepal

As we are awaiting the disclosure of 2278 cables from the US mission in Kathmandu by Wikileaks the American Ambassador to Nepal Scott H. DeLisi issued a statement today “on the Release of Classified State Department Documents.” Here’s the full text as provided by the US embassy in Kathmandu:

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have made it a priority to reinvigorate America’s relationships around the world. They have been working hard to strengthen our existing partnerships and build new ones to meet shared challenges, from climate change to ending the threat of nuclear weapons to fighting disease and poverty. As the United States Ambassador to Nepal, I’m proud to be part of this effort.

Of course, even a solid relationship will have its ups and downs. We have seen that in the past few days, when documents purportedly downloaded from U.S. Defense Department computers became the subject of reports in the media. They appear to contain our diplomats’ assessments of policies, negotiations, and leaders from countries around the world as well as reports on private conversations with people inside and outside other governments.

I cannot vouch for the authenticity of any one of these documents. But I can say that the United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential. And we condemn it. Diplomats must engage in frank discussions with their colleagues, and they must be assured that these discussions will remain private. Honest dialogue—within governments and between them—is part of the basic bargain of international relations; we couldn’t maintain peace, security, and international stability without it. I’m sure that Nepal’s ambassadors to the United States would say the same thing. They too depend on being able to exchange honest opinions with their counterparts in Washington and send home their assessments of America’s leaders, policies, and actions.

I do believe that people of good faith recognize that diplomats’ internal reports do not represent a government’s official foreign policy. In the United States, they are one element out of many that shape our policies, which are ultimately set by the President and the Secretary of State. And those policies are a matter of public record, the subject of thousands of pages of speeches, statements, white papers, and other documents that the State Department makes freely available online and elsewhere.

But relations between governments aren’t the only concern. U.S. diplomats meet with local human rights workers, journalists, religious leaders, and others outside the government who offer their own candid insights. These conversations depend on trust and confidence as well. If an anti-corruption activist shares information about official misconduct, or a social worker passes along documentation of sexual violence, revealing that person’s identity could have serious repercussions: imprisonment, torture, even death.

The owners of the WikiLeaks website claim to possess some 250,000 classified documents, many of which have been released to the media. Whatever their motives are in publishing these documents, it is clear that releasing them poses real risks to real people, and often to particular people who have dedicated their lives to protecting others. An act intended to provoke the powerful may instead imperil the powerless. We support and are willing to have genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. But releasing documents carelessly and without regard for the consequences is not the way to start such a debate.

For our part, the U.S. government is committed to maintaining the security of our diplomatic communications and is taking steps to make sure they are kept in confidence. We are moving aggressively to make sure this kind of breach does not happen again. And we will continue to work to strengthen our partnership with Nepal and make progress on the issues that are important for our two countries. We can’t afford anything less. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and I remain committed to being trusted partners as we seek to build a better, more prosperous world for everyone.


The Spillover Effect: from Bihar to Nepal [and the Maoists]

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

We are waiting for the spillover effect to take hold. China is growing phenomenally. India is following China so very closely. We are tightly sandwiched between them. We are folding our hands and sitting back, hoping that one day the economic progress will spillover from both sides and submerge us. We are hoping to swim. While hoping so we continue to berate both of our neighbors. We call the Chinese the “ex-Maoists who have no idea about democracy and freedom.” We call the Indians “expansionists who have nothing except the Bihari-style democracy.”

spillover effect kathmandu post p6.28nov10
Kathmandu Post 28.11.10

The Bihari-style democracy! Turns out the Bihari-style democracy is much better than what we have been told we have—”great achievement of the great People’s War”. In the past four years since the ‘great People’s War with small help from People’s Movement-II’ gave us republicanism we have gotten nothing but instability and inflation. Life has become harder for the man on the street while leaders are engaged in an endless power struggle. Frustration has surpassed the height of Sagarmatha.

Until recently, Bihar used to represent the worst of India: crime, corruption, insecurity, lack of development and immoral politics. Everything negative. That image of Bihar has changed dramatically in the past five years. And in the meantime, all these negative Bihari traits have crossed over to Nepal. That’s the actual spillover effect taking place. Neither Bihar nor India is to be blamed for that. We are solely responsible for stagnation and the deteriorating situation in our society. What have we done in the past five years when Bihar went through the historic transformation? Okay, we too witnessed historic political changes. We ended a decade long bloody war. We transformed from an autocratic monarchy to a democratic republic. Certainly things to be proud of. But, the question is, is that enough? The answer is a resounding NO. Continue reading The Spillover Effect: from Bihar to Nepal [and the Maoists]

Statement of Concern by the Nepal Donor Community

Today: On behalf of the international donor community, the United States Agency for International Development is releasing the following statement:

Statement of Concern by the Nepal Donor Community Regarding the Impact of the Continued Political Impasse

  • The international donor community would like to communicate to Nepal’s political leaders our growing concern regarding the negative development impact stemming from the slow progress in forming a new government, implementing the peace process, and writing the new constitution.
  • The donors recognize the difficult circumstances under which the budget was promulgated by Ordinance and are glad a crisis has been averted for now.
  • Executive leadership at both the Prime Minister and ministry level along with a genuine commitment to the peace process, transparency, accountability and tackling corruption will significantly accelerate progress in nearly every development sector.
  • Numerous key senior positions remain vacant, limiting the effectiveness of the Nepal Government and reducing donor confidence.
  • The slow pace in implementing the peace process, combined with the continued care-taker status of the government, lack of development leadership, significantly reduces most donors’ ability to secure future resources for Nepal.
  • The donor community remains committed to supporting Nepal through this challenging time and strengthening the ability of individual Nepalese to improve their living standards.

Full Statement
(emphasis by the USAID)

The international donor community would like to communicate to Nepal’s political leaders our growing concern regarding the negative development impact stemming from the slow progress in forming a new government, implementing the peace process, and writing the new constitution. The donors recognize the difficult circumstances under which the budget was promulgated by Ordinance and are glad a crisis has been averted for now. We further encourage leaders to renew their focus on the long-term critical issues affecting Nepal’s development and economy—particularly corruption, ownership and accountability; slow progress in filling key positions in important public offices; and the security environment.  While development progress continues in certain sectors, the ongoing political impasse has stalled or slowed many development projects and may negatively impact or limit future donor assistance.

Executive leadership at both the Prime Minister and ministry level along with a genuine commitment to the peace process and to transparency and accountability will significantly accelerate progress in nearly every development sector. The most effective programs are designed in strong partnership with the Government.  While senior civil servants provide substantial input and guidance, engagement at the political level is often necessary.  In addition,numerous key senior positions remain vacant limiting the effectiveness of the Nepal Government and reducing donor confidence, including the Head of Supreme Audit Authority (Auditor General), Chief Election Commissioner, and Chief of the CIAA (Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority) as well as significant numbers of leadership positions at the Village Development Committees. Continue reading Statement of Concern by the Nepal Donor Community

Kathmandu Connection: Complaints and Compliments

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

Soon after Tihar celebrations were over in Kathmandu last week I was in Thamel with a colleague who was leaving the newspaper for good. As he took his bike to a nearby parking lot I stood a few metres away from the entrance of the Roadhouse Café. I started fiddling with my phone. As soon as I tapped on the email application of the iPhone it caught six WiFi signals in the area.  I was astonished.

Not in Khan Market or Connaught Place in New Delhi (where I have been living for the past two years) have I received so many signals at once. Not in Paharganj, Delhi’s Thamel, the backpacker’s ghetto. Not in Park Street, Kolkata or Colaba, Mumbai. I am aware that it will be a gross injustice to Kathmandu if I compare it with some of the biggest cities in India. Kathmandu has suffered tremendously at the hands of incompetent, quarrelling and power hungry politicians. The overall politics of Nepal has become so disgusting that Kathmandu, the capital, has no option but to cover its face in shame. Kathmandu is a humiliated city. Humiliated by its politicians and lazy bureaucrats who are unwilling to think out of box. On the other hand, Indian cities have prospered under the stability that the relatively functional democracy provides.

Kathmandu connection kathmandu post 14 Nov 2010
Kathmandu Post. 14/11/010

A few days later I was pillion riding on the bike of a colleague in Tinkune. He showed me a few signboards that advertised WiFi connections. One signboard read: “You have entered Subisu WiFi zone.” (Subisu is a cable Internet service provider.) One couldn’t have expected availability of such services in places like Tinkune until recently. Dozens of ISPs have come up in the past several months in Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal. Despite the bad politics the country has witnessed a silent revolution in telecommunication. We have installed a third generation mobile phone tower on a hill that is not very far from the Everest. Thank you, Ncell. Continue reading Kathmandu Connection: Complaints and Compliments

Kashmir and Indian Democracy

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

A Nepali perspective on a South Asian problem: “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India,” declared Arundhati Roy in New Delhi last week. “It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this.”

Kashmir and Indian Democracy Kathmandu Post
Kathmandu Post. Click to enlarge

By saying so the Booker-prize winning author of The God of Small Things created a tsunami that instantly swept through India—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The ripples were the biggest in the Capital, the power centre of India. The ruling Congress party asked Roy to withdraw her statement. Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded that she be charged with sedition for questioning India’s authority over Kashmir. The government, through its law minister, said her comments were “most unfortunate” because the freedom of speech “can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people.”

Whether India has authority over Kashmir has been a hotly debated issue since 1947. But what the world agrees on, by and large, is that India is a democracy that provides a relatively greater degree of freedom to its citizens. Including, happily, to Roy, who was born in Shillong, Meghalaya, to Keralite Syrian Christian and women’s rights activist Mara Roy, and a Bengali father, a tea planter by profession; Roy now lives in New Delhi. At the same time, rights violations and stiff restrictions on civil liberties have become part of daily life in certain parts of India, almost as a price to keep the Indian union intact and its democracy safe from the ultra-left. That is the reason people like Roy believe India is increasingly becoming a police state.

Every democracy has its flaws. The Indian democracy is no exception. But with strict enforcement of laws like the Right To Information (RTI) Act the Indian democracy has empowered its people like never before. One hallmark of Indian democracy is its crowd culture wherein the collective wisdom of the leadership or the mass outmaneuvers any wickedness of an individual or a small group that may be looking to exploit loopholes—legal or otherwise. There are many instances of flawed decisions of the courts which were later changed to reflect the popular sentiment or public uproar that demanded a more humane and just approach. Despite the controversies surrounding it and despite being branded by opposing parties as a government tool to harass them, public-interest organisations like the anti-graft body of Central Bureau of Investigation are functional. They command public respect and trust. The culture where politically connected and influential people can easily get their work done is still prevalent in India. But thanks to laws like the RTI, the poor and the socially marginalised believe they are also heard by the system. Despite the hysterical nationalistic sentiments and appalling corporate control over some influential media, the public discourse is still open, fearless and impactful because there are too many media outlets in India to be manipulated by governments or business groups or political parties. It is the pluralistic Indian society and its democractic culture that allow vibrant discussions on sensitive issues like the Indian authority over Kashmir. Vague issues like national security are often used as an excuse by Indian authorities and agencies to subvert just voices inside the country and in its neighborhood. But as long as there is stable democracy in India, just causes will find their way to success. Continue reading Kashmir and Indian Democracy