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What Nepal’s recent general elections verdict unfolds, whose interest does the new government serves?

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photo: Wikipedia

As often quoted by political pundits, democracy is sometimes dramacracy Nepal’s current political environment perfectly resembles this saying. Federal and provincial assembly general elections were successfully held in Nepal on November 20 earlier this year. Following the promulgation of Nepal’s new constitution, drafted by the elected Constituent Assembly in 2015, it was the country’s second general election.

In the run-up to the elections, parties campaigned for electoral coalitions. Two main coalitions were competing in the elections: KP Oli’s led Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), which was the opposition coalition, and the Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress (NC) led five-party government coalition that included Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Communist Party of Nepal Maoist Centre (CPN-MC). NC emerged as the single largest party, followed by CPN UML, which comes next. “As expected, the November 20 election produced a fractured result. The NC emerged as the largest party, winning 89 seats in the federal parliament. CPN-UML, CPN-MC, the National Independent Party (NIP), and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) rounded off the top five, winning 78, 32, 20, and 14 seats, respectively”.

What is new from this election result is the rise of the Rashtriya Swantantra Party (National Independent Part, NIP), led by TV personality Rabi Lamichane, the Nagarik Unmukti Party, led by Ranjita Shrestha Chaudhary, Resham Chaudhary’s wife, a political icon of the Tharu community who is now imprisoned being accused of killing nine police officers during a violent protest, and Dr. Chandra Kanta Raut aka CK Raut-led Janmat Party has sparked a newfound interest in Nepalese politics which might be a cornerstone for bringing Nepalese youth in parliament in the near future. Therefore, the general election results indicate that it was a progressively pragmatic election rather than a completely transformative one because the top three parties were those who have been in government for a long time.

The pre-poll surveys predicted the emergence of a few newcomers, but the final figures are surprising. Consider whether there is something more surprising, than it is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, taking the oath of office as prime minister for the third time while only holding 32 seats out of 275 in the legislature. In the dramatic turn of events, Prachanda walked out of the then five-party ruling coalition and became prime minister with the help of KP Oli’s CPN UML and seven other smaller parties.

Political instability and power struggle have become prominent features of the Nepalese political environment. People are also divided according to ideologies, resulting in a fractured mandate. With no single party having a mandate of majority, the coalition-led government has to go through many tests and might fall weak on issues of national interests as each coalition partner have different stakes and interests.

When the coalition led by Prachanda triumphed in the house with a commanding majority, the series of unexpected developments continued. The coalition government also received a vote of confidence from the Nepali Congress party, the single largest opposition party. “Out of the 270 members in the House of Representatives present during the voting, 268 voted in favor of Prime Minister’ Prachanda’, while two voted against him”. Due to such a dramatic voting turnaround, the Prachanda-led coalition government becomes a historical government of national consensus. Nepal became the rarest of rare countries with a multiparty democratic system with no opposition political parties; expert says after Prachanda won the vote of confidence.

In an unforeseen turn of events, the drama continues; deputy prime minister and home minister Rabi Lamichane, one of the lieutenants of Prachanda to lead the government, was sacked down following the verdict of Supreme Court verdict, which states his citizenship is illegal. Lamichane’s citizenship was revoked due to the fact that the legal requirements for reviving his Nepali citizenship after renunciating his US citizenship had not been met. “As Rabi Lamichane has not completed the process for reacquiring his Nepali citizenship after renouncing his American citizenship, he cannot be a candidate for the position of a member of the House of Representatives or be elected to that position, reads the verdict .” Following this dramatic turn of event, Rashtriya Swantantra Party left the ruling coalition government however continue the vote of confidence to the government. After these developments, mixed opinion came out to the surface; some mock that the country’s home minister is a citizen of no nation, while other says that whatever can go wrong is going wrong in Nepalese Politics.

Periodic elections and government formation are an achievement considering Nepal’s political situation. Regarding the new government, significantly less excitement is seen as the mass public believes that this government has little to offer and is skeptical that the government will be able to deliver. Though Prachanda has cleverly managed to form the government, the road away will be challenging to walk on. His main challenge will be balancing coalition partners, maintaining the internal power dynamics, and holding power. Prachanda’s ability to delicately balance the internal power dynamic will be reflected in the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections. Other challenges include rising inflation and price hikes, trade deficit, declining forex reserves, unemployment, massive outwards movement of Youths for higher studies, heavily rely on remittance, and an import-dominated economy.

However, much of Prachanda’s Success will depend on how Nepal calibrates its foreign policy execution. However, the relationship between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and significant powers and close neighbors has a tumultuous background. He has the propensity to make straightforward promises that he then breaches. “Given the geostrategic importance of Nepal, Dahal’s startling rise to power is being followed with great interest in New Delhi, Washington, Beijing, Brussels, and other capitals.” According to those who are closely monitoring the new government’s foreign policy objectives, Dahal has several obstacles on his path to success, with balancing relations with both Western and neighboring countries posing the most significant difficulty.

“Nepal is one of several South Asian countries where India and China both seek influence.” For a long back, Nepal has been a traditional sphere of the dominance of both India and china. Both countries have invested heavily in Nepal across various sectors and significantly influenced Nepalese politics. With the communist government on board, Beijing seems to be in the front seat; however, it cannot be complacent because things might go out of their favor in the real-time while New Delhi is concerned with dealing KP Oli’s role as he is the kingmaker of this government.

Looking at the developments of the recent past, the United States has now entered into the traditional sphere of the dominance of China and India. Kathmandu is now strategically aligned with Washington DC geopolitically. The Nepalese parliament has ratified the MCC compact, putting Washington in the political sphere of Kathmandu. Quite a few higher U.S. officials visited Nepal which includes, Donald Lu, assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs; Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and the most recent one, Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States. All of these visits have helped to increase the United States’ influence in the Himalayan nation.

Growing Washington’s influence will be a minor issue for New Delhi as both interests are more or less similar. However, Beijing will not entertain the Washington-New Delhi tie-up over Kathmandu. Ideologically the current government is Beijing-friendly but is skeptical that the U.S. might leverage over Tibet issue. At a time when the BRI projects are being halted, it will be essential to see how Beijing tackles the recent developments.

These powerful countries will strive for sway in Nepal. Regarding Nepal’s ties with its immediate neighbors and the United States, Dahal has been a pragmatist. He has enough experience in politics and power to comprehend the significance of the three major countries and their objectives in Nepal. The most challenging job will be how Nepal interacts with India, China, and the U.S. in the middle of the regional Indo-China conflict and the China-America conflict. Therefore, this administration will have to act to maintain a relationship with these three countries at equi-proximity, ensuring it does not serve one’s interest.

We will have to put our patience to the test to find out whether Nepal has maintained its relationships with India, China, and the United States at equi-proximity or if it has been a pawn that serves one’s interests.

Avinav Singh Khatri is a research intern at Nepal Institute for International Co-operation and Engagement (NIICE) and is a postgraduate student of International Studies at Symbiosis School of International Studies, Pune. His research interests include political and peace building affairs, governance, foreign policy, social justice, humanitarian and development issues.

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South Asia

Is Bangladesh-US ties bogged down in strategic quicksand?



The bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the United States had thrived in the past few years on the heels of frequent and vigorous Track-1 diplomacy between Bangladesh and the United States. The newfound salience of Bangladesh in the US’s regional strategic playbook originates from a reassessment of the US’s foreign policy in favor of Asia. In the context of intensifying great power standoff at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, the regional power calculation has transformed, turning the strategy backwater to the “front and center” of the US’s global geopolitics. Earlier, South Asia didn’t feature prominently in the US’s strategic calculus, and strategic wisdom bounded South Asia within the nuclear-powered rivals e.g. India and Pakistan. Bangladesh has only aroused pity for its abysmal economic outlook and for being buffeted by frequent disasters. 

Strategic realities have profoundly altered in the past few years, as under the framework of the US’s Indo-Pacific policy, Bangladesh has gained significant bandwidth as the lynchpin of Indo-Pacific geopolitical theatre. The newfound geostrategic significance of Bangladesh had triggered a geopolitical maelstrom surrounding Bangladesh–as Bangladesh was squeezed by the competing demands of three powers–the United States, China, and India.

“Strategic Ties ” Ascendant

Donald Lu– an influential US diplomat– had visited Dhaka recently. There has been much speculation surrounding Lu’s visit, partly owing to Lu’s notoriety as being “coercive” in the region. Although human rights issues, defense, and core security issues, perhaps the glaring omission of Lu’s visit is the trade and economic issues. Earlier, trade, investment, and economic issues overrode bilateral ties, however, bilateral interactions have increasingly become fixated on security issues often at a disservice to economic issues. 

However, the strident pitch of strategic ties jars with the dismal state of relationships. As thing stands, it is safe to say that bilateral ties between Bangladesh and US are held hostage to mutual misperceptions. Harping on the strategic ties, without anchoring on economic fundamentals, is bound to fail. Strategic ties hinge on “entanglements”, which stem from sustained bilateral cooperation.

Decoding Chinese Inroads in Bangladesh

The lever that China exerts in Bangladesh stems from the vigorous economic and development partnership. The sustained development partnership had elevated Bangladesh-China ties to a strategic dimension. Development cooperation is the centerpiece of Bangladesh-China bilateral cooperation. The inflow of Chinese investment toward Bangladesh has surged exponentially. The Total Direct Investment (FDI) was multiplied at a steady rate between 2011 to 2019, resulting in a tenfold rise in the gross FDI inflow to Bangladesh from China.

The energy sector has featured prominently in the bilateral development cooperation. China had implemented a series of projects in the power sector. The infrastructure sector of Bangladesh had also drawn investment from China. China has floated an offer to Bangladesh in building embankments along the Teesta River, adjacent to the Indian border, in a bid to mitigate Bangladesh’s chronic scarcity of water-a bone of contention in Bangladesh-India ties.  Chinese firms also stepped in to coordinate the construction and operation of the Dhaka-Chittagong High-Speed Rail project. Padma Bridge Rail Link- a flagship project aimed at connecting the Southwestern region of the country through a rail link-is underway with China funding 85% of an estimated cost of US $3.3 billion.

As such, while the US deplores the inroads that China made in Bangladesh, and often engage in browbeating tactics to decouple Bangladesh from the Chinese axis — however, Chinese leverage in Bangladesh runs deep. The sustained economic and development partnership between Bangladesh and China had mutated into a strategic partnership. The concessions from the Chinese side had injected a sense of equity and mutual stakes in bilateral relations. China has extended 99 percent of its tariff lines to Bangladesh, which is slated to further boost the bilateral trade ties. Earlier, China conferred duty-free facilities to 97 percent of Bangladesh’s products.

Emulating the Chinese Playbook

An uptick in diplomatic engagement attests to the renewed strategic importance that the US attaches to Bangladesh. The “strategic” dimension had inordinately come to the fore, and economic and development partnerships had been eclipsed by high-security and defense issues.

Notwithstanding, as the Chinese playbook amply demonstrates, anchoring solely on the strategic dimension of bilateral ties is counterproductive. The sustained economic interactions translated to strategic dividends in terms of China, while the mutual goodwill had given an impetus to deepening bilateral linkages. A sense of shared partnership had been injected into bilateral ties. Conversely, the moral high ground that the US commands, as evident from the US’s criticism of domestic political issues, undermines the goodwill of the bilateral ties. Such blatant interventionist tendencies vitiate bilateral ties.

While the term “strategic partnership” has gained currency, the trappings of strategic partnership are woefully lacking in bilateral ties. The discourse of bilateral ties shows the US doesn’t consider Bangladesh as a partner with commensurate capabilities. Despite the repeated pronouncement of strategic ties, however, the concession to Bangladesh from the US is not forthcoming. The economic and trade issues had been pushed to the back burner, in an avowed attempt to raise the stakes of bilateral ties.

As the Chinese exemplar shows, the ties in the arena of low-political issues yield strategic dividends. The sustained engagement steeped in mutual goodwill and equity accrues strategic gains. The US fares abysmally in leveraging the economy and trade to lure Bangladesh. In contrast, US’s ill-advised browbeating tactics will further estrange Bangladesh. As the bilateral ties elevate to a new era and become more prominent, the US ought to reassess the calculus of the bilateral ties.

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Pakistan’s Priority Ranking of SDGs

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Sustainable development goals are also known as Global or Universal goals that are meant to guide developing and underdeveloped nation-states to a sustainable and peaceful future. Development is a combination of innovation and improvement over a consistent time. It requires the collaboration of several social, cultural, economic, legal, and political sectors. All such sectors are interdependent and function sustainably when allied towards the same goal. 

What are SDGs? 

Developmental goals outline the priorities of a state in terms of its international progress. They are meant to track and counter non-traditional security threats. Such threats are somewhat intangible and have a deeper, more impactful presence. If not countered through structured programs, infrastructure, and policymaking; they will only become a visible reality once the issue is nearly impossible to resolve.

Origin and purpose

These were born from the United Nations Conference that was hosted in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 2012. Global issues of all sorts were raised which revolved around aspects such as the environment, clean energy, sanitation, education, health, and security. 

Goals and Commitments

The year 2015 decided that within the upcoming 15 years, there will be an active and hopefully successful attempt at ushering in a future of dignity and peace also known as the 2030 Agenda. 

For each nation, there is a different ranking of the goals following their level of need and priority. Following is the ranking for Pakistan.

Priority I

Goal 2 Zero Hunger

The second goal defines eradicating global hunger and reaching food security for all. This involves the production, processing, and distribution of food and sustainable agriculture. This goal is at the top of Pakistan’s priority list due to its status as an Agrarian State. Due to the recent inflation in the state, the food crisis has become a reality for a sizable portion of the Pakistani population.  

Goal 3 Good Health and Well Being

Places focus on the overall health of all people. The focus is on preventative strategies for all ages. This goal covers the improvement of life expectancy in all developing and underdeveloped nations. It also includes immunization coverage, epidemics such as malaria and dengue, the Covid-19 pandemic, and emergency aid going out to all in times of global distress and disaster. 

Goal 4 Quality Education

Good quality education that is inclusive and available to all is a cornerstone of a prosperous and peaceful society. This includes not only various education sustainability initiatives but also caters to accessible and high-caliber school and university infrastructure. This goal works for a bright future for not only the global youth but for the global economy as well.

Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation

Universal access to clean water and a hygienic living environment makes up Goal 6. This will help counter water pollution and reduce the spread of diseases like cholera, malaria, dysentery, typhoid, and Hepatitis A. Clean water and sanitation will ultimately lead to water efficiency and its use as a renewable energy source. 

Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy 

Clean Energy is the key to having a future landscape that this generation can pass on to the next. This goal works for the distribution of electricity across the globe, in poverty-stricken and hard-to-access areas. Renewable energy sources (windmills, hydro-electricity, solar power) are being focused on so that there can be a time when weaning off of non-renewable and quickly depleting fuels such as coal, gas, and oil is not harmful to both society and the economy. 

Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Economic growth is a necessary factor to keep states progressing and afloat. Goal 8 emphasizes the importance of productive and decent employment. It promotes a greener economy, sustainable tourism, and social protection for all. 

Goal 16 Peace, Justice, and Security

Accountable and Just national institutions and law enforcement is the path to peace, justice, and security. There is an active need for local participation at the grassroots level. Peace can only ever be delivered from the bottom up. Pakistan has always had a conflict simmering at some level. Be it a population overflow at the borders or a politico-religious conflict. Effectively working on prevention and counter operations can foster peace and security for all. 

Priority II

Goal 1 No Poverty

The first goal is to end poverty globally. The poverty line has been decided over various factors and definitions in the past few years. Once it was declared that any person who consumed less than 2400 kcal over twenty-four hours was under the poverty line. Currently, it is set for members of society who live under Rs. 3000 monthly, in Pakistan.

Goal 5 Gender Equality

It is common knowledge that we live in a majorly patriarchal society that is disadvantageous to women and girls all over the world. Goal 5 aims to fix that by focusing on the elimination of gender-based violence and empowering more women to step into professional and operational roles by reducing in-house gender discrimination. There is also special care taken to recognize and reduce the unpaid labor and double standards which women face daily.

Goal 9 Industry. Innovation, and Infrastructure

A resilient and good quality infrastructure is a must to keep a state of more than 220 million people functioning properly. The innovation of the tech industry is the spearhead for Pakistan’s entry into a competitive future. There is still a need for better infrastructure including highways and high-rise buildings with proper sewage piping as well. Inclusive industrialization will bring about better credit, a more stable economy, and reduced unemployment.

Goal 10 Reduced Inequalities

The focus lies on reducing international inequalities and reducing the massive chasm existing between different classes of society. Income equality is directly tied to gendered equity, improved industrialization, and economic growth. Apart from reducing financial disparity, this also focuses on socio-political, cultural, and religious inclusion. Pakistan is a multicultural and diverse state with citizens belonging to various religious sects, castes, and ethnicities. However, this has often led to intersectional conflicts. This goal aims to counter that through various representative policies and global cooperation.

Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

These are such areas that practice, promote, and support sustainability in every aspect – energy, water, economy, infrastructure, and environment. This goal aims to ensure that due to the massive population migrations from rural to urban, there is no concentration of poverty due to the economic shift. Cities are to be safe havens for their constituents with public transport, parks, recreational spaces, and economic opportunities. 

Goal 17 Partnerships for Goals

No system of such a scale can work in isolation therefore, to bring sustainability to Pakistan, there needs to be a joint effort by international powers and national institutions. Global platforms such as the UN, WTO, SAARC, ASEAN, and IMF are all contributing their part be it through funding, medical aid, or economic policing. Pakistan also partakes in multiple confidence-building measures and FTAs to live up to this goal. 

Priority III

Goal 12 Responsible consumption and Production

Focuses on management and usage of natural resources to not run out before other renewable sources are in place. This goal actively works to reduce the negative impact of state consumption on the environment – be it through chemical dumping, food waste, or wasteful consumption. 

Goal 13 Climate Action

The recent floods in Pakistan and the searing temperatures in June and July point to the absolute necessity of taking climate action. Extreme temperatures, droughts, and flooding are all contributing to the deterioration of human and environmental health. Being a primarily agrarian exporter, Pakistan needs to be vigilant regarding any threat to its agricultural economy and counter it through planning, policies, and preventive strategies. 

Goal 14 Life below Water and Goal 15 Life on Land

The sustainable Development goals have provided guidelines to ensure a hospitable future. This includes protection and conservation of the living habitat aka Oceans and Land. Due to the rapid rate of globalization, modernism, and human development, ecosystems both above and below have suffered. Many species have gone extinct as well, due to unregulated hunting and fishing throughout the year. Ocean acidification and pollution are major concerns due to it being a major food source for the global population. Similarly, deforestation, desertification, and poaching need to be eliminated on land. Pakistan has participated in such initiatives to conserve and protect forests through artificial reforestation – the Changa Manga Forest.

Pakistan is constantly making progress in seeing the SDGs through. Consistency is key to success and in this case, sustainability. 

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Breaking Diplomatic Norms: Indian Response to OIC & Turkish Support for Kashmir Issue




Recently, the Indian government has been facing backlash for its highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support to the Kashmir issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Indian government has also criticized the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for its statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

India’s long-standing hostility towards Pakistan has been a subject of much criticism in international diplomatic circles. While the two countries have a history of conflicts and disputes, India’s approach towards Pakistan has often been seen as unconstructive and counterproductive. The Indian government’s hardline stance on Pakistan has resulted in a deepening of the mistrust between the two countries, which has had serious implications for regional stability and security.

India’s rhetoric towards Pakistan has often been marked by derogatory and aggressive remarks, particularly in the context of the Kashmir issue. In recent years, India has sought to internationalize the issue of Kashmir and has baselessly accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism in the region. This has resulted in a hardening of positions on both sides and has made any meaningful dialogue between the two countries almost impossible.

India’s recent criticism of Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC and its condemnation of the OIC’s statement on Indian human rights abuses in IIOJK is another example of its obsession with Pakistan. The Indian government’s response to these developments has been highly un-democratic and derogatory, with Indian officials using aggressive language and personal attacks to discredit Turkey and the OIC.

India’s preoccupation with Pakistan has also had implications for its relationship with other countries in the region. India’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and its strategic partnership with the US have raised concerns among its neighbors, who fear that India’s pursuit of its own interests could undermine regional stability and security. India’s aggressive stance towards China and its border disputes have also added to regional tensions and have led to a deterioration in its relationship with Beijing.Bottom of Form

It is important to note that Turkey has always been a strong supporter of the Kashmir issue, and has been vocal about the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the region. In September 2021, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue of Kashmir during his speech at the UN General Assembly, stating that the “Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue.”

In response to Turkey’s support of the Kashmir issue, India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement condemning Turkey’s stance, claiming that it was “completely unacceptable” and that Turkey had no right to interfere in India’s internal affairs. India’s statement also accused Turkey of using the Kashmir issue as a “distraction” from its own internal problems.

This reaction from the Indian government is highly undemocratic and uncalled for. It is the right of any nation to express its views on global issues, and India’s attempt to suppress Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a clear violation of this right. The Kashmir issue has been a longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan, and the international community has a responsibility to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue is a step in the right direction towards achieving this goal.

Furthermore, the Indian government’s criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK is also highly inappropriate. The OIC, a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, has expressed concern over the human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in IIOJK, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. The OIC’s statement is a reflection of the international community’s concerns over the situation in IIOJK, and it is the right of the OIC to express its views on this matter.

India’s response to the OIC’s statement has been highly critical, with the Indian government accusing the OIC of interfering in India’s internal affairs. This response is yet another attempt by the Indian government to suppress international criticism of its human rights abuses in IIOJK. The Indian government’s stance on this issue is highly hypocritical, as it has repeatedly called for international support in its own disputes with other nations, including Pakistan.

Indian government’s highly undemocratic and derogatory remarks on Turkey’s support for the Kashmir issue at the UNHRC, as well as its criticism of the OIC’s statement on Indian Human Rights Abuses in IIOJK, are reflective of its lack of respect for international law and global human rights standards. The Kashmir issue is a longstanding dispute that requires a peaceful and just resolution, and the international community has a responsibility to support this goal. The Indian government must recognize this and work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, rather than resorting to undemocratic and inflammatory rhetoric.

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