Saturday, July 29, 2006

What We Must Do Part II: Clean House

We've come a long way with U.S. ambassador to Nepal James F. Moriarty here at blogdai. Today, ol' James waded once again into the fray by sticking his polarizing nose where it doesn't belong. Using his usual diplomatic "cattle prod" style, Mr. Moriarty bluntly throws his and the U.s.'s weight around the peace process by calling flatly for the Maoists to lay down arms before any interim government can be formed Next, in a typical self-contradiction, ol' James chimes in with: "...the rebels could someday endup overpowering the state, given the way they are casting their influence in every walk of life.”
Does this man have any idea about the level of confusion he is causing by his conflicting statements? Moriarty says that, in order for the Maoists to get what they want, they must lay down arms; yet almost in the same breath he says that their armed campaign has a real chance of giving them what they want.
U.S. ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty, illustrates with his hands how close Nepal is to achieving peace and stability as a result of his meddling.

Contradictions aside, it's a little too late for ambassador Moriarty to call for the Maoists to disarm or cease anything. These are the same Maoists that he helped usher through the back-doors of power with his cheerleading encouragement. What more can Prachanda ask when the spokesman for U.S. policy in Nepal says things like:

May 24, 2005:
“There is a very good chance that the Maoists could find a way to turn all of this to their advantage and ultimately end up marching in the Singh Durbar."

July 2005: "
Why would the Maoists be willing to give up now? Their party fought insurgency for nine years and now they see their opponents crumbled, dividing themselves, mired in acrimony." "If I were a Maoist, I'd think I was making good progress...I would try to put differences between the parties and the palace, and get them to do the Maoist business of tearing down the political structure,"

February 2006: "Maoists will feel no need to abandon their goal of absolute power as long as they believe they are winning and as long as the King and parties remain divided. The Maoists will rightfully conclude that they are winning.”

April 2006: " I have a gut feeling that ultimately the King will have to leave if he does not compromise. And by ultimately I mean sooner rather than later. The King will lose his kingdom, if he does not move fast". Moriarty is also reported to have said in an interview with CNN that the "US did not want to see King Gyanendra forced to flee clinging on the wings of a helicopter".

Very Bush-like "gut feeling" James, but what makes you think that the Maoists will now heed the turncoat advice of their biggest fan and give up their weapons? Are you trying to scare Nepali politicians into doing something? I've got news for you James, they're already scared but still too inept to do anything.

Yes, by all means the Maoists should disarm before any interim government can be formed, but this statement from Moriarty has lost all credibility in light of his other counterproductive and uniformed rantings.

He should have played the part of neutral broker yet he has inflamed and frustrated all parties in the peacetalks and blogdai feels the damage from this is not yet done.

Prachanda, who has been an outspoken critic of Moriarty, will use the ambassador's utterances as a catalyst for his upcoming withdrawal from the peacetalks. On the other side, the inept SPA can claim they had everything worked out until Moriarty threw a wrench in the mechanism. Koirala and the boys love to point the finger at others-- it shifts attention and blame away from their own failings. It looks like it will be Moriarty's meddling comments that will get SPA off the hook this time.

blogdai has noticed a shift in attitude among those foreign service workers in Nepal who have contact with the ambassador. Previously, there was a light-hearted contempt; lots of grousing about how difficult is was to work for such an aloof and detached individual. Now, blogdai's friends are zipped-up and quiet. Something is in the works here, people. Moriarty is either an isolated pariah, or there is an official edict of some sort that forbids any public discussions about the man. We are under no such shackles here at blogdai. In fact, I feel a large, obnoxious proclamation coming on...



The Bush administration is on "India autopilot" when it comes to a cogent Nepal policy. Basically, Moriarty apes the administration's position, i.e. India's position. This was fine for a while, but ol' James is a bit of a maverick. He likes to shoot from the hip and spout off. He locked horns with Donald Rumsfeld over Taiwan once and lost. You'd think he would learn his'd be wrong. Moriarty once rightly condemned the SPA/Maoists 12-point agreement as a lot of fluff; then a funny thing happened: Bush visited India to welcome Singh into the nuclear "boy's club" and, like magic, the next thing coming out of Moriarty's mouth was how useful the agreement between SPA and the Maoists was as an instrument for cooperation.

blogdai speculates that Moriarty may get another one of his high-level slap-downs and be forced to come off the disarmament statement a little. After all, a fully disarmed Maoists movement in Nepal runs contrary to India's vision of an unstable and dependent Nepal.

By his own admission, James F. Moriarty knows little or nothing about politics in Nepal. What he does know is how to destabilize, frustrate and disrupt a process with uninformed and often contradictory rhetoric. We need to start a process that ultimately leads to his removal from office. Ambassadors supposedly represent the best and most rational nature of a country's foreign policy. They are sent to nations as a means to calm disputes and clarify the stances of the governments they represent. They are NOT supposed to antagonize or provide blythe, inflammatory commentary. To this end, ambassador James F. Moriarty does not represent the feelings of either the U.S. government or its citizens. He is a loose canon that is ill-suited for a volatile Nepali political climate. He is the wrong man for the job and he is doing it the wrong way at the wrong time. He needs to go. Let's begin our campaign to help Nepal clean its house of one of the most counterproductive diplomats in history.
So, loyal readers, below are listed some very basic addresses to which you can voice your opinion on ambassador Moriarty. Take a few minutes and, if you are so inclined, send off your opinions of the man and his agenda to the U.S. embassy in Nepal. Say what you want but it might be good if we all mentioned something about Moriarty's destabilizing influence and the sense of an unfocused U.S. Nepal policy we all feel from his utterances. Most of all, politely ask for his permanent recall to the United States.

Try these addresses and good luck: (E-mail for the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu)


If you're feeling ambitious, Send a letter or call Moriarty's boss at:

U.S. State Department
Public Communication Division: PA/PL, Rm. 2206 U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, D.C. 20520

Update: August 7. blogdai's friends at State say that Moriarty has no future schedules or "postings." Meaning, and entrenched bureaucrat like Moriarty is now out of options. His career is up after this Nepal blundering. Look for the 9 month out-of-Nepal prediction we made here to shorten up a bit. Maybe 6 months?



Thursday, July 27, 2006

Predictions and Prognostications

It's been a while since we rolled the dice and stuck our neck out here at blogdai. Time for a few predictions:

1. The Maoists will break off peacetalks sometime between now and Dashain.

2. Madhav Kumar Nepal will align himself directly with Maoist philosophy.
Update July 30: It's starting.
3. Old man Girija Koirala will die within a year.

4. Sujata Koirala will assume the prime ministership.

5. The current Koirala parliament will never hold an election for anything.

6. Paras, not the King, will go into exile.

7. The RNA will allow Maoists to seize government before they act.

8. James Moriarty will resign as U.S. ambassador within 9 months.

9. India will not act against any Maoist coup attempts, attrocities or actions in Nepal.

10. China will ally with the guns and tacitly support the Maoists.

Some fun, eh? blogdai has been batting a little better than average in the prediction department, so look out Nepal, chaos is on the way.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Real Thoughts on Real Corruption

blogdai can't resist reprinting this article. This is good stuff. It is that rare article where someone actually applies real THOUGHT to a problem. Mr. Basnyat is the future of Nepal. Without ideas like this coming from Nepal's best and brightest minds, Nepal will be finished. I'll contact Mr. Basnyat and see if he'd be willing to write another article just for us. In the meantime, I won't be able to keep from commenting (in blue) after some of these thoughts; after all, we've said a lot of this stuff here at blogdai over the past year. -=BD


By Nischal M. S. Basnyat

“It is not that Nepal didn’t have the money,” said the young UNDP officer with a sinister sneer “Why do you think your leaders ride fat cars and walk on Persian carpets?” In fact, the only economic Index we seem to be ascending is the Corruption Perceptions Index commissioned annually by Transparency International. Ranked as the 47th most corrupt country on earth by 2005, Nepal enjoys the prestigious position of being more corrupt than historically corruption-ridden nations like Malawi and Libya.

So, whom do we blame for the decades of unprecedented corruption? Of course our initial finger pointing goes towards our leaders, and rightly so. Our philanthropic leaders have set an example for all charity workers worldwide; successfully dividing up the nation’s scarce riches, not only among themselves but to family members and friends alike. Domestic and foreign policy in the country lacked innovation because our judicious heads of state were busy spending all their creative input in managing their abundance of cash. Some hid it in their walls, some spent it on their daughters’ lavish weddings, some used it to buy apartments outside the country and of course some hid it in their water tanks. Although such dim-witted ones might have been exposed, the cunning, I’m sure, still hold large foreign bank accounts, from Indian banks to the impenetrable Swiss. (No favorites here. This problem affects both royal and SPA governments alike. It will require some cultural re-thinking and a sea change before the situation improves. Remember, we live just north of Baksheesh-Central)

Who could forget the nepotism? Army generals started promoting cousins and started sending the rest towards Maoist territory, ministers started appointing their relatives as ambassadors and national laws were twisted to favor a family member’s promotion in the government. All-in-all Nepal became a massive network of family run businesses. As the poor lay starving, even those that had worked so hard to get into power soon forgot their national duties.

So, how do we eradicate this crippling social illness? Many say that in the end it lies in the hands of our leaders and that their honesty and dedication decides the fate of the nation. True, yet how long are we willing to wait for the next Mahatma Gandhi or our very own Nelson Mandela? From ministers asking for ten crores to clerks asking for ten rupees, the culture of corruption has become deep-rooted in our society. Although every nation, from the most developed to the least, has their share of corrupt leaders, many of these countries are still prospering. By human nature one will try to exploit their position in power, so the solution comes in acknowledging that the system needs to be redesigned to keep the leaders on the right track. If there is room for corruption it will inevitably take place. Our country is corrupt and corruption flourishes because there are people in power who benefit from the present system. The answer is not to cross our fingers and pray that the leaders will be sincere but rather to blueprint an arrangement that would make bribery and fraudulence unattractive to persons of power.

The following schemes, tried and tested in other nations, are vital to ensure that corruption no longer impedes the crucial developmental work that is needed for the country to move forward:

First, an anonymous anti-corruption unit should be established. Often referred to as the ‘Hong Kong method’, this exceptional solution to corruption was adopted by the island in the early 90s. A secret team of corruption fighters, many of whom actually worked in the government offices and ministries themselves, caught acts of corruption in their own respective ministries with irrefutable evidence. Hence, not knowing who is an anti-corruption agent and who isn’t will play a psychological toll on individuals involved in corruption. Such a method will play head-games with government officials, and even if this small team of secretive informants doesn’t do their job, the idea that anyone in the office could be watching your move will deter officials from bribery and deceit. It’s like saying: if a driver knows where the cops are in the highway, he’ll slow down when he sees them to avoid a speeding ticket, but if the driver doesn’t know, chances are he’ll drive slow throughout the trip.
A person in power should know how long he or she is to remain in that position and should be appointed to a definite period of time. When one sacrifices their entire life for politics and finally comes to power for a brief stint of time they will obviously seek to milk the benefits of their struggle..... term wise selection of politicians and top bureaucrats is a must, not just for tackling corruption but also for long-term development and planning.

Secondly, the government should not fund anti-corruption agencies itself. The government and its politicians should have no hand in appointing or running the day-to-day activities of agencies such as the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), nor should it have the slightest clout upon such an organisation. The personnel involved in the anti-corruption task force should have no history, affiliation or relations to political parties. The solution can be establishing an independent organization with no association with the government or giving the job to organizations like CW (Corruption Watch) or TI (Transparency International). This approach has been taken by a handful of countries and also by the World Bank in order to monitor its money. When political leaders have the chance to pick the people watching over them or when the anti-corruption officers themselves start playing politics we will end up back at square one.

Third, a watchdog agency should be established to make sure that the main anti-corruption agency like the CIAA itself is doing the right job. This “watchdog for the watchdog” approach exists in various Asian countries where there is an anonymous taskforce established to track the work of the main anti-corruption organization and to make sure that the anti-corruption agency itself is not corrupt, which is often the case in Nepal. (I'd go one step further. Have this watchdog group actually research the connections between any anti-corruption official bringing charges and the person/agency that is being charges. No favoritism, family or grudges should be found.)

Fourth, the government should increase the salary of ministers and top bureaucrats. This technique was famously adopted by Singapore during the height of its economic instability and corruption in the late 80s. By paying the decision makers a large salary it took away their need to earn under the desk. Foreign aid and national income from industries like tourism and customs were put back into the nation without a large chunk being taken out of it from the powerful elite in the country. In addition, subordinates were found less likely to be corrupt if their bosses were faithful. Although the nation will loose money by increasing the incomes of these top officials, if we do our calculations right, the country can benefit greatly from this pioneering approach. (Interesting, but may serve to further drive an economic or class wedge between those who govern and those governed. Remember, we live just north of Caste System-Central)

Fifth, a person in power should know how long he or she is to remain in that position and should be appointed to a definite period of time. Corruption in most countries, especially ours, is often based on lack of job security. When one sacrifices their entire life for politics and finally comes to power for a brief stint of time they will obviously seek to milk the benefits of their struggle. Although such a step requires massive renovation of the political structure in Nepal, term wise selection of politicians and top bureaucrats is a must, not just for tackling corruption but also for long-term development and planning. (Term limits for politicians has been a blogdai favorite since we first logged on. They also are a great tool for increasing citizen participation in the election process and government in general)

Sixth, we must separate politics and bureaucracy. Post 1990, politicians started appointing government officials who would give them a commission once they were appointed to power. Certain ambassadors and consul generals would often give a portion of their corrupt earnings back to the political party that appointed them. Such “dalal politics” where politicians and bureaucrats do favors for one another has to be eliminated. In India where they have the same kind of unfaithful politicians from Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, politics rarely obstructs bureaucratic appointments or promotions. In this way, this emerging superpower of a billion is run efficiently not by politicians but by bureaucrats. Thus, detaching the bond between politics and bureaucracy will slowly alleviate corruption and nepotism from our own system.

Seventh, the deep-seated tie between our industrialists and politicians needs to be severed. From VAT regulations to fiscal strategies, many of our economic policies are geared towards favoring certain business moguls, knowing that there are benefits for the politicians for doing so. Whoever has come to power has ended up favoring his own business or the businesses of those closest to him. Monetary policies have to be reformed to make sure they favor the interests of the “average-Ram” and not favor the family and friends of the powerful.

Finally, the media, which has become the leitmotif of anti-corruption in recent years, has to abandon political agenda. It is unfortunate, but all of us know that some of our biggest media houses have political agenda and are giving the people what they want the people to know instead of what the people deserve to know. Media ownership along with the independence of editors must be under scrutiny to make sure they don’t turn a blind eye to reports of corruption or wrongly accuse political enemies of corruption. In a way, the media, as the supervisory body of society, has the greatest role to play in slaying corruption. ("Kantipur" always did sound like "Koirala-pur")

In the end, our Nepali cultural mindset of looking up to those that amass wealth and our tendency to agglomerate property for our sons, grandsons and if possible our seven generations also leads to corruption in higher offices. The four “pillars of integrity”; the justice system, watchdog agencies such as the auditor generals office, the media and law enforcement agencies should all work to uphold the nation’s dedication towards fighting corruption. Along with adopting novel approaches for combating corruption, we must remember that in an already deteriorating system, even if one “pillar of integrity” fails to be vigilant and do justice to the people of Nepal, the entire structure is at danger of collapse. (Absolutely brilliant. You need these "pillars of integrity" before you even have a chance at establishing any "pillars of democracy")

Although the same people whom we may call “fathers of corruption” are back in power today, they have been granted a second chance. If corruption and mismanagement of government was their greatest crime post 1990, correcting that mistake will be their greatest victory. (It depends on how well we can regulate the uncontrolled influx of foreign aid: A politicians favorite pig-trough. -=blogdai)

Currently studying in La Sorbonne (Paris), Basnyat is a student at Harvard University. A senior editor for the Harvard South Asian Journal, his writing has been featured in an upcoming book with eminent author MBI Munshi. He can be reached at

Friday, July 21, 2006

Seven Points

Separated at birth? Prachanda and Hezbollah's Sheik Hassan Nasrallah

We have been on this planet for almost a generation without a major war or global conflict that reminds us of our need to shake ourselves and realize a few things about the world we live in and the nature of humanity. In today's view, every conflict can be solved with meetings and money. Failing that, we take away the money and see if that does the trick. We believe that everyone, even the most hardened terrorist, has desires and needs and can be appeased once we determine the parameters of these needs.

Is it any wonder then, that we are so befuddled by these current world conflicts that seemingly have no end? What's the deal with all these angry people? Can't reasonable humans figure a way to resolve their differences? Perhaps not. Certain aspects of current events stare us right in the face every day and repetitively demand acknowledgement; yet we refuse to see the patterns and willfully ignore the warnings. If we take a long cold look at events it is apparent that:

1. Some groups do not want peace.

2. Some groups seek only to further their narrow agenda.

3. Some groups see peaceful resolution as a sign of weakness.

4. Some groups see ceasefires, peacetalks, arbitration and high level meetings as nothing more than a means to delay, regroup and rearm.

5. Some groups have no intention of honoring or listening to alternative viewpoints.

6. Some groups understand only violence.

7. Some groups do not want equality.

So the next time someone tells you that the "Maoists must be brought into the mainstream," give them a sharp smack in the head. Hope and optimism are wonderful things, but patterns and past practices are what should inform our judgements. The seven points we've made above have manifested themselves over and over again in the actions of Hezbollah, North Korea, Africa, Afghanistan, and yes, the U.S. and Britain. Why should we, for an instant, believe that Nepal's Maoists will someday miraculously decide to "play nice"when their current and past behavior suggests otherwise?

Fair play, like democracy, is not a natural state or human trait; it goes against our survival instincts. Tribalism, warlordism, disruption and blind self-interest are a human's stock in trade.

Perhaps, as the thinkers tell us, the loss of cultural identity through globalization has driven people to group-based absolutism. Perhaps, but perhaps bunk as well; blogdai is no anthropologist. Perhaps our increased access to everything just gives us more of a selection of things to hate. Perhaps some groups believe that compromise is just one more step towards loss of identity.

blogdai will commit the above seven points to memory. I want them to be clear and easily accessible so that they can help me clarify the recent Maoist threats and atrocities, the constant and divisive punitive measures SPA is relentlessly pursuing against the King, and the current impasse and impending failure of the SPAM peacetalks.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Nepal for Dummies

(This is a reprint of an article I submitted at the request of Dharma Adhikari and his excellent It ran on June 9th of this year. I was reluctant to reprint it here, but I've just had a run-in with another Nepal know-it-all nut case and feel it is important to get this out to our readers. I'm weary of refuting every blow-hard with an agenda and a press credential, but life goes on. -=BD)


Zilch. Zip. Nada, can't find it anywhere. Where are the big follow-up stories and coverage on Nepal from the Western media?

Dropped like a hot potato, Nepal was., as good an indicator as any of what the World media find to be the story of the moment, made events in Nepal their number one covered story for the week of street protests leading up to the King's restoration of parliament. From that day on, no longer considered sexy, Nepal coverage dropped off the map--used and discarded like a busted rickshaw.

Prior to this--created, tweaked, embellished and spun for those sitting on comfy democratic couches who don't know Nepal from Naples--the troubles in Kathmandu, with all their nuance and political complexity, were somehow distilled down by a lazy and uninterested Western media to:

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

It played. It had legs. It was a simple, accessible tale of good vs. evil, opined the Washington Post, Western pundits and virtually all Indian dailies. Most importantly, it became a seductive mantra that would be used to explain all current events in Nepal. The Western media had found their "hook." In their minds, further insight and research on the story was unneccesary and all future reporting on Nepal would reflect the new mantra.

Today, Nepal can't buy a headline from the Western media; they've all retreated to the comfort of once again covering all things Angelina and Brad. Now that the West believes that the violence has subsided, Nepal can't be counted on to sell newspapers or keep one from changing the channel on their remote. The novelty and remedial geography lessons supplied during the protests are now passé to short-attention-spanned Westerners. Nepal is returning to world media obscurity. Pity.

I am walking the streets of Kathmandu today, mostly listening. People have a lot of interesting things to say. My questions about the Western media's role in Nepal's crisis only compound as their mantra plays in my head.

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Why, during all its frenzied protest coverage, did the Western media go out of their way to vilify the Royal Nepal Army while barely acknowledging any Maoist complicity or wrongdoing?

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Next, why was there no coverage or explanation of the corrupt practices of ALL parties, not just the King? The prior governments under Koirala and Deuba were documented and legendary in this regard-- arguably bringing Nepal to the verge of fiscal collapse-- but where was the editorial balance now?

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Where is the coverage of the reinstated parliament's decidedly autocratic mannerisms? They floated into power under the banner of restoring "absolute democracy" but instead have forbidden street protests, punished dissenters and jailed members of the opposition: some very undemocratic things.

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

And, most of all, where is the coverage of the Maoist's uninterrupted rise to power? At the very least, someone should have covered their open and blatant parading and sloganeering through the streets of Nepal, wouldn't you think?

"Despotic King Stifles Vibrant Democracy."

Media influence is a curious thing. In the West, news events are often packaged and encapsulated with an eye towards maintaining the widest reader or viewer interest. Generally, when a competitive and thorough media is present for verification, this method works just fine. Unfortunately, so little credible reporting about events in Nepal actually makes it through the Western wire services that a journalist's best "guess" is often considered as good as source-verified holy writ.

Until this situation changes, all of us are, basically, stuck with whatever reporting we get from Nepal; and whatever that reporting may consist of, rest assured it will be sexed-up and dumbed-down enough so that we won't dare turn the page or change the channel.

Nepal is no longer a source of cheap entertainment for the West. It no longer "sizzles." Don't look for anyone to try and make the 25-point Code of Conduct or the 8-point agreement a compelling sound bite. No, only real issues remain. On that note, the Maoist’s big rally at Ratna Park was a pivotal event in Nepali politics. We learned much about the Maoist’s strategy and strengths. It was covered extensively by the local media in kathmandu.

I doubt the BBC gave it a second glance.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What We Must Do: Part I

Back in the saddle again... blogdai has received quite a few requests for an actual plan of action to save Nepal. "Let's do something before it's too late" is the cry. Well, what exactly can we do here on a blog? Do we have any power to change events? The answer is not only a resounding "yes" but blogdai argues that, in the absence of a credible "main stream" media presence in Nepal, blogs are actually at the forefront of political innovation and ideas. How many times have our comments here at blogdai and other blogs resurfaced as political rhetoric in the world areana? Quite a few.

Now, we are not necessarily the forum chosen to muster armed forces nor are we pretending to advise either King or government; but we CAN make a difference here. So, now, while we're still in the monsoon season, let's get a jump on the upcoming turmoil in Nepal and move proactively. The next few columns will give out practical suggestions that each of us can use to make a difference in Nepal, right now. These will be suggestions; some obvious, some nasty. Take or leave as many or as few as you like, but GET INVOLVED.

So, without further commentary, the first thing we can all do is to spread the word that....


That's right shoppers, each of you tell ten of your friends that one of the best ways to defeat oppressive Maoism and breathtakingly remedial governance is good old fashioned capitalism.

And what is one of the best and most effective means of helping the Nepal economy get back on its feet? Tourism. Funny, while our rabid Western consulates are telling all of us to "avoid any unnecessary travel" to Nepal, Indian tourism has increased by upwards of 15% in the last year. What do they know that we don't?

blogdai was in the thick of the big Maoist protest, as you all know. Hundreds and hundreds of Maoists walked right through the streets of backpacker central: Thamel, without so much as a flinch of a threat to business and property. Why? Because they weren't Maoists, that's why. They were part of that now famous edict laid down by our boys in Red that every household in rural Nepal had to supply at least one participant in the Kathmandu rallies or face the consequences. The point is, the Maoists STILL can't muster enough forces to take Kathmandu or to even make much of a battle--and yes, I stand by my opinions about this, once again, knowing full well that many of you are still starry-eyed by accounts of Maoist power in the field. I say, BUNK! The Maoists know that they haven't the capacity to overrun the RNA and take over the country on their own. That's why they're playing these idiotic bullying games with SPA. Without SPA, the Maoists are isolated, politically and logistically.

So where does this leave a Westerner's favorite pastime, trekking? Everest is now and has always been open and safe for trekking. Maoists routinely get the shit kicked out of them by wealthy Sherpa shop-owners everytime they seek to make inroads into the upper Khumbu region. Go there, hop a plane to Lukla and trek away. Looks like Annapurna is opening up also. We have heard that maoists have stopped extorting rupees from trekkers and things are quieting down, but this still may change. Kathmandu? Even when Maoists were crawling out of the woodwork last May, all the major historical sites were open and harrassment-free. blogdai had no trouble walking down any street in Kathmandu at night. You are more likely to get a smile and some literature from a 15-year old "Maoist" than you are getting useful information from your own consulate.

So what's the simple logic behing all of this? Supporting the economy with your tourist rupees supports and increases wealth and education among Nepal's citizens. An educated populace is an informed populace; not as vulnerable to either Maoists intimidation or inept government promises. Plus, a closed-up and fearful Nepal is an isolated Nepal. Tourists, especially Western tourists help spread an accurate accounting of events in Nepal and provide, to a certain extent, a different and perhaps hopeful perspective to locals. A blogdai favorite is that Western tourists can balance and refute a lot of bad journalism that currently surrounds events in Nepal.

We cannot turn our backs on the Nepalis in this regard. I'm asking each of you to view any warning about travel to Nepal skeptically and with an eye towards secondary verification. Don't take at face value what diplomats say. Do your own research. Why? Because, aside from the protestations of some overzealous Xenophobes, Nepal needs foreigners. Nepal must not be left alone during this time.

Isolation leaves citizens to trust either politicians or Maoists. It creates despair and increases neediness. Those in physical or economic need tend to rally around those who can provide the most tangible and immediate relief. Add a dose of intimidation and that leaves most Nepalis with nothing more than a Maoist choice. Put another way, rural Nepal is poor, isolated and undereducated. Maoists thrive in rural Nepal; 'nuff said.

Not convinced? The best thing you can do is ask someone who has recently returned from Nepal for their recommendation. Specifically, ask them if it was as frighteningly bad as Western diplomats and media painted it to be. You may be surprised at the answer.

The important thing is to GO! Go to Nepal. Bring the weight of your currency and opinions and distribute both freely.

At the very least, spread the word.


Flash! Update August, 2, 2006: Travel and Leisure Magazine has voted our little Kathmandu 3rd best city in Asia. See you all there! -=BD