Friday, November 07, 2008

President Obama and Nepal: What to Expect

It's done, finally.  What a long haul for those poor Yanks.  As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said:  "America eventually does the right thing."  Too bad it took eight years of the "wrong thing" before Mr. Blair could be proven correct.   

What will an Obama presidency mean for Nepal?  Let's have a first look.....

It's the economy, stupid---------------------

The American economy is going through a major shit-storm and threatens to sink the world economy as it goes down.  Obama's first priority will be to deal with this catastrophy, period.  

A few things will come from this.  Look for India to get very nervous as most of those outsourced jobs that Mr. Obama wants to bring back to the U.S. are jobs that have been stationed in India over the past decade.  Nepalis working in phone service centers in Bangalore, say, should explore the job market now and keep all options open.  

Foreign Aid Revamp----------------------

Obama has the rare perspective of being someone who has actually lived in countries that were direct beneficiaries of U.S. foreign aid.  Unlike Bush, Obama knows that arrogant U.S. aid policies that simply throw money and staff at underdeveloped countries are bound to fail and must be revamped.  Remember the economy?  That big gorilla pulling down every plan and every program?  Well, the economy, and more specifically, the need to reduce spending, will combine with Obama's knowledge of how aid actually works to form one of  Obama's oft repeated budget strategies:  "Pay as you go."  Nepal, gone are the days when USAID writes a blank check to some clueless minister.   If you want to scam the system like before, your best bet will be to try and squeeze money from the UN.  Obama will apply an more "incremental" form of aid to Nepal: show initial progress on a program and funding will come for the next phase and so on.  Get ready for half of your Gross National Product to arrive with strings attached from now on.  

Prachanda and Politics--------------------

The Maoists won't fool Obama.  His step-father was detained by a military coup in Indonesia and Obama has seen plenty of insurgent groups masquerading as representatives of "the people" only to pull a bait-and-switch and fall back on their outdated ideological archetypes.  Obama is also aware of the misuse of the concept of "democracy." He seldom uses it. At the one spot in his acceptance speech where the term would have fit nicely, he chose the word "freedom" instead. So, the simple use of the term by a regime will mean nothing to the Obama administration unless it is backed by true reforms and a committment to citizen self-determination.  He'll punish any Maoist back-sliding by freezing foreign aid;  A suggestion proposed by former U.S. ambassador Ralph Frank during a peak period of Maoist activity in 1998.  

Fireworks in Pakistan---------------------------

Mr. Obama has made constant statements regarding his desire to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq and go after Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Pakistan, should evidence support such a move.   Since Kathmandu already has a direct flight from Karachi, look for our Capital to play host to a lot more pissed-off and demoralized Muslims looking for revenge.  There are already some rumblings about an Al Quaida cell stretching its wings in our fair valley, so look for Kathmandu to evolve into more of a refuge for those of a "plotting" nature.  


Hard to read this one.  The Obama administration will get a security briefing on Nepal that will basically say that India, as a staunch U.S. partner,  has the best insight in the region and to trust New Delhi's Judgement,  BUT, India is spending up U.S. goodwill and may not call the shots for much longer.   Bush's disasterous nuclear proliferation give-away policy towards India is something Obama has bristled towards in the past and will probably manifest itself as a "trust but verify" relationship with New Delhi in the future.  Obama knows India pulled a fast one on Bush.  It won't happen again, so any opinion or suggestion coming from New Delhi on how best to handle Nepal and the region will be scrutinized. 

Human Rights------------

Obama's is a pro-Tibet, anti-repression administration. They will not simply tolerate abuses in order to keep stability in any given region.   Look for harsh reprimands and yes, more aid conditions, Nepal, everytime you kow-tow to China's demands for Tibetan imprisonment and/or repatriation.  Pay attention to your treatment of Bhutanese refugees as well.  Your precious foreign aid will also be held up if the army goes haywire and kills a bunch of Madhesis.

 Don't think, however, that the Americans will look down upon any defensive move you make. Obama was the first candidate to imply that Georgia had no business straying opportunistically into splittist areas.  It would be similar to say, Sikkim deciding to break away from a repressive  India and join Nepal.  Remember again:  self-determination is the key.   If you want to keep the U.S. gravy train flowing to Nepal, don't mess with innocent people trying to live their lives.  



At 3:47 PM, November 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that flight to Pakistan is twice weekly, sorry if I am wrong. I think Obama will attack Pakistan withing his first year in president office. This is bad for Nepal is agreed. Even now, Afganstan carpet dealer in Kathmandu crowds get bigger. Nepal must not have musslim attack or violence.

At 6:17 PM, November 12, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ke raamro analys. a lot of us in Npal have no idea what to think of this black US president. He seems like a good man though. I see not many first idea here. Everyone is scared to talk about US aid and possible new management. Also, I think Pakistan problem makes for big Nepal problem in future.

At 10:11 AM, November 13, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

You hit on something, anon. This post has unwittingly created a microcosm of Nepali reasoning:

Subsistence-level political thinking.

Give up and let the Maoists take over; riot in the streets for petroleum prices; and where the hell is my foreign aid, seems to be all most of you care about.

Heaven forbid we get a good expanded discussion on U.S./Nepal relations and how they will change under Obama.

Maybe I should offer an ICIMOD subsidy check to the first one of you willing to venture out and offer some good political viewpoints on this subject.


At 6:36 PM, November 13, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very probably true, but a bit harsh, aren't we blogdai?

It wasn't more than 50 years ago that Nepal was a closed country. Give them some slack, will you?

I follow this blog and I can read between the lines here. You have always been one to try and provoke discussion and thought--even if it takes a cattle prod to do the job.

You are now, and have always taken the position of pulling the Nepalese out of their political and, some would say, apathetic slumber. Perhaps your approach is correct, but what's the hurry? Let Nepal be Nepal.

Nonetheless, yours is a needed approach that, I must confess, gets my head shaking in approval most of the time.

Keep it up, but try some gentler persuasion from time to time, will you?

At 7:07 PM, November 13, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

Well, ok, yes, I stand corrected.
(Doubter's and critics should do a site search here and find out how many times i've used the term "stand corrected" and you'll find ol' blogdai is not so dogmatically pig-headed after all)

Dear anon, you challenge me to my very depths and I thank you. You've basically encapsulated the essence of this blog and I stagger at your perceptive and insightful comments. God, do you have any political opinions regarding Nepal? I'll give you pride of position here. Only June ranks higher. What have you got?

OK then. Will try to soften the sarcasm, but alas, that very sarcasm is what draws many of our readers. A quandry...

thank you again for that breath of fresh air.


At 9:29 PM, November 13, 2008, Anonymous B said...

With you blog dai

At 9:15 AM, November 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good overview. The important thing I see from it is that you have rightfully pointed out American dependence on India's opinion with regard to Nepal. After watching Obama's transition team pour over every possible detail, one can surmise that this administration pays attention to EVERYTHING and is not likely to take India's word on Nepal at face value.

The U.S. was the first to enter Nepal as an aid agency in the 1950's. It was not so strictly a humanitarian gesture as a strategic one. Keeping an eye on "Communist" cross border incursionism was the main goal, and Nepal has been viewed as a cold war era watchtower ever since.

Perhaps the way to get the Americans to view Nepal independent of India is to paint a picture of the Kingdom as being singularly and uniquely viable to U.S. strategic interests in the region.

At 6:43 PM, November 17, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

Interesting and insightful. Sir or madam, perhaps are you a member of some policy-making body? Your approach is studious, to say the least.

Just saw an interview with the big "O" and he's uttering phrases about sending 2 or 3 brigades of marines into Afghanistan. this will be near the Pakistan border. A definite "call shot" from yours truly, I must puff.

B, thanks for the shout out. Quiet strength does not go unnoticed here.


At 6:45 PM, November 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

blah, blah blah.

ha ha ha blogdai ha ha ha

yu cant stop the power of a peoples republic


At 4:08 PM, November 18, 2008, Anonymous said...

need more frequent posts!!!

At 6:20 PM, November 18, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

Thanks ajab, and welcome to blogdai.

Everytime I thinks of a new angle to present, or a new viewpoint, I post.

Problem is, much that happens in Nepali politics is just the hanging of a new sari on the same old street whore.

You keep giving us fresh ideas and blogdai and staff will look for reasonable, fresh and insightfully new ways to present the Nepal dynamic. Deal?


At 11:59 AM, November 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very succinct summary and analysis (b)logdai. Have you forgotten that India's south Nepal policy was based on a strategy of obtaining rights for future oil exploration? What will become of this now that the Bush era policies mandating this approach are becoming null and void?

Mister Teapot

At 7:11 PM, November 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

blog dai, you underestimate usa. No black man can rule this country. Never. Blog dai, i wish you could think before you opened your big mouth. USA is doomed and so are we. This is the end of the world as we know. We are going to see nuclear war pretty soon. And it will be this nigger who lets the first missile drop.
Yours truly.

At 7:39 PM, November 19, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

Ever wonder why bad grammar and racism are always in bed with each other?


At 6:45 AM, November 20, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

Blogdai called it: A predictable effect of placing maoist thugs at the controls of power has emerged. As if on cue, YCL morons killed a couple of students and are running wild in kathmandu.

I guess this is all part of "unifying the parties, eh bhudai?" Enough already. Once a thug always a thug. Prachanda's implicit blessing is all over these activities simply through his very pronounced silence on the issue. What happened to his promise of a few months ago when he vowed to "crack down" on the YCL? Empty and hollow. Prachanda knows that without his army, only street intimidation at the hands of the YCL can help him get his point across. Typical and predictable. Did any of you spineless Polyannas actually thing Prachanda would miraculously change tactics and become a diplomat? No wonder he was snubbed like a cheap tourist when he tried to press his case to George Bush last month.

Well, now the U.S. has a president who actually pays attention to such things. Sorry Maoists, you just flunked your job interview with the new, smarter, world order. You just gave the Yanks half and excuse for a regime change. A couple of Al-Quaida stragglers set up shop in Kathmandu after being routed from Pakistan and that's all the excuse needed. fools all.


At 9:23 PM, November 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that the US policy "let New Delhi handle Kathmandu" will change under obama, i am sure he will be better informed than the present administration given so many desis around him

At 5:05 PM, November 25, 2008, Blogger blogdai said...

A good point. Eight years from now we may be dealing with the first desi president of the U.S. in Bobby Jindahl.

You think a guy like that will give Nepal it's own voice?

Point is, our best bet for reasonable self-determination presents itself when Obama takes office.


At 12:09 AM, February 01, 2009, Blogger reticent said...

Quite an assessment. These are logical and do seem to happen in the future. About alqaeda building up support bases in Nepal, I too had heard such remarks. Pakistan's ISI has a big base in Kathmandu to watch over India, it is rumored. Alqaeda would be messed up too, if it were decide to come in Nepal. It would be quadrapite struggle then. Alqaeda's terrorists would beat up Maoists. Maoists would beat up Madhesi Army. Madhesi Army would prolly beat the National Army and the National Army would beat up Alqaeda. The cycle could in the other direction though. I am only contemplating. It would be a tough struggle though.

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