Nepali Times Asian Paints

H2O

Thursday, January 5th, 2017
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Pic: Kumar Acharya

Pic: Kumar Acharya

Sixty years ago, when Swiss geologist Toni Hagen walked across the length and breadth of Nepal he used to ask villagers what they wanted most. The reply was almost always: a footbridge. Rivers divided Nepal into an archipelago of isolated valleys, especially in the monsoon. Nepal’s trail bridge-building campaign is a success story which we will talk about some other time. But when Hagen returned to Nepal in the 1980s and again asked mountain dwellers what they wanted, the demand was for motorable roads.

Today there is scarcely a part of Nepal where an excavator isn’t in action digging a road. More roads have been built in the past ten years than in the last 60. Humla is the only district that is still not connected to the national highway network, and even that not for much longer.

If Toni Hagen were alive and once more asked villagers in the mid-hills of Nepal what is their most pressing need, it would most certainly be: water. The more arid western districts of Achham, Dailekh, Jajarkot, Pyuthan were always synonymous with water shortages. But in the past two decades areas never before associated with the lack of water like Ramechhap, Kavre and Dolakha are reeling under acute water scarcity.

As our reporter found out in a recent visit (page 14-15) water shortage continues to be the biggest worry in Nepal’s mountain villages. While erratic rainfall and drying up of perennial springs have had a severe impact on agriculture, water scarcity has also spurred out-migration from the mid-hills.

Entire villages are emptying as farmers sell their homesteads and move to Kathmandu, while city folk are migrating in the opposite direction buying up viewpoint property as investment. Many terraces are barren not just because there is no one to till them, but also due to the water shortage.

Most villages located along ridges have always suffered from lack of water as soon as the rainy season drew close to. This year, despite a healthy monsoon that ended late, even water sources located next to community forests have dried up. Desperate villagers (mostly women because the men have left) have to walk hours to fetch water. Vegetable patches have wilted. Children are dropping out of school to help carry water. Districts may have been declared open-defecation free, but there is no water in the latrines.

Many reasons have been put forward for this Great Desiccation. Across most of the 12 districts affected the 2015 earthquakes disrupted aquifers, drying perennial springs especially along the higher slopes. The haphazard construction of roads, and urban sprawl have also diverted natural recharge points for ground water.

It is tempting to blame it all on climate change because that lets the government and local officials off the hook. It was the state’s responsibility to provide alternative sources of water even before global warming made the problem worse. This was not a new problem: Nepal’s mid-hills have always suffered prolonged drought, flash floods and water shortages. Despite irregular monsoons and extreme weather patterns, the monthly rainfall graph across Nepal hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years. If the total precipitation is the same, why are springs going dry?

Gigantic sponge

Global warming is melting the Himalaya, and glaciers are receding at an alarming rate. Water stored as ice along the Himalayan arc and on the Tibetan plateau is the fountainhead for 1.2 billion people from China, Southeast Asia and South Asia. But snow melt provides less than 20 per cent of the net flow of rivers that originate in the Himalaya, the rest are fed by springs. In fact, the Himalaya is not so much the water tower of Asia as a gigantic sponge that stores water under its mountains. That sponge seems to be going dry.

Whatever the cause, there are certain things that can be done immediately to reduce the water stress of Nepal’s villages. Some of these are featured in our reportage: farmers in Kavre are already harvesting rain from rooftops in underground tanks to tide over the family’s water needs till the next rainy season, collecting monsoon runoff in ponds so they recharge the aquifers. Besides making it mandatory for new buildings to be earthquake resistant, the government should also require them to have rainwater harvesting.

But, as we see in Kavre, much of this already is happening out of necessity. It is too late to blame climate change, we need to catch rain wherever it falls.


The power of one

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
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When the stench from the Bagmati started getting too much to bear and the banks of Kathmandu’s sacred river became a garbage dump, many of us just covered our noses, averted our gaze and blamed government. Then, top bureaucrat Leela Mani Paudyal, led a citizen’s movement to collect trash every Saturday. In two years, Bagmati cleanup became a campaign that lifted hundreds of tons of rubbish. Paudyal is now our ambassador to China, but the momentum of his work continues.

Yet, there were those who accused Paudyal of tokenism. As Chief Secretary he should have solved the structural problem of urban garbage disposal instead of collecting the trash himself, they pontificated. Couch intellectuals wrote op-eds accusing him of (horrors!) trying to be popular.

Three years ago Kulman Ghising was sacked by the UML’s Energy Minister Radha Poudel for being too honest. When the Maoist Centre Energy Minister Janardan Sharma brought him back to head the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), Ghising stopped load-shedding in Kathmandu within three weeks. Capital hasn’t had power cuts for the past two months. As we reported in this newspaper last week Ghising simply stopped corruption in the distribution of electricity to favoured customers, and he would not have been able to prevail had he not got the political backing of Energy Minister Sharma.

We have become so conspiratorial in this country that even consumers who are now enjoying 24 hours electricity are cursing NEA Managing Director Ghising because (Oh, no!) he succeeded. It seems we are so disillusioned that many of us will believe the wildest rumours, doubt the most honest, besmirch the most righteous. We make sweeping generalisations about all policemen being corrupt, all bureaucrats being on the take, all politicians being greedy and power-hungry, all journalists being deceitful. And we believe our own misrepresentation.

To be sure, there is lots to be cynical about. Two million survivors of last year’s earthquake are facing their second winter under tarps. In the heart of Kathmandu the Rastra Bank building and parts of the Singha Durbar secretariat are still in ruins. Parliament has not conducted business for two weeks because of a political deadlock over the constitution, yet its ‘honourable’ members just gave themselves a hefty raise. It has become a national trait to blame others (the rival faction, the other party, the neighbouring country) for our own failings, we excel at playing the demanding victim and cannot bear to see our own kind get ahead.

Happily, there are many like Leela Mani Paudyal and Kulman Ghising in this country, quietly and honestly doing their work without undue regard for reward or publicity. The comedy duo Sitaram Kattel and Kunjana Ghimire (‘Dhurmus-Suntali’) put the government to shame by raising money and personally building a new village for earthquake survivors in Sindhupalchok. Last year, it was the tireless teamwork of Govind Raj Pokharel and Swarnim Wagle at the National Planning Commission that allowed the Needs Assessment Report to be completed in time so that the National Reconstruction Authority could be set up. Pokharel could easily find himself a cushy international position, and Wagle gave up a job at the World Bank to return to Nepal. Similarly, there are dedicated young innovators like doctors devoted to service like Bikash Gauchan at Bayalpata Hospital in Achham,  social media trailblazer Sumana Shrestha, politician Anusa Thapa, advocate Om Aryal, human rights activist Mohna Ansari, some of whom have been profiled in this issue.

For every kleptocrat heading a public sector enterprise, there is another with integrity and vision to take the organisation and the country forward. As the Melamchi tunnel nears completion after a 25-year delay, the water utility responsible for distribution is moving fast to upgrade the water supply network despite blatant interference from Nepali Congress politicians, as we reported earlier this month (#835). In the transportation sector, Sajha Yatayat has been revived to provide reliable and comfortable buses for Kathmandu and has prevailed despite a route mafia enjoying political protection and patronage. After decades of going nowhere, Nepal Airlines finally has political support from Minister of Tourism Jivan Shahi  of the Nepali Congress, himself a pilot, and committed former DDC Chairman of Humla.

There are many other men and women who have shown through dedication and determination that it is possible to build a better future for this country.


The electric age

Friday, December 16th, 2016
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Pics: Kunda Dixit

Pics: Kunda Dixit

As a journalist writing on environmental issues, being seen driving an electric car a decade ago was supposed to be a statement. Then, with chronic fuel shortages and last year’s Blockade it became a necessity. Now, with the next generation of battery-powered crossovers coming into the market, there is no need anymore to punish yourself to be green.

The early model Reva bug was the size of a Mercury spaceship, and it took the dexterity of a cosmonaut to get in and out. But it was pain we were willing to inflict on ourselves to forsake fossil fuels. The joke was on the drivers waiting for days in petrol queues at Sajha or Army pumps as the Nepal Oil Corruption ensured a never-ending petrol shortage.

Taking a Kia Soul eV on a test flight to Bhaisepati last week, it seemed that all the sacrifice of the past ten years was worth it. Here, finally, is a battery car that has all the comforts and perks of the latest SUV for a fraction of the price because taxes on electric vehicles have been slashed. Besides, if you are a climate denier and embarrassed in the Age of Trump to flaunt a green image, then the Soul eV looks exactly the same outside and inside as the fossil Soul. No one need know you have gone green. The car even has a virtual engine sound to fool neighbours.

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After driving tiny semi-experimental battery guinea pigs for a decade, it is good to see that environmental awareness and advances in lithium battery technology have propelled electric vehicles to go mainstream internationally. At the top of the food chain you have the high-caste Tesla S and X. In the mid-rung, Tesla is unveiling the Model 3 and the Toyota Mirai. The third tier is populated by the likes Chevy Bolt, Volkswagen e-Golf, Nissan Leaf and the subject of our review today, the Kia Soul eV.

The Soul is a four-door hatchback with a range of up to 180km, with an interior as spacious as a SUV with plenty of leg and belly room. The 109HP motor under the front hood is powered by 32.7kWh of lithium ion polymer batteries located under the rear seats. Like all electric vehicles, the torque is phenomenal especially when zooming off from stationary position.

Full charging with the supplied 10A plug takes about 6 hours, but the car is also equipped for a DC CHAdeMO which allows full fast-charge in 30 minutes. Kia is trying to install the first of these in Kurintar so you can charge your Kia while having lunch on the way to Pokhara.

To appeal to customers used to luxury crossovers and the finer things in life, Kia has added gimmicks like heated and cooled seats (even at the back), heated steering wheel (so you don’t need gloves in winter), keyless entry, full sun roof, mood lighting like in 787 Dreamliners, and an autohold so that you don’t slide backwards downhill on the Bhaisepati slope. (The Soul doesn’t have handbrakes!)

For those of you with fancy cars accustomed to envious looks from pedestrians, the boxy Kia’s goofy demeanour will be a bit of a let-down. This car doesn’t get wolf-whistles. But, hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as long as the interior is comfortable who cares what other drivers think — let them wait in the petrol lines.

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Internationally, however, the Soul will face stiff competition from the Tesla Model 3 which is priced even cheaper than the Soul eV at $35,000, is sleekness personified, and has a 300km range. The Soul will also have to upgrade its battery to keep up with the range offered by next-gen Bolts and Leafs which are in the same price category.

After the Nepal government, in its infinite wisdom cut taxes this year, electric vehicles are suddenly more affordable. The Soul eV+ (with sunroof and other accoutrements) is priced at Rs 5.8 million and the standard Soul eV is Rs 5.6 million – compared to the Rs 8.5 million for the petrol Soul. Taxes for electric vehicles are now down to 23% while fossil fuel cars are still at 243%. Savings in petrol and the annual Rs 30,000 road tax also make the Soul very cheap to operate.

Hybrids like Prius and Insight never made it to Nepal, and Tesla won’t be here for a while. So, as the only electric car besides the Mahindra e2O (reviewed for comparison, below) currently available in Kathmandu, the Soul makes you swoon.

e2O adds doors

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Anyone who has been driving a Mahindra Reva e2O for a while knows the kind of contortions passengers have to make to get into the back seat. While most things about the first battery car in the Nepal market was perfect for Kathmandu, it was getting in and out that was a problem. Mahindra has solved this with the five-door e2O Plus which was launched in India last month and will soon be in showrooms here.

We have reviewed the e2O in this paper before and there isn’t much to add, except to highlight the new features in the Plus version. Speaking of doors, the other inconvenience of the standard e2O was that the hatch had to be opened to plug the car for overnight recharge. The socket is now outside to make it look like a refueling inlet.

Mahindra has made a wise decision to upgrade the e2O rather than convert its unpopular Verito model to battery, and which didn’t sell well at all. It has kept the aerodynamic silhouette while adding trademark Mahindra grille in front, redoing the rear end, and making the car look much snazzier.

The other important improvement is that the 72V lithium battery pack in the P8 variant which gives the motor a peak torque of 91Nm and 40 HP. The P8 therefore has a top speed now of an impressive 130km/h and a range of 140km, 20 km more than the standard e2O. Other additions are an anti-rollback and a REVive ‘limp home mode’ of 10km when the battery runs low.

The P4 variant is 40% less than the cost of the P8 but has a range of only 110km. Win some lose some.


The maximum pilot

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
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plane-1Capt Alexander Maximov exuded professionalism with every step and gesture as he did the pre-flight check of our Aeroprakt leisure aircraft at Pokhara airport one morning four years ago.

Although the Russian pilot used to fly MiG supersonic fighters for the Soviet military, you could tell that he felt more at home here – taking a flimsy, small, slow plane up past the highest mountains to treat thousands of passengers to the most spectacular scenery on Earth.

Maximov was a man of few words, but you could tell from the concentration on his face, the way he constantly scanned his cockpit instruments and the terrain outside, that he was in his element up here. Even from 12,000ft, he had to tilt the plane so we could see the summit pyramid of Machapuchre another 12,000ft vertically above us. Maximov once told me “Every flight is pilgrimage” because it reminded him of how humans paled into insignificance amidst the majesty and magnitude of these mountains.

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Maximov was with a tourist on one of his sightseeing flights  up the Seti on 22 May 2012 when, as he completed a 360 degree turn to gain altitude, he saw an unusual brown cloud of dust billowing below Annapurna 4. Captured on the plane’s wingtip camera, it is distinctly different from the puffs of white clouds and the icy cliffs.

picture-048The pilot immediately recognised this as a huge rockfall avalanche  and soon saw a turbid tsunami racing down the narrow gorge of the Seti below. Maximov promptly  radioed Pokhara and warned the air traffic controller who passed on the message to police and FM radio stations. He then flew back, following the flood back to Pokhara. Officials credit Maximov’s alertness and early warning to saving many lives that day.

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Avia Club
, the pioneering Pokhara-based sports aviation company that Maximov flew for had suffered another tragedy in 2013 when owner-pilot Stephan Shrestha, 35, was killed together with a Chinese tourist when his plane hit an electricity wire above the Peace Stupa.

picture-042The Club was beginning to recover from that loss, and had started air safaris on powerless ultralight gliders from its own air field in Lauruk near Pokhara. Maximov was piloting a Dragonfly aircraft with a Canadian passenger, towing an ultralight when something went wrong with the cable. Maximov lost control of his craft and it plunged into a paddy field soon after takeoff.

Nepal’s tourism industry has lost a devoted and professional pilot for whom flying in the Himalaya with the wind on his face was life’s greatest passion.

Watch video


CONVENIENT UNTRUTH

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
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editorial

As the shock of Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections gives way to dismay over his choice of White House staffers and the new cabinet, the rest of the world is reminded that western democracy has a design defect which tends to throw up demagogues at regular intervals.

In our own neighbourhood, we saw the rise of the Indian alt-right three years ago in a similar backlash against established dynastic parties in the world’s largest democracy. This year’s election in the Philippines elevated  a self-confessed death squad gang leader to the office of the country’s president. Turkey’s elected president has unleashed a draconian crackdown on dissidents. After Brexit and the rise of the wrong right across Europe , it has become difficult to figure out whether it is America that is following Europe’s lead or vice versa. Probably both.

Much of the blame for the election upset in the US has gone to the media: a mass media out of sync with the masses, and a social web that was hijacked by fake news sites. Facebook in particular has come under intense scrutiny for doing nothing about its toxic ecosystem of falsification. Mark Zuckerberg has countered this week with a feeble defence that his social network promotes diversity, and is a technology company and not media. That is a convenient untruth. It is like cinema hall owners saying they are not responsible for screening movies with incendiary content.

As Trumpism takes hold, the mainstream media in the United States is questioning its adherence to the doctrine of false equivalence — the journalism rule under which reporters are required to give equal weight to both sides in an argument even when one side is deliberately lying and rabble rousing. The mantra of objectivity is being challenged with the argument that it is more important to be truthful than neutral.

This bit of soul-searching comes at a time when media everywhere is under siege. It has either been forced by commercialisation to abandon its public service remit, or it is being seriously challenged by the rise of the social web with its hate content. In a parody of economic globalisation, much of the content of these US-based sites have been outsourced to Macedonia or the Philippines.

As Barack Obama found out this week in Athens during what was supposed to be a victory lap for democracy, the word ‘demagogue’ comes from the perfectly wholesome Greek word for ‘a leader of the people’. It took on a derogatory connotation because the proletariat was looked down upon by the elite. Demagogues today are able to manipulate the media at election time to whip up chauvinism and intolerance so that journalists who adhere to rules lose their relevance in this frightening Orwellian combination of 1984 and Animal Farm.

Mainstream newspapers, TV stations and portals do not compete with each other anymore. We all compete against fanatics that spread hate and fear in cyberspace. The real challenge for us in the so-called mainstream media around the world is what we can do when freedom itself is twisted on new digital platforms. How do we find new ways to generate content that spreads tolerance and inclusion? Are we preaching to the choir? What new dissemination tools can we use to reach beyond our silos to those who disagree?

The emperor doesn’t like it when we point out that he is naked. Power doesn’t like it when you speak truth to power. Power tries to intimidate and harm the messenger. Governments have become smarter. They have learnt that jailing journalists or harming them attracts needless international attention. So they have refined their methods — censorship today is achieved by behind-the-scenes threats which can be even more insidious and sinister.

Somehow, it seems now that it was easier to deal with old-fashioned intimidation and censorship. At least you knew who your enemy was, and we took it as our noble duty to defend democracy and the free press. But what do you do when the threats to press freedom do not happen in a totalitarian state, but in democracies — where elected despots are the enemies of free expression.

When the core values of democracy and press freedom are threatened, journalists become activists. They are not just defending their own freedom, but the citizens’ right to know. Journalists are just the custodians of press freedom.


Commission for the Abuse of Authority

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
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karki-national-daily-frontpageIf you asked anyone in Kathmandu a week or so ago what the chances were of Parliament starting an impeachment process against Lokman Singh Karki, you would have been laughed out of the room. The political parties were too disunited, and Karki’s reign of terror had silenced top leaders, MPs, the bureaucracy, police and most of civil society and media.

Yet, the impossible does happen in Nepali politics from time to time. And so it was that a motion for the impeachment of the dreaded head of the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA) was hurriedly passed by Parliament which started debating it on Tuesday before it adjourned for a two-week recess.

It was a sight to behold parliamentarians from across the political spectrum walking up to the lectern to lash out at Karki. Tv stations beamed the speeches live and national dailies the next day carried them prominently on page 1 — all in sharp contrast to the climate of fear and culture of silence that had descended over the country these past months.

That one person could wield so much power in a democracy with all its check and balances holds an important lesson for the future, and is a critical test for the new constitution. Nepal’s mainstream press and online portals which had been silenced by Karki in the past months are now publishing exposĂ© after exposĂ© of the man’s shenanigans. It is as if a lid has been lifted to allow an eruption of revelations of his sordid past.

After entering the bureaucracy thorough the backdoor of a royal appointment, Karki exhibited very early on hints of the traits that would one day make him notorious. After the 1990 People’s Movement, he cosied up to the Nepali Congress and used choice positions in the bureaucracy to extort, embezzle and blackmail. When King Gyanendra tried to take the country back to the days of the absolute monarchy, Karki returned as Chief Secretary and was later singled out by the Rayamajhi Commission for corruption and crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2006. He was even being investigated by the very agency he was later appoint to head, the CIAA.

Some of the investigative reports in the Nepali press about his appointment in 2013 raise strong questions about the collusion of top political leaders. Mystery shrouds the dramatic overnight turnaround by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and President Ram Baran Yadav, which NC minister Gagan Thapa mentioned in his speech to parliament on Tuesday (see translated excerpt on page 13). Other MPs unleashed a litany of woes: how Karki ran a parallel government, and commandeered all agencies of government to target institutions and individuals for revenge or extortion.

Indeed, Karki’s modus operandi was to blackmail corrupt politicians and officials for payoffs, if he couldn’t find dirt on people he wanted to target he got government departments to manufacture dirt on them, and he also directly approached businesses and threatened them with investigation unless they paid him. As investigative journalists in the mainstream Nepali language press have reported this past week, the CIAA also interfered with the medical education sector even scrapping entrance examinations and conducting its own.

One intriguing question is why the top political leaders who all had a hand in his appointment suddenly turned against him last week. There appears to have been a tacit understanding between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Karki which would let Dahal off the hook on embezzlement of allowances meant for his guerrillas in return for Dahal convincing Chief Justice Sushila Karki to drop the Supreme Court’s investigation of his appointment. But both suspected the other of dishonesty, leading Dahal to support UML leader K P Oli’s move for impeachment. Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC has no love lost for Lokman Singh Karki, and has given tacit approval for the impeachment, but there are mid-level leaders in his party who are beholden to Karki or are hand-in-glove with him.

So, in summary, this is turning out to be a battle between crooks and a Super Crook. These are the same political parties that didn’t lift a finger when Govinda KC was sinking his life calling for Karki’s impeachment because of the CIAA’s corrupt meddling in medical education. They quashed the first attempt by Gagan Thapa to get parliament to investigate Karki. They wouldn’t even allow three MPs to sign a motion of urgent public importance last month. But last week, suddenly and without much of a fuss there were 157 signatures of UML and Maoist Centre MPs demanding impeachment.

What changed? Gagan Thapa said in parliament on Tuesday that there is something fishy there. But there is something even fishier in the way Karki was appointed, and has been allowed to grow into a monster no one can control. Thapa aptly compared Karki to the FBI’s J Edgar Hoover.

Lokman Singh Karki is under suspension, but the more important question is what to do with the CIAA. The original well-intentioned purpose of adding another layer of checks and balances to control corruption has been completely subverted. An agency designed to curb graft has been used by successive governments for political vendetta. Karki is just the latest and most ruthless example. It may be better to scrap the CIAA since it is too prone to abuse by politicians for political vendetta.


Tripartite tĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘte

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016
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Pic: Prakash Dahal

Pic: Prakash Dahal

There has been detailed deconstruction of the chance meeting between the leaders of India, China and Nepal at the BRICS-BIMSTEC Summit in Goa last week. As far as we can make out the get-together was indeed unscripted, but it turned out to be serendipitous.

It is not an easy job for the organisers of summits to choreograph the comings and goings of heads of government in alphabetical sequence with barely seconds of separation between each other. One leader spends an extra few minutes chatting with another and the whole meticulously planned exercise goes haywire. That is what seems to have happened when Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chinese President Xi Jiping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran into each other at the lobby of the conference centre in Goa.

That encounter would have gone unnoticed had the scion of Prime Minister Dahal and his personal secretary, Prakash, not been there to capture the scene in his mobile camera. Even so, no one would have known had Prakash not gone on to post the picture on his Facebook wall with a press statement of his own inferring that his Dad had extremely good body language with President Xi and that the three had agreed on a number of joint projects.

For the Indian foreign policy establishment, ‘multilateral’ is a bad word. India does everything bilaterally — especially with neighbours. Which must be why the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson issued an immediate clarification that the meeting was just a coincidence, and not a trilateral summit in any way.

Whatever it was, and however one looks at Prakash Dahal’s over-reach in bypassing Nepal’s Foreign Ministry to issue off-the-cuff pronouncements, the image of the three leaders sitting together was highly symbolic at many levels. If the tripartite tĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘte was not planned, it should have been. It may have been a coincidence, but it was a good coincidence.

Despite its aversion to multilateral approaches, and however much the organisers had plausible deniability that the meeting was pre-planned, it is India that benefited the most from the leak. The message to Nepal (and especially Prime Minsiter Dahal) couldn’t have been clearer: don’t try to play us off against each other because India and China are on the same page vis-a-vis Nepal.

That is also the advice that the Chinese leadership has been giving various Nepali netas from all four main parties when they visit Beijing: sort it out with New Delhi. Which must be why although the picture breached protocol for the very protocol-conscious Chinese they did not publicly express any serious displeasure about it.

For Dahal, the photograph was the perfect opportunity to clear his image back home in Nepal where he is seen to have sold out to India. Op-eds and editorial cartoons in the Nepali media have lampooned him as kowtowing to the Delhi Durbar to get himself back at the helm, even if it was just for nine months. Getting his son to leak the photograph through social media was a master stroke because it suddenly showed Comrade Prachanda as a regional statesman rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty and ostensibly having the blessings of both.

The Maoist-Nepali Congress coalition is also blamed within Nepal for having botched the planned visit which should have taken place just about now by President Xi. Prime Minister K P Oli had worked hard to set up the visit, but just as he fell victim to geopolitics the visit was also cancelled. Nepal is just not important enough for China to jeopardise its trade relations with India over. Which is why father and son had to assure the domestic gallery that all was well on the northern front.

In the final analysis, all this navel gazing in Nepal serves no purpose. As long as we cannot put our own house in order, set our politics right and steer the country towards economic growth we will continue to be treated as a footnote to history.


 

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