Nepal: A yam between two boulders

Nepal: A yam between two boulders

By Kamal Raj Sigdel

Ka Leo Contributing Writer

Posted on 9/29/08

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: The rise of a new breed of communist leaders in Nepal has drawn the world's attention. It is partly because the tiny South Asian country is a Chinese neighbor and partly because this is a new democratic experiment. But will the Maoists give up their communist ideals? And will China and India, two economic giants, let the democracy groom on its own?

Nepal's democracy faces two major challenges: the Maoists' continued enchantment with the communist ideals and their reluctance to fully democratize themselves, even after entering into the multi-party democracy, and China and India's increased interest in Nepal's politics.

Indeed, the new Maoist Prime Minister, Prachanda is having a hard time. The illusive rebel leader, who did not even exist to many Nepalis' until recently, is now busy making the rounds garnering support to rebuild the war-torn country.

However, to everyone's surprise, Prachanda began as a true communist; he chose to begin his visit with China, and not with India. He went against the Nepali tradition, and reportedly offended India. Many democrats took it as an alarm-a communist with a history of a bloody war that killed more than 13,000 civilians preferred to break bread with communist neighbor China, ignoring the invitation of India.

Prachanda's visit to China was meaningful in that it was not limited to the Olympic Closing ceremony. Prachanda met both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao and discussed issues ranging from bilateral cooperation on security and Tibet to development assistance and trade. He also went one step further, paying a symbolic visit to Mao's ancestral village that inspired Maoist guerillas in Nepal. This raised eyebrows in India.

In fact, Prachanda seems to be more worried about gaining support from China than in striking a balance and, of course, in correcting his cadres' undemocratic practices, returning the occupied land of innocent civilians, stopping abductions and intimidation, or reigning in the Young Communist League (YCL), a Maoist sister paramilitary organization, and in teaching democratic values and norms.

Ever since the day he won the election, Prachanda has been saying that he wanted to review the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950, because it was "unequal." In the face of his desire to redefine Nepal-India relations (albeit a good thing in itself), it was a clear message to India that the new red leader wanted to ignore them and side with a fellow communist nation.

Just when Prachanda was breaking bread with Chinese leaders in Beijing, one of the India's largest selling dailies, The Times of India, splashed a news headline that read, "Nepal PM Prachanda chooses China over India."

Prachanda faces both challenges and opportunities of being sandwiched between two of the world's fastest growing economies. The first king PN Shah had a good understanding of Nepalese geopolitical locus when he described it as a "yam between two boulders."

Accordingly, one of the major challenges is to strike a balance in foreign policy in the face of the growing interests of the two giant neighbors so that it won't be crushed as would a yam between two giant boulders. In a bid to balance his relation, Prachanda visited India subsequently but he still fails to allay the Indian fear that the new leader is playing what they call the "China card."

As the Maoists have not articulated their terms of engagement with foreign powers, there is always a room for them to play, or for themselves to be carried away. In fact, both the neighboring giants have increased concerns in Nepal. Increasing Chinese pressure in suppressing Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu and Indian role in shaping many domestic policies and political parties are some of the examples of interventions. Given the Maoists' wavering faith in democracy and perceived likelihood of being carried away by external influences, it is feared that the peace process will be derailed.

Under these circumstances, the Maoists would do better if they completely gave up their faith in arms, fully democratized themselves and institutionalized democracy. It is too decent of the Maoists not to think of China as an alternative, be it in supplies or in finding a back up for a red takeover.

Prachanda has to realize the country's critical geopolitical location. Only a balanced foreign policy could garner a wide support so that the peace process can be taken to a logical end. There are also risks of the peace process falling apart, particularly in the two big powers not acting wisely. Nepal, therefore, needs warm and open support from both of its powerful, but competing, neighbors. (The writer can be reached at kamal.sigdel [at]

© Copyright 2008 Ka Leo O Hawaii


Nepal: A yam between two boulders - Commentary

Nepal: A yam between two boulders - Commentary

Light Article

Is the English language full?

I love neologisms, coinages, new words, whatever you want to call them. I think "staycation" is hilarious. Daniel Maurer, author of "Brocabulary: The New Man-i-festo of Dude Talk" is merchandising the words "brobituary" and "manecdote."

Brobituary is the all-too-apropos term for the valedictory speeches a man hears at his wedding. Full of praise and good feeling, they signal that the portion of his life worth living has come to an end.

A manecdote is a story that emphasizes one's manliness. Like the time I talked about repairing the garage door. Which I still haven't done.

These words are just the tip of the iceberg. I've been keeping tabs on the marketing-driven variants of "metrosexual," which now include "petrosexual" and "jetrosexual." What about "retrosexual," which fits me to a T? Whenever I hear that two young people are getting married, I exclaim: "To a member of the opposite sex? How exotic."

Conventional wisdom likens the English language to a healthy, growing organism that easily generates new words like "poke" (in the Facebook sense), "ginormous," "crowdsource," or "webisode." Every few years, a new edition of Merriam-Webster or American Heritage issues a press release commending themselves for integrating words like "Web-surfing" and "Islamo-fascism" into their dictionaries.

Similarly, the language purges itself of words that are no longer of any use, like "etiquette," "manners," and "modesty."

Are new words as great as we think they are? Paul MacInnes, writing for The Guardian newspaper, says no. "The common line is that any new word is a good word," he says. "It shows a vibrant, playful language shaped by those who practice it." He continues: "Not often, however, does anyone stop to ask whether this is a good thing, whether ... the English language is full."

Full! Interesting concept: New Words Need Not Apply.

MacInnes caught up with something called The English Project, supported by the BBC, the English Speaking Union and other worthies, which "aims to create ... an innovatory 'language exposition' (or 'living museum') where visitors - both physically and virtually - will be able to explore the English language in all its vigorous complexity across time and geography." Their Web site is

The EP has been harvesting what it calls "kitchen table lingo," previously unheard words that might be used by as few as three people. "If enough other people start to use your words," they announce, "then they could end up in the Oxford English Dictionary!"

MacInnes and other Brit lingoists seem underwhelmed by the Project's discoveries. Residents of the United Kingdom, we learn, have invented many, many words for the telly's remote control. (Just as the Canadians have many descriptive words for underwear, including "gaunch," "gotch," "gitch," and "ginch.") In Britain, "podger," "blipper," "twitcher" and "melly" are just a few of the new names for the remote.

I call our remote "the situation," as in, "hand me the situation, please." This is not the most precise term, because often I am handed a Kleenex, the Economist magazine, or just a beleaguered look. "Do we really need new words for the remote?" MacInnes asks, and one would have to say: No.

More Sarah Palin-dromes!

The contest isn't over yet, as excellent entries continue to find their way to my inbox. (A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward or forward, the classic example being, "Madam, I'm Adam.")

Serial palindromist George Lovely chips in, "Woe! Dawns Sarah harassn' Wade. Ow!" where Wade refers to Roe v. Wade, of course.

Alison Merrill sent in a serious candidate for world's longest Palin-drome: "'Ah! I made veep.' - S.P. Moody? Baby? Doom? P.S. Peeved am I, ha!"

In contrast, brevity is the soul of Ira Richler's wit: "Peeve: Babe veep."

Bob Treitman sent me "'Hey, did I harass?' Sarah: 'I did, yeh."'

From Hastings, in the United Kingdom, Paul Barlow put down the podger long enough to send in eight, repeat eight, vice-presidential palindromes! On McCain's vice-presidential announcement, he writes, "Avid dog delivers reviled god-diva." On Palin's election as Alaska'a governor, "Hara! She won snow eh? Sarah?"

Brace yourself. There are more.

(The New York Times, Sept 25, 2008)

Hawaii Diary 4

Hawaiian Sovereignity and Nostalgia

Someone once had said me that no group is in majority in Hawaii. All are minority. Surprisingly, Hawaii does not look like a US state. The faces that we see usually are Asian. The physical distance that it maintains with the US mainland is worth noting. And I saw the state a bit more distanced than any other state in the US in many respects.

During the first two weeks of orientation in the East West Center, we had a chance to understand Hawaii in all its manifestations. Prof Aa La Paki of the Hawaii Study Center took us to many places of historical and political significance. Being a native Hawaiian, he speaks with full of pride and admiration about the history and culture in Hawaii. He would not miss to brief us what is going on currently in Hawaii political sphere.

What happened that Friday afternoon was something very embarrassing at least for the US federal government. A Native Hawaiian sovereignty group stormed into the Iolani Palace premises to display their discontent with the US federal government. The palace is in fact the residence of Hawaii's last monarch and is a strong symbol of what the Native Hawaiian call 'nationality'. They displayed some placards that read "Property of the Kingdom of Hawaiian Trust."

I was taken aback to know that there are still some groups who want their Hawaiian Kingdom back. The day was special day for the Native Hawaiians to protest, as it was the day of Hawaii's annexation to the Union. Hawaii is the last state to be annexed in the United States. It was annexed on Aug. 21, 1959.

I asked one Haule, "What do you think are they trying to do with such trifling?" "These guys want their palace back. They feel that their land has been confiscated forcefully. There are about 25 of them; they've got a king and the king wants to sit on the throne."

I came to learn about this new world "Haule" from one of natives. He said Hawaians call the whites, Haule. One Indian friend of mine who is doing his PhD said that the native beat up Haule when they find them walking alone at night. That was scary.

When we were in the palace in one of the orientation days, I met some native Hawaians, they were all giant figured. "Do you think such protests will do some good yo you?" I asked one of them. He said, "We're going to fight as long as we don't get our palace back". He declined to give his name.

What was more surprising was to read a local bulletin distributed by a member of the group. It would read: "Majesty Akahi Nui, the King of Hawaii, has now reoccupied the throne of Hawaii. The Kingdom of Hawaii is now re-enacted." I thought it was making a fiction out of the news.

The so-called new king, Akahi Nui was coronated in 1998 by the native Hawaiians who want to continue with their royal dynasty. I felt pity on them because what they want seemed to me almost impossible. Though there is no hope, the few determined natives are not going to give up. They have long used Iolani Palace -- the site of Queen Liliuokalani's imprisonment following the 1893 US overthrow -- as a prime location for protests against the United States' occupation of the islands. There was similar kind of protests in the past by the Native Hawaians.

One of my friends in the APLP happened to be from the Hawai senate. She works there in the administration of the Senate of Hawaii. She said there is no one in the senate who feels like the way these protesters do. They all are happy with the way they are. There is no thought to secession. I wish I could meet some of the key leaders who are still in what they call "Hawaiian sovereignty movement".

Hawaii Diary 3


The day went without pushing hard. I was trying to meet up with Prof Bhawuk at the Shielder College of Business and Management. He is a well-known professor at the University of Hawaii and is a Nepali citizen.

I left my room as soon as I saw his email 'sms'. The Kathmandu hangover would never leave me. I did not bring the campus map and went to his department asking one after another at each bend.

e was more friendly and interesting than what I had imagined. We talked for about one hour and it was really rewarding for me. He inspired me to write, and I decided to follow his advice.

Hawaii Diary 2

Asia Pacific Potluck Leadership (APLP)

The first time I came to kitchen, I was impressed. For the next two days, the nauseating smell kept me hunting, however. One of those days, I had to rush and had not eaten anything from the morning. One of my friends suggested me, "Why don't you cook some stuffs for two three days and keep that in fridge?" That was something strange, "Because I don't feel good at eating things which are stale." I reflected, this could be because we rarely used fridges.

The students at the dorm would cook stuff enough for at least one week or even more and eat that bit by bit every day from the fridge.

We had a what they call "potluck" at the dinner time. That was one of the most impressive things I find in the dorm. Some bunch of people coming together with one item of food from each and eat tasting each others. I must admit, I had potluck almost everyday since then. In fact, I was a bit lazy at cooking and potluck was the best way out. We often have Nepali potluck, Nepali-Indian potluck, Nepali-South Korean potluck and on and on.

The only question I ask is: Does this contain beef and pork?

Hawaii Diary 1

Hawaii Shocks

The first view of Hawaii in the Google Earth really scared me. It looks like a dot in the infinity of pacific, as if a small ocean wave could swipe it away. When for the first time I caught a glimpse of the island through the window of the KE 151, I felt like landing in Kathmandu. The tiny dot in the ocean was in fact a big island, a big city. The plane slowly came closer and closer to the sea sore and flew over the settlements. And there was Hawaii, the tiny spot in the ocean.

The first step outside the air conditioned pathway that led us out of the jet to the custom department was so warm. Though there were hundreds of passengers coming in and going out, we did not have to wait for long, which is something new for a person like me who has experienced lousy bureaucracy rife with corruption and mis management. We were cleared soon enough and checked out. And there was Mike waiting for us outside the terminal. He was in fact sent to pick us by the East West Center.

The room was small but well-furnished. Everything was new for me. Within a couple of days, I was acting like a long time resident. I was however getting different shocks every now and then.

The first impression of the dorm was not so exciting as wherever I go I would smell something very nauseating. I guessed that was the sea food left rotten somewhere in corners. But within two three days I stopped smelling anything like that or may be the smell is no longer stinging to me.

The first day I did not cook. I busied myself in meetings.

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