Call for Application for Knight Fellowships at Stanford 2010

Knight Fellowship at Stanford, USA is one of the world’s highest-paying research-based fellowship program aimed at promoting innovation in journalism, communication, and other areas of research.

How to Apply

The John S. Knight Fellowships is now accepting applications for the 2010-2011 academic year at Stanford. Please review the eligibility and selection criteria for United States or International Knight Fellows before proceeding the the application instructions and online form.

If you are uncertain whether you should apply for a U.S. or International Knight Fellowship, please don't guess. Send us an email with your work history to

Frequently Asked Questions

· What is the application deadline?

The deadline for International applications is Dec. 15, 2009. The U.S. application deadline is Feb. 1, 2010.

· I hear that the focus of the Knight Fellowships is changing. Why?

The Knight Fellowships is transforming itself in order to serve the needs of journalism and journalists as much in the years ahead as it has in the past. All the turmoil and opportunity in the industry make journalism a chaotic and exciting proposition today. We are making significant changes to meet these new realities.

o What exactly does that mean?

The program will focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership to foster high quality journalism -- including an emphasis on developing and strengthening press freedoms around the world -- during this time of profound transformation. We will seek Fellows with a broader range of experience, media and skills, both in the U.S. and abroad, than in the past. This could include journalistic entrepreneurs, as well as journalists who are a bit less experienced - or more experienced - than the average Fellow.

· I'm an international journalist. How will the program changes affect me?

The program welcomes applications from all qualified international journalists, but will pay particular attention to international journalists who can have a direct impact on the development of a free press and flow of information in their countries. We will continue to seek international journalists from countries with a more robust press, especially those who would focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.

· Will I need to produce something at the end of my fellowship?

Yes. Given the emphasis on innovation, the program will expect Fellows to come to Stanford with a coherent proposal that will lead to a tangible result.

o What does that mean?

The proposal is really up to you. We're looking for applicants with good ideas that emphasize experimentation and innovation in regards to modern journalism. Your proposal could result in perhaps the beginnings of a creative plan for a journalism innovation, or a way that writers might use new storytelling tools, or a proposal to fund journalism. The idea is to enable Fellows the space, time and mentoring to embrace the challenges facing journalism.

o Does this mean I can't take classes or do anything other than work on my proposal?

No! The riches of classes, research and experiences at Stanford University, one of the world's great learning institutions, are there for you, just as before. Fellows can take classes across the university, and connect with experts at the more than 100 research centers and institutes. For more information on how Knight Fellows can make use of Stanford, please visit Our Program: Classes, Research, and More.

· What's not changing?

Key parts of the Knight Fellowships will not change. Fellows will spend an academic year at Stanford University and take advantage of the university's deep intellectual and educational resources, inside the classroom and outside it as well. Fellows will be responsible for setting their own agenda during their year. And rich interaction among the Fellows will continue to be a major element of their experience.

· Isn't it expensive to be a Knight Fellow in Palo Alto?

Yes, and for that reason, in addition to a $60,000 stipend (paid in 10 monthly installments, September through June), we provide supplements for housing, childcare and health insurance as well as moving and research/equipment expenses. The housing supplements are $3,000 annually for single Fellows, married Fellows and those with domestic partners; $9,500 annually for Fellows with one child and $13,000 annually for Fellows with two or more children. Families with children in their households receive $9,000 for each child under 5 and $3,000 for each child aged 5 to 9 to offset childcare costs. The Knight Fellowships pays a health insurance supplement for Fellows and their families, ranging from $2,500 for single Fellows to $12,500 for a couple with two or more children.

A moving allowance is provided. Fellows coming to the program who live within the United States receive $2,000 to $4,000, depending on family size. Fellows coming from outside the United States receive $3,000 to $6,000, depending on family size. The program also pays for your Stanford tuition and provides a $1,000 book allowance and up to $1,500 towards the purchase of laptop computers, digital cameras, recorders, fees for Continuing Studies or other courses related to the fellowship, computer software, research fees or payments, and travel expenses related to the Fellow's research or study.

· Is there an age limit?

There's no official or unofficial age limit. We look for people who have been working long enough to have achieved a lot, but who are young enough for a Knight Fellowship to pay journalistic dividends for many years to come. We are seeking Fellows with a broader range of experience, media and skills, both in the U.S. and abroad, than in the past. This could include journalistic entrepreneurs, as well as journalists who are a bit less experienced - or more experienced - than the average Fellow.

· I'm a freelancer. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes, full-time freelancers are eligible. Applicants are judged on the quality of their work, their essays, their journalistic potential and their letters of references. Freelancers do not need a leave of absence letter from their employer since they work for themselves.

· I'm not sure whether I should apply as a U.S. or an International journalist.

Each case is different; let us make the call. If you aren't certain, send us an email briefly summarizing your work history, list the countries where you have worked, describe your current position and your plans for the future. One of the determining factors will be whether your audience is primarily in the U.S. or outside it.

· Do international applicants have to find their own funding?

International Knight Fellows are funded from a number of sources. International applicants should seek financial sponsorship for their fellowship if possible. But finding funding is not a condition of being awarded a fellowship.

One organization that provides funding for international journalists is the Fulbright Scholar Program; for more information, please visit their web site at

In addition, some news organizations provide their employees with full or partial funding. Other sources of support come from Knight Fellowship funds that are designated for specific purposes, including one that funds a journalist from Latin America. Regardless of the source of funding, all decisions to award fellowships are made by the Knight Fellowships program.

· Where do Knight Fellows usually live during their year at Stanford?

Most Fellows live in rental apartments and houses near the campus. We help Fellows as they look for a place to live, we compile a list of available housing nearby, check out rentals you're interested in and offer advice on best areas to live. A number of landlords in the area know our program well and have happily rented to Knight Fellows for many years.

· Do I need the approval of my employer to apply for the fellowship?

Yes, all applicants (except freelancers) must submit a letter from their employer supporting their application and granting a leave of absence. If you win a fellowship, you are expected to return to your place of employment at the end of the academic year.

· I'm married and have kids - is the Knight Fellowship right for me?

Yes. Many Knight Fellows have found their year at Stanford a wonderful experience not only for them, but for their family as well. Spouses and partners are eligible to take classes and attend Knight Fellowships seminars and events just as the Fellows do. Children of Knight Fellows can attend excellent Palo Alto schools and often form life-long bonds with other Knight children from all over the U.S. and the world.

· For International or foreign language applicants: Do I need to translate everything I send in, including my work samples?

Yes, all application materials, including letters of recommendation, must be submitted in English or in English translation.

· How can I learn more about the fellowships and the application process?

Among the best sources of information are Knight Fellowship alumni, so if you know a former fellow, seek him or her out. You can also contact the Knight Fellowship staff.

o But I don't know any former fellows!

Contact us and we will put you in touch with a former fellow who has volunteered to help people like you with their applications. The deadline for requesting a mentor is December 5 for International applications, January 15 for United States applications.

Have more questions? Then contact us at the Knight Fellowships office.

For more details visit Stanford Webstie:

Call for for Applications: UN Democracy Fund

Call for for Applications: UN Democracy Fund

At the 2005 World Summit held at the United Nations in New York, Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to promote democracy and human rights, by welcoming "the establishment of a Democracy Fund at the United Nations 1" (herein referred to as 'UNDEF').

UNDEF's primary purpose is to strengthen the voice of civil society and ensure the participation of all groups in democratic practices. The Fund complements current UN efforts to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide and funds projects that enhance democratic dialogue and support for constitutional processes, civil society empowerment, including the empowerment of women, civic education and voter registration, citizen's access to information, participation rights and the rule of law in support of civil society and transparency and integrity.
UNDEF is a Trust Fund established through voluntary contributions from Member States, under the authority of the Secretary-General. UNDEF is guided by its Advisory Board, which includes representatives of Member States, eminent academics and global civil society leaders. Thus, participation in the activities of UNDEF bestows prestige to all its stakeholders and signifies for its beneficiaries a high level of political commitment to democratic values.
The window for applications for UNDEF's Fourth Round of Funding is open from 16 November to 31 December 2009. Only applications using the UNDEF on-line system in English or French and received before the deadline will be accepted. The selection process is expected to be highly rigorous and competitive, considering that for the Third Round, some 70 project proposals were selected out of more than 2,100 received.
Please study the Fourth Round proposal guidelines in English and in French, as well as the FAQs. You may also wish to look at feedback and lessons learned issued to the Third Round applicants in English and in French.

'Draft constitution within six months or never'

‘Draft constitution within six months or never’


L and G (Based on report The Kathmandu Post report)



UCPN (Maoist) Vice Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha said on Thursday that two major ruling partners are plotting to stage “constitutional coup” by deliberately delaying the constitution-making process. He warned that if the parties failed to complete the new constitution within the next six months deadline, the country will be in serious trouble.


Shrestha said that the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML were not in a mood to complete the new constitution within the given timeline just to create a “constitutional crisis” so that it could serve as a pretext for starting presidential rule.


“There are only six more months left to declare the new constitution and the ruling parties want to just pass the time passively so that they could declare state of emergency and start presidential rule,” said Shrestha at a function organized to access the political parties' accountability towards constitution making and peace process. The program was jointly organized by FORHID, Cahurast, FOPHUR.


Shrestha also said that the ruling parties are trying to sideline the Maoists because they do not want to make the new constitution on Maoist leadership.


Also speaking at the same program, former speaker and facilitator of the 2006 peace talks Daman Nath Dhungana said that there is no alternative to declaring a new constitution within the next six months of the parties want to avert a serious crisis. “It is time the parties forged a new mechanism, besides the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution to direct the peace process,” said Dhungana.  “The ruling parties cannot complete the constitution-making process excluding the Maoists. If they fail to finalize the constitution in the next six months, they won’t get a second chance. The constitution can be written during state of emergency.”

Endeavour Awards for Research, Postgraduate study or research

Endeavour Awards for Research, Postgraduate study or research, Vocational education and training, Professional Development and Student Exchanges Open on 1 December 2009.

The Endeavour Awards is an internationally competitive, merit-based program providing opportunities for citizens of the Asia-Pacific region to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia. Awards are also available for Australians to do the same abroad.

The aims of the Endeavour Awards are to:

  • Deepen Australia’s global engagement in education and research;
  • Reinforce Australia’s reputation as a high quality education provider and leader in research, innovation and knowledge management;
  • Enhance language skills and cultural understanding of Australia; and
  • Provide opportunities for Australian professionals to enhance their skills and knowledge.

As part of Australian Scholarships, the Endeavour Awards promote excellence in education. Australian Scholarships brings together under one umbrella, scholarships administered by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and AusAID, the Australian Agency for International Development. Australian Scholarships aims to build mutual understanding between Australia and its Asia-Pacific neighbours.

Endeavour Awards for international applicants
Through the Endeavour Awards, the Australian Government provides opportunities for high achieving international students, researchers and professionals to undertake short or long term study, research and professional development in Australia in a broad range of disciplines.


Endeavour Research Fellowships provide financial support for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows from participating countries to undertake short-term research (4-6 months), in any field of study, in
Australia. Aimed at building international linkages and networks, these Awards provide opportunities for award holders to further develop their knowledge and skills.

Postgraduate study or research

Endeavour Postgraduate Awards provide full financial support for international students for up to 3 years to undertake a postgraduate qualification at a Masters or PhD level either by coursework or research in any field of study in

Vocational education and training

An Endeavour Vocational Education and Training (VET) Award enables you to study a vocational course at the Diploma, Advanced Diploma or Associate Degree level in any field of study in

Vocational education and training provides occupational or work-related knowledge and skills. The courses are directly related to the trade, occupation or 'vocation' in which you participate and exclude degree and higher level programs normally delivered by universities.

Professional Development

Endeavour Executive Awards provide professional development opportunities for high achievers in business, industry, education or government from participating countries.

This award provides you with the flexibility to design a program that advances both your professional and personal goals. In consultation with your host organisation, the one to four month program may include activities such as a shadowing program, work placement, attendance at a conference, participation in a short course, or peer-to-peer learning.

Student Exchanges

The Australian Government recognises the many enduring benefits of international exchanges undertaken during the years of undergraduate education. To encourage greater student mobility, the Australian Government funds Australian higher education providers to subsidise the costs to students participating in student exchanges which include tuition fee waiver and credit transfer.

Only Australian higher education providers are eligible to apply for funding for international student exchange programmes.

Students (Australian and international) wishing to apply for student subsidies available under these international student exchange programmes should contact the International Office of their institution.

Apply online click here

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Bunchhe, a 13-year-old school boy joins Maoist protest with four pieces of rotis

Bunchhe, a 13-year-old school boy joins Maoist protest with four pieces of rotis


Look & Gaze, KATHMANDU, NOV. 13


Bunchhe Tamang moves his small feet faster and faster to keep pace with the crowd marching toward the Singhadurbar eastern gate. He does his best to make his voice audible amid the sloganeering crowd. “Nagarik Sarbochhata Jindabad, Jindabad,” he shouts in excitement with the mass.


As the protesting Maoists marched toward Nepal’s administrative powerhouse, the 13-year-old schoolboy from Kavrepalanchowk was one with the mob. He said he did not know what he was shouting about.


Time and again he was checking the plastic bag he was holding. It was some food stuff (four rotis or the breads) that his mother gave him while he left home with other villagers for the protests in Kathmandu.


He said he would take the food when he would feel hungry in course of the protest. He would sling the plastic bag containing the food back and forth as he would run here and there just if a jiffy. He knows he will have to follow the group that came from his village. He does not like to stop and talk. “If I stop, I will miss my group and lose my way,” said Bunchhe.


As he walked side by side and reached the Maitighar Mandala along with the crowd, he saw the protestors are being served with Cheura tarkari (bitten rice and vegetable curry). The prospects of the breakfast brought a new glow in his face. “Now, I am going to save this stuff for the day,” he said when asked about the food he is carrying.


Bunchhe thinks as the eldest brother in his family he has the permission and the courage to come to Kathmandu to take part in the protest. “One of my brothers is very young, but the elder one who can walk was also willing to come with me,” Bunchhe explained. “But I stopped him saying the police will beat him up. I am the eldest son and therefore Maoists let me join.”


He joined the protests because he does not fear the police. “It is good that I can see Kathmandu and enjoy the protests. I don’t have to pay either for this trip,” Bhunchhe said.


School is not so fun for him. He wishes he could get chance to come to Kathmandu every day on similar programs. He does not know what is Kranti or Aandolan (revolution) and why so many people are there. “I think, they are here because the Maoists asked them to come along,” Bunchhe smiles as he replies.

KFC, Pizza Hut come to Nepal

KFC, Pizza Hut come to Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar (THeINDIAN.COM)
Kathmandu, Nov 22 (IANS) After setting the capital abuzz for months, fast food giants Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut Sunday finally descended on Kathmandu with a soft launch in one of the most upmarket shopping and touristy areas of the city.

The two American food chains have been brought to the Himalayan capital by Devyani International, an associate company of India’s RJ Corp headed by Ravi Kant Jaipuria, which already has a tie-up with Yum! Brands, the Kentucky-based world’s largest fast food restaurant company that owns KFC and Pizza Hut with more than 36,000 outlets in over 110 countries.

The inauguration of the first multinational chain of restaurants in Nepal, delayed by the political instability, ironically comes on a day the former Maoist guerrillas have announced a third phase of anti-government protests that will culminate in a three-day general strike from Dec 20.

During their decade-old insurgency, the former rebels had targeted American ventures in Nepal, like Coke and Pepsi.

RJ Corp is also the bottler of Pepsi brands in India and Nepal.

Devyani International officials said they are excited to enter Nepal and have extensive plans for growth and expansion in the Himalayan nation.

“Consumers in Nepal are ready for the international eating-out experience,” a statement issued by the company said. “Nepal is a promising market for these brands and their entry will give the Nepali economy a boost by creating job opportunities for the locals.”

The first two outlets have been launched at Durbar Marg in Kathmandu near the former royal palace and two five-star hotels.

Nepal’s first commercial bank, NMB Bank, partnered with Devyani International to bring the American twain to Nepal.

KFC is sourcing the chicken from Brazil while the staff at both the outlets have been trained in India.

After Kathmandu, new outlets are expected in the sunny city of Pokhara, one of the most popular tourist destinations. The American eating-out experiences will be open to the public from Wednesday.

On the eve of the launch, Nepali food entrepreneur Shyam Kakshapati dismissed fear of competition from the giants to the indigenous food outlets and products.

Kakshapati, CEO of Nanglo’s, one of Nepal’s best-known chain of restaurants that serves pizza and burgers along with the local momo - dumplings - and sekuwa - local kebabs, predicted that while locals might flock to the big two initially out of curiosity, once that is satisfied, they would return to their old favourites.

Another local chain, Bakery Cafe, enjoys a special place in diners’ and tourists’ hearts because of its unique way of employing youngsters with hearing and speech disability and combining service with social responsibility.

In Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, the pricing will also be a factor that will help the local eateries hold their own against multinationals.

From Dad, with Love

From Dad, with Love




He had never meant much to me. I had never loved him. I thought he considered his work more important. I never shared my thoughts with him because I felt he would never understand. He never made a place for himself in my heart. Why is then my heart crying for him today? Why is it that I’ve suddenly started to love him? Why is it that I’ve grown to hate myself for not giving our relationship a chance?

“Sir!” the voice of the airhostess yanked me back to the present, “Your coffee, sir!’ I smiled and took the cup. I was returning to
Nepal after five years. As an employee of a multinational in Bangkok, it was very difficult to spare time for a long vacation. My trade-off: a handsome pay. But this time I had to return.

Yesterday, I had a call from my mother. I was over the moon talking to her after a long time. “Hey, how are you?” I blurted out in excitement. She remained silent. “Mom, what is it?” I was starting to feel creepy. She answered as if chocking on her tears, “Your father… he is dead.” The receiver dropped from my hand. I stood there blank, speechless, lifeless.

My wife came running out of the kitchen. “What is it Ashish? What happened?” she asked.  Tears started rolling down my eyes. I threw myself into her arms and cried. I cried like a baby, long and loud. I cried for all those wonderful moments that I am my father had spent together when I was a child. I cried because I had lost someone I loved. I never realised it, but today when I’ve lost him, I know for sure that I really loved him. After I took control of my emotions, I told my wife about what had happened. She immediately booked three airline tickets for the next day.

So here I am, with my wife and kid waiting impatiently for the plane to land. As soon as we landed at the airport, we left for home. I saw my mother, still, with no emotions on her face, all wrapped in whites. As soon as she saw me, she ran toward me, held me and burst into tears. I cried along. My father was a good friend to my mother, always very supportive and caring. He may not have been one of the romantic kind, but his love for her was unmatched. I was just beginning to understand how difficult it would be for her to have lost the love of her life who meant nearly everything to her.

At Pashupatinath, it was difficult for me to set fire to his body, but as a son, it was my duty. So I did it. I looked at his face for one last time. It was not the face that I knew. The face I remembered was always glowing. It then struck me that probably what was always vibrant and glowing was his soul that I was never able to see. And what I was doing here was liberating that soul, which had been trapped within a body, from the worldly worries so that it could now experience heavenly bliss. So even at that sad moment, I somehow felt happy for him.

The next day as I was sitting by the window, my mother came to me and handed me a letter. He had written it in his last few hours on earth. It read:

Hey Ashish, my son. You’ve grown up to be a mature and a responsible man. It feels good. As your father, I worked relentlessly to see this day. But in that quest I realised that I forgot to be a part of your childhood. I was so busy working all the time that I could never spend even a few quality moments with you. I thought I gave you everything as a father but yet I never understood that I was straying away. I was never there to help you out with your homework; never there to listen to you speak about your day at school; never there to cheer you up in your football matches. And by the time I realised it all, you had already drifted away. I’m sorry son. I love you — Dad.

My eyes welled up. I remembered that phase as I was growing. My father tried to bridge the gap we had developed over the years. But I always drew away. I thought that he had never cared much for me when I was a little boy, so why this pretence now! But now I realise how wrong I was. He was trying to make up for what he had missed.

This realisation today has made me a better son, but unfortunately I don’t have my father around to tell him how I feel. More importantly it has turned me into a better father who now knows that just harbouring feelings of love and affection isn’t enough, I need to express it.

I noticed my son playing football in the garden all by himself. “Hey Sunny, do you want to play with dad?” I asked. “Sure, I would love to dad.” The game may have been just another one for him but years later he will cherish it, I thought. As for me, I have my dad’s letter to cherish for the rest of my life.

But I also wish that at the end of my life, I don’t have to leave any letter to my son, to let him know how much I love him. If there is any time for me to make him feel my love, it’s now.

ICJ asks Nepal to correct the flawed draft on fundamental rights

ICJ asks Nepal to correct the flawed draft on fundamental rights



The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Nepal has said that the draft submitted by the Fundamental Rights Committee fails to guarantee a number of fundamental rights and has “serious weaknesses”.


According to ICJ, in order for the draft to meet the international standard it needs a serious revision to trim out on a number of flaws related to definition, limitations and measures provided for the enforcement of fundamental rights.


The draft, for instance, does not even mention the right to protect against “enforced disappearance”, which is considered one of the serious crimes under international human rights law, according to ICJ. “It is advisable that this provision be expanded to include: the fundamental right of everyone not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, that no exceptional circumstance may be invoked to justify an enforced disappearance and that an enforced disappearance shall be punishable as a criminal offence without the possibility of amnesty or the imposition of statute of limitations on this continuing violation,” sated the ICJ in its letter submitted to CA Chairman Subash Nemwang on Wednesday. ICJ has recommended at least 24 major corrections in the draft.


ICJ has asked the CA to correct, among others, the definitions of “right to live with dignity” (Article 1) right to "security of person", right against torture, punishment and compensation (Article 7), substantive equality, right against untouchability, rights of women and Dalits (Articles 3/9/23 & 25), right to legal counsel (Article 5/2), legal aid (article 5/10), rights of those under preventive detention (Article 5), civil and political rights, right to privacy (Article 13) and economic, social and cultural rights (Article 31/1, 31/2).


Regarding limitations on fundamental rights, ICJ says that the current provisions allow the government to impose "reasonable restrictions" on fundamental rights on the overly broad and vague grounds of threats to "harmony", "relations", "decent public behavior, "the interest of the general public", or the "social dignity of the individual".


According to ICJ, the use of this kind of "reasonable restrictions" is contrary to that established under international law.


Specifically, under international human rights law (and good practice around the world), it is legitimate for a government to restrict the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association only if the restrictions are: specifically provided by law, the least restrictive means necessary in a democratic society, intended to protect a legitilllate interest, including respect of the rights and reputations (or freedoms) of others, the protection of national security or public order, or public health or morals, reads the ICJ letter.


Regarding weak enforcement of rights, ICJ says that the provision on retroactivity (5/4) contradicts Nepa1's obligation to prosecute those acts that were crimes under international law even if, at the time of the criminal act, no domestic provisions existed (Article 15, ICCPR). “It is advisable to clarify that this provision does not apply to acts that were crimes under international law at the time of their commission.”

Interview with Nepal's newly appointed Ambassador to US. He is an East-West Center almuni

'I will strengthen ties and make them more productive'

Dr. Shanker Sharma, who was an East-West Center fellow from Nepal, has been appointed as the Nepali Ambassador to the United States of America. Former Vice- Chairman of the National Planning Commission, he is an experienced hand in the Nepali affairs, in particular with regard to trade and commerce. Kamal Sigdel, Prithivi Man Shrestha and Pranab Kharel spoke to Sharma about his plans for a successful tenure.

Q: How do you plan to take U.S.-Nepal relations forward?

Sharma: I would like to do two things in the broader context. One is to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and make the relationship more productive. Strengthening relations means not to have problems between them.  Relations between the U.S. and Nepal have been excellent. This is one part. The other is to make the relationship more productive. Productive means we need to engage more in terms of economic diplomacy. So we would like to see more benefits coming in the areas of trade, tourism, foreign assistance and maximum support and cooperation from the Nepali diaspora settled in the U.S. And also taking the maximum benefits from Americans who love Nepal.

Q: The
U.S. government continues to label Maoists as terrorists. What role would you play in easing tensions between the U.S. government and the Maoists?

Sharma: I will try to find out in detail the U.S. assessment of the Maoists and in particular this terrorist tags. When I have a firsthand assessment, it will be easier for me to communicate things to parties here in Nepal. And if there are any issues that I need to communicate to the Maoists and to Washington, then I will do that.  

Q: How do you look at the U.S. role in the peace process?

Sharma: So far as I know, they are definitely interested in political stability in the country. They are also looking forward to the new constitution being made as soon as possible. And they would like to see a logical conclusion of the peace process at the earliest. The Americans have been providing assistance in that regard as well. 

Q: Could you elaborate on the various kinds of assistance being provided by the U.S. government?
Sharma: If I know correctly, I think this is also coming through USAID in Nepal. This is in terms of foreign assistance for institutionalising democracy and governance in Nepal. Also, there is aid being provided in the fields of poverty alleviation and health care. Assistance in the areas of food security and climate change is in the pipeline. So the Americans have contributed significantly to the peace process. This is one part, the other thing that the Americans say is that if they can do anything to expedite any of these, they are ready to do so. I am also involved with one of the committees of the Constituent Assembly, I have contacts with a number of scholars in the U.S. So I think they have shown interest in the overall process.

Q:  In the past few years, there has been increasing convergence of interests between the Americans and the Indians. How do you view this?
Sharma: Economically, the Americans can have independent policies say in the field of trade, tourism and foreign assistance, that is, in matters relating to bilateral relations. There are certain issues for which the Americans are looking for regional perspectives. For instance on the issue of climate change and food crisis. Politically speaking, I need to find out the issues that they are tying together. But I can’t say anything specifically in that regard.

Q: How do you view the difference in policy that the Chinese and Americans have towards Nepal, in particular on the issue of Tibet?
Sharma: Nepal has always maintained the one-China policy. In the meantime, Nepal is party to a number of international treaties including those dealing with refugees. So my feeling is that it should do whatever it has committed to do. There could be some problems with regard to implementing these commitments. But they are not intentional. And if there are some problems, they need to be tackled within the given norms.

Q: Some Bhutanese refugees have alleged that the Americans are trying to complicate the problem by pitching for third country resettlement rather than repatriation. What is your take on that?
Sharma: The government has already decided on this matter. Meaning that whatever has happened in the past, a decision has been taken, and we need to ensure its implementation. I have been to Bhutan several times in the past one year or so. And speaking to the Bhutanese people, especially those of Nepali origin, I didn’t find them displeased with what Nepal and the international community have done.

Q: There are some activist groups who say that third country resettlement legitimises the ethnic cleansing undertaken by the Bhutanese government with the support of the Americans and Indians?
Sharma: Now that the decision has been made on the issue, we should focus on implementing it. The refugees are being sent to different countries including the U.S.  I think it’s too late to talk about all these things. But there are lessons other countries could learn from this.  

Q: How do you plan to engage the non-resident Nepalis residing in the U.S.?
Sharma: There are a couple of ways in which I can ask the NRNs to help me in my mission. I know the Government of Nepal doesn’t have enough resources to promote Nepal in the U.S. The NRNs could help organise fairs, arrange meetings with the chambers. That is one way of getting their support. The other is to request them to bring their knowledge, money and skills to Nepal as far as possible. As we are opening up our service sector from 2010, the Americans including NRNs will have a competitive advantage. In addition, the NRNs are permanent ambassadors, so we need to ensure their support and institutionalize the relationship.

Q: Repeated attempts by Nepal to get duty-free access to the U.S. market have failed. What would be your effort in this regard?
Sharma: We need to make our case strong. We first have to look at the commitments made by the developed countries at the LDC summit in Brussels. In addition, we need to explain to the U.S. the benefits it will reap out of this access. And my feeling is that consumers in the U.S. and the LDCs who will get access to the U.S. market stand to benefit. In the case of Nepal, we need to explain how liberal and open we are in terms of trade and investment. The Americans are number two in terms of foreign investment in Nepal. For Nepal, it will be beneficial in the long term if we develop better trade relations with the U.S.

Q: But is it possible to keep politics out of economics?
Sharma: Our liberal economic policies have not changed. We are a member of the WTO, and are preparing to enter the IMF agreement on enhance credit facility. All this indicates the continuation of our liberal policies.

Promotion of implicated Army general could cost Nepal dear

Promotion of implicated Army general could cost Nepal dear




KATHMANDU, NOV. 20 (© The Kathmandu Post)


Human rights defenders have warned that promoting Maj. Gen. Toran Jung Bahadur Singh as the second-in-command of the Nepal Army would seriously damage the democratic credibility of Madhav Kumar Nepal's government. Maj. Gen. Singh is implicated of "serious human rights violations" by Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).


Though the government has put on hold the NA proposal for Gen. Singh's promotion in view of mounting international pressure, NA and a few influential leaders in the ruling collation, including Defense Minister Biddhya Bhandari, continue to lobby the Prime Minister's Office for the promotion, arguing that Gen. Singh "has not been proven guilty and only implicated."


NA questions to credibility of the OHCHR and NHRC reports, claiming that whereabouts of 12 of the alleged 49 disappearances have been established by its internal investigation. "We cannot take action against anyone just because of allegations," NA Spokesman and Brigadier General Ramindra Chettri told the Post. "We are ready to cooperate with any probe committee formed by the government to look into the allegations of extrajudicial killings and disappearances within NA," said Chhetri. 


Investigations carried out by OHCHR and NHRC have concluded that Gen. Singh should be held accountable and suspended for his involvement in the disappearance of 49 detainees in 2003-2004 from the Maharajgunj-based Bhairavnath barrack of the Tenth Brigade, of which he was the commander.


Rights activists argue that it is an international practice to suspend those implicated of rights violations from all official duties.


"If the Army believes that the implicated official is clean, it should not hesitate to conduct an independent and credible investigation by a civilian authority," said former NHRC Commissioner Sushil Pyakurel.


NA officials told the Post that the Army would cooperate with investigations on charges of rights abuses, but the probe needs to be carried out by a government commission "not necessarily by teams under UN."


In the meantime, international pressure on the government is mounting, the reason behind the delay in Gen. Singh's promotion.


The US has expressed its "deep concern" about a "broader culture of impunity" that continues to prevail in Nepal, which is also manifested in US Senator Patrick Leahy's letter to Prime Minister Nepal, which cautions him to stand firm against impunity.


Both the Maoists and the Nepal Army, said Spokesperson at the US Embassy Nicole Chulick, committed gross human rights abuses during the conflict. "Those who committed the abuses must be held accountable."


"The government should thoroughly investigate the Maharajgunj Barracks incident and hold accountable those found responsible," said Chulick.


Under US Army law, suspension of any Army official implicated of rights violations is binding.

Similarly, the British Embassy has also been expressing its full support to the position taken by the OHCHR report. We also call on the government to comply with the report, said Ajaya Das, Press Officer at the British Embassy.


Rights activists say that the government's disobedience of the international community's call would cost dear to Nepal, in both political and economic terms. The US and the UK -- two of the Permanent Five (P5) at the Security Council -- for instance, have a great leverage on the UN.


Ignoring the call of the international community could lead to UN decision to blacklist the NA and its expulsion from joining the UN peace missions, says rights activist Kapil Shrestha. Besides, this could lead to suspension of foreign assistance NA is receiving from the US and other countries.


Rights activists also blame the government for resorting to double standards. "There is a long-running myth 'do not touch the Army,'" said Shrestha. "Only that can explain why it has not touched the Army while it did not hesitate to sack the heads of Armed Police Force and Nepal Police for rights abuse during April 2006 Movement."


NA, however, denies that there is impunity within NA. "It is a misconception," said Chhetri. "Of the total allegations we have received so far, we have completed investigation of 72 percent of cases and punished 175 personnel involved in human rights violation."


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