BY M. R. JOSSE
TAMPA, FL: This week’s column proffers a mishmash of a trifecta of themes, from a chronicle of nukes, to Sushma Swaraj’s much-hyped Kathmandu sortie – and monarchy’s lingering allure.
Let’s, however, begun in America, with the latest twist to the gripping, never-ending Russian-interference-in-the-American-presidential-election-2016 saga. This is encapsulated in a Republican memo released by the House of Representatives that alleges abuse in how senior law enforcement officials sought the surveillance of a one-time adviser to President Donald Trump.
Before moving on to greener pastures note that while the Democrats say that the aforementioned memo is “deliberately misleading”, Trump avows it “totally vindicates” him. It’s gonna be a long, long time before the Russian-interference business is settled.
If it is not put to bed soon, it may segue to the mid-term elections in November 2018.
NUKES AND ALL THAT
More deserving of attention is the unveiling of the latest edition of the Nuclear Posture Review which put potential adversaries on notice that the U.S. might respond with nuclear weapons if it is a target of a major, non-nuclear attack. That warning, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) informs, is widely seen as a message that enemies that engage in cyber-warfare or attacks using germ weapons risk an American nuclear response.
That story came alongside a U.N. report that avers that time is running out for sanctions as Pyongyang perfects a long-range nuclear weapon. Most newsworthy is not merely that the report faults Russia and China for subverting efforts to stymie nuclear arms but that “Myanmar and Malaysia” were doing likewise.
The document cites evidence that “Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket-launchers and surface-to-air missiles.”
Some might truly find Myanmar’s fascination with such weaponry a bit off-putting; yet others may make some connection between the at-core militarist Myanmar regime and the heart-rending plight of the Rohinghas.
Now, for those not au courant with the world of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, here’s a morsel of enlightenment, via statistics on nuclear warheads in military arsenals, as of 2017, issued by the Federation of American Scientists and published by WSJ.
Listed below are the chilling numbers: Russia: 4,300; U.S.: 4,000; France: 300; China: 270; U.K. 215; Pakistan: 140; India: 130; Israel: 80; and North Korea, 15.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s 20-hour dash to Kathmandu and meetings with prime minister-in-waiting K.P. Sharma Oli, Prachanda and Sher Bahadur Deuba has, I see, triggered a rash of frenzied speculation and angry denunciation.
While there is no doubt that Swaraj’s trip to Kathmandu was not kosher in strict terms of diplomatic practice – given that Oli may still be a month away from entering Baluwatar – I do not, however, find this unforgivable, per se.
Given the recent history of Oli’s rise-fall-rise, it hardly requires a genius to figure that, basically, Swaraj’s journey represents an olive branch which Oli sensibly did not spurn.
If one adds Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s telephonic congratulatory call to Oli; Shyam Saran’s uncharacteristically contrite posture vis-a-vis Nepal at a public lecture in Jaipur; ‘Nepal expert’ Dr. S. Chandrashekaran’s reference to a “course correction” ; and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s disclosure of a forthcoming hike in assistance, the verdict is clear: India wishes to put the unhappy past, blockade and all, behind.
The moot point, of course, is this: while Nepal should not dismiss such ostensible gestures of change of heart, that can only be tested by actions in the future, including those bearing upon sub¬jects as fundamental as border encroachment.
Furthermore, bearing in mind the initial burst of anger and threats that many Indian pundits, and some former Indian envoys to Nepal, spewed forth – when the Left’s electoral victory and the NC’s humiliating defeat was made plain – India’s attitude towards Nepal’s legitimate quest in deepening and broadening her ties with China has to be sampled.
In other words, let’s not cross the bridge before reaching the river!
Many in Nepal must have watched former King G. Shah’s interview with Sagarmatha with considerable interest. This was an interview where he was subjected to rude and didactic questioning but which he handled with due gravitas, dexterity and aplomb.
Whatever your take on it, to my mind, it underlines a continuing fascination with the ancien regime, underscored by large throngs of people that still surround him, on his periodic pilgrimages to shrines around the country.
On a different plane, it is interesting to learn that less than a month after his visit to Lucknow and his meetings with UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, the former King is sallying forth – soon – to participate at a religious ritual at the Jaganath Matth in Puri, Odisha. That, too, is bound to be hotly debated/discussed.
Meanwhile, let me draw your attention to an item in the New York Times by Leslie Wayne, pegged to what a distant relative of Russian literary giant Tolstoi writes. Here are some illuminating excerpts: “More kings, queens and all the frippery that royalty brings would be not just salve for a superpower in political turmoil, but also a stabilizing force for the world at large.”
The person, unnamed, is an author and conservative politician leading the International Monarchist League. Their core arguments: “Countries with monarchies are better off because royal families act as a unifying force and a powerful symbol; monarchies rise above politics; and nations with royalty are generally richer and more stable.”
A study by the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, found “robust and qualitatively meaningful evidence” that monarchies outperform other forms of government.
Far from being a dying system, the study – led by Prof. Mauro F. Guillen, no monarchist – stated “monarchies are surprisingly prevalent around the world.”
They provide a “stability that often translates into economic gains”; they are better at protecting property rights and checking abuses of power by elected officials; and they have a higher per capita national incomes.