BY M.R. JOSSE
KATHMANDU: Many readers of this column must be familiar with the Shylock Holmes story where a dog that didn’t bark provided a vital clue to unraveling a baffling murder mystery. Yours faithfully was reminded of it, interestingly enough, when mulling over some intriguing aspects of Nepal-China relations, in the age of Oli-Prachanda.
What especially ignited my curiosity was the discovery that, while a vocal section of the political elite has been singing paeans, ad nauseum, to the merger of the heretofore main Communist parties – the UML, led by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and the Maoist Centre headed by Prachanda – there has not seemingly been a corresponding chorus, or even frisson, of enthusiasm in Beijing on the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN).
That ‘dog’ – to use the homespun analogy of the Holmes’ yarn – has, so to speak, refused to ‘bark’!
While leaving it to this column’s readership to fathom what this conundrum signifies, for my part I shall attempt merely to establish my main point: the formation of the CPN has not caused much happiness in Beijing.
To begin, I’d like to refer to Chinese ambassador Yu Hong’s article in the Kathmandu Post waxing eloquent on China’s ‘Great stride forward’. At its concluding portion she refers to Nepal, saying that “The new government is focusing on (the) development and construction, embracing new opportunities for nation building.”
What struck me is that Yu neither mentioned that the “new government” was a Communist one formed after a ‘historic’ amalgamation nor even referred to the CPN which, in the soaring phraseology of a Rising Nepal columnist, is “touted as the most powerful elected government in decades.”
Indeed, it seemed to conform to what Lu Kang, an official Chinese spokesman had thus commented on the unity move days earlier: “As a good neighbour and friend of Nepal, China supports Nepal’s independent choice for the social system and development path that suits its own national conditions and we welcome the merging of the two parties” – without mentioning the name of the new party or of its two constituents.
Lu went on to conclude: “We are willing to continue our mutual beneficial cooperation for benefit of both the countries and peoples.” The stress on country-to-country and people-to-people cooperation is worth noting, as is that no mention was made of beneficial party-to-party cooperation!
Coming back to Yu’s commentary, what was notable, too, was an absence of any reference to Oli’s China visit – reported by the Post to begin on June 19, 2018. Equally noteworthy was her lengthy exposition of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address to the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, 2018, which the Oli-led government chose to cold shoulder!
What I particularly recall about the Boao Forum was that during its launch in 2001 Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was the Keynote Speaker and King Birendra the Chief Guest!
By the by, Yu, at a function last week launching two books – on Karl Marx and Chairman Mao Zedong – written by Han Yuhai, a Chinese professor of Peking -university and translated into Nepali – she was equally reticent to mention Oli’s impending China visit or to dwell on the formation of the CPN.
It is difficult, on a different plane, not to recall the grotesque drama played out by ‘Free Tibet’ notables – at the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi during a reception for Oli during his formal visit to India, his first after assuming his new office!
Likewise, it is most instructive that, as the Chinese academic pointed out during the book launch function, Mao entertained warm feelings about Nepal, which he made explicit during conversations with B.P. Koirala and King Mahendra.
Such warmth seems strangely missing today.
In vivid contrast to the above, diplomatic pyrotechnics and brinkmanship seem to be the order of the day regarding the on-again, off-again, forward-and-backwards dynamics of the much-anticipated talks slated for Singapore on June 12 between American President Donald Trump and North Korean Supremo Kim Jong Un.
Both sides have been playing hardball ‘chicken’ – engaging, alternately in loud and jarring accusations followed by mellow murmurings – while the world, particularly East Asia, has been holding its breath.
Though at the time of writing the talks are seemingly on – an American preparatory team in already in North Korea while South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who just held a second meeting with Kim, has reassured the world that Kim is committed to “complete” denuclearization of the Korean peninsula – it is still possible that some unexpected development might derail it.
The roller-coaster ride that those following this important – perhaps even seminal – development in international relations has been subjected to has left governments and people scratching their heads in puzzlement, even frustration and anger.
Though it is extremely hazardous to predict what may happen in Singapore – if the talks are, indeed, held and go off smoothly – even a meeting sans concrete results may be preferable to a scrubbed one.
Indeed, too much time, effort and prestige have been invested in it – even by subsidiary actors such as South Korea, China and Japan – for there not even to be a meeting that, at the very least, would signify that a dialogue was attempted; one that could be continued at another time.
It would be unrealistic to expect North Korea to denuclearize completely, verifiably and immediately, as hardliners in America want: without a reservoir of trust between North Korea and the U.S. to bank on, that would be asking for the moon.
On the other hand, it should be possible for America – encouraged by mature minds and reliable allies – to accept some form of phased, synchronized process that takes advantage of North Korea’s undertaking of unprecedented moves to prove its sincerity in wanting to move away from the curse and cost of nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.