By MR Josse
GAITHERSBURG, MD: Nepali Communist Party supremo Prachanda has returned home after a brief trip to the United States. That was a journey which many commentators projected as a major politico-diplomatic coup for Prachanda, although it was clear that it was centred, very narrowly, on the medical treatment of his seriously ill spouse at the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland.
As this columnist repeatedly underlined, his journey to the United States, with his ailing wife and a small accompanying party, did not in any way signify that the world’s only superpower had suddenly fallen in love with Prachanda and members of his ilk.
That, especially not against the backdrop of his blistering, knee-jerk, anti-American tirade against the backdrop of the Venezuelan crisis a few weeks ago – not to mention the killing by his guerrillas of two Nepali security guards in U.S. government employment during the Maoist insurgency which he led!
To have been issued with travel visas on humanitarian grounds for himself and his party was the extent of American government involvement and generosity; it was not, by any stretch of fevered imagination, tantamount to a tectonic or strategic shift in American priorities, in South Asia or in Nepal in particular.
That verity notwithstanding, it may be recalled that some public affairs analysts in Kathmandu chose – out of sheer ignorance of the traditions of diplomatic practice or infliction of ideological blindness – to cook up a barbecue of wild theories including that by making Prachanda’s U.S. stay possible, Trump’s America had very astutely shoved Nepal into an anti-China “trap”.
Quite aside from the brevity of his just-concluded America ‘bhraman’, it was marked – as yours truly, among others, had predicted – by the absence of any formal politico-diplomatic gains. And, if a recent commentary by the usually well-informed columnist Maila Baje is any guide, the ‘pale’ for Prachanda’s trip was circumscribed to Maryland state and the Nepali Embassy in nearby Washington, D.C.
To cut a long story short, there was no jaw-boning with any senior members of the Trump administration; indeed, again as per Maila Baje, a much speculated – by whom? on what basis? – meeting with American vice president Mike Pence remained, in the end, just that: wishful speculation!
Interestingly, from his outburst at a Reporters Club, Kathmandu talkathon upon his return, it is obvious that Prachanda was most unhappy with the Nepali diaspora in the United States.
Though he attempted a cumulative, broad-brush attack on them, from press accounts it is clear enough that his ire was directed at (the unnamed) Dr. Tilak Shrestha, of Kentucky State University, who had not only appealed to the FBI to fully investigate him and have him arrested on grounds of being a terrorist, but who had publicised his dramatic letter via social media directed at Nepal’s political, academic and media elite.
Prachanda, I note from Nepali media reports, thus lashed out at him revealing that he had traveled to the United States on the express understanding that he would not be ‘investigated’ by American law enforcement bodies while there. Though that might sound newsy to some, in my view, as much was surely implied in him and his group being issued travel visas, in the first place!
What has not, to my mind, been adequately ventilated is that an even more devastating anti-Prachanda weapon than Dr. Shrestha’s letter to the FBI was the diaspora’s thunderous, near-complete unconcern for the Maoist supremo’s presence in the Baltimore area. Living as I am within spitting distance of both Baltimore and Washington, DC, I can personally attest to that reality.
Incidentally, that a vast majority of Nepalis – especially those with professional degrees working in the United States – should view Prachanda with distaste is hardly surprising: many came over precisely because of the mayhem and killing back home, unleashed by the Maoists in their ten-year ‘jana yuddha’ which claimed 17,000 human lives.
Again, the overwhelming majority of these stout souls are as far away from the Marxism-Leninism clap-trap as those of that breed are distant from the values of a unitary, unifying monarchy steeped in the Hindu religion.
The conclusion is therefore inescapable that Prachanda has severely dented not only his revolutionary credentials – in exchange for making a medical mission to the US for his wife possible.
This has come at the cost of his elevating the world’s most capitalist state – reviled and mocked incessantly until the other day – to the level of a most generous, gentle and caring world power. Phrased differently, through his recent America ‘yatra’, all pent-up, swirling, ideological wind has gushed out of the Nepal Communist Party balloon, leaving it embarrassingly deflated!
TESTING TIME FOR MODI
Testing times are now virtually just around the corner for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as they feverishly seek a second five-year innings in power.
As the tense, staggered, five-week polling process begins on April 11, 2019, one notes that the combustible mixture of economic, religious and national security issues has taken centre-stage.
It is evident that Modi has an uphill task repeating his 2014 spectacular with unemployment high, rising sectarian violence, disillusionment among farmers, not to mention a general frustration with politics and politicians.
I note that the Opposition has come out strongly against such egregious comments as those by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath referring to the armed forces as “Modi ki Sena”.
Though the Indian Congress was not particularly friendly towards Nepal, Modi’s blockade has turned Nepal against the BJP – a reality which will probably be used as political ammunition.
Modi’s foreign policy has not been very successful, as underlined not only by Nepal’s unhappy experience but also with Pakistan coming out smelling roses in the recent short-lived aerial encounter between India and Pakistan, not to mention the latter’s gain in securing Russia’s diplomatic support by Moscow’s offer of mediation.