Saturday, December 11, 2010

Defending Shri. Rakesh Sood and the MRP scandal in Nepal

Fake Wikileaks may have been used by Pakistan to spread mal-information about India. However, just like the shoe-throwing on Bush saw a few imitations, this fake Wikileak mission is also seeing some clones. Sankarshan Thakur of the "deciphering Laloo Yadav" fame had posted a report on The Telegraph, essentially dissing the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Shri. Rakesh Sood. The Nepali media, waiting for a morsel in these hard-pressed times, ran with that lead (see Footnote 1) Linky 1 and Linky 2.

The MEA in response to these reports came out with a curt reply, which was also reported in The Telegraph. Now, not discounting the possibility that Sankarshan Thakur had access to some diplomatic sources, it is not hard to defend Shri. Sood's Ambassador-ship and India's actions in Nepal.
1) Telegraph reports that:

“He is a viceroy-style interventionist with little regard for diplomatic norms, he often behaves as if Nepal were his protectorate,” Mohan Vaidya “Kiran”, a top Maoist leader, had told The Telegraph during the raging row over the Nepal Army chief which eventually led to Prachanda’s premature resignation as Prime Minister.

Response: Yet, it is the same Mohan Baidya Kiran who launched a vituperative and hatred-filled monologue on India in the recently concluded Palungtar plenum. How come Mohan Baidya Kiran's tirade against Shri. Sood is par for the course while his equally vicious remarks on India are not reported? It is a well-known secret that a section of the Maoists rank and file see India as the number one enemy, as witnessed by one political line at Palungtar. It really does not matter whether Shri. Sood was an interventionist or otherwise, whatever he would have done would have been seen as evil. Period.

Nepali domestic politics --- and the peace agreement between the Maoists and “mainstream” parties --- has remained deadlocked since Prachanda’s resignation, and many believe Sood to be a prime factor.

Response: The stalemate in Nepal has little to do with Shri. Sood or India. It is more of a show of force of the Maoists against the other democratic forces. What the Maoists could not obtain via democratic means, they would like to obtain via violent means. In fact, Prashant Jha writes on the Palungtar plenum:

In 2005, the Maoists decided at Chunbang that their immediate aim was a ‘Democratic Republic Nepal’. Their Kharipati meet in 2008 declared that the objective was to draft a constitution for a ‘People’s Federal Democratic Republic’ (PFDR). That aim persists, though many leaders at Palungtar used an alternative nomenclature – ‘People’s Federal Republican Nepal’. Chunbang led to consensus and Kharipati sharpened the polarisation. How Palungtar will play out in large depends on how far the Maoists push their political project.

Broadly, this is how the Maoists define PFDR Nepal – an executive presidency; federalism with nationality as a prominent basis; secular state; ‘democratisation’ of the Nepal Army; ‘first rights’ to local communities; ‘revolutionary’ land reform; and eventually, restricted multiparty political competition where ‘feudal and pro-imperialist’ parties will not be allowed to operate. The Maoists hope this framework would give the ‘people’ (read the party) a firm hold over the state, and break existing structures and nexus that govern policy. But intention is one thing and capacity, especially under the prevailing balance of power, another. A brief review reveals why this model provokes opposition from different sources and is not possible.

That is that, there are no ifs and buts to this story. Prachanda's resignation had more to do with his peeve that he could not enforce Shri. Rukmangad Katwal's resignation, which made him lose face. This ill-fated intervention by Prachanda in the working of the Nepal Army was opposed by everyone including the Nepali Congress and CPN(ML), let alone the former King. So what does India have to do with this story? Whether Jhalnath Khanal changed his mind on Katwal's resignation or otherwise, India has no locus standi on this. The bottomline on Katwal's sacking is that:

He has been fiercely resisting group integration of Maoist rebels into the National Army and has been at odds with Maoist government on several other issues.

Not only the Nepal Army, but almost every other party in Nepal, whether it be the Nepal Congress or the CPN(ML) or even the Terai-Madhes parties, have some issue or the other with the integration issue. In fact, the Maoists by letting the UN Mission to set up office in Nepal implicitly (as well as explicitly) agreed that this would be a major sticking point in impasse-reduction. Blaming India for the stalling of the peace process is like ignoring the elephant in the room. If Nepal was all hunky-dory, and all the parties involved in its internal debate are interested in the stakes of Nepal, and not that of China (as one section of the Maoist rank and file show occasionally), then India would have no problems in extricating itself from the goings-on inside Nepal.

Many find it not strange that he is the first Indian ambassador to Nepal to have had his effigies burnt on the streets; last month, during a trip to northern Nepal, he also became the target of a shoe flung in his face. It missed, but it described the low trajectory of Sood’s image in the country.

Response: Anyone with a bare enough understanding of the stages of a Red Revolution will understand that dissing and spreading propaganda are par for the course in the maoist/leftist annals, whether it be an internal debate or an external tirade. There was an attempt to throw a shoe on Shri. P. Chidambaram, some Judges of the Supreme Court of India, Justices Arijit Pasayat and Ashok Kumar Ganguly of the Supreme Court, Justices A.V. Sawant and P.D. Upasani of the Bombay High Court, Shri. Naveen Jindal, Shri. L.K. Advani, and even Shri. Manmohan Singh. Internationally, similar attempts have been made on George Bush, Wen Jiabao, Benny Dagan, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Asif Ali Zardari, etc. If the orchestrated attempt at calumny on the part of Maoists is the low-point of Shri. Sood, can the same be said for Indian politicians? So why are the Home Minister and the Prime Minister not getting the sack for their policy decisions?

A few months ago, he prevailed upon Indian corporate interests to stop advertising in “Kantipur”, Nepal’s largest media group, because its journalism had displeased him. It is also alleged he tried to turn the screws on Kantipur by putting a squeeze on newsprint supplies from India. It was only after the issue became public that restrictions on Kantipur were eased.

Response: Not much has been said about the conflict of interest in Kantipur and its skewedness of reporting and its orchestrated attempts to malign India. This is what the Hindu opinionated, in a sense of journalistic camaraderie:

While Kantipur’s dilemmas are understandable, its recent coverage does have traces of national chauvinism and appears opportunistic, linked to the advertisement embargo. While keeping big business — both domestic and Indian — to account, it should be careful and responsible enough not to tarnish companies whose contribution to manufacturing, trading, employment, and revenue is important to the Nepali economy.

Even while agreeing with the Kantipur version of the tit-for-tat, some problems remain. How come the feud between Kantipur and the Indian embassy become the central object of attention by everyone in Nepal, especially when there are more serious issues such as the stalemate on electing a Prime Minister, stalemate on the Constitution writing process, stalemate on integration of the Maoist cadre with the Nepal Army, meeting the various critical deadlines as agreed to in the 12-point agreement, etc.? How come the whole political class gets effectively snubbed by this one story while the fact that the country as such is NOT running is not cause for any serious snubbing? How come Nepal became synonymous with Kantipur?

The rhetorical reponse always to this is:

But, but India is the bigger part of the picture. You see, India created a trade blockade, changed the government at will, sheltered rebels, sustained monarchy, pushed out monarchy (some of it was his own doing), let a rebel with an army rule the country, are stopping them from coming to power...

This is exactly the cop-out, and in this regard Nepal is synonymous with Sri Lanka, blaming India for every one of their problems. "Taking charge of one's own destiny by electing an effective government" is a phrase that is seemingly absent in the Nepali lexicon. Why did the Nepalis not give an effective mandate to either party that contested the 2008-09 elections? Was it because the political class was inept that the Nepalis did not find favor with any of them overwhelmingly and hence, threw their votes in some random fashion, or was it because evil, big bad India yet again interfered with the poll process? Let me help in one logical sequence of this cop-out: the fact that the Nepali political class, cutting across party-lines, is corrupt should be a blame shared by India. The fact that the former King threw his tantrums at random and did not want a political class that could sustain itself is a blame that should be shared by India, of course. The fact that Nepal is land-locked and hence dependent on India is a blame to be shared by the evil India which let the Himalayas sandwich Nepal between itself and China. The fact that India should not demand an equal sensitivity for Indian security interests, in return for lifting of the embargo, is of course an anathema to international legalistic happenstance. If such an act happens in the United States, or with China, that is par for the course, while if it happens with India, India is evil, evil, EVIL (please add an accompaniment of a melliflous haunting tune).

When will Nepalis, both the political class as well as its people, take charge of their own destinies? It is a matter of life that everyone will try to further their own interests rather than work in a philanthropic way for others, whether they might share the same culture or religion is immaterial. India and Nepal are tied at the hip, but Nepal is a country of its own. With that knowledge, India has helped Nepal as much as it can by opening up its country to Nepalis, investing in those avenues which will lead to profit for its own benefits, etc. It is a symbiotic existence, but everyone has to take care of themselves too. The short border to Bangladesh will soon be opened up to hook into the Indian economic engine and the growth story. Yet, despite all that, it is a matter of fact that the Nepali political class as well as its media find India to be an able interlocutor of their own problems instead of resolving these problems on their own. With this mindset, companies such as Kantipur often complain when the interlocutor does not bat for them as if all the onus is on India to mediate on behalf of everyone inside Nepal. It is for the people of Nepal to unsheath such capitalistic traits and not be taken over by selective rhetoric.

Sood was also backing a rather unsavoury Indian bid to grab the contract for machine-readable passport technology, for which Nepal had floated an international tender. The Indian quotation, it is learnt, was higher than several Nepal had received but Sood still wanted the job for India. He went so far as to put the Indian demand in writing to foreign minister Sujata Koirala; the letter was later leaked to the Nepali media, to some embarrassment for New Delhi.

Response: The last has not been said on this issue. After the Maoists- and Kantipur-sponsored ruckus, the Machine Readable Passport (MRP) deal was given to Oberthur, a French company. In fact,

Oberthur has offered to supply MRP at US$ 3.59 per copy (the earlier Indian bid was for US$ 4 per copy), including the personalisation system, technical support and others. As per the bidding documents, the French firm has to provide 400,000 MRP copies as its first consignment within 70 days of its agreement with MoFA. The reason for this rush is that Nepal missed two previous deadlines to embrace the smart passport owing to differences among top officials over the deal to print and supply it. Upon the government’s request, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had extended the deadline to January 1, 2011 upon the government’s request. After this date, MoFA cannot distribute the hand-written passport currently in use. Three other companies – the UK’s De La Rue, Indonesia’s Perum Peruru and Singapore’s Three M Technology—were also vying for the bid.

In addition Herald reports this:

However, now with the new contractor to be decided by Nepal's foreign ministry this week, there are allegations of kickbacks. Two of the other competitors, Britain's De La Rue and Indonesia's Perum Peruri, Monday filed complaints with the foreign ministry about the French company's offer, saying it does not meet the specifications laid down in the bid documents.

ToI adds:

Under normal circumstances, complaints against bids makes it mandatory for the bid to be re-evaluated. However, in this case, Nepal's foreign ministry officials rode roughshod over the complaints and awarded the contract to Oberthur.

I digged up more on what action the MoFA took on allegations of wrong declarations. This is what I discover:

The two competitors — Indonesia-based Perum Peruri and UK based security printing firm De La Rue — had claimed that the bid winner Oberthur had offered a non-compliant printer technology, besides producing fake user certificates while presenting the bidding documents needed to supply MRP to Nepal. According to an email provided by Perum Peruri, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had not undertaken any job with Park and OPC Co for personalisation of printers as claimed by Oberthur Technologies. It has proposed to use products of Park and OPC Co for personalisation of passports and has also submitted the user certificate from Korea.
The ministry had dispatched the documents to the concerned authorities abroad through the respective Nepali missions at Seoul and New Delhi and had also inquired of the Kathmandu-based Japanese and Korean embassies. MoFA had requested them to verify the authenticity of the documents submitted by Oberthur Technologies—the lowest bidder of the global tender for the multi-million dollar bid to provide MRP. With no response from the concerned authorities with regard to verifying the documents in question, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) today decided to go ahead with its decision to award the French firm the contract to print and supply Machine Readable Passports (MRP). “We didn’t receive any response, either positive or negative from the embassies where we had sent the documents submitted by the bid-winner Oberthur Technologies till the end of our five-day deadline,” said Mukti Nath Bhatta, Chief of Protocol of MoFA, adding, “So we decided to go ahead with our earlier decision to award the global tender to the lowest bidder—Oberthur Technologies.” The secretary-level decision of Dr Madan Kumar Bhattarai was made as per the Public Procurement Act (PPA).

Talking to journalists, Bhatta said he didn’t know what to do if the ministry received a response later, since the PPA was silent about that provision. Bhatta said, as per the PPA, the ministry has already informed two companies that had filed complaint about the ministry’s decision. He said the two companies could challenge the decision at the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) in the next seven days if they are not satisfied with the decision.

ToI also adds:

Though the Indian company did not take part in the earlier bid process, yet its offer, in retrospect, was the most beneficial for Nepal. India had offered to train Nepali personnel to print the personalisation details so that they would have remained confidential. However, the new contract says Oberthur would have access to such details, which would pose a threat to Nepal's national security. From India's point of view, the job by the Indian company would have ensured additional security features in the Nepali passports that would have made them difficult to forge. Hundreds of Nepali passports are stolen, get lost or are faked every month and India fears they could be used by terrorists to enter India and mount operations against Indian targets.

More on the personalization issue from here:

Under the new provisions in the tender, the contracting party will not only own, control and maintain the equipment and software for personalization of the passports for five years till the contract term expires, it will also exclusively handle the digitized personal information for printing the passport, which poses serious threat to national security. The contracting party will be handed over the personal information of the passport holders by the Nepalese officials who will be doing the clerical work of receiving the applications and feeding-in the personal information. The government will have no control if this information is misused by the contractor to the detriment of the passport holders, and can even have serious consequences for the national security.

The earlier deal with the SPMCIL was only for the supply of blank passports, and the personalization to be done by the Foreign Ministry staff themselves. The Government of India would have provided the equipment, software and the source code to the Government of Nepal and trained the Foreign Ministry officials for carrying out the personalization. The Government of Nepal would have fully owned, controlled and maintained the equipment right from the commencement of the project. It would have also fully owned and controlled the personalization process, with this personal information of the Nepalese passport holders strictly remaining secure with the Government of Nepal.

So much for accusations that India was going to plant "mini"-chips in the MRPs and steal data. More on the differences:

The proposed specifications of the passport in the new tender include paper based cover and inner pages instead of cotton fabric based cover and inner pages proposed by SPMCIL. The inferior quality of the material in the new tender will severely affect the shelf-life and durability of passport as well as the possibility of tearing of visa leaves. The damaged passports will, no doubt, constantly hassle the passport holders.

But over all this, the serious accusation of graft also has precedents (see also Linky):

Sources in the printing industry revealed Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire’s $34-million contract to supply passport-making equipment was scrapped by the Kenyan government in 2004 on questions over the increased cost (overpriced contract) and absence of bidding in the awarding of the contract.
Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciare had also figured in the embarrassing printing of 80 million P100 bills that misspelled President Arroyo’s surname to “Arrovo” in November 2005. The political opposition claimed the mistake was intentional, pointing out “rovo” in Spanish means robbery.

There is also a report of similar stuff from Albania:

The Commission invited five well known companies in the area of banknotes production, such as, “De la Rue”, England, “Giessecke Devrient”, Germany, “Osterrichische Banknoten”, Austria, “Oberthur”, France and “Tumba Bruk”, Sweden to submit their bids in a certain date. The invitation also contained a technical index describing the technical requirements for the banknotes. The Commission also had the right to accept additional proposals made by the companies as it judged fit for the safety of banknotes. Four companies took part in the tender and the commission found that all of them had complied with the conditions set by it. The Procurement Commission selected the French company as the winner of the tender as it had offered the lowest bid among the four companies in the tender.

About a month after the conclusion of the tender, the head of the Procurement Commission submitted to the defendant the decision of the Commission which had selected the French company as the winner of the tender alongside an explaining report of all the actions undertaken during the procedure. The decision and the report were signed by all the members of the Commission. However, another technical report was submitted to the defendant suggesting that the bank may negotiate with the winning bidder for any additional safety elements which may deem appropriate. The second report was not signed by the Head of the Commission and the lawyer of the bank, who was a member of the commission. In fact, the law did not require such a second technical report and never had there been a second report in all previous tenders held by the Bank.

Albanian Governor assigned the defendant in a group of five persons, to sign the contract with the French company that had won the tender. During the process of drafting the contract, the French side proposed to change one safety element for a single type of the banknotes. However, the new safety element would cost the Bank an additional of USD 583,550, 1/6 of the initial bid, above the bid offered by the company in the first place. This additional safety element was discussed during the tender procedures but was not accepted by the Procurement Commission. Finally, the defendant signed the contract with the French company accepting the new safety element which had in effect changed the bid initially offered by the company during the tender. Eventually, the bid accepted by the defendant was much higher than the one offered by the bidder and accepted by the Commission during the tender procedures. The court observed that the act of the defendant whereby he had unlawfully and with no authority increased the bid of the company had unjustly favoured the French company and discriminated other companies and breached the equality of the participants in the tender an offence provided under article 258 of the Code.

I am sure that if one digs more, there could be more details of corruption. But the following point deserves more attention than just overt corruption. Herald also adds:

In addition, it now emerges that the Indian company became the victim of a deliberate smear campaign. A section of Nepal's media alleged that the Indian company was going to use "micro chips" in the passports that would be used to track down the movements of the passport holders and would pose a grave threat to Nepal's national security. In reality, as per the agreement signed between the governments of India and Nepal in March, the passport deal would have seen the Indian company provide only the blank passport booklets, set up an office in Nepal and train a Nepali staff. It would then have been the Nepali officials who would have recorded personal data in the passport booklets and India would not have been privy to the confidential information.

Planted news in the media is not new, as we in India very-well know as the menace of paid news has become overground. This is what HT and NN reported after the Oberthur deal was struck.

The Indian Embassy has clarified that Oberthur Technologies, the French company that has been awarded the printing contract of Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) by Nepal government, is not linked with the manufacturing of e-passports for India. "Attention of the Embassy has been drawn towards certain media reports claiming that Oberthur Technologies 'has been short-listed for manufacturing e-passports for India', which is factually incorrect," the Embassy said in a press release Tuesday.

This about a company that claims that:

Oberthur's Fiduciary Division is the world's third largest private banknote producer, specialized in printing and personalisation of secure documents for government applications.

should explain the number of planted news items in the Nepali media. This is not the end of it all, either. On November 28, NN and Kantipur reported that:

Oberthur had to supply 400,000 copies of the passports, including 1,000 diplomatic, 15,000 special and 25,000 travel documents by November 5 as per the contract between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and Oberthur Technologies in August. The French company is liable to fines for failing to meet the deadline. However, MoFA is in a fix over the period for which to charge the firm.

However, only a few thousand copies of MRPs have arrived at the foreign ministry as of now. It's still not certain how soon the passports will arrive. The company has said, it has already completed printing the passport books and is in the process of shipping them. It has cited the labour strikes in France and the recent terror plot in the Middle East for the lack of a cargo plane to Nepal as the cause for delay in delivering the MRPs on time. Oberthur missed the 70-day deadline to deliver the first consignment by 12 days and the agreement does not clearly mention what should be done in such a case.

Finally, MoFA announced on December 3 that they have received 40,000 MRPs (far short of the 400,000 needed) and MRPs will be issued to the public from December 24. It is to be waited and seen if this imaginary deadline will actually be met. So what happens to the penalty clause that Oberthur pay a fine for not meeting the contractual stipulation. On p. 13 of the contract signed between MoFA and Oberthur, we have: "Liquidated damages for delay in performance is: 0.05% of the Contract price per day with maximum deduction not to exceed ten (10) percent of the Contract price." There is no further talk about penalties, such is the well-written contract between MoFA and Oberthur. Already there are indications that the ambiguity in the contract clause will be used to let Oberthur pay only a small fine:

It is said that the company is being protected on the pretext of confusing situation in the agreement. Neither the controversial agreement clearly mention that what should be done in such a case nor the officials paid their heed towards the delay, which is under suspicion, said the official preferring anonymity.

So let me summarize:
a) Foreign Secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood had signed an agreement on March 24 to procure four million MRPs from the Nasik-based Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India for US$ 4 per passport. This is so that Nepal could finally meet its ICAO obligations. Since India has increased its domestic production, it can now meet international demands.
b) India is accused of bulldozing through the contract with planted news, fake attempts at spreading mis-information and through wilful propaganda.
c) The tender stipulations are changed to ensure that India cannot bid again. The tender is awarded to Oberthur while the other contestants claim that Oberthur has misrepresented information in the tender application. The winning tender costs less per passport that the Indian contract, but uses sub-standard security features and paper instead of cloth cover. Oberthur will also hold the personal information of the passport-seekers thereby putting their personal securities at a grave risk.
d) Questions are asked to the Nepali embassy in Korea and France about these allegations, but they never respond. Using the ambiguity clause, the tender is confirmed and the MoFA signs a contract with Oberthur.
e) It emerges that Oberthur has been involved in kickbacks and massive corruption in Kenya, Phillipines and Albania among other countries, so questions of graft in this case are not to be ignored.
f) The first batch of 400K MRPs expected to arrive by November 6th never arrive on time. Oberthur cites terror alert in Yemen, workers strike in France, etc., for these delays.
g) As the contract only makes a cursory statement about penalties for not meeting the contractual obligations, it is not clear that MoFA will use the "Force Majeure" clause to let Oberthur go scot-free.

I believe Shri. Rakesh Sood's position in this game was stacked up. There is not much point cribbing about what he did or did not do, when the games being played by others did not meet any sense of governmental or organizational propriety. Declaring a signed contract null and void and not paying damages to SPMCI (yes, SPMCI sent two letters seeking damages of US$ 48,000) does not augur well in this direction.
6) If you forgot I am still considering the Telegraph piece with a minor diversion into the MRP deal:

Shortly thereafter, Indian embassy officials were reported threatening Madhesi members of the Constituent Assembly with unpleasant consequences if they voted for Prachanda in several failed run-offs to replace Madhav Nepal, the lameduck Prime Minister.

Response: Why is the fact that Krishna Bahadur Mahara caught in a sting getting money from the Chinese not a part of the same equation? Why is the fact that Beijing sent a representative to the annual conference of the Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum last year not an issue at hand? Why is open Chinese meddling a la the following ok?:

More embarrassing for the Nepali government was the pressure it was subjected to when President Ram Baran Yadav planned to visit a Buddhist monastery in Boudha last year to inaugurate the centenary celebrations of a Buddhist monk. Chinese officials in Kathmandu warned the government that the visit would be interpreted in Beijing as aiding and abetting anti-Chinese activities. President Yadav canceled his visit an hour before his scheduled arrival at Boudha. Boudha is home to a large number of Tibetan refugees.

Meanwhile, Nepal acquisces to China yet again, without a whimper of protestations: Linky

The caretaker government of Nepal, under mounting pressure both at home and the international community over its failure to demobilise the guerrilla army of the opposition Maoist party, has directed its ambassador to Norway and the US, Suresh Chalise, not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.
Nepal’s capitulation comes at a time when China is also pressing Kathmandu to sign two revised bilateral treaties. Besides a revised peace and friendship treaty that would replace the pact signed in 1960, Beijing is also asking Nepal to sign a new cultural cooperation agreement that will upgrade the earlier one inked in 1964 and revised in 1999.

It seems like if China threatens Nepal, it is ok, but if India does something in its interests, whether they be acts that are deplorable or otherwise, it is an act of terrible interventionism or neo-colonialism.

It is a FACT that Nepal and India share open borders, and India has a stake in what goes on inside Nepal for its own safety and security. Hijackings (such as the IC-814) have happened in the past despite Indian warnings that such incidents could happen, counterfeit money is still funneled into India from the open borders via ISI modules, China has set up 100s of safe-houses across the Indian border to monitor the goings and comings in India, terrorist groups often take umbrage across the porous borders, etc. In fact, Niranjan Hojai of DHD(J) and Anthony Shimray (a gun-runner for NSCN(IM)) were nabbed in Kathmandu by joint actions between the NIA and Nepal Police whereas Jewel Garlosa was nabbed in Bangalore after he was tracked all the way from Kathmandu. What to say of cross-border connections to Indian maoists and as a safe-ground for petty criminals. Nepalis even play an active role in the poll process in Bihar and some allegedly are even MPs. India bloody hell has a stake in Nepal. And that stake is not even comparable with that China holds in Nepal. In fact, India did not question Nepal much when the Khampa uprising was put down in 1974 at the behest of China. So why is it that Nepal has more issues when Indian interests are at stake? And what exactly is Sankarshan Thakur trying to stir in this whole bloody mess? For the sake of journalistic integrity, I hope that he declares his sources in the South Block.

Footnote 1: There seems to be a detente of sorts between the Indian establishment and the Nepali mainstream press, as a result of which critical articles on the Indian establishment seem to be taking a round-about route of sourcing from the Indian media. This seems to be a convenient alibi to overcome the Indian establishment's supposed issues with the running of such stories.

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At December 11, 2010 at 10:06 AM , Anonymous Rahul said...

Stan, an excellent post. I always wonder why whatever India does is reported in the press as evil and China gets away with what it does secretively. Same with Bangladesh.

At December 11, 2010 at 10:30 AM , Blogger Pax-Indica said...

Same with Sri Lanka. Some reasons I could think of (applies in parts to every country in our neighborhood) are: Insecurity that they will be overwhelmed in a head-on fight (either in terms of opening up the economy or security-related), which is due to lack of governance and development or even the right questions being asked in internal debates, aided by a zamindari mindset that did not reform dramatically, which in turn leads to a gullible audience that will see ghosts and swallow anything that is said without thinking critically and rationally. In short, an ecosystem sustains the evil image.


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