Social media posts and comments have ranged from the merciless mockery of Dahal’s English prose to a relentless questioning of his standing to write such a letter in the first place. Admittedly, Dahal could have used the definite article properly in more places. A Grammarly or ProWritingAid add-in to his document toolbar might have suggested more appropriate synonyms.
As to protocol, Dahal did address Xi as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before president, didn’t he? Moreover, as executive co-chair of the NCP and (our one-time Maoist supremo to boot), Dahal must have felt competent enough to string along a few sentences.
Amid the languidness of the lockdown, Dahal probably couldn’t run the final document by the party’s official copy editor and chose instead to defer to the earnestness of his purpose. Even then, he should have known he wasn’t going to get a pass. Dahal may have his reasons for retaining his war-era nom de guerre as part of his formal name, but it no longer evokes the ferocity and sternness it once did.
On the face of it, you could say Dahal took the initiative to reaffirm party-to-party relations by writing to the head of the CCP who also happens to be the head of state. At the same time, he sought to mobilize Chinese assistance to Nepal during these trying times. For someone accused of undermining a government led by his own party, Dahal could also have been seen taking some pressure off Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli and Foreign Minister Pradip Gyawali so they could focus their energies better on other pressing areas.
Granted, it’s difficult not to ascribe more self-interested motives to any politician, not to speak of one with a surfeit of chameleon-like qualities. Dahal, after all, had to put off a visit to China recently for reasons that are still largely unexplained. Subsequent weeks saw him blowing hot and cold on the controversial American Millennium Challenge Corporation grant, with his position ultimately veering toward legislative endorsement of the agreement “in the nation’s interest”. Such gyrations couldn’t have gone down well up north.
Still, if the global pandemic could step in to give a respite to Prime Minister Oli’s government, put off a widely expected split in the ruling party and cushion the political system from all-round attacks, surely it could help Dahal repair his relations with Beijing. Yet here we are laughing him off.
Does that matter? The letter wasn’t primarily intended for us. And the Chinese are the only ones so far that have emerged more confident out of this experience. If Xi can be magnanimous enough to win over US President Donald J. Trump over one phone conversation, you surely can’t say Dahal’s written words – regardless of their clumsiness – don’t stand a chance, can you now?