Sunday, June 28, 2015

You Say You Want A Constitution…

Gee, our politicos turned out to be cannier than we ever considered giving them credit for.
They want to give us that long-delayed constitution so bad that it will now be our fault if we don’t get it sooner rather than later.
Before the Great Earthquake, it seemed as if our Constituent Assembly members were intent on prolonging their term in office, persuaded that were inured to their ineptitude.
After the disaster struck, the entire political fraternity disappeared, knowing the little they could have done in the circumstances. After all, their specialty lay in shutting down the city, not opening up its blocked arteries and alleyways.
Ordinary people rallied together in a spontaneous demonstration of collective action, drawing the admiration of those near and far. We almost got comfortable with the notion that Nepal could do without politicians.
Then the 16-Point Agreement took us by surprise. Was the political class so shaken out of its stupor so as to demonstrate its relevance? Or did the earthquake precipitate just enough geopolitical shifts to advance the political agenda? Regardless, the Supreme Court’s interim intervention did not stop the scribes. Nor did President Ram Baran Yadav’s admonition. The document will be ready for public unveiling any day now, considering that the draft has been all but finalized.
In retrospect, the political class made a smart calculation. A constitution no one likes is likelier to be acceptable to everyone for the time being. The Great Earthquake shifted the national conversation and concern. To be sure, the Big Four want to become part of a national government. But they seem patient enough to wait until after the constitution has been promulgated. Now, isn’t that forbearance a sign of finality?
After the international donor conference, Nepal needs to press ahead with reconstruction. Nepal’s is the first major natural disaster to have occurred since the United Nations Disaster Reduction Conference held in Sendai earlier this year. Japan, the host country, has said Nepal would test the commitments the international community made there.
The amount pledged at the Kathmandu conference varies from $3 billion to $6 billion, with $4.4 billion being the widely accepted figure. Still, no portion of those billions will start trickling out until we prove our worthiness by, among other things, strengthening efficiency, transparency and accountability in handling international assistance, we’ve heard from experts and analysts.
That, in turn, would depend on ensuring political stability, organizing early local elections, and completing the constitution drafting process.
So it all boils down to this: We can contemplate amending the lousiest constitution only when we have one in place.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hard Bargain Or Soft Sell?

From the scorn they have heaped on the Supreme Court for having stayed implementation of the 16-Point Agreement, you could be forgiven for thinking that the four major parties were actually on the verge of promulgating the constitution this time.
The surprise June 8 deal had generated a generally upbeat vibe, especially among those most intent to underscore the relevance of the frayed 12-Point Agreement that set forth our nine-year journey into nebulous newness.
India, however, was said to have been displeased by the surprise the Big Four sprung on us. If so, New Delhi did a good job of hiding its feelings, because it took Nepali analysts a few days to see signs of annoyance.
Now, if New Delhi was indeed miffed by its apparent displacement from the driver’s seat, what better way to express itself than through the Supreme Court? More importantly, though, why should India want to scuttle a new constitution that would have marked the culmination of the 2005 Delhi Compromise?
Granted, the rulers in New Delhi today represent a different political ideology than the one espoused by the regime that forged the Maoist-mainstream opposition against the monarchy. But, as the largest opposition then, those at the helm in India today did go along with the myths spun then, didn’t they?
So could India’s supposed irritation stem from a discovery that it was leading from behind in Nepal, as in the case of the creation of the Jhal Nath Khanal government a few years ago? Prime Minister Narendra Modi must have taken it personally that Nepal became the first neighbor to burn his effigy, and that, too, after having mounted a rescue and relief operation.
The open secret before the Great Earthquake was that India was engaging in negotiations with the former king, who had pitched his tent in New Delhi for an extended stay. Just before the devastation, too, a leading Chinese expert on Nepal had ruled out the restoration of monarchy in any shape, manner or form, in what was by far the most candid articulation of Beijing’s feelings on an institution we all believed it had nurtured and sustained.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, according to some reports, had resurrected the terms India had presented Kings Birendra and Gyanendra in 1990 and 2006 respectively in exchange for a restoration of the monarchy.
Despite the much-hyped alignment between Beijing and New Delhi on matters concerning Nepal, could the Chinese have acted in concert with other powers seeking to thwart a return of the monarchy and sprung up the 16-Point Agreement?
Or did elements within India, deliberately or otherwise, seek to undo a deal in such a way that would pile pressure not only on the former king but the ruling and opposition parties as well? In that case, the Supreme Court’s intervention may have bought New Delhi the time to identify the best deal.
But if we really want to be hopeful, this could also be a chance for Nepalis to secure the best bargain geostrategically possible.