Are Nukes Stabilizing Tools?


In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis sparked by Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, a debate is reignited whether the possession of nuclear weapons helps stabilize the situation of conflict. Opinions differ on the long-held perception that nuclear weapons, if possessed by the two conflicting nations, are more likely to prevent the war between them.

Therefore, the Cold War theory of mutual assured destruction (MAD) is scrutinized at a time of heightened tensions between the East and the West. Some believe that the current crisis in Ukraine is similar to the confrontation between the Atlantic community (U.S. and EU) and Russia before the Berlin Wall fell.

A few commentators have doubts over Russia’s intimidation of Ukraine, if the latter had not eliminated its nuclear weapons in 1994. The existing nuclear weapons in Ukraine, which it inherited from former Soviet Union, were eliminated under Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances (5 December, 1994) signed by Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and UK. The memorandums marked the decision of Ukraine to accede to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state.

The supporters of MAD have cited the events in history, when countries faced armed aggression owing to their non-acquisition of nukes. They provide the examples of Serbia (1999), Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011) to prove the vulnerability of non-nuclear weapon states. Their conclusion albeit is not without contention.

One of the critics of this perception is Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister Australia and the Chancellor of the Australian National University. He refutes the logic of MAD theory through his recent Project-Syndicate article “The Ukraine Nuclear Delusion”. To him the claim that the balance of nuclear terror (deterrence theory) between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union maintained peace in the world throughout the Cold War is not credible.

But the example of North Korea demonstrates that possession of nuclear weapons deters aggressors.  On a number of occasions North Korea has made provocations which would have invited military aggression had it abandoned nuclear weapons. Its defiance in continuing detonation of nuclear devices in 2009 and 2013 despite international community’s condemnation is evidence that the retention of nuclear weapons makes aggressors think twice before launching armed attacks.

The deterring value attributable to nuclear weapons notwithstanding, the existence of nuclear weapons involves serious risks to mankind. There are instances of false alarms about incoming nuclear attack. Fortunately, so far the danger of using nuclear weapons has been averted detecting the miscalculation of threat in time. Otherwise, both the attacker and the enemy would face annihilation.

Worryingly, the existence of nuclear weapon becomes riskier when the non-state actors especially the terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda vie for such weapons to increase their lethality of attack. Terrorists are always effortful either to steal away the nuclear secrets or to lure the possessors to sell the nuclear weapons to them. In both cases a great security threat exists for humanity and therefore, it has become more urgent than ever to make provisions worldwide so that nuclear weapons are safely stored and beyond the reach of terrorist organizations.

In this regard the initiative of securing nuclear materials by the respective countries deserves accolade. The American administration has prioritized the issue of nuclear security. It has been involved in organizing biannual nuclear security summit since 2010. The first such summit was held in Washington DC in which the countries operating nuclear power research reactors and possessing nuclear weapons took part. Then the participating countries pledged to take appropriate measures to secure the fissile materials including the nuclear fuels like uranium and plutonium along with the nuclear weapons.

The second nuclear security summit was organized in Seoul in 2012 and the meeting made further improvements in terms of securing nuclear materials. In 2014 the third nuclear security summit is being held in The Hague as part of biannual events. The last segment of such summits will be in the U.S. in 2016.

Writing an op-ed article in the New York Times “Highly Enriched Danger” Alan K Kuperman and Frank N. von Hippel have argued that the nuclear security summits have played a critical role in phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium as fuel in research reactors to prevent its misuse by states or terrorists to make nuclear weapons.

Those writers have also noted that the previous conclaves have failed to address the single largest use of such fuel in the nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. They opine that the U.S., UK. Russia and India have introduced nuclear-powered submarines for their navies, which use highly enriched uranium.

Low enriched uranium, (enriched to less than 20 per cent) if used as fuel, is unlikely to be misused for producing nuclear weapons and this is why the world powers (five permanent members of UN Security Council and Germany) are negotiating with Iran and trying to persuade the latter not to enrich uranium to more than 20 %. However, Iran has been calling for nuclear-powered submarines fueled by highly enriched uranium, which would give it an excuse to produce and possess weapons-usable uranium. Endeavors to strike a permanent nuclear deal between world powers and Iran have yet to bear fruit despite two rounds of talks since 20 January, 2014 when the interim agreement on curtailing Iran’s enrichment program came into effect.

Alissa J. Rubin in “Second Round of Iran Nuclear Talks Ends with Optimism” (New York Times) comments that uranium enriched to 90% can be used to make a nuclear weapon, and it takes just a few months to increase enrichment from 20%-90%.

The adherents of MAD theory are of the view that the nukes act as stabilizing tools in managing conflicts. They try to justify by producing the example of avoidance of war between the major nuclear powers (U.S. and Soviet Union) during the Cold War. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons’ destructiveness as exemplified in World War II, and greater probability of catastrophe due to accidents, miscalculation and nuclear theft, it is difficult to value the possession and production of nukes, which are the weapons of mass destruction.

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Cold War II ?

As events unfold in Ukraine that reverberate growing tensions between West and East precipitated by Russia’s saber rattling, many fear that second Cold War may be in the offing. The crisis in Ukraine has deepened with Russia’s annexation of Crimea amid Western concerns, which started in November (2013) protests against the pro-Russian president, who was opposed to Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the European Union (EU).

With the disintegration of former Soviet Union in 1991 leading to the emergence of a number of independent republics, including Ukraine, a process of economic integration by joining the EU, has advanced. The EU, a regional organization for fostering economic and security relationship among its 28 members, comprised only the West European countries in the beginning. At present it is composed of many countries of East Europe, which used to be allied to the former Soviet Union until the Cold War ended in 1990.

Moreover, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance of western countries including the U.S., has made strides in accommodating former Soviet Union allies as new members. This is also known as the NATO’s eastward expansion. As this organization rivaled with former Soviet Union-led and now defunct Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, NATO’s expansion in East Europe has been resented by Russia.

Russia considers the disintegration of Soviet Union as its greatest geostrategic loss because it was deprived of an opportunity of exercising its power over a large geographic region. Charles Tannocle in his piece “Putin’s Kampf” (Project-Syndicate) has mentioned that Putin may regard Soviet Union’s disintegration as a tragedy but for China it was the greatest gift unimaginable. He adds that at a stroke , the empire that stole millions of hectares of Chinese territory over the centuries, and that threatened the People’s Republic with nuclear annihilation, simply vanished.

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, has also described the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. In displaying muscle power and intimidating Ukraine, a neighbor that also has sizeable population of Russian origin, maybe the Russian leader is trying to repeat the old legacies of annexing small territories in the neighborhood.

Charles Tonnacle recalls the World War history when the policy of appeasement pursued by the former British Prime Minister (May 1937-May 1940) Neville Chamberlain, reflected in 30 September, 1938 Munich Agreement (under the provision of which Sudetenland, then a part of Czechoslovakia, was given to Germany to appease Hitler). According to him, that policy failed as exemplified by Hitler’s March, 1939 annexation of rest of Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia.

The above events demonstrate the fact that even if Ukraine tries to please Russia by agreeing to legitimize the March 16 succession referendum to give a chance to the Russians inhabiting in Crimea, to decide whether they want to be the part of Russia, there is no guarantee that Ukrainian territorial integrity would be preserved.

At a time when crisis in Ukraine deepens with Russian troops guarding the military installations in Crimea showing no signs of withdrawal, the West’s response to it has been lukewarm. The U.S. and the EU have not come up with any concrete set of measures to restrain Russia from escalating the situation in Ukraine.

Russian leader Putin may have calculated the risk and decided not to budge anticipating that America, wary of decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and preoccupied with domestic issues, may not be forthcoming with more assertive steps to force Russia to go backwards.

The Ukrainian territory of Crimea, a peninsula with no contagious border with Russia, has a unique history of humiliation. It was under the Russian empire for two centuries until Nikita Khrushchev gave the same to Ukraine in 1954. For the Russians, Crimean territory carries more importance not only because it is predominantly populated by people of Russian origin but also because it hosts the Russian Black Sea Fleet under the bilateral basing agreement.

If history is any guide the Russians have more often championed the cause of the people of their ethnic group and advanced the same excuse for intervening in the affairs of other countries’ territories. The most recent of which was in 2008 when it launched military attacks against its own former republic arguing that the Georgian government then was not protecting fully the interests of the Russian populations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Since then these two Russian enclaves have been the breakaway regions of Georgia waiting to be internationally recognized as independent provinces.

With Russian intention becoming clear based on its past behavior in 2008, 1979,1968, and 1956 , it is ironic to learn that the Atlantic community (the U.S. and EU) keeps its mum vis-à-vis the crisis in Ukraine. Some commentators have contended that free fall of Ukraine’s economy (IMF is learnt to be preparing to impose harsh austerity measures in the name of reform), and apprehension of possible Russian retaliation by cutting off energy supplies to Europe, the EU, in particular, has been hesitant to decide about economic sanctions, the likes of which are imposed on Iran for latter’s suspected uranium enrichment program.

The above worries of the Europeans is understandable in view of the fact Germany, the most powerful of 28-member bloc, which has the biggest economy among EU members, is dependent heavily on Russia for its energy needs. Germany is dependent on Russia for up to one third of its oil and gas and tens of billions of dollars in trade.

Recalling the observations of Jamie F. Met in the author’s Project-Syndicate piece “Back to Future in Ukraine and Asia” Russia is reenacting 19th century norms of international behavior, one cannot but opine that stationing of Russian forces in Crimea after the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yakunovych is tantamount to the interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, which no civilized country can tolerate, let alone all those which believe in liberal internationalism.

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Trade Concerns of LDCs

At last the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its ninth ministerial conference at Bali, Indonesia could claim some success, which is facing the erosion of its credibility against its failure to produce any significant trade deal since it was formally established in 1995. The new trade agreement seeks to facilitate trade by streamlining customs procedures. Despite the limited advantage it grants the same has been received with skepticism, in particular, by some of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Looking at the remarks of the Finance and Trade Minister of Nepal, who was representing a forum of LDCs as its coordinator, it appears that Nepal is happy as many other developing countries in seeing a new deal that is likely to boost global trade prospects in general. As per the estimates of the trade experts in the wake of the Bali deal the annual world trade output would augment by $400 billion through the reduction of transaction costs. This sounds optimistic.

In this regard the observation of the new Brazilian WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo is quite euphoric. He has been quoted by the Economist in its recent coverage “Doha Delivers”. The WTO chief has said “At the heart of the deal is Trade Facilitationor measures to reduce costs by cutting red tape in customs procedures”.

Unsurprisingly the member states of the WTO have applauded the successful conclusion of the first multilateral trade agreement negotiated under the organization. It is no doubt the first fruit borne of the long barren Doha round of international trade talks. Trade negotiations launched in Doha since November 2001 have hardly been fruitful because of differences of various countries on issues ranging from agricultural subsidies to market access to the developing countries.

Although dubbed as development round Doha negotiations have remained an illusion failing to produce any package to promote global trade. The developing countries were more hopeful about the productive deals emanating from the Doha round in view of its professed emphasis on development issues. Quite contrary to what they expected the WTO has not produced any deal that could be counted as important from development point of view.

There was increasing criticism of the WTO as more and more countries were negotiating separate trade deals regionally and bilaterally. Multilateralism has been questioned because member countries’ expectations have not been met. A careful look at the recent history of trade negotiations reveals that there is growing charm for regional trade blocs rather than wait for any multilateral agreement. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one of such glaring examples.

In addition to this regional deal which is among 12 countries of the Pacific region, negotiations for which are proceeding under the leadership of the U.S., there are a number of bilateral trade agreements struck between major trading partners in different regions. These trading arrangements are useful to the parties. But if the agreement is between a bigger economy and small country then it can seldom benefit the partners equally because the larger party will always exercise more influence in negotiating the terms of trade to its favor.

Notwithstanding the above lacuna many countries around the world are busy in agreeing to bilateral trade deals because there is almost stalemate in multilateral negotiations. Failure to conclude multilateral trade agreements has pushed many countries to embark on bilateral and regional framework.

Considering the negotiating constraints of the weaker countries multilateral trade talks offer respite and countries grouped under LDCs seem more vulnerable to high handedness of their trading partners whose economies are stronger. There is an evidence when a poor and weaker trading partner is sometimes coerced to concede more concessions by its powerful contracting party and Nepal is no exception to such bullying especially at a time when the bilateral relationship is strained for some reasons.

In consideration of the above reality there is a strong inclination especially among countries like Nepal with small economies and limited trading opportunities to go for multilateral trade agreements. The incumbent finance minister who led the country’s delegation to the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the WTO (December 3-7, 2013) was effortful to draw the attention of the international community to the needs of Nepal, a LDC, whose trade capacities are limited.

The finance minister said, “For the LDCs to truly benefit from the multilateral trading system there is a need for full and timely implementation of decision on duty free and quota free market access together with the implementation of the provisions of simplified, transparent and facilitative rule of origin.”

Furthermore, he pointed out the need of effective and scaled up support of LDCs capacity to produce and trade and he even called on the 2011 decision to grant preference to LDCs’ services be effectively and expeditiously implemented. This emphasis suggests that LDCs have been suffering from the delayed implementation of measures that are intended to meet their demands.

In terms of obtaining duty free and quota free facilities for the products of LDCs the difficulty is that some of their products in which they have competitiveness are not even included in the category of goods which enjoy such facilities. An example of this is the decision of the then American administration in 2005 when it decided to offer duty free quota free market access to 97 % of LDCs’ products but it couldn’t be that helpful for many LDCs whose exportable items were not included within the above percentage.

The Bali trade facilitation agreement aims at making international trade much easier by removing trade barriers and viewed from this angle LDC are also going to be the beneficiaries of the new deal. Nevertheless, the provision of allowing India with whom Nepal has open border, to fix Minimum Support Price for farm products and to sell staple grains to the poor at subsidized rates will have serious implications for us because of loss of competitiveness of our agricultural products. Cheaper agroproducts of India whose customers will benefit from the new trade deal may however adversely affect Nepali products as cheaper goods from India will easily penetrate into our markets.

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Sensitive But Neglected

Some of the public offices are seen less important in public eyes than others which seem more focused on issues that are of least public concerns. In fact a few offices, which are shouldering responsibilities related to the daily lives of the people viz security, employment etc. are so much resourced-constrained that they cannot  respond to the public grievances effectively. For example the Ministry of Labor is said to be the least resourced agency of the government judged against its functions to manage the foreign employment.

This author was visiting the departments of passport and consular matters last week, which have been established in the recent years under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was amazed to see the personnel working there with remarkably low morale. Question arises as to why is this occurring even at a time when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become the most sought after government office even surpassing the Finance Ministry, that is in charge of state coffers, based on the aspirations of Nepali citizens, who wish to join government service.

Available statistics in the Public Service Commission reveal that a good number of Finance Ministry officials are more inclined to test their abilities by deciding to sit for competitive examinations conducted by Public Service Commission, should there be advertisements for vacancies to enter into Foreign Service. There is a growing craze among many job seekers to be a part of Foreign Service, which is a new service in vogue for the last few years. However, this exclusive service existed in the 1960s but was later dismantled making it a group of service under General Administration.

Until the Civil Service Act was amended following persistent efforts by those working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all personnel working for the ministry did not enjoy the special privileges vis-à-vis their transfer, promotion etc. In this regard the issue of promotion, both through two options, either based on seniority or free competition, has been conspicuous as it directly impacts on a civil servant’s career in the related profession. The enactment of concerned act providing for a separate foreign service has brought a sea change in offering opportunities of career promotion to the personnel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, utilizing which they are rising the ladders of promotion very quickly.

An instance of this can be had from the Gorkhapatra notices of the Public Service Commission related to promotion of officials belonging to Foreign Service and Administrative Service that were published in Magh. A very recent decision of the promotion committee led by one of the members of the Public Service Commission, has demonstrated that for the post of first class gazetted officer, any second class officer from Administrative Service has to score almost the full marks (100) to get promoted. Whereas the second class gazetted officer of Foreign Service gets promoted to the post of joint secretary by scoring less than 85 marks. Such marks are calculated on the basis of seniority, educational qualifications, and assignment to remote areas etc. How ironical it is!

One would be totally surprised to find a large number of the foreign service personnel now assigned to the departments of passport and consular affairs demoralized, who are always waiting for an opportunity to get transferred from their respective offices. Let us take the example of passport department, where increasing crowds form every day for applying and obtaining passports. In terms of public relations, this department is the one of the busiest government offices, besides the district administration offices and land revenue offices.

Despite extended hours of work and extra collection counters, the queues in the passport department are still disappointing. The problems here are not the timing of preparing and the distribution of the passports, but the long pending cases of applicants, whose errors have not been promptly sorted at the points of collection. As explained to this scribe by the concerned officials of the passport department, many avoidable errors are ignored by the personnel either in missions abroad or the district administration offices in the country.

An example of this was noticed when an applicant was seen appealing to expedite the issuance of the passport, the delay for which was caused by a simple mistake of spelling errors in names and address, which should tally with the one provided for in the old passport. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been denying the applicants the new passport unless they pay the fees of passport for the second time even though the mistake that led to the cancellation of the prepared passport is due to the negligence of government employees in charge of collecting the application forms. Had they screened the information with utmost care, the applicant wouldn’t be compelled to reapply.

It seems that there is lack of proper coordination between ministries of foreign and home affairs and moreover, embassies/missions abroad are less attentive to this public service as a result of which applications remain pending at central office, Kathmandu for several months. The responsible officers of the passport department have assured that they are now committed to achieving zero level of pending cases to better serve the Nepali people. Actions rather than words really count.

A pitiable condition prevails in consular department located in Tripureshore, where lack of physical facilities, including uninterrupted supply of electricity, impedes its work. This is the office that has to handle all the grievances of relatives of those in the foreign employment, whose cases range from bringing dead bodies to Nepal to rescuing the Nepali laborers in distress. Additionally, it issues attestation papers concerning date of birth, educational certificates, and marriage registration certificates etc. The manpower associated with the consular department is hardly sufficient considering the work load it has to handle.

The government has expanded the missions abroad and the number is 36 including all consulates-general, which is significant taking Nepal’s size of economy into account. Operating such offices in the foreign land involves a huge amount of hard currencies. However, there has not been proper review of the functioning of some hastily opened embassies. A few of them may have proved even white elephants making negligible contribution to the realization of Nepal’s foreign policy goals, including enhanced economic ties with the destination countries.

While some of the offices under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs like the two departments as mentioned above suffer for lack of necessary resources, whose services directly impact on the lives of the Nepali people, it may be prudent to reorder our priorities and ensure that scarce resources are properly allocated for greater productivity.

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Rahadani Linei Sasti (Kantipur Front News of February 4)

Here is the link of above story of Kantipur Daily:

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First Port of Call (Published on Republica)

( This piece was carried by Republica on February 2, 2014)

In recent times, the serpentine queues outside the Department of Passport (located inside the premises of the former royal palace) for Machine Readable Passports (MRP) has been the talk of the town. So has the corrective measures undertaken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), now led by a young professional diplomat, to improve the delivery of passports.

I too am a victim of our faulty passport delivery system. Sometime ago, I started receiving frantic calls from close relatives in the US. They asked me to trace their passports, for which they had applied through the Nepal Mission to the UN (in New York) last August. I visited the Department of Passport the other day to see if some of my former colleagues could help.

I saw that additional collection counters had been added. The Director-General stated that previously, applicants had to wait for 10-12 hours before their documents were checked and submitted. Now that time has been reduced by half. Indeed, this is an improvement.

However, applicants still face many obstacles in submitting their passport applications, especially those who are located outside Nepal. From my experience I know that diplomats stationed in New York often do not respond to applicants’ phone calls. And when they do, they give the standard reply that once passports are collected from Kathmandu, they will be duly dispatched to the concerned. Apparently, there is no follow-up with the Department of Passport from their side.

Let me given an example. Here I refer to the applications deposited at Nepal’s UN mission (New York)—although such on-duty lapses are no less frequent in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.

Two of my family members (daughter and her spouse) in St. Louis, Missouri (in the US) had applied for MRP in August, 2012. They had submitted their applications in person. If there had been any missing document or information, the concerned mission officials could have instantly asked the applicants and cleared things up. But when the officials collected the forms (along with a fee of US $150 each), they did not bother to check the information provided in the application.

The status of the two applications collected by our mission in New York remained unknown for several months, despite regular follow-up by the applicants. Upon my humble appeal to the chief of the Department of Passport last week, an official helped me locate the actual forms. Astonishingly, one of the forms (Bharat Kandel’s) was not of the required size, and the other did not provide the applicant’s ‘old passport number’. According to the official, this was what was causing the delay in processing. The application asks for old passport number, but nowhere does it mention that the ‘old’ passport refers to the one which the applicant currently holds (as I later found out). No wonder people get confused so often!

With cooperation from departmental colleagues, I have now informed my relatives abroad to take further action to expedite the processing of their passports. Let’s see how long it takes now.

Bharat Kandel’s old passport expired last December. He had to go all the way from St. Louis to New York to submit his application. His agonizing wait for another new passport has cost him a lot. He is barred from making any travel even inside the US. Who is responsible for this irrecoverable loss: the ambassador or the concerned official at Nepal’s UN mission?

Worse still, I met one Lila Bahadur Darjee of Bhojpur, an operator in a British-owned gas company in Doha, Qatar, who was sobbing at the office of the director (administration) of the Department of Passport. He had lost his lucrative job because his MRP was not delivered on time. MoFA claims that it had been dispatched to Doha, but diplomats at the embassy in Qatar never received it. The director advised him to lodge an appeal to revoke the last request and apply for another passport!

Darjee had paid 200 Qatari Riyal (1 unit Qatari Riyal=Rs 27) at Doha for his new passport. His old passport was expiring in a few months and he wanted a new one before that. He was on leave for two months while he waited for his MRP. It never arrived. As a result, he was deprived of a job that paid him 3,200 Qatari Riyal (approximately Rs 85,000) a month. Who will compensate him for this irreparable loss?
The cases mentioned here represent just the tip of the iceberg. Based on my experience, I offer some suggestions to improve our lackluster passport delivery system.

There needs to be better coordination between passport application collection centers (in and outside the country) and the Department of Passport. The officials at these centers need to be better trained to check the application forms properly so that the chances of rejection are minimized. For this, some personnel from the Department of Passport can be asked to work with new staff at collection centers. And why should applicants be made to pay extra for new passports when the old requests were denied for no fault of their own?

The new head of MoFA should immediately institute measures to make embassy officials, including ambassadors, accountable for lapses in passport delivery. This is no way to treat hardworking Nepali citizens whose money pays for the privileges of our non-performing diplomats.
We need to judge our diplomats by their work performance. Only this will result in greater efficiency in our diplomatic system. By adding three collection counters at Department of Passport and immediately shortening the waiting time, the new chief has reminded us of the old proverb “the morning shows the day’’. But will he be as determined and focused in solving the problems listed here?

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Reveal the Truth


The passing away of South Africa’s visionary leader on December 5, 2013 has been a subject of discussion everywhere in the world because his life has given a message that compassion and forgiveness can become the hallmark of good governance. Undoubtedly, the death of Nelson Mandel (1918-2013) at the age of 95, who spent 27 years of imprisonment for his convictions about human freedom, has more reverberations in Nepal, which is still struggling to move beyond painful transition to durable peace.

Unlike the despised colonization of South Africa by the Europeans, Nepal has some parallels with the rainbow state in terms of political upheavals which have left many self-inflicted wounds on us in the aftermath of 2006 People’s Movement, the climax event of decade-old insurgency. Surprisingly, then in 2006 when Nepal succeeded without inviting foreign interlocutors in persuading the Maoist rebels to join political mainstream, we were euphoric believing that peaceful landing of home grown rebellious movement had been achieved. That celebration was reinforced by the conduct of first ever Constituent Assembly election in 2008.

Due to lack of vision on the part of our political leaders and their greed for power installing as many as four prime ministers in four years time, our valuable endeavors in utilizing peace dividend were wasted seen in our failure to frame a democratic and participatory constitution. Originally, the Constituent Assembly was expected to write such constitution in two years but it couldn’t deliver one even after four years leading to its demise and holding a second election to the Constituent Assembly last November.

The Nepalese people have presented an example about how courageous they can become in exercising their suffrage amidst violence on the eve of election. The countrymen have fulfilled their democratic obligations of choosing the representatives of their choice and entrusted them the responsibilities of drafting a constitution that ensures the protection to people of all castes and creed. Now it is up to the newly-elected members of the Constituent Assembly to live up to their promises and commitments and they would be closely watched in terms of their performance. The results of election have established the fact that no political party or leader can turn a deaf ear to their duties. Otherwise, they will likely be punished in next election as we have watched a growing number of political leaders, mostly from Tarai, who have lost their seats which they had been occupying as legislators for decades.

Of the two major preoccupations of the people of Nepal in the wake of successful second People’s Movement, the promulgation of a new constitution and the completion of peace process, none of them has so far been completed. The integration of some Maoist rebels into Nepal Army as per political understanding nevertheless, there is lot to be done in healing the wounds of People’s War. Unless such old grudges are addressed properly, the society continues to remain vulnerable to future conflicts. South Africa can definitely provide us useful lessons in handling this problem, which is common to many post-conflict countries in the world.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an unique model pursued in post-apartheid South Africa to create conducive environment for all past enemies to reconcile and live together, whose credit goes to late Nelson Mandela, has been a topic of wrangling among the political parties in Nepal. Several attempts in the past to set up such commission have not borne fruit because of divisiveness among the leaders, who need to learn from the South African icon, whose policy of forgiveness has produced miracles in a society which was torn between black majority and white minority due to latter’s racist policy, know as apartheid.

Against the background of Nepal languishing in perpetual transition to enduring peace, where some parents have been forced to sit in for fast unto death for months seeking justice to their children who were victims of conflict, the legacy of Nelson Mandela would always be relevant.

In this regard a quote from late Mandela as reproduced in the New York Times seems appropriate in our context, where the government is supposedly afraid to reveal the truth regarding the atrocities committed in the past conflict. Mandela has said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

A former president of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, in her Project-Syndicate feature “A Prisoner’s Reflections on Nelson Mandela” has said that late Mandela found the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the only viable bridge between his country’s racist legacy and its multiracial present and future. She also explains how Mandela emphasized eschewing of hatred towards enemies and quotes him. Mandela said when he was released from prison on February 11, 1990 “As I walked out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.”

With the possible formation of a consensus government following the fresh mandate of the Nepali people, it is hoped that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission modeled on international practice would be formed without unnecessary delay. Such commission should deal with several cases related to past conflict with no bias for and against anybody. Once such body is allowed to look into the realities and produce the truth before the public, a due process of peace and reconciliation would evolve facilitating the institutionalization of peace.

At a time when the whole world is engaged in offering homage to an iconic leader like Nelson Mandela for his imitable vision of forgiveness, Nepal government may get due inspiration and take measures that will be remembered in history as milestone in securing our fragile peace. Revealing the truth about past conflict would be a right step in this direction.

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Does NPT Guarantee Right to Enrichment?


The latest rounds of negotiations in Geneva between Iran and six world powers on former’s nuclear program have revolved around the dispute whether the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) confers its members the right to enrich uranium for peaceful uses of nuclear power. The 1970 treaty promotes non proliferation by preventing any non-nuclear member from going nuclear.

One of the most persuasive articles of this treaty, which is the most universally accepted legal framework to govern non proliferation of nuclear weapons, has been that it recognizes all state parties’, which were non-nuclear by 1967, inalienable right to make peaceful uses of nuclear power.

The reason to motivate such countries to renounce the acquisition of nuclear weapons to become state parties was to assure them that they would not forfeit their privilege to utilize nuclear energy if their goal is for medical research, or generation of electricity etc. Moreover, the countries possessing no nuclear power reactors, let alone nuclear weapons were encouraged to join non proliferation regime by signing and ratifying the NPT in the 1970s by incorporating a provision that contains a promise on the part of scientifically-advanced state parties of the treaty to assist non-nuclear states in developing peaceful nuclear program.

In this vein comes the issue of supplying nuclear fuel for running nuclear power reactors and related technology to the developing countries which lack nuclear capabilities from those who possess the same. Viewed from this angle the NPT is a bargain between those which had acquired nuclear weapons by 1967 but favored non proliferation by denying non-nuclear states nuclear arms as well as required technology to produce them and those which pledged not to manufacture nukes in exchange for cooperation to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

The dual use of enriched uranium makes the issue complicated as some countries having Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) have been found pursuing the manufacturing of the nuclear weapons secretly. Uranium is one of the two ingredients, the other being plutonium, which can simultaneously be used for operating nuclear power plants and for producing nuclear weapons. Nuclear scientists have admitted with 20% or higher level of enriched uranium any country can produce nuclear weapons in a relatively shorter period of time if they have suitable technological expertise and knowledge in the related field.

Against such background the nuclear program conducted by Iran has been under suspicion as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog verifying whether a country’s nuclear activities are for peaceful ends, has sometimes raised concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions. In some of its reports it has criticized that Iran has not been revealing the details of its all nuclear power plants located in different parts of the country. Natanz and Fordo nuclear power plants were discovered lately.

Based on such critical reports of the IAEA, the UN Security Council, which is authorized to maintain international peace and security, has passed resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran for violation of the NPT provisions. The NPT provisions require the non-nuclear states parties to refrain from producing or acquiring nuclear fuel, technology for military purposes. The UN Security Council has decided at times that Iran’s clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons is in contravention of the NPT.

Iranian nuclear standoff has remained as an irritant issue in U.S.-Iran relations. Even the European countries have criticized Iran’s nuclear activities and have imposed economic sanctions against the country. One of such sanctions is related to restriction on oil imports from Iran, which has crippled the Iranian economy. Similarly, Iran has been subjected to strong economic sanctions by the U.S. government and some Congressmen are so obsessed with such punishment of Iran that president Obama has been facing fierce opposition from them while his administration prepares to ease some sanctions in return for Iran’s willingness to curb its nuclear program under the new deal.

Negotiations between Iran and P5+Germany (China, France, Russia, UK, and the U.S. are referred to as P5 being the permanent members of the UN Security Council) conducted in Geneva have produced an interim plan to be replaced by a comprehensive agreement after six months. President Obama has put in enough efforts to strike an interim agreement, which will provide limited sanction relief to Iran to induce it to constrain its nuclear weapons program. One of the ways to attain this goal is to dilute Iran’s uranium stockpile.

As reported in the New York Times by Michael R. Gordon the U.S. is to provide $ 6 billion to $ 7 billion in sanctions relief in addition to $ 4.2 billion in oil revenues despite Congress’ strong criticism of any agreement that does not fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.

Being fully aware of this objection by U.S. law makers president Obama has seized the momentum of having a deal that makes progress in capping the enrichment capability of Iran. Under the new plan Iran would stop enriching uranium beyond 5 % which is alleged to have stockpiled uranium enriched to 20%.

Some of the Congressmen are also threatening to pass new laws for imposing new sanctions for lack of desired progress on curtailing nuclear program of Iran but president Obama will use his administrative authority to provide the limited sanctions relief to Iran.

Gary Samore, in his Foreign Affairs feature “Nuclear Rights and Wrongs” has argued that the NPT does not specifically bestow the right to enrich uranium to the treaty members but one should bear in mind that he is the president of “United Against Nuclear Iran” an advocacy group that pleads tough sanctions against Iran unless it does more to control its nuclear program.

A look at the Article IV of the NPT would be in order, which states “nothing in this treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty”. The interim agreement also substantiates the fact that a non-nuclear NPT member can exercise its right to enrich uranium provided the level of purity is low enough to constrain the country to produce nuclear weapons.

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Recalibrating a New International Order


As crises in hotspots of world unfold, a new debate is drawing attention whether sovereignty and responsibility for protecting the population sit at odds with each other. Not amazingly such discussion is taking the center stage against the background of two year-long conflict in Syria, where chemical disarmament plan is being implemented for curbing the violence.

A few months earlier before Russia-led proposal for eliminating the chemical weapons in Syria was floated and later agreed internationally, news was abuzz that a Libyan model of humanitarian intervention would be launched in Syria to restore peace. In view of the Western perception that Libya provided a successful experimentation of the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), some developed countries, in particular the U.S., seemed to favor military intervention in the name of saving the lives of Syrian citizens.

Despite the chaos seen in post-intervention Libya where ethnic rivalry is ruining the peaceful efforts and pushing the country towards greater destabilization threatening the region, some American academician like Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of international affairs at Princeton University, who once served in the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Bureau, has expressed optimism that R2P is a workable doctrine. She has been quoted by Ruan Zongze, a Chinese scholar associated with China Institute of International Studies in his article “Responsible Protection: Building a Safer World”.

It may be in order to recall the history that led R2P to dominate the UN General Assembly deliberations in 2005 when the UN convened a summit in commemoration of its sixtieth anniversary. Then it adopted an Outcome Document after a lengthy debate outlining the prerequisites that should be fulfilled before a military action is approved under the signboard of the protection doctrine.

As per the above UN document four essential elements have been identified for agreeing to apply the R2P principle in settling conflicts, where mass atrocity has been committed by the national governments. They are as follows:

  1. The basic object of R2P must be made clear. The objective of such principle should be the protection of innocent people, who have been victimized by their own governments. The object of such endeavor must not be the protection of the political parties.
  2. The invocation of R2P doctrine should be backed by UN Security Council’s authorization. Hence, legitimacy becomes one of the criteria for applying the notion.
  3. Means of protection must be strictly limited. There should be proportionate use of force to save the innocent lives.
  4. Protectors should be responsible for post-intervention and post-protection reconstruction.

The debate on the rationality of applying R2P was interesting if the 64th session of the UN General Assembly is any guide. During the UNGA meeting on the subject the President of General Assembly in 2009, Miguel d Escosta Brockman, then Nicaraguan foreign minister, said that the idea of R2P was cover to legitimize armed intervention by rich Western countries in the affairs of the poor countries. The Chinese academic Ruan Zonze has quoted the President of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly. Brockman who said, “a more accurate name of the concept (R2P) would be “Right to Intervene” (R2I).

The mass killings that took place in Rwanda, Bosnia in the 1990s which are often attributed to the failures of UN Peacekeeping and the Kosovo intervention supposedly to save the people of the province, whose lives were threatened due to war in Former Yogoslavia played roles in inducing the international community to formulate a principle applying which innocent population could be saved from mass atrocities committed by the national governments.

In that vein Canada set up an International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 1999 which for the first time articulated the idea of responsibility to protect in its report to the UN in 2001. The report recommended that the world community would intervene even by using coercive measures in order to protect the civilians from atrocities. The commission believed that such military intervention launched on behalf of the international community for protecting the innocent lives would be justified when the national governments fail to provide security to their own citizens .

It was under such understanding among the members of the UN Security Council, which in February 2011, passed a resolution (1973) supporting forceful action like the imposition of no-fly-zones in Libya, among others, to prevent then Libyan leader Qaddafi from killing the innocent civilians. Despite good intentions behind the above resolution of the UN Security Council, the three permanent members acerbically known as FUKUS (France, UK, and the U.S.) overstretched the mandate given by the council in engineering the regime change. The UN-sanctioned war in 2011 in Libya was not meant for overthrowing the government. The mandate of resolution 1973 was confined to the protection of the innocent Libyans.

Since then Libya is in turmoil and many developing countries which viewed R2P as a Western plot to intervene in the domestic affairs of poor countries have grown more skeptical of the controversial concept. India, among many others, has had been in the forefront of criticizing the principle of R2P. The Chinese scholar Ruan Zongze quotes Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s permanent representative to UN, who participating in the UN Informal Discussion on “Responsibility While Protecting “ (February, 2012)  said, “Libya has given R2P a bad name”.

In the aftermath of growing criticism of R2P new proposals have been floated to enrich the same. Among these are the Brazilian proposal known as “Responsibility While Protecting” and “Responsible Protection”. The second one is the idea innovated by Ruan Zongze, whose article “Responsible Protection: Building a Safer World” has provided a clearer picture of protection issue.

Australia’s foreign minister and chancellor of Australian National University, Gareth Evans in his recent Project-Syndicate article “Protecting Civilians Responsibly” has raised the hope that a lively debate is taking place among the members of the Chinese think tank about improving the concept  of R2P. Taking a cue from Ruan Zongze’s 2012 article on the concept Gareth Evans believes that there is enough room of improvement for making the protection principle more applicable.

The world community needs to recalibrate a just international order by making protectors more responsible for stabilizing post-intervention societies by initiating development and reconstruction efforts to mitigate the economic hardship of the people to secure whose lives military intervention has been approved.

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Questioned Credibility


In a dramatic move by an Arab country, which won the United Nations Security Council seat for the first time in its long history of membership, to relinquish the same by issuing a statement has raised a question mark to the crisis management role of the world organization. Security Council, composed of five permanent members known as P-5 and other elected 10 non-permanent members, has been assigned the sole responsibility of maintaining international peace and security by the UN Charter.

The Security Council’s membership is considered an honor and privilege for any member as it is empowered to impose binding resolutions on all 193 member states of the UN. Notwithstanding this fact the principal body of the UN has faced criticism several times both during and post-Cold War era for failing to fulfill its duties effectively.

Prior to 1989’s dismantling of Berlin Wall, the edifice of tense rivalry between then world’s two superpowers i. e. the U.S. and Soviet Union, the UN Security Council was paralyzed and consequently failed to take a decision to maintain international peace in commensurate with its high profile responsibilities. In 1950, the time of Korean War that dragged global powers like the U.S., Russia, and China into an armed conflict, the UN Security Council’s meeting was surprisingly marred by the deliberate absence of one of the five permanent members. History is evidence when the UN General Assembly was forced to adopt Uniting for Peace Resolution regarding the Korean War (1950-53) due to the Russian protest and its subsequent boycott of Security Council meeting at the height of emergency.

Analysts have recalled that history of Cold War to show that at times the UN meetings of Security Council have been held despite non-participation of one of the members and argue that current Security Council may run its business in absence of newly elected Saudi Arabia, which has taken an unprecedented step of not accepting the council’s membership a day after it won the election for one of the non-permanent seats for the term 2014-15.

It may be in order to quote the statement of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (October 18, 2013), which according to Zachary Laub’s analysis briefing on Security Council carried by the Council on Foreign Relations reads, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia believes that the manner, mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities toward preserving international peace and security as required leading to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against the peoples, violation of rights and spread of conflicts and wars around the world.”

Moreover, the Saudi statement points out two issues where the Security Council has utterly failed to resolve. These are related to the region where Saudi Arabia belongs. It has cited the current continuation of the Palestinian cause without a lasting solution for 65 years (Arab-Israeli War of 1948 is the beginning of the Palestinian cause) and failure to make the Middle East free of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (nuclear, biological and chemical).

Unsurprisingly though the government of Saudi Arabia has apologized for not accepting the Security Council membership until the UN body is reformed and enabled, effectively and practically, to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security.

Saudi’s emphasis on genuine reforms of the Security Council is understandable. The Security Council’s composition is anachronistic under the changed circumstances as it still represents the realities of 1945  when then World War II victors decided themselves about the shape of post-war world. The leaders of the U.S., then Soviet Union and United Kingdom agreed that they could be joined by France and China to become the world’s policemen by assuming the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Since then such membership has remained as their exclusive privilege though at times debate has been stirred for expanding such membership with no agreement in sight.

Only in 1965 the UN Security Council got expanded in non-permanent category (from 6-10) and the current membership has reached 15 of whom five are elected as non-permanent members every year by the General Assembly. Under the provisions of the UN Charter, any amendment pertaining to this Charter can be made with a two/thirds majority of the members backed by their domestic ratification. Any change in the size of the Security Council requires the Charter amendment and such amendment must be approved by all its five permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK, and the U.S.). Here lies the crux of the problem as no P-5 member would ever be willing to curb its own exclusive privilege by agreeing to more permanent members.

It is not only P-5 but even others are apparently opposing the expansion in permanent category based on the debate in the General Assembly on Security Council expansion because of their regional rivalry. A few examples will suffice. China is loathe to see Japan become a permanent member of the Security Council as Pakistan is vis-à-vis India. This is part of global politics and more examples can be found in other geographic regions as well in Europe and Africa, among others.

Saudis’ anger is directed at council’s obstruction due to repeated vetoes by China and Russia on taking robust action against president Bashar. Critics of the council have pointed out that it has disastrous history of peacekeeping as in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s. Roger Cohen, an op-ed columnist of the New York Times, has noted in his article “If Not Now, When?” that Saudi Arabia is furious with president Obama over his policies in Egypt, Syria and Iran.”

However, in the opinion of Stewart Patrick, an expert with Council on Foreign Relations, “After expending substantial diplomatic energy to serve a place at the table the Saudis are depriving themselves of an opportunity to be more of a heavyweight for the sake of protest”.

David Bosco of Foreign Policy in his blog “Saudi Arabia’s Civil Disobedience at the UN” discusses about long-term and short-term implications of protest. He argues that “if the strong Saudi act of protest somehow does catch on, the consequences of the Security Council could be dramatic.”

No doubt that the UN Security Council needs reform to enhance its legitimacy and efficacy but the question is whether the UN members would realize it and accordingly redouble their efforts in expansion debate to come to an agreement that will restore council’s credibility.

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