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Himal South Asia Volume 9, Number 1, March 1996 Dixit, Kanak Mani Mar 31, 1996

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 MARCH 1996   • Vol 9 number 1
 I'm the Asli captain!
They are the captains on the field,
but when it comes to their travelling
during the Wills World Cup 1996, I
show them the way.
Now, isn't that what you'd expect
of me? What with the highest number
of   direct   flights   out   of   India,
complemented by a continuing link
with the finest traditions of Indian
Today, I captain flights to more
destinations, with five more being
added to my network - Manchester,
Amsterdam, Entebbe, Tel Aviv and
Madrid. All in just four months! Little
wonder then, that I command the
largest individual market share out of
So, while there may be 12 captains
in the tournament, there's just one
'asli' captain-ME!
The Official International Airline Of The Wills World Cup 1996
 To help South Asians talk to each other
Exchanging information among the nations of the region is the best kind of confidence-building
measure for troubled South Asia. Transfer of news and opinion spurs diplomatic and
intellectual communication, which can in turn trigger a chain reaction resulting in trade,
investment, and economic growth.
Conversing across South Asian frontiers, therefore, should be a priority'for the region's
political, academic and economic vanguard. It is for this vanguard—you —that we have
launched Himal South Asia, a monthly magazine from Kathmandu that jumps boundaries in
order to present objective information and informed opinion.
The goal is reasonable, we feel, but as journalists we are also realists enough to note that there
are hurdles even in doing something this obvious and necessary. These include historical
legacies such as the rise of post-1947 nationalism, the entrenchment of elite interests in each
country, the inertia of the state mechanism, and the tyranny of populism.
On the other hand, societal and technological advances have made it possible to contemplate
a South Asia-wide media. With modern education and outlook, travel, and wider exposure to
the world of ideas, the new generations in each country constitute the stepping stone for the
kind of journalism Himal South Asia proposes to provide.
The last ten years, coinciding with the low-key existence of SAARC, have spawned almost'
continuous interaction among professionals of South Asian countries—activists, lawyers,
academics and, lately, business executives. These motivated groups form a receptive wedge
(and market) to start a regional monthly magazine.
While borders on the ground are not about to go away, satellite television has already opened
up the airwaves. It is all the more necessary for the print media now to go pan-South Asian, in
order to provide the kind of in-depth reportage and analysis which is not television's forte.
As South Asian journalism becomes a reality, and this magazine is part of the process, long-held
geopolitical dogma on all sides will erode. To be replaced by what? Hopefully, a South Asia
where borders remain but ideas mingle, trade flows, and economies resurrect.
South Asia is an east-west and north-south spectrum of cultures, religions and languages with
some common ingredients. An imprecise, but very South Asian, identity extends from Sri
Lanka's coconut plantations to the Nepali midhills, and from Manipur's jungles to the rugged
Baluchi terrain. Afghanistan, the Tibetan plateau and Burma, too, are more part of this region
than of any other.
It is the journalistic instinct that impels us here at Himal South Asia, and we are aware that an
excessively emotional idealism is bound to be wasted. On the other hand, one has to have some
of it. This is why we have decided to wait no longer for geopolitics to improve in South Asia.
Publishing a regional magazine, we might be able to help drive that process forward.
There you have it. You hold a copy of the launch issue of Himal South Asia, incarnated from
an earlier magazine that was Himalayan in scope.
With that, we bid you welcome—to South Asia!
ia,'*l    l . Nor*west makes if easYt0 9° »o America.
With a choice of 8 gateways. And connection to 200 cities beyond
fe sra?»Sj£rbest:    generous free fli9ht ^*« *
Northwest has daily 747 flight via Tokyo or ^^ ^ ^ in NePd :
Seoul straight to the U.S.A.
Be sure to ask about WorldPerks, the most
Malla Treks,
Malla Hotel Arcade,
Kathmandu, Tel. 418 389
Vol 9 No 1
March 1996
Contributing Editors
Staff Writer
Editorial Assistant
Senior Executive
Kanak Mani Dixit
Afsan Chowdhury
Manik de Silva
Beena Sarwar
Mitu Varma
Deepak Thapa
Rachana Pathak
Basanta Thapa
Suman Shakya
Sujata Chhetri
Balaram Sharma
Mamata Manandhar
Chandra Khatiwada
Himal South Asia is published monthly
by Himal Inc. Pvt. Ltd.
PO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel:+977-1-523845, 522113
Fax: 521013
Library of Congress Card Catalogue
Number 88 912882
ISSN 1012 9804
Printed at Jagadamba Offset Pvt.Ltd., Nepal.
Tel: 521393, 536390
Information for
New Readers
Himal magazine was started
in 1987 as a journal for the
Himalayan region. With
this March 1996 issue, the
Kathmandu-based magazine
transforms into the first and
only South Asian magazine.
Every month, Himal South Asia
provides readers in the Subcontinent and overseas with
reportage and commentary on
_ issues and trends that affect
the region's 1.3 billion people.
15      The Subcontinent of
Sub-Saharan Asia
by Mahbub u! Haq
18      Guns 'n' Rotis
by Mitu Varma
21 The Small Blue and Green Army
by Deepak Thapa
22 Always a Bridesmaid,
Often a Bride
by Afsan Chowdhury
24      Ploughshares into Swords
by Manik de Silva
26      Statistics of Shame
28      Skewed Priorities in Pakistan
by Beena Sarwar
42      The BJP's Neighbourhood
by Rachana Pathak
51      No Cricket in Dhaka
by Zayd Aimer Khan
57      Stateless in 1997
by Yojana Sharma
53      The Comeback of Urdu
by Farjad Nabi
55      Are Half Truths OK?
by Broughton Coburn
5        Mail
Lumbini, Not Disneyland
Unfair lo Tsongs
Divided State
Unfair to Lepchas
Sikkim, Awake
Porters or Choppers
Silence of Buddhist Women
South Asian Avatar
10      Commentary
No Crystal Ball for Sri Lanka
Lhotshampa Show Some Initiative
A Watershed on the Mahakali
Crooks Until Proved Innocent
For Whom the Polls Toll
How to Lose Friends, Make Enemies
31      Briefs
Tibet's Pilgrim Refugees
Toilet Training
Going Organic in Pakistan
Border Porters
A Tale of Two Four-Wheel-Drives
Forget Goa, Head for Kuakata
Pining for Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai
Broadsheet Explosion in Kathmandu
36      Analysis
High Dams for Asia:
Neo-Gandhian Maoists
vs. Nehruvian Stalinists
by Dipak Cyawali
46      Opinion
N.N. ]ha
Rajmohan Gandhi
49      Saarconomy
59      Profile
Bard of the Brahmaputra
by Sanjoy Hazarika
62      Young SouthAsian
64      Abominably Yours
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
Cover picture by Raghu Rai: Indian navy exercise
Inset courtesy Gorkhapatra
Mystical, Magical...
Exciting, Exotic, Enchanting.
Royal Sepal - Nepal's own international Airlines operates regular flights to Kathmandu from London, Paris and Frankfurt   You can warm to the gentleness ofNepalese culture, tradition and the authentic spirit ofNepalese hospitality aboard.
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TEL: 220757. FAX: 977-1-225348
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Lumbini, Not Disneyland
The article "Lumbini as Disneyland" by
Rachana Pathak (Nov/Dec 1995) has
encouraged me to write a few comments
as someone who has been going to
Lumbini every year or so and who has
been stationed at Lumbini since
November 1995.
The article says Kenzo Tange's master
plan needs to be reviewed as the Lumbini
Development Project (LDP) has completed only 15 percent of the work in 20
years. However, the article failed to
underline that besides corruption,
politicised leadership and uninterested
bureaucrats, the main reason for the delay
was what can only be termed 'effortless
The Lumbini Development Trust may
be blamed for giving preference to those
with money, but there are also those
without money with the will and devotion
to do something for pilgrims at the
binhplace of Lord Buddha. Bhikkuni
Sangh Nepal, Vietnam Phat Quoc Tu
France, Dhamodaya Shabha Nepal and
the Homestead Corporation Japan are
some of those who make do with zeal
what they lack in resources.
Siddhartha Gautama is a son of
present-day Nepal and the light of all
Asia, and it is important that we rise
above the cacophony to show respect for
all those who have faith in the ninth
avatar of Lord Bishnu. Even the Rana
regime, which out-casted those who
bowed to a lama guru (Kushyo Rimpoche)
and expelled Theravadin bhikkhus from
Nepal in 1923, enforced a ban on animal
sacrifice at the Maya Devi temple,
otherwise known as Rupandehi Mai. This
was possible at the initiative of the late
D.A. Dharmacharya during the time of
Chandra Shumshere. Also at that time,
the temple was renovated under the
honorary managership of the jamindar of
the village.
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
Some basic information provided in
Ms Pathak's article is not correct. The
Nippon Myohoji Shanti Stupa might
obstruct the view of the Ashok pillar, but
at a distance of more than 2 km! This is
like saying that the Dharahara obstructs
the view of Ghanta Ghar in downtown
Kathmandu, The Vietnam Phat Quoc Tu
temple does not go against the permissible 60 feet height limitation, as the
reporter claims.
Here 1 would like to state that times
have changed in Nepal, and it is not
possible to demolish stupas as was
possible under the earlier dispensation,
when the Viswa Shanti Stupa on
Pokhara's Andu Hill was demolished with
the help of infantrymen, and land donors
were put in separate prisons in Pokhara
and Lamjung for 18 months when
Shanker Raj Pathak was zonal commissioner of Gandaki. Nor will it be possible
any more to drive out those who
have faith in Buddhism and in the
Sakyamuni, or to start afresh sacrifice at
the Mayadevi temple!
Let us not torget that the momentum
for developing Lumbini has been possible
only after the dawn of democracy in
Nepal, Other than the Mustang
Monastery, Nepal Mandir, Sri Lanka
Pilgrim Guest House and the Hotel
Hokke, all 18 other associations that
have registered with the Trust did so
after 1993. What we can expect now,
finally, is steady growth and
No one has come to Lumbini with
a magic rod and big funds. All
individual associations have to plan
carefully and raise money before they
can implement their projects. Also,
let us not mix up LDP's responsibilities with the need for local development of the surrounding villages of
Melhavar, Padaria or Parsa. The case of
Buddhanagar is entirely different, as it is
inhabited by 'refugees'. Bringing socioeconomic progress to these villages is the
responsibility of the concerned offices of
His Majesty's Government.
All in all, I prefer the lama's peace
chantings to Hindi film music of picnic
groups in Ms Pathak's Disneyland.
Dharma Man Newa
Bhairahawa, Nepal
Unfair to Tsongs
I was surprised to leam upon reading
Ludwig Schaefer's article "A Sikkim
Awakening" (Sep/Oct 1995) that the
Tsong (Sikkimese Limbus) are Buddhists.
If this is true, why is there not one Tsong
monastery in Sikkim? How does the
writer account for the Phengdangma
(Limbu priest), Manghims (Limbu
temples) and Yumaism (the religion of the
Kiranti and the Limbu)? He is also
incorrect in the claim that all the Lepcha
(Rong) are Buddhist. Rather, most of the
Lepchas follow their own ancient traditional and religious customs, which are
close to those of Tsongs.
I ::»' :;   i
Schaefer admits that the Tsong are
one of the indigenous people of Sikkim
but goes on to say that their demand for
scheduled tribe status is unreasonable.
This, despite the fact that the other
indigenous groups of Sikkim, the Bhutia
and the Lepcha, and even the non-
indigenous Sherpas, Drukpas and Kagates
(Yolmos), have already been classed as
such. I do not understand what the writer
finds unreasonable in this demand.
Regarding Tsongs' acquiring the
protected lands of Bhutias and Lepchas,
he should know that the Tsong have
never laid any claim on the sacred land of
the Rong, who were settled much earlier
than the Bhutia. If western Sikkim (the
region inhabited by Tsongs) is indeed the
most developed region of the state, why
would they covet other regions more
backward than their own?
The writer, as a lover of the Himalaya
and its people, could have suggested that
both the Rong and the Tsong communities be protected. However, due to his
blind admiration for Buddhism and
Buddhist culture, he has been unjust to
the Tsong.
Amrit Subba (Limbu)
Bijanbari, Darjeeling
Divided State
Corruption does exist in Sikkim, but to
single out the state as Ludwig Schaefer
does is hardly fair. Such practices prevail
in every comer of India and in every
country of the world, including Schaefer's
own. The CCS (Concerned Citizens of
Sikkim), to whom the writer seems so
close," itself is corrupt. Is it true, for
example, that a package of IRs 3 crore had
a role in calling olf the hunger strike7
To learn the facts, Schaefer should
have stayed in Sikkim longer. Copying a
few facts from local newspapers and
assembling them into an article to be
published from another country does not
make sense. Why could he not publish in
Sikkim itself? Was it that no one heeded
him here?
Why does Schaefer, who is so
concerned about Bhutias and Lepchas,
not feel the same for the Nepalis, who too
are original inhabitants of Sikkim? The
Supreme Court of India, in its final
hearing of Bill No. 78 (R.C. Poudyal vs.
The Union of India)—popularly known as
kalo bill in Sikkim—stated that Bhutias
migrated from Kham in Tibet around
1400 BC, and within a few years the
Nepalis had arrived from the eastern part
of Nepal.
rm one perspective, Lepchas are
the only original inhabitants ol Sikkim.
The Bhutia, though in a minority, hold
high government positions (10 out of 15
important departments), have biggest
landholdings m Sikkim, and are by far the
richest ol all of Sikkim's communities.
The Constitution of India has reserved 13
seats for them in the Sikkim Legislature,
which gives them considerable political
leverage. Furthermore, they, together with
Lepchas, have been classified as tribals
and thus get reservations in everything
from seats for higher education to
government jobs.
At present, Sikkim is perhaps the
only state in which every ethnic group,
sub-group and caste has an association.
There are altogether 17 associations to
voice the demands of tribals—tribal
women, tribal youth, Lepcha, Lepcha
women, Lepcha youth, Buddhist monks,
Lho-Men-Tsongs, Subba Tsongs, Kirat
Rais, Tamangs, Tamu Gurungs, Newars,
Sherpas, Mangars, Mukhias, and Schedule
Castes. In such a state of divisiveness,
Bahuns and Chhetris had refrained from
forming any association until last year,
but they too did so in April 1995.
As far as the Rathong-Chu project is
concerned, there are thousands waiting
with high hopes for its enormous employment possibilities. The project will not
make much of a difference for the Bhutia
since they can easily get a job or start a
business. Should the sacred land of
Yuksum remain barren and idle? While
tourism might earn us some foreign
currency, will it compare to the earnings
that can be made from the power project?
It should also be noted that if the
social, economic and educational rights of
Nepali-speakers are not taken seriously,
they will take to the streets and the
consequences can very well be imagined.
Dlian R. Gurung
Deorali Bazaar, Gangtok
Unfair to Lepchas
Ludwig Schaefer clearly has many
misconceptions about Sikkim. By suffixing 'Lepcha' to 'Bhutia' ('Bhutia-Lepcha'),
Schaefer has done great injustice to
Lepchas, who were the first to inhabit
Sikkim and are a community distinct
from Bhutias. The Bhutia are migrants
from Tibet who wrested control ol Sikkim
from the Lepcha. The writer's claim that
Bhutia-Lepchas are the original inhabitants of Sikkim is like stating that Aryan-
Dravidians were the original inhabitants
of the Indus Valley.
Schaefer refers to the Nepalis of
Sikkim as migrants. It is an unfair and
unjust designation as the not-much-
earlier migrants, viz., the Bhutia, have
been conferred indigenous status.
In any case, the very use of the terms
'indigenous' or 'migrant' is erroneous as
the present-day boundaries of Sikkim
came into existence just some hundred
years ago. Until then, it was just another
wooded tract bordering the modern-day
borders of Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. It
does not behoove a writer said to have
more than a decade's
experience of writing on the
Himalaya to ignore such
basic facts of history.
Vikash Pradhan
Sikkim, Awake
Congratulations to Ludwig
Schaefer on a well-written
story. Also, my praises go to
the CCS on their peaceful but resolute
protest against the state government's
proposal to destroy a sacred site.
As mentioned in the article, it is
certainly a better idea if Sikkim took to
exploiting nature's gifts in a more amiable
way by resorting to tourism. Sikkim's
prospect to attract tourists far surpasses
her hydropower potential. This tourism
potential needs to be developed. The
beauty of the Khangchendzonga range
seen from North Sikkim can be rivalled
only by few other mountain ranges in the
Himalaya. A European explorer once
wrote that Mt. Smiolchu was the most
beautiful mountain peak in the world.
Besides this scenic beauty, Sikkim has the
more than 300 year old Nyingapa
Buddhist culture. Zoologically, Sikkim lies
in the transitonal zone of the Palearctic
and Oriental regions, where there is an
immense variety in the flora, fauna and
Following the examples of Nepal and
Bhutan, the people of Sikkim too, should
take up tourism. Ever since Sikkim's
merger with the Indian Union,the state
has received ample funds from the federal
government for the purpose of development, but how much longer will the
centre sponsor these development
projects at the rate of 5 to 15 crores of
rupees each year? Especially since most
projects end up disastrously. It is really
time for Sikkim to awaken.
Tashi Norden Sherpa
Porters or Choppers
1 recall in the 1970s that we had major
problems finding porters for the trekking
trade. An acquaintance, a Peace Corps
volunteer, assured me that in ten years'
time there would be plenty of porters
available. His prediction proved correct,
for by the late 1980s, porters were
available in abundance even during the
autumn festival period.
What has happened in the Nepali
hills, of course, is that a population
explosion coupled with continuing
economic stagnation has
forced peasants out of their
villages in search of cash
income. This is the reality for*
a large portion of Nepal's
With reference to Kanak
Mani Dixit's article "The
Porter's Burden" (Nov/Dec
1995), it is easy to sound
compassionate and emotional
about the hardship of a
portering life. However, to face stark
reality, who will create jobs for the
After the breakup of the Soviet
Union, not only did Mi-17 helicopters
replace Nepal's hill porters, as Mr Dixit
mentions, but also climbers from the
former Soviet Union appeared on Himalayan peaks to replace high altitude
Sherpas. This is a worrisome trend which
may, in the future, cause significant
disruptions in occupational patterns m
Himalayan climbing.
With regard to the phenomenal
weights that are carried by commercial
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
porters, the standard trekking load is only
25-35 kg. However, 1 have met porters
who refuse to carry these light baskets,
and instead will carry double the weight if
paid accordingly.
Helicopters are used because they are
cheaper than porters for certain types of
loads. However, some development
projects have a policy of using porters
rather than choppers. Long before the Mi-
17s invaded the Nepali skies, when the
expensive French-built Super Pumas were
in use, it would still have been cheaper
not to use porters to ferry construction
material for the Thame hydel plant in
Khumbu. The project however, insisted
on using porters. Similarly, the Swiss-
aided Lamosangu-Jiri road project
deliberately did not use heavy equipment
as they planned to create jobs for the
peasantry of the region.
Such porter-sensitive programmes are
doubtlessly useful, but they are not
enough to provide protection to Nepali
hill porters. Mr Dixit has done well to
describe the hardships of portering in
Nepal, but who is going to help us search
for humane, yet realistic, solutions for the
well-being of hill porters?
Tashi Janghu Sherpa
Everest Trekking
Strength and Silence of
Buddhist Women
While 1 was pleasantly surprised to see
my paper discussed in such depth in Kim
Gutschow's report on the Fourth International Conference on Women in Buddhism, held in Ladakh (Nov/Dec 1995), 1
found her harsh tone offensive.
The paper I presented, "Appropriate
Treasure? Self-Reflections on Women,
Buddhism, and Cross-Cultural Exchange",
was an attempt to probe the complex set
of issues that both connect and separate
Western and Asian Buddhist women. 1
wantedto suggest ways in which mutually
illuminating dialogues could be opened
and sustained among women, living at all
points along Buddhism's broad cultural
Gutschow, however, accuses me of
"reifying the divide between Western and
Asian women." Any close reading of my
paper would have revealed that it was, in
fact, oriented toward challenging rigid
divisions of all sorts: the theoretical
divides between essentialist and
post-structuralist feminist theories, the
philosophical divides between 'Buddhist'
nd 'feminist' thought, and the more
concrete cultural barriers between
Western and Asian Buddhist women.
Middle ways that negotiate between
such extremes seem most appropriate
to me.
Gutschow erred again when quoting
me out of context and misinterpreting my
statement: "Our contemporary Eastern
Buddhist sisters remain at worst mute, at
best anomalous participants in what, from
one perspective, can be seen as a primarily male-dominated religious power
structure." Clearly, the concept of an
oppressive 'patriarchy' may be one
constructed by Western feminism itself,
and therefore inapplicable to women in
other societies. 1 am happily aware from
my own work in Nepal that, as Gutschow
points out, "Buddhist traditions (are not)
as male-dominated as Western feminists
might assume."
According to Gutschow, "the conference boasted several Asian Buddhist
women who were eloquent proponents of
feminism in their respective Buddhist
traditions." Although inspired by the
Asian women who did speak, I was also
disturbed by the more prevalent silence
emanating from the
Tibetan and Ladakhi
women present.
Gutschow herself
laments this situation
many times in the
course of her article,
using words like
"torpid", "bored",
"hollow", and
"strange" to describe
the audience. Despite this understanding,
Gutschow seems eager to create divides
between she and myself by assigning me
an inaccurate argument about Asian
women's silence, while claiming a rather
flat argument about their strength for
herself. By denying them multi-faceted
realities that may involve both strength
and silence, either of these arguments
taken alone objectifies the Asian women
whom both Gutschow and I would prefer
not to "speak for".
In any case, the issue of appropriation has once again reared its ugly head.
With the exception of the Asian female
academics whom Gutschow mentions,
our current discussion in this literary,
English-language forum implicitly
excludes the indigenous women with
whom both Gutschow and I work.
Sara Shneiderman
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
South Asian Avatar
The transition from Himal to Himal South
Asia comes as a surprise, for the reader's
impression was that the Himalayan
magazine was already sustainable, if not
profitable. One cannot help feeling some
degree of skepticism towards the new
'avatar'. To cover a region as varied as
South Asia is a formidable task. It would
probably require much more resources to
maintain the same standard that one
expects from Himal. If simple economics
has dictated that Himal operate over a
larger base, it might be difficult generating
resources on the short term. And with its
being a monthly, can it realistically afford
to be entirely issue-based?
Having closely followed Himal from
its Colombo-published prototype issue,
though, infinitely better a Himal South
Asia than no Himal at all.
Niraj B Shrestha
It came as a surprising but welcome
announcement that Himal was transforming itself into a South Asian magazine. I
trust, however, that the Yeti will not
disappear into the
snows. A maidani
magazine is fine, but
the pahad should
have the last word.
Ramachandra Guha
Readers are invited to comment, criticise or
add to information and opinions appearing
in HSA. Letters should be brief, to the point,
and may be edited. Letters that are unsigned
and/or without addresses will not be entertained. Include daytime telephone number,
if possible
PO Box 7251 Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel 977-1-523845, 522113, Fax 521013
email: himal®
1 would like to
compliment you on
the high standard of
content and the aesthetics of the Nov/Dec
1995 issue. A rare quality of a broad and
humane vision of the region comes
through in the magazine and helps
capture the unity as well as the diversity
of this unique part of our planet. 1 wish
you success in your endeavour to launch
Himal as a South Asian magazine.
I have some serious reservations about
Himal's shifting to a South Asia focus and
wonder how you will differentiate yourself from other magazines of the region.
We especially enjoy Abominably Yours,
and, if she goes, we go. Keep her on!
David Jones
Berkeley, California
On the first point, there is no other regional
magazine in South Asia. On the second, by
popular demand, she stays on. Eds.
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
Sep/Oct 1995
Fighting for
Ludwig Schaefer, who wrote the cover story on
the Rathong Chupower project ("Sifekim Awakening" Sep/Oct 1995), provides an update on
what has happened since. (See also mail section.)
ON 13 December 1995, the Sikkim High
Court delivered its final judgement regarding the RathongChu Hydro Electric Project,
which is opposed by the Concerned Citizens of Sikkim (CCS). The judgement was
given in favour of the respondent, thus
allowing the State Power Department to
begin work in the sacred region of Yuksum.
The verdict came as a surprise to many
in Gangtok, since, during the proceedings,
the Power Department's lawyer had not
been able to counter the effective argumen-
tationofRajeevDhavan, a well-known Delhi-
based Supreme Court advocate. Even senior
power officials were said to be surprised by
the puzzling victory. More amazing was that
Mr Dhavan's arguments seem not to have
been considered in the final judgement, a
decision that meted out shallow treatment
to the issues at stake.
To top it off, attempts were made by
some state functionaries to give the controversy a communal twist by turning Sikkimese
of Nepali origin against the Bhutia-Lepcha.
The CCS appealed to the Supreme
Court, hoping still to obtain protection of
their religious and cultural rights as ensured
by the Constitution. The Court held its first
hearing on the case on 19 February.
The state government had named P.S.
Ramakrishnan, Dean of the School of Environmental Studies, jawaharlal Nehru University, to a one-man committee to look into
the feasibility of the Rathong Chu Project.
Not only did Mr Ramakrishnan find favour
with CCS' arguments, he also recommended
that the entire sacred Yuksum region be
declared a "national heritage site".
The Government of Sikkim conveniently decided to dissolve the committee.
Spot of the
Buddha's Birth
THE LUMBINI Development Trust, thejapa-
nese Buddhist Federation, and Nepal's Department of Archaeology together,had Prime
Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba call a press
conference in Kathmandu on 3 February to
announce their claim to have found the
"exact location of the Buddha's birth." The
discovery is based on an interpretation of an
inscription on the pillar put up by Emperor
Ashok nearby, which speaks of a stone
marking the spot where the Buddha
was bom.
After chopping down a pipal tree that
stood over the Mayadevi Temple, removing
the nativity statue, demolishing the temple
itself, and digging several metres underneath the sanctum sanctorium, the Japanese-Nepali archaeological team came upon
a slab of rock. The fact that the rock (a
conglomerate) is not native to the area, say
the archaeologists, supports their theory. A
scientific review of the evidence might not
be a bad idea.
STOP PRESS: On 19 February, the Supreme Court granted the CCS a stay
order on the Rathong Chu. The next hearing will be on 26 March.
Nov/Dec 1995
Why Hominid's
Stood Up
IN HIS article "The Porter's Burden", Kanak
Mani Dixit reported on a theory that
backloading by humans was part of homi-
nid evolution, and that it probably promoted "upright bipedalism in people". The
New York Times, suggests in a recent
piece headlined "Did Sex Make Man Stand
on Two Legs?" that the reason might lie
"Bipedalism is a fundamental human
characteristic, yet virtually nothing is known
about its origins," reports John Noble
Wilford. He repeats the standard theory of
upright locomotion: as grasslands took over
(due to global cooling), evolving apes took
to their feet from the rainforests where tree-
dwelling primates lived and foraged.
Such a theory, however, is too narrow
to account for something as broad as
bipedality, in the opinion of Dr C. Owen
Lovejoy, an anatomist. Instead, he proposes
a behavioural explanation that has sweeping implications.
Dr. Lovejoy's hypothesis is that upright
walking began in the relative safety of the
forest floor, not on open terrain. Female
hominids, restricted by the demands of
infant care, would have spent time mostly at
'home'. "So there could have been an incentive for males to free their hands for carrying
food from their wider-ranging foraging. They
could have brought the food back and
exchanged it for sex, which could be
the forerunner of modern human mating
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Sri Lanka
The refusal of the Australian and West Indies cricket teams to play
World Cup matches in Colombo, ironically, was enough to shift
international attention away from the event that had caused that
reluctance in the first place. The event was the 31 January bomb
explosion that devastated Colombo's plush business district and
killed nearly a hundred people, injuring 1500 more.
The message that Vellupillai Prabhakaran and his Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sent was chillingly clear: the Tigers
may have been driven from their lair in Jaffna, but they had not been
de-fanged. Plastic explosives and dynamite hidden in a lorry
carrying rice bags, were what blew up the city centre, destroying
property worth billions of rupees. The imposing central bank
building, one of the biggest and best m the city, and its 2300
employees, took the brunt of the blast.
What differentiated this blast from earlier ones, other than its
magnitude, was that the middle and upper classes—senior Central
Bank officials, business leaders and the like—were killed. Such
people had been immune previously, at least from the physical
effects of terror.
The lion flag of Lanka had been hoisted over Jaffna barely two
months ago at the end of a bloody campaign, in which the death
count was 2000 for the Tigers, and 500 for the military. Though
ejected from their Jaffna stronghold, Prabhakaran has clearly signalled that the fanatically-motivated Tigers retain a frightening
terrorist capability.
The Colombo attack was not necessarily terror for terror's sake.
The tactic was to force the military to help secure vulnerable villages
and thus, to provide more manoeuvrability to the Tigers. The
Deputy Defence Minister and political boss of the armed forces Gen
Anuruddha Ratwatte may also be forced to deploy more troops to
secure Colombo, reducing the strength in the frontlines.
The Operation Riviresa (Sunshine), which drove the LTTE out
of Jaffna, required troop deployments. This led the government to
Colombo's devastated centre
lose ground to the Tigers in the previously largely-secured east. The
strategy now is to retake the eastern province. It is highly probable
that Prabhakaran will utilise suicide cadres, of which he seems to
have an almost inexhaustible supply, to mount attacks on the
southern and central parts of the country, particularly Colombo, to
force troop reductions in the east. Such attacks can also provoke a
backlash on Tamils living among the Sinhalese, a danger the
government has always faced.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her ministers constantly exhort the majority community not to fall into that trap.
Communal rioting in 1983, following the killing by the LTTE of 13
soldiers in Jaffna, cost the country dearly. But the risk of a backlash
always remains. Any attack on Tamils will certainly alienate
the international support the government now has in fighting
a group which Kumaratunga says clings on "to their particular
cult of savage terror" despite her best efforts to resolve the
ethnic problem politically with a package of generous
devolution proposals.
Kumaratunga's dilemma is that the LTTE will almost certainly
not be willing to negotiate, unless the status quo is restored in Jaffna.
Kumaratunga must also sell her political package to the Sinhalese,
many of whom demand a fight to the finish. Prabhakaran too, is
unlikely to meet the President's demand that a "substantial laying
down of arms" must precede any talks. The reality is that no political
package is worth anything without LTTE concurrence. The Tamils
who favour the government's proposals cannot even go to the north.
The biggest plus for Kumaratunga, in an otherwise gloomy scene,
is the war weariness of the whole country. This is particularly true
of the people of the north and east who have taken the brunt of
the fighting.
Kumaratunga hopes that the LTTE can be isolated from those it
claims to represent. However, it is unlikely that the Tigers, who have
never stood an electoral test, will easily let go of their hold on the
Tamils of the claimed homeland in the north and east. There is no
doubt, on the other hand, that Ms Kumaratunga won immense
popularity between January and April 1995, when what was officially called a "cessation of hostilities" was negotiated, and truce
held for a hundred days.
The Tigers broke the truce unilaterally, partly because of their
unhappiness with the popularity the President gained by stopping
the fighting and beginning to supply the north with goods and
amenities that the peninsula had long been deprived of. There were
even instances when the public lit lamps under her picture during
the period of truce.
But now Prabhakaran is trying to make a Jaffna out of Colombo.
Ms Kumaratunga, who is very much a target of the LTTE, soldiers on,
a virtual captive of her security corps—a prisoner in paradise. There
is no crystal ball to indicate where Sri Lanka is headed. A
Bhutan • India • Nepal
The Lhotshampa refugees from Bhutan in the camps of southeast
Nepal have finally raised some dust. Having tarried for over five
years on UN HCR dole, waiting for desultory talks between Thimphu
and Kathmandu to bear fruit, some refugees finally decided that
they wanted to go back home.
March  1996 HIMAL South Asia
Section 144 at the Mechi border
As they crossed the Indo-Nepal frontier at the Mechi bridge in
mid-January on their way to Phuntsoling, the Bhutanese border
town more than a hundred km away, the government of India was,
for the first time, forced to show its hand. It slapped a prohibitory
order (Sec 144 Cr.P.C.) on the rallyists and arrested many, some of
whom remained behind bars in Siliguri more than a month later.
New Delhi, which holds the cards on the crisis due to its
influence over Thimphu, has steadfastly maintained that it desires
no part in a bilateral issue between the two kingdoms. This
translates as strong support for King Jigme Singye Wangchuk,
whose government's determined agenda at the turn of the decade
led to the outflow of the Lhotshampa, who are Nepali-speaking
Bhutanese from the country's south. The arrest of the peace marchers was the first, and forced, act of the Indian government on the
On the refugees' side, too, this was a first. Quarrelsome factions
that call themselves political parties and human rights groups have
l>    mushroomed behind myopic personalities, and a common platform has till date proved impossible. Even while one group sits in
dharna at  the  Indo-Nepal border,  for  example,  another
--     group organises a rival cycle rally in Siliguri. Accusations are flying.
Fortunately for the refugees, so is the dust. Having managed at
last to get coverage in the Indian national dailies, the level of public
*■     awareness where it matters has risen above zero. On 30 January,
West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu wrote to Prime Minister P.V.
Narashimha Rao urging him to try to resolve the problem.
Another significant development has been the support for the
Lhotshampa from the Nepali-speaking populace of Darjeeling,
Sikkim and the Duars, next-door to Bhutan. Partly a function of
jockeying for position in the upcoming general elections in India,
this should be worrisome to Thimphu strategists. At the same time,
it threatens to add an unnecessary 'ethnic' Nepali colour to a matter
which should be seen as a humanitarian issue.
As far as Kathmandu is concerned, in pure theory, this is not
Nepal's problem: the Lhotshampa are Bhutanese who happen to
speak Nepali. Nevertheless, 87,000 refugees are housed in Nepal,
and in four years of bilateral talks, the smart and savvy Bhutanese
diplomatic machinery has managed to waylay at every turn
Kathmandu's blundering efforts at securing a Lhotshampa return.
Thimphu's strategy has been to stonewall the issue while trying
to undercut UNHCR's support for the refugees. If support from the
refugee agency were to dip, and the quality of life in the refugee
camps were to drop below that of the surrounding Nepali countryside, people would leave the camps. The Lhotshampa would join
the South Asian diaspora of Nepali-speakers, and the demographic
threat to the Bhutanese state, as the Thimphu autocrats see it, would
be solved.
In the fifth year of the crisis, however, thinking persons in
Thimphu without a direct role in the depopulation policy must be
worried. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the affair, the crisis has
continued for much too long and has soiled Bhutan's image as a
Shangri La.
The masterful public relations of Dawa Tshering, the world's
longest-serving foreign minister, has ensured thus far that the true
extent of the refugee crisis is not appreciated beyond embassies in
Kathmandu. International media attention on the refugees has been
lacking, and foreign assistance to Bhutan from a few carefully
cultivated donor nations has, if anything, risen.
Nevertheless, even Mr Tshering's peak efficiency has not succeeded in making the refugees disappear into the South Asian night.
The longer the crisis festers, the worse it is for Bhutan's image and,
ultimately, its internal political dynamics. Even an eventual return
of the Lhotshampa will not be without its problems. The peasantry
that was herded out a few years ago would come back with a taste
of the outside world and of politics, and with a sense of having been
This is called painting yourself into a comer. A
Nepal • India
When Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his
Nepali counterpart, Prakash Chandra Lohani, put their signature on
a treaty for the integrated development of the Mahakali river, which
runs along Nepal's western border, it seemed that two unexpected
advances had taken place, one relating to Nepal's domestic politics,
and the other on resource sharing between two South Asians.
Firstly, there was the unbelievable unanimity among the major
political parties in Nepal, those in the ruling coalition as well as the
main communist opposition, that this was the right thing to do. It
came as a welcome departure for a country where India-bashing on
river projects has for decades been the feeding trough on which the
political opposition has fattened, with the communists having been
the best at it.
An agreement as far-reaching as this, dealing with the entire
flow of the mighty Mahakali, was packaged and delivered within a
few hours of negotiation. That the Left Opposition held a National
Executive meeting the next day to "welcome" the accord rather than
condemn it for populist mileage, must mean that political evolution
since the dawn of democracy in 1990 has been much faster than one
had been led to believe from the bellicosity of the national political
scene just a few. months before.
Secondly, with the Cauvery dispute still making the headlines
from India's south, and Narmada and Tehri questioned by outraged
activists, it seemed a wonder that Nepal and India could, like
responsible adults, agree on the joint development of a river to the
benefit of both. When it seemed that you could not utter the words
"high dam" without having all sorts of insults and projectiles hurled
at you nationally and internationally, here was an agreement signed
and delivered to build the highest rock-filled dam in the Himalaya,
and the third-highest on earth (see page 36).
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
Was a new era of infrastructure-building on behalf of South
Asia's poor finally beginning? Were bilateral agreements on water
possible, after all? Had the Indian Government found a formula
to appease industrialising Uttar Pradesh's runaway thirst for
electrical power? And had those uncompromising wild-eyed activists of Tehri finally been sidelined, simply by doing a deal
with a neighbour?
In Nepal, the questions that should have been asked were swept
away by media hype in which all partisan tabloids partook. Mahakali,
said Nepal's water resources minister, was a "watershed" in Nepal's
internal affairs and in its dealings with India.
The two sides are committed to complete the Detailed Project
Report within six months after the treaty comes into effect, arrange
financing within the subsequent year, and complete construction of
the 315 m high dam, to supply energy (from an installed capacity
of 6480 megawatts) to the grid of the two countries by 2003.
The last Indo-Nepal cooperative venture in power generation
was the Devighat project on the Trisuli, which produces only
14 megawatts.
What seems to have happened across the negotiating table at
Shital Niwas, the seat of Kathmandu's Foreign Ministry, was that
India managed to persuade Nepal to accept an "integrated" package
that linked the minor Tanakpur project that lies downstream with
the gigantic Pancheswar project upstream. The Nepali strategy had
been to delink the two, in order to gain maximum advantage from
the Pancheswar project. With India very keen to have the project,
Nepal had been in a position to parlay it for diplomatic advantage
elsewhere, which it has now lost.
What Mr Mukherjee did was to be seen to have magnanimously
more than doubled Nepal's largesse from Tanakpur (which has
been a major irritant in domestic Nepali politics since 1991),
providing 70 million units of electricity and 300 cusecs of water.
While doing so, however, he managed to rope in an agreement for
the development of a project that is incomparably larger in comparison. In essence, Mr Mukherjee'exploited a political lapse among
Nepali parties which had made a nationalistic mountain out of a
molehill of a project (Tanakpur), and made away with a much
greater prize.
Nepal's intelligentsia and media, which might have questioned
the deal, did not because they are not given to reading the fine print.
The Left Opposition, incredibly (from its past performance), saw fit
to keep shut. The main reason seems to have been that, during its
period in government, the communist leaders realised that there
could be no politics in Nepal without a minimum level of
understanding with the powers-that-be in New Delhi. Given
that the Indian government wanted the Pancheswar agreement
so badly (to provide electricity for the industrialising Hindi
heartland of Uttar Pradesh, and, perhaps, employment in the
agitated hills of Uttarakhand), the Left of Nepal seems to have
decided to fall in line with the coalition government of Prime
Minister Deuba.
It will now be absorbing to see how the opponents of the
Tehri project in Uttarakhand countenance this new project.
The Pancheswar dam site is on the Kumaon-Darchula frontier,
200 km from the site of the Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi,
which will be a 260-m high rock-fill dam producing 2000
Nepal has never gone in for high dams before, and the World
Bank-proposed Arun-3 project, which was shot down by activists
on economic grounds, was a run-of-river scheme that had no
significant high dam or reservoir. Pancheswar will have both, and
large. A
It has become fashionable in some puppy (politically upwardly
mobile) circles in India to idolise East Asian models of authoritarian
capitalism and yearn for discipline and order. But, surely, democracy has to be alive and kicking in a country where its institutions
throw the top political elite behind bars and force others to resign
in a scandal that is gigantic even by Indian standards?
It is not as if the Indian people thought their leaders were
squeaky clean, benevolent visionaries. They have no illusions, and
a politician is regarded as a crook until proved innocent. A poll this
month by an Indian newsweekly found that 45 percent of its readers
believed "all" politicians are crooks. Another 51 percent thought "a
significant number" cannot be trusted.
The fact that political heavyweights from across the political
spectrum stand accused in what has come to be known as
"HawalaGate" has led to speculation that all will somehow wriggle
out of the law's grasp. But India's functioning anarchy has ensured
that the judicial machinery—however rusty and slow—is creaking
into action and justice is on its way to the once mighty
of the land.
This too-hot-to-handle scandal would in most likelihood
have been brushed under the charpoy like previous scams had
it not been for a couple of crusading journalists who filed a
public interest litigation in the Supreme Court, which in turn
decided to breathe down the neck of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
All three Congress ministers tainted in the scam have resigned.
For a time it looked like the scandal had delivered a fatal blow to
the chances of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning the April
elections. Its leader, Lai Krishna Advani, promptly relinquished his
seat in Parliament and vowed not to contest elections until his name
is cleared. While Advani's future may be uncertain, his action was
seen as quick damage control on behalf of the party.
However, going by the "smoking gun" theory of motive, it was
Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao who benefited the most by
deciding to let the CBI loose on the nation's politicians. In one
stroke, he stood to decapitate the BJP, neutralise troublesome
colleagues within the Congress party, and come out of the dungheap
smelling like a rose.
Good thinking, but the stink is now enveloping Rao as well
together with his supposedly spiritual and temporal guru: the
controversial Chandraswami, whom the Indian media loves to call
a "godman".
Now, as India's power elite shakily contemplates its fate, an
intense debate has begun on the role of money in electioneering. It
was slush funds from big business to politicos at election time that
spawned the hawala scam in the first place. An average election in
India used to see an estimated INR 670 million dangled as bait
before politicians. In post-liberalisation India, the figure is bound to
be much higher. However, the fear of diary-writing gift-givers and
the humiliation of public exposure may curb the temptation temporarily, at least till the upcoming elections.
Accountability is fast becoming the name of the game not only for
those named in the Jain Dairy but also to those powerful satraps who
once lorded over their fiefdoms with little fear of all the shady stuff
catching up with them.
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
Already, HawalaGate has unleashed a series of scam-lets across
India. In Bihar, Janata Dal president and Chief Minister, Lalloo
Prasad Yadav, has found some dirt sticking to his hitherto spotless
kuna. Down South, the seemingly invincible "Walking Goddess",
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha, finds herself under scrutiny for hosting extravaganzas like her foster son's wedding. And the
Supreme Court has blown the lid off another huge housing scam
involving heftier amounts than the Hawala loot.
In Hindu mythology, it was the churning of the ocean
that squeezed out the ambrosia. There is still a chance that the
present corruption upheaval will make Indian elections
slightly cleaner. A
The 15 February elections in Bangladesh left a government loudly
proclaiming victory, and almost no quarter giving it the benefit of
the doubt. Voting day itself was marked with polling in hundreds
of centres postponed, repolling ordered in many more, and an
election-related death toll of 12. Amidst all this, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Prof Badruddoza Chowdhury said that the
Government had achieved success in the sixth National Assembly
elections and that the new cabinet would once again be under
Begum Khaleda Zia.
The leader of the opposition, Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the
Awami League, maintained that the country was government-less,
and that the BNP's claim to power was illegitimate. She said the
Chief Justice should be asked to form a neutral caretaker government to hold another round of elections. Sheikh Hasina called for
"resistance" from the public and declared the Awami League's
agitation would end only with the announcement of a new date for
national elections.
The opposition did succeed in its plan to turn election day into
a "dead day" marked by a "people's curfew". Even though the results
might be called a "landslide" for the percentage in the BNP's favour,
the minimally attended election gave no indication whatsoever of
the party's standing with the people. In the face of the poor turnout,
the BNP's stance was that the numbers did not matter as much as the
legality of the election, which was a constitutional obligation.
More than legality, it is the moral aspects and popular image
which will decide the shape of things to come. The Election
Commission under Justice Sadeque is not really known for independence and assertiveness, but it did withhold results in 35 seats
and order investigations in centres where turnout was suspiciously
Independent election observers as well as the national and
international press reported largescale rigging. The Fair Election
Monitoring Alliance (FEMA), an outfit enjoying considerable funding support from Western development agencies, categorically
stated that the election was "neither free nor fair".
For more than two years, Begum Zia and Sheikh Hasina have
been staring each other in the eye and waiting for the other to blink.
Both ladies have shown an identical stubbornness while the country
goes slowly under. Neither is willing to back down from her loudly
held position, even though there would be considerable support
from ordinary people for normalcy to return
'V for what?
It is rumoured that Begum Zia will table a bill to amend the
Constitution to provide for a neutral caretaker government, which
would then organise an election of the kind the opposition wanted
the last time around. But, it is said, the Awami League is not
enthusiastic about such a prospect because Begum Zia would get all
the credit. In other words, the swords are still being sharpened.
With the political leadership in the country bent on dragging
the country down, anxieties about the future are heightened. One
way or the other, it was hoped, the elections would be a watershed,
but it was nothing of the sort. There is mounting resentment that
while ordinary people have to live through hard times, politicians
on either side of the barricade are
The country has squandered
its hard-won macro-economic
success—near-zero inflation, soaring investments and a huge foreign exchange reserve. Inflation is
now climbing past the 8 percent
mark. Banks resort to credit curbs
in order to stem inflation, and the
country's performance is being
criticised by the all-important "donors", including the World Bank.
Begum Zia likes to put all the
blame on the Awami League-led
opposition, but the embassies may
yet ask what she has done to bring
them into the political arena.
As the politicians continue to fiddle, Bangladesh is hurting.
The cities are swelling with the rural hungry and the weather plays
havoc with the harvest. Remittances from workers abroad has
dipped, and the garment industry, the mainstay of the country's
exports, is weakened as worried overseas buyers seek other suppliers. Businessmen are weary as shutdowns bring the country to a
And ordinary Bangladeshis are held hostage by the clash of
titanic egos. A
Few can match the skills of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
and her Pakistan People's Party when it comes to creating intimidating opponents and rivals out of whatever is available.
In the 1980s, this tendency helped Mian Nawaz Sharif, former
prime minister and present opposition leader, in his ascent from
being a local Lahore figure with few credentials other than a dislike
for the Bhuttos, to the national political scene. Sharif remained a
major target of the PPP workers throughout the latter half of the
decade. The democratic period after the death of military dictator
Gen Zia-ul Haq has seen no let-up in this campaign by the Bhutto
faithful, although now they have met their match in workers of
Sharif s own Pakistan Muslim League (PML).
Politics in the country remains divided along pro-PPP and
anti-PPP lines, and failure to enter the PPP is no cause of grief for
political aspirants. All they have to do is oppose it, and the stronger
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
the opposition, the brighter his or her chances to
go higher.
When Nawaz Sharif qualified for a seat in both the
National Assembly and the Punjab Assembly from Lahore
in the non-party elections of 1985, his success was largely
due to the big push he received from voters who
had traditionally  backed  the  right wing Jamaat-e-
lslami (JD-
But by the time JI and PML decided to contest 1993
elections separately, Jamaat had lost a number of its voters
to Sharif in the constituency, as indeed elsewhere in the
country. The reason was simple enough. These erstwhile Jl supporters had leamt that the victory of a
candidate, however close to them ideologically,
was beyond their numerical strength, and it served
their main interest in ensuring that PPP nominees
were not returned to the assemblies by voting PML.
Voters shifted allegiance but continued to be cast
against the PPP.
The irony is that Benazir Bhutto, who has always been
considered the more progressive of the two claimants to power
(she still continues to enjoy that distinction, for some mysterious
reason), was then forced to seek alliances with right- wing political
parties. She succeeded in winning favour of some religious parties
such as the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. But,
it is said, only after granting them certain privileges contrary to
her liberal image. In those instances, the PPP achieved its
objectives, but once again its supporters found it difficult to defend
its actions.
The list of compromises is long and this has made it increasingly tougher for the liberal-minded in Pakistan to continue to
support Bhutto. Indeed, many have crossed over to Shanfs side in
the last couple of years, and many more are likely to be tempted.
Meanwhile, rather than check this dangerous erosion of
support, the PPP is working on something that could
ultimately lead to Bhutto facing another political
This time, the PPP's ire is being channelled against Bhutto's fellow Oxonian,
cricket great Imran Khan, and the campaign
has been made easier by the fact that the party
is in power. Advertisements about the cancer
hospital built by Khan in memory of his mother
have been (unofficially) banned on state-run Pakistan Television. Second-rung PPP leaders are already referring to Khan in the same tone as they
have been using for Sharif.
Even Khan's achievements as arguably the
greatest cricketer the country has produced
have been ignored in programmes telecast in
the run-up to and during the current World
■ Cup. The emphasis has clearly been on railroading Khan out of the green, rather than
neutralising his influence.
The policy has earned the PPP many more fresh opponents, and
some in the Pakistani press now see Khan as a strong candidate for
future prime ministership. Khan's apparent reluctance to enter
politics, meanwhile, has shown signs of dissipating lately. Recently,
he went so far as to say that he would join politics immediately if he
could find a team of committed people.
If things follow their normal course, purely in the context of
Pakistani politics, Benazir Bhutto may soon find herself pitted
against a rival who perhaps ranks with Nawaz Sharif in political
acumen, but is far more charismatic. What is more, Khan might find
equally wily mentors from among his assortment of friends as was
available to Sharif and General Zia-ul Haq. A
P.O. Box 1406, Ka
Fax; (97
37; Telex: 2342 SUMMIT NP
 —i^ Alms Race
The Subcontinent of
Sub-Saharan Asia
South Asia is just not prepared to enter the 21st century.
It does not invest enough in its people.
by Mahbub ul Haq
The rest of the world is heading towards peace and
prosperity, but India and Pakistan would not know it.
Despite the crushing poverty of their respective populations,
the two countries are spending $20 billion a year on defence, twice
as much as Saudi Arabia, a country 25 times wealthier. Both
countries have six times more soldiers than doctors. Pakistan
recently bought two French submarines at a cost of $ 1.2 billion, and
India deploys missiles while millions live on pavements.
How tragically comic that after bleeding their economies to
fund defence expenditures, the two governments beg and submit to
all sorts of conditionalities from international lending institutions.
The economic costs of the continuing confrontation between
Islamabad and New Delhi are prohibitive, but policy-makers in the
respective capitals seem unable to recognise what is obvious to
everyone else, that human security is the most important element of
national security.
Some say that there is a need for balance of terror in South Asia.
But where should that balance be set? If people are sleeping on
pavements, ministers have no business shopping for modern jets
and howitzers. While children suffocate in windowless classrooms,
generals go about in air-conditioneed jeeps. Nations might accumulate all the weaponry they want, but they have no strength when
their people starve.
The World Bank, in a report on "the wealth of nations" which
studied 190 countries, points out that 16 percent of the wealth
worldwide comes from physical capital (buildings, roads
machineries), and 20 percent from natural capital (minerals, forests and other resources). Fully 64 percent of the
wealth of nations is human capital. Yet, as we
collect hardware and exploit our natural resources
in South Asia, we do not bother about people.
We all want to be South Korea, but that country
invests $130 per person every year in basic
education.   Malaysia spends  $128.   India
invests nine dollars,  Pakistan three, and
Bangladesh two.
With India and Pakistan leading the way, South
Asia trails behind while the rest of the developing world
surges ahead. Even Sub-Saharan Africa's basket case is doing
better than South Asia in some sectors. Their average adult literacy
rate is 55 percent, compared to South Asia's cumulative 47 percent.
Also, 800 million South Asians do without elementary sanitation,
fully 380 million are illiterate, and 300 million drink from ponds
rather than taps. The scale of social deprivation and human despair
is tremendous.
Global military expenditures, which were at one thousand
billion dollars in 1987, are down to $750 billion dollars today, a
reduction of $4 billion each year. Only two regions increased their
expenditures, the two poorest in the world: again Sub-Saharan
Africa and South Asia. Every other region, including the Middle
East and Latin America, reduced spending. These facts are not
known, and have to be highlighted so that policymakers are
embarrassed into action.
South Asia is just not prepared to enter the 21 st century. It does
not invest enough in its people.
Goddess of Growth
India hopes to be a regional superpower, but cannot become one
with the scale of sheer poverty that exists. Indian policy-makers
must mull over the Chinese growth rate of 12 percent, and see how
China is investing in its people. The lesson of Cold War rivalry is
not that capitalism triumphed over communism, but that political
power not backed by economic strength is unsustainable. The
Soviet Union collapsed because it could not feed its people; all its
tanks, submarines and secret service meant
nothing. Today, India has the largest number
of poor people in the world. If it can
manage to deliver social justice while it
maintains or expands its defence expenditure, then India is welcome to
become the regional superpower.
But it cannot, and thus, should
choose between bread
and guns.
Fifteen   years
ago, in 1980,
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
 Alms Race
the ratio of military to social spending was highest in Iraq (eight
times), Somalia (five times) and Nicaragua (3.5 times), Yet, none
could effectively defend its national security when the challenge
came. On the other hand, Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948, and
now spends one-third of its national income on education, nutrition
and health. Today, it is the only prosperous democracy in a troubled
Central America.
However, economic growth alone is not enough, there has to
be distributive justice. Three decades ago, Pakistan had one of the
highest rates of growth in the developing world, 7 percent a year.
So, why were people protesting out on the streets? The reason was
that economic growth had not touched their lives—income distribution was skewed against the poor. In West Pakistan, where most
of the growth occurred, it was in the hands of landlords and
industrialists—all of 22 families dominated the economy. The
lesson was clear: you have to stop worshipping the goddess of
growth, put people at the centre, enrich their lives, and provide
them with options.
Amidst all the gloom, South Asia itself provides examples of the
dynamism that can be released when human lives are made the
focus. In Bangalore, once they started training people in computers,
the industry took off and India is now the second largest exporter
of software in the world. It presently sells a billion dollars' worth,
and may top five billion by 2000. Before 1971, what was then East
Pakistan did not have significant industry. Bangladeshi businessmen went into ready-made garments, put their skills into it, and
today the country has out-competed India and Pakistan, and is
exporting two billion dollars worth of garments to North America
and Europe.
Towards Civilian Rule
India and Pakistan must take the lead and turn South Asia away
from the abyss. The SAARC organisation, which has remained an
exercise in protocol without substance, must be energised. Each
member of SAARC must agree under a multilateral agreement to cut
five percent of military spending annually, and to earmark the
money released for education and health.
Why spend a million dollars a day to contest the frozen heights
of Siachen? Why not withdraw the troops a few miles down the
ridgeline, continue to argue across a table, and save some money?
Both India and Pakistan must also come to an understanding on the
nuclear issue, rather than keep embarrassing each other in front of
others at United Nations forums, so that an enormous packet of
funds can become available for social needs.
The existing political structures of India and Pakistan are not
conditioned to accept proposals such as these, for they require too
much rationality and statesmanship. For this reason, the people
should take the lead, through energetic advocacy and use of the
increasingly powerful and borderless media. It is time for civil
society to conduct, what I call, a "bypass operation" around reluctant politicians, who are never willing to stake their lives and
reputations for social justice.
Of course, there are tremendous vested interests in the power
structures of the two countries, among policy-makers and military
generals. That is a given. People are hesitant to challenge defence
expenditures because it is camouflaged under the shroud of national security. There is little understanding of the social opportunity costs of buying more and more sophisticated armaments. But
why should we assume that these things are immutable?
Everywhere outside our Subcontinent, people are leading
change, which comes about much faster today because ideas cross
borders much more easily. However, someone must generate those
Return of the Native
As an economist, Mahbub ul Haq started his career with the
National Planning Commission of Pakistan, where he served
from 1957 to 1970. He then joined the World Bank, and
returned in 1982 to serve as Finance Minister under President
Zia-ul Haq for eight years, "probably too long", as he told
Himal South Asia.
Since 1990, Mr Haq has worked with a team of experts
to produce the annual UNDP Human Development Report, with
its emphasis on improving the quality of human lives rather
than merely upping economic growth rates. "After years
doing the UNDP report, I decided that the real challenge is in
this part of the world, in South Asia, with its social deprivation
and human despair," says Mr Haq.
And so, he moved to Islamabad and established the
Centre for Human Development in Islamabad, from where he
plans to produce annual human development reports specifically for South Asia. The documents, says Mr Haq, will be
candid and hard hitting, and governments will be forced to
pay attention. "I shall present the reports to the SAARC
summits, go to the leaders of all seven countries, and try to
convince them that they should invest a little less in arms and
more on people."
Simultaneously, Mr Haq also hopes to organise meetings
of opinion makers from all over the Subcontinent: "You've got
to lift the intellectual curtains which separate these nations."
The UNDP's Reports have had significant impact on governmental policies around the world, according to Mr Haq.
"Whether it is possible to be as successful in South Asia, we
will find out."
ideas. A movement of civil society is not possible without information, which must be generated by researchers and scholars and
disseminated by journalists and activists. Change of the kind that is
required can never be brought about by governments, political
parties or armies, because they all have vested interests. Only the
people of South Asia have the potential to change the complexion
of South Asia.
The swamp of human despair can become a frontier of human
hope once we begin to invest in education, training, and the spirit
of the people. A
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
An international children's foundation registered in Switzerland is seeking a number of
to manage programmes in several locations overseas.
Terre des hommes supports programmes providing a range of services to poor and children in difficult circumstances around the world. A
number of posts for country representatives will become vacant during the first half of 1996, notably in Eastern Europe (Albania, Bosnia and
Romania), in Afghanistan and South Asia and in West Asia (Lebanon).
The Terre des homes Delegate represents the organisation and heads the senior management team providing support and leadership to the
various country programmes. It is Terre des hommes' policy to 'localise' these programmes through the development of local NGOs.
Broad based management experience gained overseas is required along with a good knowledge of child care issues. Good French and a knowledge of other languages useful.
Terms and conditions of service and salary levels will depend on personal circumstances. Applications and full C.V. with passport size photo to:
Suzanne von Allmen, Personnel Department, Case pustule 912, CH 1000 Lausanne 9, Switzerland.
Announcement of Vacant Positions
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) was established in 1983 to promote an environmentally
sound mountain ecosystem and to improve the living standards of the mountain populations of the Hindu
Kush-Himalayas (HKH). This autonomous Centre focuses on the specific, complex, and practical problems of the HKH, covering
all or parts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. The Centre, with an annual budget
of $ 4 million, is answerable to an international Board of Governors. The centre has a staff of about 100, of which 25 are
internationally recruited professionals. Its headquarters is in Kathmandu, Nepal. During the first half of 1996 the Centre intends
to fill in the following three positions.
Vac.96/1 - Farm Economist, Mountain Farming Systems Division
Vac.96/2 - Landuse Planner/Soil Scientist, Mountain Natural Resources Division
Vac.96/3 - Social Scientist, Mountain Enterprises and Infrastructure Division
The common requirements for all of the posts are :
a) Post Graduate degree in the related field from an internationally recognised university.
b) Good writing, presentation and communication skills in English including knowledge of word processing.
c) Proven capabilities through publications and experience to take up the respective responsibilities.
d) Willingness to travel frequently in the region and work harmoniously with persons of different nations and cultures.
e) At least 10 years' experience in related field of which a major part should have been obtained in the HKH Region.
ICIMOD is making a major effort in having an acceptable gender balance among its professional staff and FEMALE CANDIDATES
Remuneration : Salaries and benefits are based on a modified UN system.
Duration : Three years, of which one year is probational, and subject to continuation of present funding levels of ICIMOD.
Starting date : 1st June 1996
Age : Not exceeding 50 years.
Applications : Applications should be made in response to the detailed Terms of Reference for each position of which copies
will be provided on request, quoting the vacancy number. Applications with names of three referees should be
received before 10th April 1996 and addressed to :
M.R. Tuladhar, Head, Administration and Finance
ICIMOD, G.P.O. Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: (977-1) 524509/524317
 Prithvi missiles in New Delhi, 26 January 1996
India is not really over-spending on arms, say New Delhi analysts.
Besides, the neighbours are belligerent.
by Mitu Varma
The obscure district of Purulia in the
rural backwaters of West Bengal had
its day in the sun as 1995 drew to a
close. A creaky Antonov-26 cargo aircraft
with a motley crew from the former
Soviet Republics flew in over Bihar and
dropped a weighty cache of guns and grenades over fields and shrubland, surprising
a sleepy village and sending the Indian
civil and military establishment into a tizzy
over the effortless invasion of national
air space.
The incident was readymade for
pontification by think tank pundits, and in
an ominously worded piece in the Asian Age
daily, former Director of the Intelligence
Bureau M.K. Narayan warned of "what is
possibly a well-planned and internationally-directed transfer of arms to pockets of
turbulence in Asia and Africa from countries with surplus weaponry..."
That might or might not be the case,
but just about a month later, all hell broke
loose on the India-Pakistan border after a
rocket landed in a mosque in the Pakistani
border village of Kahuta, killing 22 civilians.
Islamabad said the Indians had fired the
rocket, while New Delhi disowned responsibility and suggested that it was misfired by
the Pakistani side while attempting to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations across
the frontier.
A day later, even as the guns boomed
on both sides, came the news that US President Bill Clinton had given assent to a bill
allowing a one-time waiver on the Pressler
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
1 J,»wi
 Alms Race
Amendment, to enable the supply of $368
million worth of arms to the Pakistan military. The Pressler Amendment bans the sale
of weaponry to countries with nuclear weapons programmes, and the waiver came on
the heels of a CIA report that Beijing had
violated US anti-proliferation laws by exporting nuclear weapons technology to
Islamabad (in addition to an earlier sale of
M-ll missiles).
Justifiably Anxious
When asked to respond to the South Asian
doves who clamour for the peace dividend,
hawks in the Indian defence establishment
are only too glad to point to these recent
incidents—arms drops, cross-border
shootouts, a superpower looking the other
way while Pakistan goes nuclear. They cite
these instances as proof of the deteriorating
regional security environment, which they
say gives enough cause to warrant increased
expenditure on India's military machine.
"Make no mistake, the threats to India
are very severe," says Maj Gen Dipankar
Bannerjee, Deputy Director of New Delhi's
prestigious Institute for Defence Studies and
Analysis (1DSA). "Though a major war with
China or Pakistan does not seem likely,
there is the intensive proxy war launched by
Pakistan in Kashmir, and the Northeast is
disturbed by ethnic insurgency. And there
are other groups active in Bihar, Andhra
Pradesh and elsewhere."
Defence analyst C. Rajamohan, too,
does not buy the suggestion that the country's
military bill is too large. He says: "India's
defence expenditure is at below three percent of the GDP. It is one of the lowest in the
developing world, and not enough to keep
the Indian military at its current level of
Mr Rajamohan asserts that India needs
to raise its defence spending to at least 3.5
percent of its GDP if it is to replace obsolete
equipment, modernise, and develop indigenous capability—especially because the
former Soviet Union as India's chief arms
supplier was unable to keep its commitments. He adds: "Though relations with
China have improved, those with Pakistan
have worsened. And now the waiver of the
Pressler Amendment has revived the US-
Pakistan strategic and arms relationship."
Mr Rajamohan and other defence experts point to several factors which have
increased India's defence vulnerability. The
recently sanctioned US arms sale to Pakistan
will make India's commercial shipping and
long coastline vulnerable to Pakistani strikes.
Islamabad's recently-purchased 40 Mirage
2000E aircraft have the ability to jam guidance systems of India's Soviet-supplied surface-to-air missiles.
Besides, there's China. In a recent report, the Parliament's Standing Committee
on Defence stated, "Despite warming relations with China, China is and is likely to
remain the primary security challenge to
India in the medium and long terms... India
has no option but to continue to develop
and upgrade its missile capability..."
And that, indeed, is what the Indian
defence establishment is doing.
Missile Mania
Ignoring loud protests from Washington
DC and Islamabad, on 27 January, India
went ahead and test-fired the long-range
version of Prithvi, its indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile. The new
delivery system, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, belongs to a family of
five missiles produced by India's Defence
Research and Development Organisation
(DRDO). The other four are the Agni, Trishul,
Akash and Nag, of which the 200-km range
Agni is also capable of carrying nuclear
Increasingly strident articles in the national dailies have been urging the government to exercise its nuclear option and
conduct an atomic test before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is ratified. In a
report from London, Pravin Sawhney, a
visiting fellow at the Royal United Services
Institute for Defence, wrote, "The big challenge for the new government in India in
1996 is not whether it has a nuclear bomb
which will work or which may work, but to
justify tax-payer's money if the intention is
not to produce Agni with a cost-effective
and sensible nuclear warhead."
The Trishul and Akash missiles can
protect the Indian Army's tanks and
armoured columns from Mirage attacks.
The former has an effective radius of 9
kilometres. The DRDO is also developing a
naval version to counter the AM-39 missiles
carried by Pakistan's Agosta submarines,
which can destroy both ships and strategic
shore installations. The Akash missiles can
ward off American-build PC-3 Orion naval
surveillance planes that form part of the
Pakistani air power.
The development of indigenously built
missiles is part of India's effort to attain self-
reliance in defence and to stave off threat of
sanctions from Western supplier nations
only too keen to control the spread of missile and nuclear technologies. India's Ministry of Defence has a ten-year plan by the end
of which, i.e. 2005, it hopes to retain 70
percent of its over $3 billion annual arms
shopping budget for local purchases.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister P.V.
Narasimha Rao unveiled Arjun, the 58.5
tonne, $300 million main battle tank (MBT)
meant to replace Russian-built T-72s. The
Arjun, which is rated among the top three
Akash test
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
 Alms Race
MBTs in the world, will go into production
by 1997. A little before unveiling Arjun,
Prime Minister Rao had tried out the cockpit
of a 21 million-dollar prototype of a light
combat aircraft (LCA) scheduled to be deployed by 2002 to replace ageing Soviet
Guns V Rotis
Says Rahul Bedi, the New Delhi Correspondent for fane's Defence Weekly: "India needs
to replace at least a third of its naval equipment, one half of its army supplies, and fully
two-thirds of its air force hardware, if it is to
maintain an optimum level of defence preparedness."
This will not be possible within the
1995-96 national budget, however, which
allocated only $7.3 billion for defence, marking an increase of $704 million over the
previous year. Against an inflation index of
11.3 percent, defence spending is actually
down in real terms.
This miserly treatment of the military
will not allow India to go in for arms acquisition of any major consequence, and even
medium scale modernisation will require
more budgetary allocation. But if the cash-
squeeze continues, India will find it difficult
even to supply the urgent requirements of
the military, such as advance trainers for the
air force, ships, submarines and aircraft
carriers for the navy, and self-propelled
guns for the army.
There are some scholars, however, who
believe that the defence establishment is
merely raising the bogey of war in order to
divert scarce resources from development
to defence. Delhi University economist Dilip
The Arjun main battle tank
Swamy: "We have had no war since 1972,
and yet our defence expenditure has steadily
increased. It may at times have gone down
as a percentage of GNP, but in actual terms
it hasn't."
Adds Mr Swamy, "The budget amount
may seem relatively small, but the actual
amount of military spending is bound to be
larger." He is not optimistic about the peace
dividend either. The reins of the Indian
economy are in the hands of the elite, which
is not development-oriented and is easily
swayed by the demands of the defence establishment, he adds.
On the other side of the fence, Mr
Rajamohan says it is wrong to correlate high
defence expenditure with low growth.
"Countries can break out of the cycle of
poverty only through higher growth rates,
and not by changing resource allocation
patterns to meet with development expenditure." Look at South Korea, says Mr
Rajamohan, which has both impressive
growth rates and a high defence expenditure. "Even in the Gulf, there have been
remarkable improvements in human development indicators despite high defence
"India has to take necessary steps to
safeguard its national interests," says Maj
Gen Barmerjee. "Instead of eyeing the defence budget, the government should cut
the massive public subsidies, which are a
complete waste and which amount to 40
percent of the spending in the military."
Outspoken former Foreign Secretary
J.N. Dixit, too, pooh poohs the suggestion
of diverting money from defence to development. That might be feasible elsewhere,
but will not work in South Asia for at least
another decade. "The atmosphere of trust
and political compromise which has to develop for such an idea to work just is not
there at present," Mr Dixit says.
But what of those, like Mahbub ul Haq,
who propose a campaign to bring India and
Pakistan to their senses, and to reduce their
military spending? Mr Dixit replies: "In the
profession in which I have been, I look at
realities as they exist. 1 cannot afford to be a
dreamer." £>
Prime Minister Rao in LCA cockpit
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
The Small Blue
and Green Army
by Deepak Thapa
Royal Nepalese Army deployed against people's movement oj 1990
Nepal has not fought a war since
1856. Of course, as Gurkhas
(Gorkhas), hill people from Nepal
have fought and died in other peoples' wars.
But, it has been a long time
since they have been asked to march out
for Nepal.
The Royal Nepalese Army, as it is formally known, was the outcome of Prithvi
Narayan Shah's sallying (orth from his hilltop palace in Gorkha to conquer and unify
what is present-day Nepal. It is this association with the creation of the nation that
officers in the Nepali army are proud of, and
one that is often forwarded in support of its
continued maintenance.
For there are those in Nepal who feel
the army may have outlived its purpose.
They point to the futility of keeping an army
to counter the Indian or Chinese juggernauts, and argue that a country that likes
to flaunt its status as a  "peace zone"
cannot have it both ways. An expensive
standing army, said an unusually candid
economic column in The Kathmandu Post
daily, is like a "white elephant wearing an
olive-green outfit".
Sensitive to this criticism, the army top
brass maintain that their role is somewhat
larger than protecting the hill and tarai from
aggression, for which the army is "prepared
enough". They point to the contributions of
the army during peacetime.
The list is impressive. As the official
guardians of Nepal's national parks
since 1975, the men in green have served
an environment defence role, and their
rapid mobilisation during floods, landslides
and earthquakes that regularly strike the
Himalayan kingdom makes the Royal
Nepalese Army a kind of a stand-by
rescue force.
Lately, the army has also been building
roads. And, since 1958, the army, donning
the blue helmet of UN peacekeeping,
has brought considerable foreign exchange
to soldiers' pockets and the national
Defence officials say the army is also
necessary for internal security, and recall
the 1970s when the army was asked to put
down the CIA-funded Nepal-based Khampa
rebels who were making things difficult for
the Chinese in Tibet. Given the ethnic,
regional and ideological aspirations simmering just below Nepal's seemingly calm
political surface, a strong deterrent is essential in the form of an army, they say.
Actually, it is not the army's mission,
but its size and the cost of maintaining is
what critics object to.Even the number of
soldiers is secret. "That would be telling,"
was the coy answer of the spokesman for the
Defence Ministry, but it is generally believed that the military is 50,000 strong.
The army does not lend itself to easy
scrutiny. In fact, probing of any kind is
discouraged, fuelling speculation that there
is much that the army has to hide. It seemed
that the era of hush-hush might end when a
corruption scandal extending
to the top brass broke a year ago. That did
not happen.
Sources say that the spending on the
army (Nepal has neither an air force nor a
navy) is much higher than the 6 percent that
has been shown in the budget for years.
Funds are said to be siphoned off from other
fiscal headings, bringing the total considerably higher than the 1 percent of GNP it is
made out to be. A change in status quo
cannot be expected at this point, however.
Political players in Nepal's multiparty
democracy have a love-hate relationship
with senior army officers, who make no
secret of where their loyalties would lie if
asked to choose—the Royal Palace. The
most telling instance was in the Spring of
1990 when soldiers were a trigger-squeeze
away from firing upon the public as it demonstrated against King Birendra's absolute rule.
As things stand, there is little likelihood
of a reduction in the size of the Nepali army
and the military sees no reason to be apologetic. Besides, it is currently riding high
after having been asked by the United Nations to keep a standby force of 2000 men
for rapid deployment.
Due to its long peace-keeping experience and because South Asian countries are
being increasingly asked by the UN to serve
as peace-keepers, the army is thinking of
establishing a peace-keeping training centre
in Nepal. That might be something to occupy a sizeable army in a tiny state.        A.
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
 Alms Race
Always a Bridesmaid,
Often a Bride
As squabbling politicians paralyse the country, will popular
demand bring the army out of the barracks?
by Afsan Chowdhury
For a company that once ousted both
the party presently in power as well
as the main opposition, the
Bangladesh armed forces in 1996 appear
decidedly reluctant to do an encore. As the
long-standing political crisis escalated into
a national election entirely boycotted by the
Opposition, some wondered whether a
stretch of army rule might not be such a bad
idea after all.
The links between the armed forces and
mainstream politics began to be forged in
1971, when, at huge risk, Bengali soldiers
crossed over to the nationalist army. However, in newborn Bangladesh the military
found it had no role to play other than when
called occasionally to impound illegal weapons and ration cards. Sheikh Mujibur
Rahman, the country's founding father,
imposed one-party rule, national emergency
and even raised the Rakkhi Bahini, a personal para-military guard. Taking advantage of the considerable socio-economic
chaos, a section of the army assassinated
Sheikh Mujib, killed most of his family
members, and sent his party, the Awami
League, packing into exile from power,
which has now lasted 20 years.
The August 1975 coup was not merely a
reflection of public unhappiness expressed
through military hands, but a sign of internal military discord as well. It unleashed
Celebration of Arms: Tank outside Dhaka Cantontment lit up for Shab-E-Bahh
more coups by contending factions. On 3
November 1975, a group led by war hero
and the army's number two, Gen Khaled
Mosharraf, took over. Four days later, the
charismatic veteran Col (retd) Taher, supported by a leftist civil-military combine,
dislodged them. But before the night was
over, the soldiers had opted for Gen Ziaur
Rahman, the army chief jailed by Khaled for
refusing to go along with his plan. Gen Zia,
the most popular figure of the liberation
war, emerged as a hero on 7 November
1975. He put the radicals behind bars
and did away with a large number of them.
In the following years, while civilian
politicians fought their petty battles and
party- hopped, factions in the military periodically tried to take over. Between 1975
and 1980, Zia put down over 20 coups,
before he was himself gunned down by
fellow liberation war veterans in May 1981.
Zia had by then become President, having
founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party
(BNP). Zia's widow, Khaleda Zia, today
leads this party.
Although Gen H.M. Ershad, the then army
chief, did not take over as expected when
Zia was assassinated, he did so a year later,
in March 1982. He declared a "war against
corruption" and promised to return to the
barracks within two years. But, by the end
of those two years, he had gained a reputation as a serious "crony capitalist". Ershad
was also the moving force behind the formation in 1986 of another military-backed
political party, the Jatiyo Party.
Ershad was also the first takeover
supremo without a liberation war background. He felt that much of the discord
within the army was due to friction between
those who had taken part in the liberation
war and those who had not. He systematically eased off most of the senior officers
who had fought in 1971, which did reduce
internal tension. The officers who remained
were younger, and said to have strong links
to civilian society. Meanwhile, the retired
and released officers did well in business
and politics.
However, opposition to Ershad
mounted, due to the aura of corruption
around his Jatiyo Party, plus general resentment over the open and covert military
control of the civilian administration. Both
Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina of the
Awami League, and Khaleda Zia, (the assassinated General's spouse), of the BNP proved
to be determined opponents.
The opposition understood—what
Ershad  apparently  did  not—that   in
March   7996 HIMAL South Asia
Bangladesh it is the urban populations that
had a decisive say in political matters. Thus,
while Ershad basked in rural support, the
asphalt of Dhaka and other cities
ignited in revolt. There was a feeling that the
general had damaged the army's image,
and so when it came to the crunch the
officers refused to bail him out. They felt
more threatened by his unpopularity
than by the civilians demonstrating against
martial law.
The army, especially the mid-level and
junior officers, approved of Ershad's departure, and the public agitation carried
the day. Ershad is now in jail under
various charges, including a 14-year-old
one of having plotted the murder of Gen
Manzur, who had himself been accused of
killing Gen Zia.
The Will To Intervene
The BNP's unexpected win in the 1990
elections, held under a neutral caretaker
government, did not help its relationship
with Awami League, which had been sour at
the best of times. Since then, it has gone
from bad to worse, leading the whole country into chaos. Over the last two years, the
deadlock between the two parties has successfully resisted mediation, local, national
and international.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission
asked the army in January 1996 to help the
police in collecting unauthorised arms to
ensure a peaceful atmosphere for the polls.
This caused considerable embarrassment to
the armed forces, as it was going to be their
first public engagement after the departure
of Gen Ershad. The well-nurtured image of
a non-controversial army was bound to be
The national political standoff is not
expected to be resolved after the elections.
As chaos and violence escalate, will the
army be forced to step in? Maybe, but there
are restraining factors.
"The military finds no reason to intervene because the soldiers are earning good
wages as UN peacekeepers, and martial law
imposition may threaten that," says Imtiaz
Hussain of Dhaka University, a military
watcher. He adds: "The donor governments
have also stated that they would disapprove
of a military takeover, so why should
they be rash? After all, their status is not
But, if the situation worsens and the
military has to play a more active "peace
keeping" role at home, the neutral image
gained in the last few years may also come
under attack. Gen Abu Saleh Md. Nasim,
the present army chief, is not known to be
keen towards any party and is said not to
favour martial law rule. "You see, the military does not need to take over the country
to protect its interests," explains Amir
Khasru, a journalist. "It is practically
guaranteed by the administration.
A takeover will only put all that
into risk."
With access to dollar incomes in UN
duties, guaranteed benefits during and after
service, and de facto acceptance of their
privileged position in the state hierarchy,
the incentive to intervene will certainly have
to be compelling. Mr Hussain believes that,
while the army is elitist in character, it has
changed in complexion over the years and
many officers will be reluctant to oust a
civilian government, something their predecessors might have done without compunction.
Most analysts believe that the
military will take over only if requested by
the Government, the Opposition and (most
importantly) "the donors". Says Mr Khasru,
"It is also a question of image management.
They would like to be seen as fulfilling an
onerous responsibility rather than looking
after themselves."
In a recent survey by a Dhaka think
tank, 49 percent of the people polled
opposed martial law. Yet, few approved
of the civilian politicians. Should the
situation deteriorate, and the political
crisis deepen, the military may become the
only option, whether anyone wants it
or not. And that could include the
military itself. A.
Are you a south asian scholar ?
Do you feel that you have to shed country-centric thinking, transcend borders and initiate dialogue on a number of issues that increasingly
need to be addressed on a regional basis?
As a scholar, trying to develop a 'regional' perspective on live issues, do you feel enormous difficulty in gaining access to peers who are
pursuing research on a 'local' level? Do you fear intellectual isolation?
Announcing, the formation of the FELLOWSHIP IN SOUTH ASIAN ALTERNATIVES (FISAA).
FISAA is a collaboration of a group of networking institutions from the countries of the region. It is implementing a one-year pilot programme
where scholars from the non-governmental sector will get together in joint intellectual exercises designed to break the intellectual barriers that
separate South Asian societies.
FISAA envisions creating a pool of scholars from which the faculty of a proposed South Asian University could be drawn in future. Able to
create and teach courses to students from across the region, the faculty will initially engage in research on issues that affect the region, such as:
Nuclear Disarmament
Ethnicity and Violence
Trade and Economics
Women Trafficking/AIDS
Water Management
Culture and Society
Resource Management
Drug Abuse
FISAA is an ambitious programme which hopes to grow as a link between the intellectual communities of South Asia, across borders and
disciplines. To succeed, FISAA requires the input and participation of the intelligentsia from all over South Asia and overseas. This is not an
announcement requesting fellowship applications. We are, at this time, inviting comments and queries from young South Asian scholars, who
can write to any of the following individuals.
Bangladesh : Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, BASGAT, 1/203 Easter Place, 21, Siddheswari Lane, Dhaka-1217
India : Dr. Ashis Nandy, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, 29, Rajpur Road, New Delhi
Nepal : Mr. Ajaya Mani Dixit, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation, GPO Box 2221, Kathmandu
Pakistan       : Dr. Zia Mian, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad, P.O. Box 2342
Sri Lanka    : Dr. Iftekhar Zaman, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, 4-101 BMICH, Baudhaloka Mawatha, Colombo-7
 Alms Race
Ploughshares into
by Manik de Silva
In the days following independence from
the British, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon)
was truly an island of serendipity, deserving the name of Serendib that had been
bestowed upon it by early travellers. When
the Ceylon army was raised in 1949, under
the command of a British peer, Brigadier the
Earl of Caithness, it had a mere 3000 men.
The Royal Ceylon Navy, as it was then
called, was raised a couple of years later and
was indeed tiny, with just a couple of hundred men. Its pride and joy was its single
ship HMCyS Vijaya, previously the HMS
Flying Fish, an ocean-going minesweeper
bought from the British. Old navy salts still
chuckle about the Vijaya's first voyage to
England under the RCyN flag. Its docking at
Plymouth was greeted by a local newspaper
with the memorable headline "The
Fleet Is In!"
The Royal Ceylon Air Force was no
bigger. It was raised in 1950 with the ambitious idea of providing one air wing of three
fighter squadrons to the South East Asia
Command (SEAC). This was subsequently
scaled down and the RCyAF, formed with
less than a hundred men, returned six crated
Vampires back to de Havilland, the manufacturers, still in their original packing. The
authorities had decided that an air wing was
beyond the country's means and its tiny air
force had to make do with Chipmunk trainer
aircraft and a Balliol, until a small squadron
of Jet Provosts was added later. The budget
of the Ministry of Defence and External
Affairs for 1948-49, was no more than SLR
20 million, which paid not only for the three
armed services and the police, but also for
the country's small foreign office.
The armed forces, predictably fashioned
on the British model, were originally intended to complement the regular police in
internal security functions, and also to perform a ceremonial role. A military parade on
National Day was part of the scene and
crowds used to flock Colombo's seafront
Galle Face green to cheer the marching
soldiers, sailors and airmen. The bands
played, and cannons boomed a national
salute and sometimes there was an air display. It was all spit and polish, not the blood
and gore of later years.
Many Made Generals
This all changed in 1971 when the Janatha :
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), or People's Lib- i
eration Front, attempted a "hand bomb
revolution" to topple Prime Minister Sirima
Bandaranaike's United Front government, ;
which included communists and Trotskyists.
The JVP's homemade bombs packed in old
cigarette and condensed milk tins may seem
laughable today. But the threat then was
serious and led to the rapid expansion and
equipment  of the  armed   forces  and
police. As a former commander later recounted, "That was when we fired our first
shot in anger."
Subsequent developments have been
directly proportional to the internal security
threats that Sri Lanka, as the country was
renamed by its 1972 Constitution, has faced.
An army that was once commanded by a
brigadier, now has a lieutenant general in
command, a clutch of major generals and
more brigadiers than once there were colonels. Two full generals are on the retired list
and the deputy defence minister, the political boss of the armed forces, was promoted
to that rank in February.
Troop strength is classified information, and even the budget estimates presented to Parliament do not specify the
number of men in the armed forces. The
press commonly uses a figure of 100,000
but well-informed sources say the total number is higher and rising. Given a population
of 18 million, this is obviously no small
It is only 25 years since Air Vice Marshal Paddy Mendis argued with the Secretary to the Treasury for an additional SLR
0.5 million for the air force's SLR 11 million
vote. Defence expenditures today run at a
massive SLR 38 billion, five percent of the
country's GNP and 12- percent of the budget.
A civil war that bleeds the country of the
flower of its youth and much of its treasure
has added to the problems of two insurrections that in 1971 and 1988-89 took the
country to the brink of anarchy.
The cost is frightening for a small country that lacks any threat of external aggression. Long gone are the days when Sri Lanka
could boast that its defence expenditure was
minuscule. A fanatically-motivated guerilla
force of Tamil Tigers has compelled
unaffordable militarisation with obvious implications both for democracy and development. Winding down seems a distant prospect even if the war is quickly ended. Armed
and trained men on both sides of the lines
cannot be overnight asked to turn swords
into ploughshares. A
March   7996  HIMAL South Asia
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 Alms Race
The Statistics of
Afghanistan's child mortality rate is
second from the bottom, only Sierra
Leone's is worse. A Nepali woman is
more likely to die at childbirth than a woman
in Niger. The percentage of Bangladeshi
children who are underweight because they
don't have enough to eat is the highest in the
world-much worse than, say, Somalia. Even
Sri Lanka, a country that was regarded as a
model of development, is slipping.
Measured by the standard parameters
for gauging human quality of life, southern
Asia is right down there with the impoverished, dirt poor and war-ravaged African
states. Shocking and shameful as these statistics may be, South Asia's misery stands
out even more starkly because neighbouring
East Asian countries are doing so well. Countries like Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea, which till 40 years ago were at the same
level of development as some South Asian
countries, now have education and health
statistics at par with industrialised countries.
Asia, in fact, is no longer one continent.
The gap in income and quality of life between Southeast Asian countries and South
Asia today resembles the gap between Africa
and Europe. And measured in terms of the
sheer scale of the misery, South Asia's poor
outnumber Africa's nearly three to one.
More that half of the world's poorest,
600 million of them, live in South Asia, and
half of those, mostly children, do not have
enough to eat. One in every three new-born
babies in South Asia is underweight because
mothers are undernourished and anemic.
There are fewer women per 100 men in
South Asia than anywhere else in the world.
Reason: preference for male offspring. One
in every three South Asians cannot read or
write. There are 150 million children here
who do not go to school.
To be sure, there are bright spots.
Bangladesh's dramatic reduction in fertility
rate over the past decade is regarded as a
Third World success story. Literacy rates,
even in laggards like Nepal, have gone up.
Vaccination and public health awareness
campaigns have brought down child mortality to two-digit figures. However anarchic, South Asia's new-found democracy
has brought political pluralism.
But these success stories have to be
replicated across all sectors and in a
regionwide scope, before they can even
keep up with the gathering crisis of meeting
the needs of the swelling numbers of South
Asia's poor. A glance at the budgetary allocations for social welfare provides a grim
reminder that the region's planners still
have not translated into action the numerous speeches from United Nations pulpits
on "investing in human capital".
Pakistan, for instance, is still spending
more than twice as much for its military
than what it spends on health and education
combined. The 20 MiG -29 fighter bombers
India recently ordered from Russia would
have paid for primary education for 15
million girls who are out of school in India.
Sri Lanka's massive military expenditures in
recent years have hemorrhaged social spending. The once largely ceremonial Sri Lankan
army used to take up only one tenth of the
amount that was spent on health and education. Today, Sri Lanka's whopping military
budget ($350 million in 1992 reported) eats
up nearly double the country's allocation
for those two sectors.
"Education and health status have definitely suffered in Sri Lanka because of the
resources being drained by the war," says a
senior economist at the Manila-based Asia
Development Bank.
The ADB is lending to Pakistan in what
it believes is the key to breaking the country's
poverty cycle: enhancing the status of women
The source of the maps reproduced below is the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, Kathmandu. It notes: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used
on the maps do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations. Dotted lines represent approximately the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir agreed
upon by India and Pakistan. The final status of jammu and Kashmir has not yet been agreed upon by the parties.
Adult literacy Rate (Male)
Percent literate
B  Very low (38 lo 50)
':    LOW (50 to 62)
Medium (62 to 74)
"   High (74 to 100)
*   No data
Adult literacy Rate (Female)
Percent literate
s Very low (13 to 30)
■  Low (30 to 50)
■  Medium (50 to 70)
a  High (70 to 100)
5   No data
Malnourished Children
E Very high >55S
■ High 45 to 54%
fl Medium 35 to 44%
■ Lowest <35%
ffi No data
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
with a literacy and basic health campaign.
However, the results are not encouraging. A
recent poverty assessment report by the
World Bank ranked Pakistan at the bottom
of a list of countries lagging in
primary education, especially for women.
Even by South Asian standards, Pakistan
ranks low. The country's under-five
mortality rate (the number of children out
of 1000 live births who die before their fifth
birthday) is at 137, even higher than
Nepal's 128.
Economists at the World Bank and ADB
may be gloomy about South Asia in general,
but mention Nepal, and they shake their
heads in despair. Confided one senior ADB
economist who had visited Nepal recently:
"In India and Pakistan, the problem is vast
but there is a definite commitment and
trend towards allocation of budget to social
sectors. In Nepal's official circles there really
is no appreciation of the needs of the poor.
They are ready to borrow for big power
projects but refuse to borrow for primary
health care and education."
"The figures look very bad, N epal really
must get its act together quickly," says the
expert. In 1990, Nepal had only one hospital bed for 4000 people. Only Afghanistan,
where hospitals have been bombed and
rocketed since 1980, has figures as bad as
Infant Mortality Rate
Infant Mortality
100 to 126
70 to 99
that. Nepal has only one physician for every
20,000, which is by far the lowest ratio in all
of Asia.
The country that shows the most promise in spreading basic services is Bangladesh.
Its achievements in reducing fertility rate, in
lowering infant mortality through massive
immunisation campaigns, and a strong gov-
ernment-NGO collaboration for improving
literacy, has brought dramatic results.
Bangladesh's contraceptive prevalence rate
has shot up from 8 percent in 1975 to 31
Percent access to man-made drinking water sources
percent in 1990, whereas in Nepal it has
remained more or less at 15 percent for the
past 20 years. Bangladesh's annual population growth rate is expected to plummet
from 2.4 percent in the 1960-1992 period
to 2.2 for 1992-2000. (Nepal's rate will
actually go up from 2.4 to 2.6 in 1992-
2000, portending a serious drain on the
country's resources.)
In the end, it is 'basketcase' Bangladesh
that might show the way ahead for all of
South Asia. b,
have identified a South Asian market.
desperately want to access it for your goods and services.
need a print media to communicate with the region.
HIMAL South Asia, South Asia's very first magazine.
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reaches the highest profile, audience in each country of South Asia. A monthly through
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Can you afford not to advertise in HIMAL South Asia!
To learn more about HIMAL South Asia's audience profile and other publishing details,
write, call, fax or email our Manager Marketing in Kathmandu.
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Manager Marketing
HIMAL South Asia
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Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-523845, 522113, 521013 (fax)    email:
Army or Air Force schools, and army wives
buy provisions at subsidised rates.
A good percentage of what is called the
"hidden" defence expenditure of Pakistan
goes into these subsidies, cantonment upkeep, running of schools, and other
developments that benefit armed forces
And since Pakistan's inception in 1947,
and particularly since the first martial law of
1958, the main j ustification given for spending so much on the armed forces has been
India's hegemonic ambitions and the three
wars that have been fought between the
two countries.
"Every emerging nation wants economic
development to provide a better future for
its citizens," wrote N.A. Jaffary, who was
financial advisor to the Ministry of Defence
during the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in an
article in The Muslim of Islamabad last August. "This is only possible when its independence is ensured...Umbrella protection
and defence pacts do not work."
A Missile for a Missile
Many Pakistani analysts argue that India has
to start the process of reducing defence
expenditures. Asks Jaffary: "How can India,
almost five times larger in size, eight times
larger in population, and seven times higher
in GDP, feel threatened by a small country
like Pakistan? It should, therefore, take
the lead."
Nazir Kamal, of the Institute of
Strategic Studies in Islamabad, says
one reason Southeast Asia has
raced ahead in the last quarter century is due to sound leadership
and vision shown by one powerful
state. "Indonesia, with a clout
similar to India's in South Asia,
turned away from traditional
power politics in favour of
benign regionalism. It was this enlightened self-interest that
accounts for ASEAN's economic
miracle and Indonesia's remarkable
"So long as there is the bilateral
dispute with India over Kashmir, it
is unrealistic to think that Pakistan
will unilaterally reduce defence
spending," says economist Akmal
Hussain. Hence, in its effort to keep
up with its eastern neighbour, Pakistan is caught in a race where to
"counter the threat," as Gen (retd)
K.M, Arif puts it, "you must
possess the same capability as the
opponent enjoys...a nuclear device
against a nuclear device, a missile
against a missile, a plane against a plane, and
a tank against a tank."
Even though this ambition is not possible, given the country's size and resources,
Pakistan still ends up diverting a far larger
share of its budget than India, into its military. The most recent cause for alarm
was the firing of India's long-range
Prithvi missile, which Pakistan sees as a
direct threat and will no doubt scramble
to counter.
Though it is possible to counter
threats through diplomacy, no one is banking on it.
No Bofors in Pakistan
As long as regional tension and large military spending continues, many have publicly argued that at least the defence budget
should be properly accounted for, and
slashed, where possible.
Mr Jaffary believes that the overall defence expenditure can be safely reduced by
10 to 12 percent without touching the pay
and allowances of defence personnel. He
suggests that, since Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto is also Finance Minister, "she can
take the initiative and decide that the defence budget consistent with security requirements be discussed in the National
Assembly." The House, for its part, has to
ensure that the defence allocations are "properly spent and the country gets its money's
worth," he adds.
Since 1958, Pakistan's defence budget
has appeared almost always as a single line
entry in the annual budget statement presented to the National Assembly, where it is
subjected to vote. The entry reads simply:
"Defence services to defray salaries and other
expenses of the defence services." There are
no breakdown or details provided.
"The issue is not that we want to dismantle the army, but that there has to be
value for money, and accountability," says
economist Shahid Kardar. "We recognise
that there is a threat from India. But where
is the defence budget going? Are they spending it on orderlies or staff cars? As a tax-payer,
I want to know."
Mr Kardar is forthright in his views: "The
monster is slowly devouring us, and the
Punjabi and Pathan politicians who have
historically remained silent, partly for fear
of jeopardising their political fortunes and
partly because their communities are the
main beneficiaries, have to start asking how
long this langar (charity) will continue. Especially now that the expenditure on defence pensions has even exceeded the current salary bill of defence personnel. In
Pakistan, we are now in a position where
instead of a country needing an army, there
is an army that needs a country."
Pakistani politicians maintain a discreet
but palpable silence on the issue, however.
Even while there is no constitutional provision preventing a detailed scrutiny on the
defence budget in Parliament,
they are not keen. Says Akmal
Hussain, "In all democratic societies, Parliament subjects
defence expenditures to public
scrutiny and ensures that it is
The Human Rights Commission's Mr Rehman agrees: "There
is no discussion here. Contracts
are made, money is allocated, no
one knows what happens to it.
They had the Bofors scandal in
India. Something like that has
never happened here."
Civil Demands
High military spending is not a
law of nature, points out Zia Mian,
of the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI) in
Islamabad. "It is a policy choice
made by a particular state at a
particular time. Why that choice
has been made in Pakistan is obvious: it is due to the role the
military plays in domestic
politics. Since independence, Pa-
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
v\ w
Army or Air Force schools, and army wives
buy provisions at subsidised rates.
A good percentage of what is called the
"hidden" defence expenditure of Pakistan
goes into these subsidies, cantonment upkeep, running of schools, and other
developments that benefit armed forces
And since Pakistan's inception in 1947,
and particularly since the first martial law of
1958,themainjustification given forspending so much on the armed forces has been
India's hegemonic ambitions and the three
wars that have been fought between the
two countries.
"Every emerging nation wants economic
development to provide a better future for
its citizens," wrote N.A. Jaffary, who was
financial advisor to the Ministry of Defence
during the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in an
article in The Muslim of Islamabad last August. "This is only possible when its independence is ensured...Umbrella protection
and defence pacts do not work."
A Missile for a Missile
Many Pakistani analysts argue that India has
to start the process of reducing defence
expenditures. Asks Jaffary: "How can India,
almost five times larger in size, eight times
larger in population, and seven times higher
in GDP, feel threatened by a small country
like Pakistan? It should, therefore, take
the lead."
Nazir Kamal, of the Institute of
Strategic Studies in Islamabad, says
one reason Southeast Asia has
raced ahead in the last quarter century is due to sound leadership
and vision shown by one powerful
state. "Indonesia, with a clout
similar to India's in South Asia,
turned away from traditional
power politics in favour of
benign regionalism. It was this enlightened self-interest that
accounts for ASEAN's economic
miracle and Indonesia's remarkable
"So long as there is the bilateral
dispute with India over Kashmir, it
is unrealistic to think that Pakistan
will unilaterally reduce defence
spending," says economist Akmal
Hussain. Hence, in its effort to keep
up with its eastern neighbour, Pakistan is caught in a race where to
"counter the threat," as Gen (retd)
K.M. Arif puts it, "you must
possess the same capability as the
opponent enjoys...a nuclear device
against a nuclear device, a missile
against a missile, a plane against a plane, and
a tank against a tank."
Even though this ambition is not possible, given the country's size and resources,
Pakistan still ends up diverting a far larger
share of its budget than India, into its military. The most recent cause for alarm
was the firing of India's long-range
Prithvi missile, which Pakistan sees as a
direct threat and will no doubt scramble
to counter.
Though it is possible to counter
threats through diplomacy, no one is banking on it.
No Bofors in Pakistan
As long as regional tension and large military spending continues, many have publicly argued that at least the defence budget
should be properly accounted for, and
slashed, where possible.
Mr Jaffary believes that the overall defence expenditure can be safely reduced by
10 to 12 percent without touching the pay
and allowances of defence personnel. He
suggests that, since Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto is also Finance Minister, "she can
take the initiative and decide that the defence budget consistent with security requirements be discussed in the National
Assembly." The House, for its part, has to
ensure that the defence allocations are "properly spent and the country gets its money's
worth," he adds.
Since 1958, Pakistan's defence budget
has appeared almost always as a single line
entry in the annual budget statement presented to the National Assembly, where it is
subjected to vote. The entry reads simply:
"Defence services to defray salaries and other
expenses of the defence services." There are
no breakdown or details provided.
"The issue is not that we want to dismantle the army, but that there has to be
value for money, and accountability," says
economist Shahid Kardar. "We recognise
that there is a threat from India. But where
is the defence budget going? Are they spending it on orderlies or staff cars? As a tax-payer,
I want to know."
Mr Kardar is forthright in his views: "The
monster is slowly devouring us, and the
Punjabi and Pathan politicians who have
historically remained silent, partly for fear
of jeopardising their political fortunes and
partly because their communities are the
main beneficiaries, have to start asking how
long this langar (charity) will continue. Especially now that the expenditure on defence pensions has even exceeded the current salary bill of defence personnel. In
Pakistan, we are now in a position where
instead of a country needing an army, there
is an army that needs a country."
Pakistani politicians maintain a discreet
but palpable silence on the issue, however.
Even while there is no constitutional provision preventing a detailed scrutiny on the
defence budget in Parliament,
they are not keen. Says Akmal
Hussain, "In all democratic societies, Parliament subjects
defence expenditures to public
scrutiny and ensures that it is
The Human Rights Commission's Mr Rehman agrees: "There
is no discussion here. Contracts
are made, money is allocated, no
one knows what happens to it.
They had the Bofors scandal in
India'. Something like that has
never happened here."
Civil Demands
High military spending is not a
law of nature, points out Zia Mian,
of the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDP1) in
Islamabad. "It is a policy choice
made by a particular state at a
particular time. Why that choice
has been made in Pakistan is obvious: it is due to the role the
military plays in domestic
politics. Since independence, Pa-
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
 Alms Race
kistan has had a series of weak governments
and strong military dictators. Thus, the military as an institution, and the Army in
particular, has become the strongest determinant of foreign policy as well as budgetary priorities."
"The armed forces have no relationship
with civil society. As a result, the defence
budget, with its hidden and non-hidden
expenditures, is non-productive," says Mr
Rehman.'Tn developed countries, defence
expansion is largely derived from civil society, like companies that provide parts or
machinery, or laboratories and establishments whose experiments and discoveries
also benefit civilians. Here, there is no integrated technological, scientific development base."
But economist Akmal Hussain's answer
to the problem of high defence expenditure
is not to reduce defence spending, but to
develop an industrial base and indigenise
defence production. "The history of industrial growth in the West is linked to defence
spending. The US economy took off during
World War 11, and Germany's in the 1930s,"
he says. "In India, 80 paisa of every rupee
spent on defence goes back to their economy
and stimulates it. Here, in Pakistan, it is the
opposite. For every rupee spent on defence,
80 paisa goes into foreign exchange and
benefits another country's economy."
The percentage of Pakistan's defence
expenditure as part of GDP has dropped
from 7.10 in 1985-86 to 6.88 in 1995-96.
However, the actual money allocated continues to increase because of a high inflation
rate, of 13 to 18 percent annually. In
comparison, only about 3 percent of the
GDP is allocated for health, education and
related sectors.
Mr Kardar points out that Pakistan
spends PKR 975 per capita on defence, and
only PKR 105 per capita on health, education and related services. This is almost ten
times as much on defence as on the social
sector. "There are about eight soldiers per
doctor in the country and 1.5 soldiers per
teacher. The actual ratio of doctors may be
worse because so many qualify and then
join the administrative services."
As a result of what Mr Kardar calls
"these skewed priorities", Pakistan has the
ninth largest army in the world, holds 30th
position for arms imports in proportion to
total imports, and stands 127th in terms of
national literacy and health related expenditure. The economist notes that the expenditure on defence and debt servicing is PKR
13 billion more than the tax revenues of the
federal government. "For four years run-
rung, the government's declared expenditure on defence has surpassed the allocations in the budget for development activities," he says. "Even the government's limited achievement in compressing the fiscal
deficit, has come about almost entirely by
retrenchment in development expenditure."
"The social sector is of primary importance. It is the only long term way of ensuring national security," says Akmal Hussain.
"You have to give the minimum conditions
of civilised life to your own people, or you
will have internal security problems and
"What is security?" asks Mr Mian of
SDP1. "Is it really more and more tanks,
faster and faster jet fighters, bigger and
bigger armies, a desperate search for a new
way of killing, for missiles and nuclear weapons? Security is also about the day-to-day
feelings of ordinary people, having decent
food to eat, clothes to wear, a home to
live in."
Concludes Mr Mian: "The most important question to ask about security, however, is who gets to ask the question, and
who gets to answer it. The tragedy of
Pakistan is that asking questions is not encouraged." [y
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Tibet's Pilgrim
KATHMANDU —The world of refugeedom
tends to be divided between political exiles
and economic migrants, even though the
dividing line between the two is often
blurred. However, there is one other type of
refugee that is unique to South Asia, the
pilgrim refugee.
This term may best describe the Tibetans who every year continue to brave the
Chinese military dragnet along the Himalayan rimland, surmount dangerous High
Himalayan passes, and get exploited by
rapacious middlemen, as they escape harsh
conditions in the high plateau for the spiritual embrace of their Dalai Lama.
According to records at the UNHCR
refugee agency in Kathmandu, the flow of
Tibetan pilgrim-refugees has averaged 2500
to 3500 annually in recent times. The set
procedure is for UNHCR to hold the refugees
in a halfway house in Kathmandu before
transferring them to Dharamsala. There are
many more who are said to head directly to
India without bothering to contact
the UNHCR. They descend through the
middle hills of Nepal and wend their
way through the plains of Uttar Pradesh
and up to Dharamsala, and the smoothly
functioning reception machinery of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
It is not always that easy, however, for
the Nepali Government has blown hot and
cold on this continuing flow of Tibetans.
Nepal's geopolitical compulsions—that of
the need to balance India's overwhelming
presence with good relations with Beijing—
has made Kathmandu succumb to Chinese
whims on the matter.
As tensions rise in Lhasa, such as in
autumn 1995 when the Chinese administration was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of Tibet Autonomous
Region, the flow swells. At the same time, so
does the pressure from Bejing on Kathmandu
authorities to accost and send the Tibetans
back across the frontier. In UNHCR parlance, this process of send-back is known as
The nominally pro-Chinese Left Government was in power in Kathmandu during the period of the 30th anniversary celebrations in Lhasa. At a meeting of district
administrators held in the town of Pokhara,
an instruction was issued to crack down on
those infiltrating the high passes.
While any pass that is
low enough is useful for the
crossing, most middlemen
whom the refugees hire
guide them down to the
plains by avoiding the main
trails and police checkposts,
or travelling by night only.
The most-used routes are in
Mustang and Manang in
central Nepal, and the
Nangpa La trail into Namche
Bazaar in eastern Nepal.
The Tibetan-speaking
populations of Nepal's northern areas have
been friendly to the refugees, and the idyllic
valley of Junbesi that lies between
Kathmandu and Namche Bazaar is where
many rest and recuperate before continuing
to Dharamsala. It is a different matter, however, when the refugees confront administrators.
The present coalition government in
Kathmandu has dealt with the situation
gingerly. It has issued a go-slow order to the
outlying district administrators. What is
interesting is that Nepal has no reason to be
defensive about its humanitarian attitude
towards the Tibetan travellers. These, after
A Tibetan father
and daughter
brave inclement
weather on the
Nangpa La border
pass before
descending to
Namche Bazaar.
The picture is one
of a series taken by
Swiss photographer Manuel
Bauer in the spring
of 1995.
all, are docile pilgrims, not firebrand militants.
Says a government official who once
served in the Border Administration Department of the Home Ministry: "Officially,
we do not acknowledge that Tibetans are
allowed safe transit to India through Nepali
territory. But on practical terms that is what
is happening, on purely humanitarian
"It is silly that we cannot even take
credit for a good deed that is done," says a
Tribhuvan University political scientist. But
who will tell that to the Chinese?
- Suman Pradhan
Toilet Training
NEW DELHI —When Lee Wang-Fend and
Cheu Chulu Kuel were married in a public
loo in Taiwan on 14 January, little did they
dream that their wedding, splashed in newspapers the world over, would prove inspirational for a social service organisation in
Sulabh International is a Delhi-based
group which has been campaigning to provide clean toilet and bath facilities at nominal rates in the proliferating slums and other
congested areas of Indian cities.
The news of the Taiwanese couple wed
in a public toilet gladdened the hearts of
Sulabh officials, who decided to publicise
the importance of such facilities. Sulabh
even ventured to invite the couple for a
honeymoon in India.
"We have heard of aeroplane and underwater marriages, but this bathroom marriage is conspicuous, for the lack of such
facilities," said one Sulabh rep. "We have
invited the young couple to celebrate their
honeymoon in India and also to visit interesting places in the country."
Founder of Sulabh International, Dr
Bindeshwar Pathak, wrote to the couple,
"By marrying in a public bathroom, you
have broken the'social and attitudinal barriers that have separated bathrooms from the
rest of houses and thus, keeping them unclean and neglected."
Sulabh wanted the couple to inaugurate newly-built bathroom and toilet complexes in India during their visit to highlight
the importance of these facilities for urban
living. "We can keep cities clean and people
healthy by promoting toilets as an institution that should be clean enough for weddings to take place, as Mr Lee and Ms Cheu
showed in Taiwan," says Dr Pathak.
At the time of going to press, Sulabh
International told HSA that the newly-weds
had yet to respond to their invitation.
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
Going Organic in Pakistan      Border
LAHORE — Being a woman in the male-
dominated field of farming in Pakistan is the
least of Samiya Mumtaz's problems. This
25-year-old pioneer from Lahore says she
faces more resistance as a shehri, a city
dweller, "who supposedly does not know
An even bigger problem, it seems, is the
kind of 'agriculture' she proposes. For Ms
Mumtaz is one of a small but growing breed
of environmentally-conscious farmers who
are seeking to undo the legacy of the so-called
Green Revolution that took the country by
storm in the 1970s.
The farmers who have gone organic
believe that reliance on fertilisers and pesticides is short-sighted. They are extremely
critical of the government's campaign to
convince farmers to let go of their traditional
practices, as it can only ruin productivity in
the long run. They have even let go of their
practice of dividing land into two portions:
one with high-cost chemical inputs for the
market, the other chemical-free, for home
Artificial methods and fast-growing
hybrids threaten to obliterate indigenous
crop varieties. It took Ms Mumtaz two years
to locate a farmer who still used desi (indig
enous) wheat. Not exactly a discovery one would expect to electrify a
young, female, upper- middle class
city-dweller—but then, Ms Mumtaz
has unusual pursuits. She plans to
grow the indigenous wheat on the
16-acre organic farm she runs in the
Punjab plains outside Lahore.
The farm, bought over two
years ago, in partnership with seven
friends and relatives, meant making
Ms Mumtaz's dream of putting her
environmental beliefs into reality.
She hopes to prove that agriculture
in Pakistan can flourish by using
indigenous methods and low-cost
She is not entirely alone in
her organic interests. A few scientists at the University of Agriculture
at Faisalabad (formerly Lyallpur),
are working to develop ecologically
friendly biological fertilisers, and
there is now an All Pakistan Organic-
Farmers Association. The
Association's President, Syed Asad
Hussain Shah, is reclaiming unproductive land using bio-fertilisers.
Mr Shah came to Ms
Mumtaz's aid after salinity had consumed
three acres of her land and threatened other
patches. His solution: plant the indigenous
kallar grass, which actually teeds onsalinity.
Ms Mumtaz, who is still using kallar, explains: "You can tell that the soil has been
desalinated when the grass starts dying.
While using gypsum, there is no way to
knowif you've got the right proportions and
you have to keep testing to see if the soil is
fertile again."
Kallar use, apparently an ancient
method of coping with salinity, is nowbeing
rediscovered by organic farmers. Ms Mumtaz
says part of her crusade is to convince
farmers that their old ways are also scientifically sound. "They insist that the productivity of their land is due to chemical fertilisers,
whereas the fact that they automatically
throw food waste and peelings onto the
dung heap is probably what does the trick."
Says Ms Mumtaz: "My first harvest was
a disaster, the soil was so poor, and the
locals felt vindicated in their scepticism. But
this year my vegetables have been good and
they are now taking a second look at my.
compost heap, which was their way until
the Green Revolution came along."
- Cassandra Balchin
WAGAH — Midway between the two great
cities of the Punjab, Amritsar and Lahore,
lies the border crossing of Wagah, which is
open only to foreign nationals. Indians and
Pakistanis have to take the more expensive
air route.
Passing through the border post is a
ritual that is very much determined by bilateral geopolitics.The Pakistani porters, clad
in red, and their blue-coated Indian brethren, are not allowed to cross over no-man's
land. Luggage-laden travellers therefore have
to reach into their pockets twice during the
brief transit.
It is not, however, the handful of tourists a day who provide the main sustenance
for these border porters. They rely on the
limited trade that does take place, and swing
into action as soon as trucks bearing raisins
and pistachios from Afghanistan heave
into view.
Pistachios cross over from Pakistan
As these porters scurry to and fro balancing sacks on their turbanned heads, they
are quite oblivious to the nationalist
sloganeering overhead. "Welcome to India -
The World's Largest Democracy", says one,
while another proclaims, "Long Live Pakistan". In a bid to have the last word, the
Indian side declares, "Hamara Bharat
Mahan", in a message sponsored by Pepsi.
Don't they sell on the other side, too?
- Daniel Haber
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
A Tale of Two Four-Wheel-Drives
BIRATNAGAR— Both the Kosi
Project and the Sunsari Morang
Irrigation Project (SMIP) take
water from the Kosi river as it
descends to the plains from the
eastern Nepal hills, but the similarity ends there. The Project's
target is to irrigate more than
600,000hectaresoflandin Bihar,
while SMIP has a more
modest goal of 66,000 hectares
for Nepal.
However, a look at the vehicles that ferry the project bosses
around might give the opposite
impression. The Kosi Project
chief drives his own Willys jeep,
a World War II model, which
came to the Project when construction be-
ganin 1954. His Nepali counterpart is chauf-
feured in a three-million-rupee Toyota
Land Cruiser.
As long as comparisons are being made,
let it also be said that while it cost the SMIP
NPR 300,000 to water each hectare of land
in Sunsari and Morang, the Kosi Project was
able to do it for less than NPR
65,000 per ha. Four decades ago,
India was a net importer of
foodgrains and Nepal exported
its surplus. The situation is just
the reverse today.
The Indian project engineer
makes do with an open jeep,
spends money in India, consuming (most likely) everything Indian. The Nepali boss, on the
other hand, drives around in a
foreign-made four-wheel drive on
a road built by the World Bank,
, lives on rice imported from
Burma, Thailand or India, and
(most likely) drinks Scotch
bought at duty-free shops by foreign contractors, foreign consultants, or by
himself, while on 'study trips' to foreign
- Rajendra Dahal
Forget Goa, Head for Kuakata
DHAKA — "Nobody visits Bangladesh, not
even Bangladeshis," is a common refrain.
Bangladesh has the dubious honour of being the only South Asian country not mentioned in any serious tourist brochure. But
the fact is that if you go looking for it, you
will find tourism in Bangladesh.
While the efforts of the Parjatan (Tourism) Corporation are sluggish like those of
any other government agency, the private
sector has taken initiatives, and tourism
destinations today include the mangrove
woodlands of Sundarban, the inland region
with its villages and meandering rivers, and
the beach of Cox's Bazaar.
Sundarban is the world's largest mangrove forest, located south of Dhaka where
the deltaic country meets the ocean. An
added attraction is the Royal Bengal Tiger,
often visible while gliding along the placid
canals on motor launches. While large tracts
of Sunderban have been felled by timber
contractors, there are areas where the locals,
knowns as Bawali, continue with their traditional lifestyle. The wrath of the tiger, often
man-eating, is such that the Bawali call him
"baro miah" (the boss), and they regularly
worship "Bonbibi" (Forest Goddess), hoping she will keep his anger and hunger
under control.
For those who prefer a rural to wilderness experience, there is Bangladesh's ver
sion of eco-tourism along the river Padma
(which is made up of the flow of the Ganga
and Brahmaputra). A tour package is
organised by the activists of a group known
as the People's Environment Programme to
raise funds for its projects. Says Saleem
Samad, a member of the group: "The whole
tour is so natural, and the local villagers act
as guides. You suddenly discover that
Bangladesh has sights which are as good as
those we watch on foreign TV."
The tour package, which centres around
the village of Maluchi, includes a tour of the
wetlands, "river sunbathing", nature camps,
folk theatre, and
fish straight from
the river into the
pan. Some tourists prefer to
spend theirmghts
in a renovated
residence of a local landlord,
happy in the
knowledge that
the landlord does
not come with the
Those who
tire of fresh water
can always head
for  the   beach.  Not always a scenic river float
Parjatan reports that Cox's Bazaar, the seaside resort boasting the longest white sand
beach in the world, saw the highest number
of visitors ever this year. Among them were
tourists from overseas.
Apart from Cox's Bazaar, promoters are
now talking about Kuakata, a beach which
allows a sight of both the sunrise and the
sunset, if that's possible. The area is also
home to an ethnic group known as the
Rakhines, which adds an anthropological angle.
With tigers, eco-tourism, and beaches,
who says Bangladesh and tourism
don't mix?
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
Border Town Pines for
Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai
Road up to Nalhula pass, Indian side
YADONG — China and India have been in
almost continuous dialogue for the past
three years on de-escalating tension along
the disputed frontiers in the Indian Northeast and Ladakh. They have also been discussing the opening up of the mountain
passes for commerce and travel.
As far as the residents
of Yadong are concerned, the
India-China rapprochement
cannot proceed fast enough.
In fact, the residents of this
Tibetan frontier town are
exasperated that the Nathula
pass remains firmly shut.
Yadong used to be the
busiest commercial centre in
the Himalaya, with its strategic location at the mouth of
the famous Chumbi Valley,
through which a route was
forced by the Younghusband
mission in 1904. The trade
route led up from Siligu ri via
Kalimpong and over Nathula
into Yadong. The 1962 Indo-
Chinese border war put an end to all traffic,
but the road is still there.
The businessmen of Yadong have been
reduced these past decades to casting envious glances westward towards the bustling
trading town of Zham(Khasa) on the Nepal-
Tibet border near Kathmandu.
According to Foreign Ministry sources
in Beijing, the delay is due to "sopie sensitive
diplomatic issues" relating to developing a
reciprocal venue in India to Tibet's Yadong.
The Chinese side wants it to be Kalimpong
in West Bengal, but the Indian side is apparently pushing for Gangtok, the capital of
Sikkim. "Acceptance of a Sikkim town as
Yadong's counterpart would run against
China's stance of not recognising Sikkim's
merger with India," says one source.
Yadong would also be the staging point
for trade wrth Bhutan, but this too is a
problem. Since Thimphu's security and foreign affairs come under the ambit of the
Indian foreign office, it is said that China has
to first reach an agreement with India before
this avenue can be explored.
Meanwhile, the frontier residents feel
that they cannot wait for the slow wheels of
diplomacy to turn. Despite the official prohibition, they are engaging in brisk barter I
trading at Yadong. Everything from rubber I
shoes to thermos bottles and clothes to wrist I
watches are bought in return for jeans, I
saffron and American dollars. The com- I
merce has been lucrative enough to attract I
merchants from as far as Sichuan.
The local government's policy is to look I
the other way. "Who knows, this kind of |
barter trade might lead to an officially I
recognised, larger-scale border trade?" says I
Tsering tashi, the county chief.
- Xiong Lei/China Features   I
Broadsheet Explosion in Kathmandu
KATHMANDU — Six o'clock in the morning, the famous Kathmandu fog still covers
the city streets as Amar Thapa heaves the
shutters of his popular kiosk at Putalisadak.
Outside, there are five newspaper delivery boys waiting to hand him their
bundles. Just a month ago, there would
have been only two: from the government-owned Gorkhapatra and the three-
year-old Kantipur. Now there are three
new Nepali dailies in the market:
Himalaya Times, Aajako Samachar Patra
and Sri Sagarmatha. Another one,
hokpatra, is in the offing.
For years, under the Panchayat system, Nepal had a muzzled press where
the only daily of note was the
Gorkhapatra. With the arrival of press
freedom in 1990, the expansion of the
consumer market, and an increasingly
literate populace, newspapers suddenly 0'd
seemed like a viable commercial proposition. Kantipur was started by two Nepali
Marwari brothers, belonging to the Indian
Express clan of Ramlal Goenka. The newspaper ran at a loss for the first two years, but
emerged in the black in early 1995.
As soon as Kantipur began making
money, and also because there were those
5** jr.5':'*— ^^7*
Gorkhapatra has friends
who disliked its purported Nepali Congress-leanings, the other publishers came
up with their own dailies.
The sudden deluge of daily broadsheets
has the public confused, but no one seems
to mind. This is quite different fare from the
opinionated and politically blinkered news
presented by the Nepali weeklies, almost all
of which act as the mouthpiece of one
political faction or the other.
Bharat Dutt Koirala, Director of the
Nepal Press Institute, believes that the
quality of journalism in Nepal is bound si
to improve with the competition. "The |l
market for newspapers is now Nepal- f
wide, and the public has also become •
much more discerning. It is demanding
better news coverage," he says.
But Mr Koirala and other media experts say there will be heavy mortality
among the new entrants, as the market is
not large enough for all of them. Says
one lecturer of journalism at Tribhuvan
University: "Gorkhapatra will survive because of its monopoly on government
ads, and Kantipur because it was first off
the wire. There is a market here for one
more daily, and may the one that is best
edited win."
-Saltl Subedi
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
Marmot. For Life.
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inching around a space barely
enough to accommodate
the human body.
Odd, that's what climbing in
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Neo-Gandhian Maoists vs. Nehruvian Stalinists
When everyone thought that the day of the large dam was over, the tables turned with a
sudden agreement on a massive project on the Indo-Nepal border. Will all of South Asia
follow suit, blundering into fiscal haemorrhage and social strife?
by Dipak Gyawali
Much as environmentalists and social activists
all over the world may want, it is too early to
write an obituary for large dams. Though
there are signs of new and alternative thinking, with
opposition seen in Narmada, Tehri, Nepal's Arun-3,
the Bangladesh Flood Action Plan, and even the
immense Three Gorges in China, the undercurrent of
old thinking and entrenched interests is still the rule,
and is strong enough to force decisions in favour of
large dams.
Old thinking and
interests still rule,
and are strong
enough to force
decisions in favour
of large dams.
Narmada and Tehri in India, and Three Gorges are
relentlessly moving ahead, despite protests nationally
and internationally. Now Nepal, too, joins its two giant
neighbours in pushing forward a high dam project in the
Himalaya that is about 25 times larger than the country's
entire installed hydroelectric capacity.
On 29 January 1996, a new draft treaty on the
"integrated development of the Mahakali river" was signed
by the foreign ministers of India and Nepal. This accord
and the letter exchanged with it commits the two coun-
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
tries to build the Pancheswar hydroelectric project and its
315m high dam wrthm ten years.
Age of the High Dam
That the Pancheswar mega-project, conceived and pushed
by India for its large system—and resisted by Nepal for
over two decades as inimical to its smaller development
needs—could be on the front burner so soon after the
demise of the controversial Arun-3, which was 'only'
two times larger than Nepal's total capacity, holds
several lessons.
The first is that no economic or policy lessons have
been learnt by the powers that be, either in Nepal or India,
regarding the unacceptable levels of risk imposed by
importing the experimental technologies of large dams to
societies with tiny incomes. Dominant thinking is still
supply-led, and insensitive to conservation-oriented demand management. (In both India and Nepal, given the
extent of electricity theft, it would make more sense to
prevent leakage than to build new dams.)
Secondly, South Asian infrastructural planning is
dictated by short-term strategic gains for the political
parties jousting for power, backed by large business
interests with an unjustified belief that bigger is necessarily better. Thirdly, with Pancheswar, those who advocate
the alternative mode of more people-centred,
conservation-oriented and fiscally-prudent development
have lost a major battle without even havmghad a chance
to fight it.
Thinkers and activists of this school should wake up
and gear up if they wish to win the war. For, while the Age
of High Dams may have ended in North America and
Europe, the starting gun has just been fired in Asia. In the
coming decades, we can expect nothing but a surfeit of
hype from the political and technocratic elites who will
advocate high dams, and angst among the victims.
Even before the ink has dried on this new agreement,
Pancheswar has already done what mega-projects do, i.e.,
induce major distortions into a society's institutions.
Nepal introduced the famous Article 126 in its 1990
Constitution, requiring a two-third parliamentary approval only for projects of a "pervasive, serious and
long-term nature." It was included primarily to improve
Nepal's bargaining position on natural resource sharing
and not to be forced willy nilly into large-scale projects
without the chance for a national consensus. Indian
officials regarded it as an anti-Indian measure.
Article 126 is a unique and controversial provision,
and it cries for interpretation However, this has never
been done. The Supreme Court passed the buck to
Parliament when a case was filed before it on the issue of
the controversial Tanakpurproject. The Parliament waffled
for three years but provided no answer.
Now, comes the Mahakali agreement as a political
jack-in-the-box. By engulfing Tanakpur within the larger
Pancheswar mega-project, Nepali politicians of all shades
have skipped the need to provide necessary justification
for not accepting it in the first place. The political wounds
continue to fester, charges of "sell-out" on Tanakpur have
not been given a decent burial, and the rationality of the
Constitution's clause remains unexplained and thus, by
default, debased.
This Pancheswar precedent now leaves India less
worried about Article 126. It corrals political parties in
Nepal to look for two-third support without first fixing
the criteria for invoking Article 126. Given the political
energy that would have to be expended to justify why a
project is of a "simple" nature (and not requiring a two-
third approval), any normal government would now balk
at reaching a settlement on the smaller rivers of Nepal.
These smaller rivers are more productive as far as the
small farmers of Nepal and India are concerned. If
the entire rigmarole of parliamentary approval is
required, so the thinking would go, why not just go for
a mega-project?
The political groundwork for the Age of High Dams
in the Nepal Himalaya has thus been laid, thanks largely
to the unprofessional nature of Nepal's bureaucracy and
the rivalries of Nepali politicians who are fixated on
personalities rather than on issues and their implications
for national development.
Oriental Despotism
Nepal is not only a country comprising mostly of
land-hungry subsistence farmers hovering near the official poverty line, but also a country where an absolute
monarchy changed into a constitutional one in a fifty-day
agitation with less than fifty people killed. The country
has a poor stomach for violence. It might all change. How?
One may ask a Cold War American congressional committee for an answer.
In 1959, a group of US senators and American power
company chiefs visited the USSR, amid growing uneasiness that the Soviets were surpassing the Americans in
hydropower development. During their visit, the Senate
team (which included Edmund Muskie) was suitably
impressed not so much with the advances in technology,
but with the fact that a totalitarian and monolithic system
of government could push its dam-building program
faster and more efficiently than a democratic government.
They saw the Stalingrad dam (now Volgograd) fill its
reservoir and inundate a considerable section of the fertile
Volga Valley (and a section of the city of Stalingrad). It had
required the resettlement of a hundred thousand people.
The Americans, who had bled through resettlement
battles at home, were incredulous when told that the
Russians had faced no relocation difficulties. On the
pre-determined day, 100,000 citizens were simply invited to quit their homes and move to new communities—which they did without a murmur of protest. The
Senate team, in its report, concluded that "regardless of
the pros and cons of broad political philosophy, it is
simpler and faster in many ways to drive a vast power
programme under a totalitarian, monolithic Communist
regime than under an American democratic system
of government."
The lesson of this dog-eared archival report is not
that we need a Stalinist government to exploit Nepal's
much-vaunted 83,000 MW of hydroelectricity potential.
Rather, the danger is that political parties of all democratic
persuasions in Nepal and in India (and the government
machinery they command) would—if they uphold the
large-dam dream—probably take on totalitarian attributes.
The political dynamics of building and running a mega-
but not
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
project are such that, as far as the population directly
affected is concerned, the state and its partners turn
inevitably totalitarian.
The most obvious example is the matter of forced
relocation of populations, in which the South Asian
record is nothing to be proud of. India, according to
Thayer Scudder of Caltech, has the "worst resettlement
record in the world." Nepal's is not much better: the
Marsyangdi project, completed in 1989, required fully
compensating and resettling all of seven families; even
that it was unable to do. While unilaterally constructing
the Tanakpur project, India caused the erosion of about
36 ha of farmland in Nepal, which affected 77 families.
These les miserables are yet to receive compensation.
It is sobering to think that the new pact, which
engulfs the Tanakpur project within a larger Mahakali
package, did not even bother about compensation for
those 77 families. Now, Pancheswar's high dam will force
the two governments to resettle thousands in a land-hungry
part of the world. One may be forgiven in wondering
which will be more difficult—the technicalities of building a high dam or educating and moving governments
onto a higher social sensitivity curve.
Speaking of sensitivity, Nepal's Water Resources
Minister Pashupati Shumshere Rana, in an interview with
the official daily Gorkhapatra on 2 February, three days
after the deal, sounded like any Gujarat chief minister
when talking about Narmada. Mr Rana said that
mega-projects could not be built in Nepal and India
because they were democratic, whereas in Pakistan (which
presumably is not up to the high standards of its eastern
neighbours), a large 1500 MW hydro project was built
with World Bank support without a murmur of protest.
What is significant is not the inaccuracies in the minister's
statement, but the wistfulness in his voice for an order
that is more conducive to building large dams.
Large-scale hydraulic civilisations are, after all, built
on the totalitarian traditions of an all-powerful bureaucracy identified by sociologist Karl Wittfogel as "Oriental
Despotism". It is a path that, once entered, is
near-impossible to reverse. It is similar to an evening out.
Once one chooses to go to, say, a Chinese restaurant, the
possibility of asking for naan tandoori is out. Decentralised
communes and gram swaraj will give way to or come
under the grip of a centralised managerial bureaucracy
which, because it is dependent on the efficient operation
of these mega-structures for its maintenance and prosperity, will perforce have to adopt policies of total power that
can hardly be called benevolent.
In Wittfogel's words, "A pirate does not act benevolently when he keeps his ship afloat or feeds the slaves he
plans to sell. Capable of recognizing his future as well as
his present advantages, he is rational, but not benevolent." The same can be said for those who would build
high dams.
Vedantic Onion
An intellectual examination of the serious social implica- ■
tions of large dam-building programmes has not been
done thus far in South Asia. This is because the intelligentsia has been bowled over by the Pollyannish dreams
peddled by political merchants. Because of sheer social
diversity, there is tension in South Asia between what may
be termed the neo-Gandhians (after the Mahatma) and
the Nehruvians (including the Gandhis of this dynasty).
Even though historically the latter are the political heirs of
the former, the economic philosophies they represent are
poles apart.
Neo-Gandhians uphold equity, self-reliance, local
capacity enhancement with small scale and decentralised
schemes. This approach is perfectly comfortable with a
heterogeneity of solutions and their inevitable clumsiness. The Nehruvians, on the other hand, put production
efficiency on the hallowed pedestal. This approach naturally leads to large-scale, expertise-based, often imported,
hierarchic structures, for whom pushing a neat
single-minded mission is as important as promoting the
welfare and protecting the legitimacy of the missionary.
This same tension between two forces has existed in
modem China since the 1950s, where the fight has been
between the Maoists who promoted massive micro-hydro
development programmes controlled by the communes,
and the Stalinists who went for heavy industry controlled
by the bureaucracy and who today push the Three Gorges
project. Even though, politically, they seem to be each
other's inheritors, sociologically, the Maoists and Stalinists
are diametrically apart.
While they are constantly accused of holding the
view, the neo-Gandhians do not actually say that small is
beautiful, because they know beautiful is beautiful, small
or big. What they do maintain is that small is less risky,
more self-empowering and, ultimately, more beneficial.
Theneo-Gandhian view is that economic analyses that are
exuberant about technologies would externalise social
and environmental costs. They would jettison risks onto
an unsuspecting population either in the margins of
society or in the future. On the other hand, economic
analyses which are true to society rather than technology
would show that one should not risk more than is
necessary. Or, as a Nepali saying goes, "Swallow a bone
only after you size your gullet."
Indeed, large engineering projects seem to have a
Vedantic attribute to them: like the outer manifestations
of an onion, they embody a poof society's hopes and
visions of development, but when one looks closer, veil
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
after veil can be peeled off without arriving at any real
substance inside.
The Kosi Project, one among the many "temples of
modem India", is a good example. While billions of
rupees have been expended since the 1950s to make an
immense network of canals in North Bihar, it is the
growth of private tubewells—sometimes right by a flowing canal—in the Kosi command area which is boosting
agricultural production in this area. This is a classic case
of designing an expensive Porsche when all that was
required was a bicycle. The farmers of the area needed
water, the water bureaucracy needed construction work,
and the twain could not meet. The canal project itself has
managed to put more land out of production than it has
been able to irrigate, and continues as a major fiscal
haemorrhage for the Indian exchequer.
Smug Northern Certitude
South Asian boondoggles such as the Kosi Project and
elsewhere, on the arid Punjab-Rajasthan plains or the
northern dry zones of Sri Lanka, are not born out of the
"ignorance of the natives". They result, instead, from the
way institutions are organised. Single mission outfits—of
the types that are designed to build large dams or canals
—suffer from the hubris of over-confidence. They are
known for their smug certitude that "there is no alternative" to whatever it is that they are proposing. They suffer
from hype, boast of capabilities they do not really have,
and they erect a protective wall around themselves to
effectively filter out criticism. Voila, Oriental Despotism!
This institutional malaise is not limited to the Third
World and its under-development. The late Arun-3 project,
which was aborted before the World Bank's elitist bureaucracy could foist it on Nepal's unsuspecting poor, has
shown that the First World is as susceptible as anyone.
Sweden entered the Nepal Aid Group in 1990 after a
gap of thirty years. Its democratic socialist government
pulled out in the 1960s after a royal coup overthrew the
democratic socialist government of B.P. Koirala in Nepal.
Its first act upon re-entering Nepal was to pledge 30
million dollars for the 1.1 billion dollar Arun-3.
What is surprising is the apparent institutional amnesia on the part of the Swedish donors. Between 1978
and 1985, Stockholm had provided almost two-thirds of
the funds required for the Kotmale hydroelectric project
in Sri Lanka, which is identical to Arun-3, with three
turbines totaling 201 MW. The only difference was that
Kotmale was five times cheaper.
Now why would Sweden go and get involved in a
controversial project in Nepal at five times the cost of an
identical project that it had funded in Sri Lanka? And,
what entrenched force of belief in distanced institutions
such as the World Bank would cause a US ambassador to
write to the State Department urging it to support Arun-3
because, without it, "democracy in Nepal would be in
The answer seems to lie in the sociology of large
bureaucracies. Questions raised earlier in the South regarding the technical and economic flaws of Arun-3 were
screened out by the protective filters of the large Northern
agencies. These institutional filters are not bom of the
stupidity or incompetence of any individual, but arises
from the nature of the institution itself. For
donor agencies, in protecting the mission as
well as the missionary, truth becomes one of
the parameters juggled among many others.
Moreover, with the Second World's communism basically becoming part of the Third
World, Northern governments did not have
an institutional tool other than the World
Bank with which to modulate the behaviour of raucous
Third World governments. It was important, therefore,
for foreign policy establishments in the North to protect
the image and legitimacy of this powerful agency, be it the
Swedes or the Americans.
Institutional Filters
The politicians and technocrats of both the North and
South may be prepared for the Age of High Dams, but are
the people of South Asia ready for it? The answer, clearly,
is no. If such is the case, the task now is to chisel away at
the inherent belief systems of large hierarchic institutions,
the perceptional filters that operate therein, and the
international co-geniality of the cultures of these mega-
institutions that support them.
Breaking the barrier of institutional filters, such as
those erected by the World Bank and its partner bureaucracies of the South, requires a North-South partnership
that is not pre-defined by bureaucratised international
agreements in such a way as to make arriving at a "Three
Gorges" Chinese restaurant inevitable. Mega-dams require more and more esoteric expertise, much of it
imported and operated through international institutional arrangements, something not intelligible even to
the average intellectual.
If the kind of misplaced belief that occurred with
Arun-3 could happen with Sweden and the US, governments that are known for their egalitarianism and accountability to their taxpayers, what might happen with
mega-projects such as Pancheswar or the proposed Kosi
High, that need accountability of the state structures of
Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal?
Accountability must be forced, and it requires shattering the smug certitude that allows large bureaucracies
to get away with boondoggles. This task must be taken up
by those outside the hierarchic framework, such as activists, voluntary groups and independent intellectuals, who
can shout from the mountaintop, that the emperor has no
clothes. Civilised pressure must be applied at minimum
cost and maximum benefit, but it must not be forgotten
that such pressure points in South Asia are far fewer and
more calloused than in the North. Southern bureaucracies, after all, do not depend upon their taxpayers.
Manasa Karmana Vacha
Sunderlal Bahuguna of Tehri is fond of expressing the
need for a unity of the head, the heart and the hands (the
scientists, the poets and the activists) for successful agitation. This then, is what civilised pressure is all about,
using good science, committed activism, and staying
power, to strike at the very root of the intellectual and
political legitimacy that sustains Oriental Despotism, fa
D. Gyawali is aKathmandu-based engineerand economist.
The task
now is to
away at
systems of
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
"Anti-dam activists are romantics
B.G.Verghese, journalist and
former editor of The Hindus tan
Times and Indian Express, has
for the better part of the last
decade, been studying the use
of water for social advancement. Among his works are
the landmark Waters of Hope
(Oxford IBH 1990), and the
more recent Winning the Future: From Bhakra toNarmada,
Tehri, Rajasthan Canal, and
Converting Water into Wealth
(1996, which he co-edited).
HSA's Mitu Varma met
Mr Verghese in New Delhi to
seek his views on the need for
large water projects such as
i The Narmada Bachao
Andolan's major quarrel with the
$3 billion Sardar Sarovar Project
is that it will displace more than
200,000 people. What are your
own views?
• People in that region are
already being displaced by hunger because of inadequate harvests resulting from uncertain
rainfall, lack of irrigation facilities and the environmental degradation caused by population
pressures. The harvest is not
sufficient even in a good year.
Seasonal migration is common
and sometimes entire families
leave in search of livelihood.
They land up in the cities as
unskilled labour. When they are
being moved in a planned manner and given a better deal than
at present, 1 do not see any cause
for protest. It is true that displacement from one's natural
environment is traumatic and
that people should be dealt with
compassion, sympathy, understanding and generosity, but
it doesn't make sense to abandon a project which will actually improve their standard
of living.
> Are there any studies of migration patterns to support this
• 1 do not know why the
project authorities have failed to
undertake a survey of migration
patterns, but the fact that such
migration is rampant is evident
if one visits the area repeatedly.
i What do you see as the benefits of the project which would
offset the negatives?
• The biggest benefit will be
the provision of potable water
to at least 30 million people in a
semi-arid region. People in the
command area who migrate every second or third year when
there is a drought will no longer
have to leave their homes. The
women will be saved the drudgery of trudging miles in search
of water, and the health of the
people will improve. Flooding
in surrounding areas and downstream will be prevented.
i But anti-dam activists suggest that a series of smaller dams
would mean less human displacement and suffering.
• The Narmada Tribunal says
that no number of small dams
can store as much water as this
project envisages. It is fanciful
to suggest that a similar quantity
of water can be provided with
the same level of water security
and at the same cost through
smaller dams.
As for displacement and suffering, there are those who say
that such large-scale rehabilitation of people is not physically
possible. This argument defeats
the very basis of human progress
and the desire to aspire and
achieve. What we should do,
of course, is to move ahead and
then deal with the shortcomings in an appropriate manner.
The trouble with the anti-
dam activists is that they are
philosophically opposed to the
pattern of development envisaged in the building of big
projects like this one. But their
idea of small-scale
decentralised development will not work for
two reasons—firstly,
the large population factor is a given, and, secondly, if you are poor
and helpless in a predatory world, your margin for manoeuvring is
The anti-dam activists are romantics and
they have a nostalgia for
the past. However, their
ideas have been overtaken by events. You cannot, for instance, supply
water and electricity to a city
like Delhi through a small scale
project. This romanticising of
the way of life of the indigenous
people of the region who have
actually been suffering hunger,
degradation, squalor and poverty, is a dangerous thing.
i What about the arguments
for not letting an alien pattern of
development thrust upon the indigenous people?
• But what right has anybody
to deny them the alternative of a
better way of life and an opportunity to break out of the cycle
of poverty? The problem is that
we are not an achieving society.
No one is counted among the
people' unless they are poor
and underprivileged. The
proj ect will benefit a larger number of people in the long run
than the short-term costs that
some of the displaced persons
will have to suffer. The cost-
benefit ratio favours the project
in both money and human
terms. The cost of not building
the project will be far more than
the cost of building it. If the
project displaces 100,000
people by the year 1995, not
doing anything would displace
half a million or more because of
hunger and poverty.
i     On Narmada, those displaced
complain about resettlement, par
ticularly about the inferior quality of the compensatory land.
• The land quality is definitely much better in the rehabilitation areas, and irrigation
will come with time. The promised irrigation facilities have
been delayed because the
project itself has been delayed.
Besides, the project is also providing housing assistance, markets, schools, electricity and
water supply for the people being rehabilitated. Temporary
problems of grazing, firewood
and fishing will be there, but
they will definitely be balanced
out. The people will move from
well below the poverty line to
near or above it. The current
problems are teething troubles
that can be rectified with proper
supervision and care.
A Both the greens and the NBA
point to the large environmental
costs'of the project.
• For every tree lost, the
project envisages planting at
least a 100 more. No endemic
species will disappear that cannot be replaced. Some fishing
may be affected but this will be
more than compensated by
stocking the reservoir. Compensatory afforestation will
improve the catchment area,
while the formation of five new
sanctuaries envisaged by the
project will provide a new home
for the displaced species.      t>
March   1996 HIMAL South Asia
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The BJP's
Among South Asian countries, there is some anxiety about a possible
Bharatiya Janata Party victory in the upcoming Indian elections.
Surprisingly, BJP pragmatists might live and let live.
hy Rachana Pathak
with reports from Colombo, Dhaka, Lahore and New Delhi
toral results in Kamataka in the south, where
it previously failed to make a presence, have
all pushed the party into what some believe
is a neck-to-neck position with the ruling
Congress party.
Vir Sanghvi, of the political weekly
Sunday says, "The anti-incumbency syndrome that has dominated assembly election results in recent years will work against
the Congress. And now that the Janata Dal
At the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
headquarters in New Delhi, the
mood is upbeat. Though it is early,
many dhoti-clad hopefuls with the ubiquitous tilak on the forehead are hanging
around, in search of a party ticket to
contest the general election tentatively
scheduled for April.
Sushma Swaraj, the party spokesperson, says the BJP is confident of
obtaining a comfortable Lok Sabha
majority. While political pundits may
not all share this optimism, most predict that the BJP will emerge as an
important player in the post-election
scenario. The implications of a BJP
victory, both for minority groups
within India as well as the rest of South
Asia, are indeed consequential.
The resignation of Lai Krishna
Advani, the conservative pro-Hindu
party's prime ministerial candidate,
because of murkyjain bribery scandal
allegations has not dampened spirits.
In fact, says Ms Swaraj, "By resigning
and vowing not to contest the elections till his name is cleared, Advaniji
has thrown the ball back in Prime
Minister Rao's court."
The party's strong showing in municipal elections in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, its joining a coalition government with the Shiv Sena in
Maharashtra, and its respectable elec-  Lai Krishna Advani bows out, for now
has self-destructed, the BJP will be the obvious alternative." Some say the centrist and
left parties will align to keep the BJP out of
power, while others predict an alliance between Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao,
select Congressmen and the BJP. Whatever
the prediction, no one is leaving the BJP out
of their calculations.
And that includes analysts in the
neighbouring countries of South Asia. The
majority of those consulted in Pakistan
and Bangladesh consider the prospects
of a BJP victory with some trepidation.
These fears have to do with the implications of a party pushing an overtly
Hindu agenda.
Former Indian Foreign SecretaryJ.N.
Dixit agrees that apprehensions are
expected, especially in Pakistan. However, much of these fears are misplaced.
"No party can drastically alter the
country's foreign policy, as they all
must acknowledge and operate within
the limits of responsibility," he says.
And there are those within the BJP,
looking ahead to the day when the
party would actually have to rule, who
have been trying to project a more
moderate image and to distance the
BJP from the stridency associated with
the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
In the quiet, tree-lined office, a confident Ms Swaraj makes light of all
these fears. As the major player in the
region, India has to provide sound
leadership by adopting "a helpful attitude and avoiding the overbearing big-
brother mantle," says Ms Swaraj. "Our
priority is to have cordial relations
March  1996 HIMAL South Asia      HIMA
 with all South Asian countries, especially Pakistan."
But, she adds, "If Pakistan
fails to reciprocate despite
India's goodwill, we will not
bow down."
Advantage for
In Islamabad, some experts
are positively skeptical about
the prospects for bilateral relations if the BJP rides the
chariot. Says senior journalist and political observer
Abbas Rashid: "The BJP coming to power would increase
tension and certainly not be
very promising for South
Asia. Ominous is more like
it, however bad the Congress
might have been. "Mr Rashid
says that although many welcome the BJP's economic policies, "on political issues, the
party's rational side is
swamped by the hysterical
There is consensus
among the Pakistani analysts
that the immediate advantage of a BJP win would go to
the religious parties of Pakistan. Mr Rashid says, "It would strengthen
the politico-religious lobby here. They would
point to Indian secularism as a sham and
feel justified in urging Pakistan to forge
ahead with its Muslim identity."
Ever since the restoration of democracy
after the death of Zia-ul Haq, religious parties in Pakistan have found it difficult to
carve a niche for themselves in mainstream
politics. The withdrawal of the Soviet Union
from Afghanistan and the start of
intra-Afghan fighting left the religious parties without an issue. Staunch supporters of
the religious right have since deserted, as
shown by the 3 percent vote secured by all
religious parties in the 1993 polls.
"There is no enemy anymore to launch
jihad against, and the people are fed up with
the militancy of the religious groups," says a
former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. However, if the Hindu right manages
to secure a share of power in New Delhi, the
repercussions on the political scene in Pakistan will be immediate. "Qazi Sahib is already in search of a strong issue to regain the
political clout that his party lost in the last
elections," says one political analyst in
Lahore, referring to the Jamaat chief, Qazi
Hussein Ahmed.
Which way to the Hindu Kingdom?
The Jamaat is today faced with internal
wrangling and disillusionment among workers on the one hand, and an unresponsive
political environment on the other. "A BJP
victory across the border will make it easy
for parties like Jamaat to cultivate support
from people on various religious and political issues," says Khaled Ahmed, editor of the
Lahore Urdu weekly Aaj Kal. "Because of
their extreme viewpoints on issues such as
Kashmir, the religious parties here are bound
to gain a definite political advantage with a
BJP victory."
Two-Nation Ideology
There are other political scientists, however, who maintain that relations between
Islamabad and New Delhi might actually
start improving with the BJP in power. Indo-
Pak relations recorded an all-time high when
Atal Behari Vajpayee was Foreign
Minister for 28 months in the Janata Dal
coalition in 1977-79.
Mr Vajpayee, who is heralded as
the BJP's prime ministerial candidate
after Mr Advani's withdrawal, recently
told an Indian magazine that he had always
tried to develop good relations with
Professor.S.D. Muni, |
a specialist in South Asian <
studies   at   New  Delhi's 5
Jawaharlal Nehru University,
is hopeful about better Indo-
■ Pak relations under a BJP gov-
" ernment. "This would give
> India a more perfect Hindu
{ identity and reinforce the
I two-nation  ideology  on
j which the very formation of
Pakistan rests."
Mr Dixit agrees, "Extreme antitheses always find
a way to co-exist. The trouble
Pakistan faces is confronting
India's secular identity." He
suggests that Islamabad
would find a BJP government
with a strong majority easier
to deal with than a confused
coalition. "Pakistan's relations with India have always
been the best when there has
been a strong government
here at the centre," he says,
citing the days of the Rajiv
Gandhi regime before its
credibility began to erode.
Conceding that foreign policy is a "delicate issue" that will not witness a
drastic turnaround with a
change in government, Ms Swaraj says that
there is actually more likelihood that the
Kashmir issue will be sorted out bilaterally
under the BJP.
Support for Tigers
As Sri Lanka enters the 13th year of bitter
civil strife caused by the Tamil demand for
a separate homeland, Ms Swaraj says that a
BJP government would raise the Tamil issue
in international fora lor humanitarian support. "However, we will not send any signals
of support for terrorism, the Tamil question
is essentially an internal matter of Sri Lanka."
While the BJP would support a negotiated
settlement, "no vocal support for the Tamil
cause would be beneficial for any political
party at this stage."
In the past, the BJP's views on the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
were clear. At a meeting of a visiting Lankan
parliamentary delegation in July 1990, the
party's leadership said that the LTTE should
be "isolated and crushed". Dr Stanley
Kalpage, Sri Lanka's then High Commissioner in New Delhi, recalls that Mr Advani
and Mr Vajpayee were present.
Times have changed, and the BJP's own
stance on the Tigers has been influenced by
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
the need to gamer support from the Tamil-
speakmg Indian South. The BJP's sympathies for the LTTE, even though muted, are
explained by the fact that "as a party of the
north, with little support in the south, it is
seeking to identify with southern causes,"
according to one Lankan analyst.
However, others believe that the BJP is
not inclined to support the LTTE's militant
campaign despite the overt sympathy of the
Shiv Sena, the BJP's more radical ally, for the
Tigers. The situation in Tamil Nadu, rather
than the inclinations of the Shiv Sena, will
be the deciding factor in relations with Sri
Lanka, says Prof Muni. And both the major
political parties of the state, A1ADMK and
DMK, generally oppose the Tamil Tigers,
much to the satisfaction of Lankan diplomats.
'Theocratic' Nepal
As a self-declared Hindu kingdom, with a
majority Hindu population, and a written
ban on cow slaughter, Nepal has commonalities with Hindu India. Its ties are bound
to be even better in the case of a BJP victory,
according to many observers. According to
Prof Muni, "Relations with Nepal would
witness an upswing." The consensus is that,
among the national parties of the kingdom,
a BJP victory would most benefit the more
tradition-bound Rastriya Prajatantra Party,
made up of politicians of the old Panchayat
Recent press reports speak of the BJP's
support for radical Hindu elements in
Nepal's tarai region, which is culturally-
linked to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where
the Hindutva wave is strong. Asked about
this alleged support, Ms Swaraj says, "We
Sushma Swaraj
don't have to support them. Nepal is the
only declared theocratic Hindu state in the
However, according to one Tribhuvan
University scholar, the BJP's backing of King
Birendra's (Hindu) monarchy during the
1990 pro-democracy movement makes
some Nepali democrats wary. Ms Swaraj
says that the reports of BJP's support for
King Birendra are erroneous. "We support
democracy there," she adds.
Achyut Raj Regmi, a former cabinet
minister and President of the Nepal Committee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, feels
that the rise of the Hindutva wave has been
positive for Nepal, as it has "strengthened
They All Love Vajpayee
Bangladeshis say he got them the fairest deal yet on
Farrakka, Nepalis say he arranged a trade and transit
treaty, and analysts in Sri Lanka and Pakistan agree his
term was the best for bilateral relations. There is considerable nostalgia all over South Asia for Atal Behari
Vajpayee, when he served as foreign minister during the
Janata Dal coalition of 1977-79. If there is to be a BJP
government in New Delhi, an overwhelming majority
wants Mr Vajpayee to be foreign minister once again, if
not the prime minister.
our Hindu culture and provided spiritual
upliftment." He adds, "India should not
hide behind the name of secularism. Because of secularism, there is no peace in
This is not how Sridhar Khatri, a political scientist at Tribhuvan, sees it. "Any type
of fundamental revivalism will encourage -
negative and unnecessary reaction in Nepal,
especially among non-Hindu or semi-Hindu
minority groups of Nepal," he says. Mr
Khatri and many other scholars maintain
that the cross-border influence of political.
Hinduism has needlessly aggravated Hindu-
Muslim relations in the tarai region, as is.
evident from the rioting that took place in
Nepalganj in November.
Rajendra Dahal, editor at the Nepali
weekly Deshantar, has another perspective:
"Even though Nepal is perceived to be a
Hindu rastra, what is prevalent is a more
liberal brand of Hinduism known as sanatan
dharma, and not the didactic Hinduism
pushed by the VHP." Mr Dahal says that
Kathmandu's intelligensia prefers Mr
Vajpayee's liberalism over Advani's harder
line. "Vajpayee, as Foreign Minister, was far
more accommodating towards neighbours
than Prime Minister Morarji Desai. It was
under Vajpayee that the Indo-Nepal trade
and transit was possible."
Dhruba Kumar, another political scientist at Tribhuvan, holds determinist views.
"It does not matter what party is in power in
India," he says. "India continually takes
advantage, and exploits its smaller
neighbours and will continue to do so, no .
matter what."
"That the BJP continues its angry rhetoric of
Hindutva causes uneasiness among
Bangladesh's 90 percent Muslims," says an
expert at Dhaka University. He, like most
others, is convinced that a BJP victory will be
translated into less accommodation on bilateral matters. This would include the
Farakka water issue, Bangladesh's main bone
of contention with India, disputed sovereignty of Talpatty island, and other border
Prof Muni feels that bilateral relations .
will depend mainly on how the political
crisis in Bangladesh sorts itself out." It is true
with all the South Asian neighbours, including Bangladesh: the weaker the government, the more adversarial a stance it will
take with India. This would be true even
with Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina,
who is perceived to be pro-India."
A BJP victory is bound to trigger a more-
anti-Indian-than-thou race in Bangladesh.
March  7996 HIMAL South Asia
In the future, no one can
afford to enflame
passions in one country,
for retaliatory waves are
bound to engulf
neighbouring countries.
Picture shows the Jam
Mandir in Lahore falling
to a mob, following the
destruction of the Babri
Masjid in Ayodhya in
December 1992:
The nse of the BJP has, in fact, already
affected Bangladeshi parties, with most shifting towards a more "Islamic" stance on
issues. This shift has also been made by the
Awami League, with its traditional Hindu
support. It is also seen to have a weakness
for the Congress party because of support
received during 1971. In fact, Shiekh Hasina,
who was criticised for not condemning the
Babri mosque demolition vehemently
enough, is expected to ensure that nothing
of the sort happens again.
Ms Swaraj says the BJP would like to
revert to the cordial Indo-Bangla relations
that existed when India supported
Bangladesh's movement for independence
in 1971. However, there are three ticklish
issues that have to be resolved. "The first is
Bangladesh's support for the insurgencies in
the Northeast. The second, the question of
Chakma tribals who fled their homes because they have been given the choice between death and conversion. And third, the
large-scale Bangladesh infiltration that poses
an economic burden as well as a political
risk for India as many of them work for
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence."
There are those in Dhaka who believe,
as one journalist puts it, "that the BJP's bark
will be stronger than its bite". They cite the
threat to deport thousands of Bangladeshi
refugees in Bombay-which did not happen.
Others feel that the Bangladeshi parties must
mute their anti-Indian and anti-Hindu rhetoric so that the BJP is not forced to
react belligerently. The Bangladesh military, especially, is said to be worried that
anti-Hindu fervour in Bangladesh may
lead to a Hindu exodus to India, angering
the BJP.
The economic pragmatists are the least
worried. They point to the fact that
Bangladesh is the 11th largest market for
Indian goods and services. "It would not be
in the interest of a government in New
Delhi, BJP or otherwise, to spoil the marketing relationship," says a businessman. The
recent refusal by the Indian Government to
lower tariff barriers for Bangladeshi goods
has already caused worries among Indian
businessmen that Bangladesh might
What is interesting is that India's stunning capture of the Bangladeshi market
happened during the reign of Begum Khaleda
Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist
Party, a supposedly 'anti-Indian party' in
relation to Sheikh Hasina's 'India-leaning'
Awami League.
What seems obvious, in Dhaka as in
Colombo, Kathmandu and Karachi, is that
it is too early to give strait-jacket explanations of party positions and reactions. What
a BJP victory will mean for bilateral relations
with India's neighbours, and for South Asia's
divided nations, is difficult to predict. There
are too many variables, both in issues that
impel the BJP itself in its politics, and in the
issues that impel the domestic politics of
each of India's neighbours. Perhaps the fallout of a Bharatiya Janata Party win will
surprise all, especially the pundits. £>
Reporting from Pakistan by Mazhar Zaidi
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
India should learn to differentiate among its
neighbours. Nepal and Sri Lanka cannot be spoken
of in the same breath as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
by N.N. Jha
Kautilya as
A good policy, according to Kautilya,
must achieve four things: to acquire
what the nation does not have, to preserve
what it has, to enhance what is preserved,
and to use for the welfare of the people what
is enhanced. Foreign policy, too, has to
serve these ends. Kautilya also wrote that
power was the only means to ensure friendly
relations with other countries. This fundamental precept must serve as a guide to the
foreign policy of a future central government in India. And, as power is best achieved
by strengthening a country's national security , this must be given top priority in India's
foreign policy.
Neighbouring countries, quite understandably, play a vital role in Indian foreign
policy projections. At the same time, New
Delhi has tended to judge all of India's South
Asian neighbours by the same yardstick. It
has taken us a long time to realise that such
a policy has stood on foundations that are
patently shaky. To place Nepal and Sri
Lanka in the same category as Pakistan and
Bangladesh is simply absurd.
At the worst of times, Nepal's and Sri
Lanka's perceived lack of cordiality towards
India has been more reactive than original.
Usually, this has resulted from these countries' lack of comprehension of India's policies, in which case it was equally India's
responsibility to remove any apprehension
felt by them.
India's relations—or, to be more precise, the lack of cordiality therein—with
Pakistan and Bangladesh, on the other hand,
is another matter. They cannot escape the
negative weight of history. The rectificatory
mechanism has its own momentum, and
can and must be assisted. However, the
process cannot be rushed, a point which
must be borne in mind by policy makers.
The fact that Pakistan and Bangladesh
are products of secession from India is often
overlooked. (Bangladesh, as a part of Pakistan, did secede from India.) This does not
in the least imply, as is often suggested in
these two countries, that India wishes to
undo the partition of 1947, far from it. What
it does mean, however, is that there exists a
vague, residual, sentimental hangover, on
the part of all parties, that does not lend
itself to a quick dispersal or dissipation.
It must be clear to all except the most
biased that Pakistan is doing everything in
its power to destabilise India. Its policy of
creating instability and unrest in India is
nothing short of an inimical act. By
Islamabad's ownadmission, Pakistanisnow
a nuclear power, and takes pride in the low
intensity warfare it has unleashed in Kashmir as part of its overall plan to destabilise,
even balkanise, India. Pakistan must be
prevailed upon, preferably through political dialogue, to desist from this policy, for its
plans to 'bleed' India can rebound very
severely upon it.
Of course, some of the blame for the
present situation in Kashmir lies with India.
Successive Congress governments in New
Delhi have, over the decades, fostered a
sense of separateness among the Muslims of
Kashmir. This has resulted in their keeping
aloof from the national mainstream. It is
necessary, therefore, to restate unequivocally that Indian sovereignty over the whole
of Kashmir is beyond questioning, and that
India will go to any length to preserve that
sovereignty and will never allow anyone to
challenge it. A great deal has changed from
1947 to 1996. It is certainly not within the
power of a few latter-day zealots to change
history. India will not tolerate any attempt
at mediation by any power. Whatever exter
nal problem may exist regarding Kashmir, it
is a bilateral matter that falls within the
purview of the Shimla Agreement and should
be discussed by India and Pakistan alone.
India is fast reaching the limits of its
tolerance regarding Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and it should be justified in taking
whatever steps it deems fit to put an end to
it. Terrorism is the very antithesis of democracy and its eradication should be the primary concern of the votaries of human
As for Bangladesh, the illegal migration
into India is proving to be a major irritant in
Indo-Bangladesh relations and has cast its
shadow on the entire gamut of bilateral ties.
The continuing influx and the continued
presence of such persons in eastern and
northeastern India is causing an intolerable
strain on the body politic and national fabric
of the entire country. India should be prepared to consider participating in international efforts to tackle this problem, including assisting in the economic development
of those regions from where such influx
takes place. This would, naturally, be on the
condition that it does put an end to influx
from that country.
With Nepal, the most cordial ties exist
and must so continue. Nepal's sense of
unease with the Treaty of 1950, and its
grievances with regard to the utilisation to
its water resources and hydel potential need
to be seriously and sympathetically addressed. The past must not be allowed to
come in the way of the future. The agreement on the Mahakali signed in Kathamandu
on 29 January is an example of a highly
positive and constructive approach on the
part of both countries. At the same time,
Nepal cannot be oblivious to the fact that
the entire Himalaya has a most strategic
bearing on India's security and defence-
related thinking. One cannot be blind to
one's geography.
Furthermore, India is confident that
Nepal will avoid, even subconsciously, becoming a part of ISPs designs against India
and by creating a base for anti-Indian terroristic activities.
On India's part, however, it must seek
to ensure that there is a large measure of
complementary and mutual benefit to both
countries in any shared project. India is also
aware of Nepal's deep feelings over the
forced migration of Bhutanese refugees of
Nepali origin to Nepal. The action of the
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
 Bhutanese government, in this regard, cannot be condoned. Nevertheless, India hopes
that this problem will be resolved in a spirit
of cooperation and understanding.
Regarding Sn Lanka, India throughout
its history, has had warm and fraternal
relations with all sections of its population.
India supports the realisation of legitimate
aspirations of the Tamil people within a
united Sri Lanka. India has a direct interest
in an early resolution of the ethnic conflict
and must, therefore, exert to the utmost to
bring this about.
The ultimate objective of Indian foreign policy is to make human beings everywhere realise that they are all members of a
compact family. This is what India's sages of
yore had meant when they placed before its
people the idea of vasudhava kutumbakam
(the whole world is your family). t>
N.N. Jha, retired foreign service officer and
is a member of the BJP's National Executive.
The views expressed here are his own.
New veins may contain less toxic blood. New
generations in both India and Pakistan may be
more willing to let the past stay in the past.
by Rajmohan Gandhi
A Common Sensitivity
for South Asia
In March 1948, when Indo-Pakbitterness
over Kashmir was fresh, Eric Streiff of the
Neue Zurcher Zeitung asked Muhammad Ali
Jinnah, Pakistan's founder and Governor-
General, whether India and Pakistan would
cooperate against any outside aggression.
Jinnah's reply, reproduced in Karachi's Dawn
of 12 March 1948, and later on page 499 of
S.M. Ikram's Modem Muslim India and the
Birth of Pakistan, was as follows:
Personally, I have no doubt in my mind
that of vital importance to Pakistan
and India as independent sovereign states
to collaborate in a friendly way jointly to
defend their frontiers.
But this depends entirely on whether Pakistan and India can resolve their own differences in the first instance... If we can put
our own house in order internally, we may
be able to play a very great part externally
in all international affairs.
In this response, Jinnah saw South Asia as a
unit, a "house" that needed to be put in
order "internally" so that it might help in "all
international affairs".
Just now, as I recall the far-seeing words,
India-Pakistan relations seem a tiny bit better than they have been for months, which
is not to say that they are warm. All the same,
Nawaz Sharif, leader of the opposition in
Pakistan, has said that he favours Indo-
Pakistani talks, Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto has referred to his remark in positive
terms, and India's Foreign Minister Pranab
Mukerjee has welcomed the idea of talks
with Pakistan.
Amore meaningful sign, perhaps, is the
evident progress over regional trade. Meeting in New Delhi, the commerce ministers
of SAARC have agreed to lowering tariffs and
non-tariff barriers between the member
countries. Pakistan's Commerce Minister,
Ahmed Mukhtar, has been quoted
(The Times of India, 9 January 1996)
as saying that there will soon be good
news on the question of Pakistan granting
MFN status to India.
Preferential trade within the region is
but a stepping-stone, we are told, to
free trade; SAPTA will become 'SAFTA'. Instead of paying steep prices to distant producers, South Asia's consumers will
pick up items inexpensively made in their
own neighbourhood. Once citizens
are locked together in trade, politicians
will find it difficult to mobilise them
for strife.
An attractive concept, but the region's
fears and hates have squashed it for years,
and may do so once again. Why should
common sense, long subdued by emotion
in South Asia, now triumph? Have new
circumstances or leaders suddenly blessed
the region?
We can acknowledge the global trend
in favour of regional cooperation, exemplified by ASEAN, EC, NAFTA, and APEC (promoting Asian-Pacific cooperation). No doubt
many in the region ask themselves why
South Asia should be the odd one out.
For quite a few, the question has led to
a quest. This was shown in 1995 during two
successful rounds of the India-Pakistan
People's Dialogue, one held in Delhi and the
other in Lahore. Participants found friendship and common ground and issued joint
statements. They also found, in both Delhi
and Lahore, cordiality in encounters outside the dialogue.
Perhaps, too, there is some truth in the
view that new veins may contain less toxic
blood—that new generations in both India
and Pakistan may be more willing to let the
past stay in the past.
Yet, just one negative headline about a
neighbouring country can kill the fruits of a
series of dialogues. Putting it differently, we
must hope that bridge-builders on both
sides of the gulf will withstand a series of
negative headlines.
What, to vary the question, is required
of builders of a South Asian Community?
For a start, they have to think of all of South
Asia as their region.
This would cut across the South Asian
'norm' of rubbing out the disliked neighbour
from our thoughts and even our maps. It
would mean a desire to let a flood, drought
or earthquake in a neighbouring country
affect us as much as a disaster in our own
land would; it would mean a deliberate
stretching of our hearts.
HIMAL South Asia March   1996
True builders will go beyond this. They
will strive for a common sensitivity towards
all wounds inflicted by humans in the region, no matter what the dateline—Karachi
or Kashmir, Bombay or Manipur, Colombo
or Jaffna—and no matter who the culprit
militant, soldier or policeman. They will
stretch minds as well, and fill gaps in
their knowledge and understanding of the
SAARC Seven.
Common Realities
True builders will recognise the similarities
in the psychological and cultural traits of
different parts of South Asia. Whether in
politics, on the screen, or on the playing
field—whether in India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, and perhaps, in
Nepal as well—we have always wanted not
performers, but stars. We don't really
want them to perform; we only want them
to shine.
We want stars and we want dynasties.
Our stars and dynasties love to feud, and to
carry oveT their feuds from presidents and
generals to their daughters or widows, and
from one generation to the next. This is not
an Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or
Bangladeshi thing; it is a South Asian trait.
In politics and outside politics, we hate
compromises and coalitions. Our political
alliances do not last as long as they seem to
in Southeast Asia or in Europe, but our
political stalemates can seem endless.
In almost all South Asian countries,
another common trait is to see the state as
the Great Provider, the Great Protector, and,
at times, the Great Persecutor. The state
seems Great, and the individual a helpless
A focus on the past—sadly, not to learn
from history but to avenge it—is another
common feature. Who deceived orbetrayed
whom in the past is the staple of politics in
almost every SAARC country.
Builders of a South Asian Community
will recognise other common realities: the
failure of state institutions to provide justice
or redress, large economic disparities, remote-control from an often-distant national
capital, discouragement or suppression of
local identities and local political forces.
They will face these formidable realities and
yet extract hope from the fact that the realities affect all of South Asia.
They will also recognise the region's
joint assets that include a language—call it
Hindi, Urdu or Hindustani—that brings
much of India, Pakistan and Nepal together;
another language, Bengali, that cements
Bangladesh with India's West Bengal; and a
third, Tamil, which is common to the north
and east of Sri Lanka and the south of India.
They will note that South Asians laugh at
similar things, enjoy similar food, and appreciate similar music.
Further, the region's bridge-builders
will recognise that cycles of revenge and the
spiral of an arms race can destroy all hope in
a precious part of the world called South
Asia, providing retrospective justification
for the alien hand that, for all its presumption and greed, brought some order to the
region for two centuries.
They will listen patiently to opposite
points of view, enlarge the friendship
constituencies that exist, underline the
similarities among South Asia's adversaries, and, wherever possible, encourage wise
initiatives. The region's peacemakers thus
have a role ahead of them which may not be
any less important than that of attaining
independence. A
R. Gandhi's latest book is The Good Boatman
(Viking, 1995), about his grandfather,
Mahatma Gandhi.
The United Nations University
Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS), Tokyo
The United Nations University (UNU) is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Director of the newly established Institute of Advanced Studies
(UNU/1AS), a research and training centre of the UNU located adjacent to the University headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. The institute, which is an
integral part of the UNU, was formally established by the council of the UNU in December 1995, and start-up activities have-already commenced.
UNU/IAS will analyse trends of the interaction of societal and natural systems and study the institutional and societal responses to emerging concerns.
Initial focus will be on developments in population and environmental change; the major factors of economic, technological and geopolitical transformations at the regional and global levels; and changing technological structures, including industrial policy and management. UNU/IAS will also reflect
on the impacts on human values and ethics, and the cultural and lifestyle changes in developing and developed societies.
The research and postgraduate education activities of UNU/IAS will be carried out by staff researchers and visiting scholars and through networks of
cooperating institutions and scholars. The Director is the chief academic and administrative officer of UNU/IAS and has overall responsibility for the
direction, organisation, administration and programmes of the Institute on behalf of the Rector of the UNU.
The successful candidates will have a Ph.D. in a discipline relevant to the above-mentioned areas of study of UNU/IAS, a strong background of
research and publications, a prominent profile in the relevant academic community and a proven record of effective leadership and management
experience at a senior level in an academic community and a proven record of effective leadership and management experience at a senior level in an
academic/research institution. He/she should have and established international reputation with experience in interdisciplinary scholarship, if possible
covering both social and sciences. Candidates should have the ability to work with colleagues of diverse national and cultural backgrounds and a deep
commitment to the issues of human development and welfare. Fluency in English is essential and a working knowledge of other UN official languages
is desirable.
The post carries tax-free remuneration based on the L-7 level of the United Nations salary scale with post adjustment and other allowances and benefits
in accordance with UN practice. It is expected that the appointee will be able to take up the position in mid-to late-1996 for a four-year term.
Nominations or applications, including full curriculum vitae and names and addresses and fax numbers of referees should be received by 15 March 1996
at the following address:
UNU/IAS Search Committee
C/o Office of the Rector
The United Nations University
53-70 Jingumae 5-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150, Japan (Fax: 81-3-3406-7346)
Ti he recent meeting of the Commerce Ministers of the SAARC
countries and the SAARC Trade Fair culminated in announcements and commitments. SAARC Trade Centres are going
to be established and so are Corporate Clubs. The removal
of trade barriers has been unanimously brought forward to 2000.
From the time the SAARC organisation was established, such
announcements have been a regular feature. In December 1995,
tariff cuts were announced by all the seven member countries, but
the goods given such preferential treatment comprise less than five
percent of the total regional trade.
Each country harps on the need for barriers to go down. But the
announced tariff cut on import of chewing gum by Nepal or dental
cement by Bangladesh will not boost regional trade. The true test of
free trade will be when Pakistan starts importing tea from India and
not from Britain.
India is still seen as South Asia's "shark economy", and the
foundation of true free trade will be laid only when this perception
starts being erased. New Delhi has taken the right step by giving
most-favoured nation status to Pakistan.
Where the entire region is being strapped by liquidity, why do
the governments not allow intra-region investment, wherein a share
of a Pakistani company could be traded in Nepal or Sri Lanka? Why
should a factory in Bangladesh not be funded by a consortium of
Indian and Pakistani banks? Why is it that people in Assam cannot
buy Bangladeshi goods and have to pay heavy transportation cost of
bringing cargo long distances overland?
The truth is Saarconomy has thrived all along without SAPTA
at an unofficial level, where gold is smuggled from Nepal into
India, Bombay satta market is backed by financiers from
Karachi, and Indian goods find their way into Sri Lanka.
Governments need to think about formalising this trade by removing barriers.
The price of deferring this decision is being paid by South Asia's
1.3 billion people. Freedom cannot come in stages. South Asia is
either a free trade zone or not. Cutting tariffs on chewing gum and
dental cement is not a start, but stalling.
-Sujeev Shakya
Bangladeshi Taka  :
Bangladeshi Taka
Indian Rupees       :
Indian Rupees
Nepali Rupees       :
Nepali Rupees
Pakistani Rupees   :
Pakistani Rupees
Sri Lankan Rupees:
Sri Lankan Rupees
•As of 19 Feb'96
22 February '96 22 February '96
19 February '96
19 February '96
22 February '96
per capita
per capita
(Human Development Index)
Rates (%)
The Saarconomy page contains a short commentary on a regional economic issue or trend, as well as basic finacial statistics from five
countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). We hope to expand and develop this page as a quick and
correct reference to business and finance in South Asia.
HIMAL South Asia  March   7996
 *7£*^e s4 ^tea/^ !
• The Himalayan Spectacular -
the flight for breathtaking
views of Mount Everest and
the Eastern Himalayas.
• The Himalayan Awakening -
the early bird flight from
Pokhara, for a ring side
view of the Annapurna
Range and Western Mountains.
• Pokhara - Phewa Lake
gloriously reflecting the
Majesty of Fish Tail Mountain.
• Lumbini - Serene and
beautiful. Birthplace of Lord
• Royal Chitwan National
Park - Exhilarating Elephant
rides and wild animal sightings.
' Kathmandu - Centre of
magnificent ancient temples
and stimulating Casino Action.
Cessna LZeZttZVtlft
For Passengers & Cargo
Charters to remote destinations4
by Zayi
And wit
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No Cricket in Dhaka
History, climate, and the Bengali way of doing
things conspire against a Bangladeshi presence in
World Cup cricket.
-by Zayd Aimer Khan
ore than a billion eyes are now
glued on the Subcontinent, with
the World Cup well underway.
And with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
jointly hosting the event, the quadrennial
extravaganza has a truly South Asian feel to
it. But, amid all the regional camaraderie on
the playing field, what of Bangladesh?
It is a matter of chagrin for the millions
of cricket-lovers of Bangladesh that for the
sheer volume of their interest, their country
is still not up to world class cricket. World
Cup '96 is nothing but a reminder of this
harsh reality.
\\. has not helped that for many years
Bangladesh has been dubbed the most promising young nation in the international arena
of cricket. Their performance against fellow
associate members of the International
mAL South Asia March   1996
Cricket Council (ICC) over the years has
been impressive, to say the least. In 1981,
when Sri Lanka got their "Test-playing nation" status, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe (in
that order) were singled out by the ICC as
the next two probables for the elite group.
Fifteen years on, Zimbabwe now brush
their shoulders with the best in the sport,
having gained Test status two years ago
and with a victory against world champions
Pakistan behind them. Bangladesh
still hovers in the periphery, faced with the
unthinkable prospect of being overtaken by
former non-entities like Kenya, Holland and
the UAE.
Shattered Wicket
Being an associate (read, lesser) member of
the ICC, Bangladesh does not automatically
qualify for the World Cup, as do the nine
Test-playing nations. Rather, they have to
go through the ICC Trophy, the official
qualifying tourney for the elite event, which
makes the Trophy as important for
Bangladeshis as the World Cup is for Indians or Pakistanis.
Bangladesh's finishing among the top
four in the ICC Trophy ever since their first
participation in 1979 can be called impressive. But they have never managed to win
the championship in order to qualify for the
World Cup, having always been beaten to it
by Zimbabwe. However, the 1994 edition of
the once-in-four years competition presented
them with a golden opportunity to transform this dream into reality. For the first
time in the history of the tournament, not
one but three top finishers would make
their way to World Cup '96. And with
Zimbabwe not playing (being a Test nation
by then), the top-favourites were the upcoming Holland team and obviously,
The Bangladeshis saw their chance and
prepared for it as never before. Mohinder
Amamath, former Indian test star and hero
of the 1983 World Cup final, was roped in
to coach the promising outfit. Months of
training followed, as did numerous foreign
tours, and practice games were played by
the dozen. Bangladesh was ready for the
challenge, and could already hear the roaring stands at World Cup '96.
Well, they came close. All of 13 runs
separated Bangladesh from a maiden World
Cup berth. In what turned out to be the
decider for the last qualifier, host Kenya
overcame a valiant Bangladeshi fightback
and pipped the top-favourites at the post in
a high-scoring affair. Bangladesh was out
of contention and a nation's dream was
But it was not Kenya or joint-favourites
Holland who snatched away the coveted
goal. Both were expected to make it to the
finish along with the Bengalis, anyway.
Rather, their 'rightful' place, as all
Bangladeshis like to think, was taken by an
unfairly compiled UAE outfit. Bringing in
first class cricketers from India, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka and handing out citizenships
overnight, the Arab side was "the best of the
Indo-Pak-Lanka second elevens," as an angry Dhaka enthusiast dubbed it. And so it
was. The UAE, or "United Arab Expatriates",
ran away with the Trophy.
Controversies apart, the Bangladeshi
team returned to Dhaka a crestfallen outfit.
With no one ready to shoulder the blame,
accusations started flying. The skipper
pointed at the selectors, the selectors the
skipper; the team management blamed the
players, and the players one another. The
press, characteristically, blamed everyone.
As for coach Amamath, he did not even
bother to return to Dhaka.
The bottom line was that Bangladesh
had fallen behind even its earlier unenviable
ranking. This was how World Cup '96 arrived with no home team for the Bengalis to
root for.
Cricket Backwater
As one of the more enduring legacies of
British rule, cricket was taken up by coun
tries in the Subcontinent with gusto. But,
among the former colonies (or parts thereof),
Bangladesh was never up to the mark. Many
reasons have been proffered for this
backwardness, some stretching back
into history.
And so the story goes that the proud
people of Bengal, never willing to submit to
the Englishman, purposely refused to learn
his game. The fact that Bangladesh never
had public schools is also thought to have a
role in ensuring that the country remained
a cricketing backwater.
Only a week into his brief stint as the
national coach, Amamath had complained
of the limited facilities available for training.
Although competitive cricket is played in as
many (or, as little) as ten grounds throughout the capital, only two are fit to host topflight domestic cricket which is hardly
enough to develop a world-class team. At a
ground in Mirpur, where first division
matches are played, cows come in to graze
during intermission. These grounds also
double as venues for weddings and fairs,
which leads to a bumpy outfield and almost
unplayable wickets.
Dhaka Stadium, the only ground properly equipped to hold international matches,
hosts both the Premier Division cricket as
well as the football leagues. Football, being
the main spectator sport in the country,
always gets preference. The result: the cricket
authorities have the field at their disposal for
no more than five months a year. Golam
Faruk, a member of the Bangladesh Cricket
Control Board (BCCB), says, "It takes at least
a month to prepare a top-class pitch. We get
only ten days to do so. How can you expect
any better?"
If there were not already enough hurdles
to world class cricket, there is also the
weather to blame. With the monsoons and
humid summer prevailing for almost half
the year, the game can only be played during
winter and in early spring. Says Faruk,
"Holland and the UAE
train throughout the
year in their indoor
facilities, while our
players can go out only
for a few months
each year."
Fast bowling on
Dhaka street
during hortal
Facilities apart, the structure within
which the game is played in Bangladesh is
also in question. The only form of cricket
played at competitive level is the one-day
game .Critics believe that has to change. Len
^Chambers, manager of the West Indies Youth
team that came to Dhaka a couple of months
ago, says, "To win matches at the highest -
level, you need to have the right temperament and one-day matches get you nowhere
where temperament is concerned. You've
got to play three or four-day games to be top
both mentally and technically."
Satellite Cricket
Things are changing, however. With the
satellite television-induced rise in popularity of cricket in Bangladesh, the standard of -
the game is also said to be rising. And the
ICC Trophy debacle seemed to have acted
like a tonic to an ailing sport.
Preparations are already on for the next
ICC Trophy to be played in 1998. Artificial
turfs for the '98 tournament have been laid
at two different grounds in the capital. Other
grounds have been given a facelift and wickets relaid, complying to international standards. A new, only-for-cricket international ■
stadium is being planned.
But the main improvement has come in
the quality of play. With a new generation of
cricketers coming up, common complaints
about poor fitness, sloppy fielding, and not-
enough handwork are heard less often. The
game is also being de-centralised with leagues
and competitions being held throughout
the country. The lack of fast bowlers, for.
years the shame of Bengali fans, is no more
t o be felt thanks to those who have come out
of different "pace foundations".
The BCCB is also active in promoting
school cricket. A few years back Nirman
Ltd, a local construction company, came
forward to sponsor-a nation-wide school
cricket competition.
The result of these developments can
already be felt. The under-19 team won a
tournament in Malaysia last year, defeating
Sri Lanka. The national side have recorded
victories against both India "A" and Sri
Lanka "A" teams. Bangladesh also came out
on top when the Kenyan team came on tour.
in late 1995, and the youth team, playing to
a home crowd, pulled off a historic 3-0
series win over the West Indies. That was
impressive enough for Gus Logie, former
West Indian test player, to comment, "The
way I see things, your cricket can go only
one way—ahead." A
Z.A. Khan is sports reporter for The Daily Star
of Dhaka.
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia       HIM;
 Arts & Society
The Comeback of
Urdu Cinema...Not
Pakistani film-makers continue to revel in mediocrity.
Rumours about a revival of the Urdu cinema are greatly
by Farjad Nabi
If Indians travelling abroad-repeatedly
find themselves in situations where
they are expected to know what brand
of toothpaste Madhuri Dixit is currently
using, Pakistanis face a similar hounding.
The difference is that Indians are quizzed
about their movie stars, while Pakistanis are
grilled about their TV actors.
So it may come as a mild shock to the
uninformed that Pakistan chums out over a
hundred feature films a year. The logical
question that follows is: "Then why hasn't
anyone seen them?", to which the answer
is, "Because they are so bad that even the
Pakistanis don't see them." Ask any
Pakistani you meet at a seminar or meeting
hall about the national cinema, and
more likely than not, he will respond with
an apology.
For almost half a century, cinema in
Pakistan has been climbing a slippery slope.
Just when it seems to have gotten a grip,
something comes along to send it tumbling
down again. The problems are manifold.
The riots during Partition took their toll on
the film industry. The Upper India and
Shoori studios of Lahore were ransacked
and gutted. Three were left unscathed, of
which Pancholi was the first one to be
revived in the new-born country.
The artistes who opted for Pakistan
found themselves practically without a film
infrastructure, and, in any case, the majority
of brains (and faces) of Lahore's film industry had already moved to the more established markets of Bombay and Calcutta.
Pakistan's cinema circuit was (and is)
minuscule compared to India's, and the
initial free flow of Indian films did not help
nurture the fledgling industry. A ban finally
imposed after almost two decades did spur
local production, but the film-makers always found it easier to copy Indian movies—a tradition which continues to this day.
The National Film Development Corporation (NAFDEC) was formed in thel970s
to promote healthy cinema. After initial
success with films based on classical novels,
the Corporation ran out of steam. Today, it
is a virtual non-player in the movie industry. The biggest blow was the martial law
under Gen Zia-ul Haq, who ordered the
re-censoring of all movies made in Pakistan
and let the industry shrivel.
While cinema was strangling, television was progressing rapidly, producing
high-class plays and serials. The upper and
middle classes that once patronised the
movies began to stray. The 1980s were
marked by the rise of the gun-toting, law-
defying 'Sultan Rahi phenomenon' of
Punjabi films. These movies changed for-
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
 Arts & Society
ever the face of Pakistani cinema—and that of the cinegoer.
The single most important reason why Pakistani film remains
stuck in the mediocrity rut is the lack of respect for the artiste.
Pakistan's film industry draws heavily from the 'talent' of red-light
areas, whether actresses or musicians. To date, there is no film
academy in the country.
"No matter how established an artist is, he always feels at the
back of his mind that society does not respect his profession," says
Mushtaq Gazdar, a well-known documentary maker who is writing
a book on Pakistani cinema. "As a result, incongruously, many
people in the film industry turn staunchly religious." The best
example of this interesting side-effect was none other than the late
movie idol Sultan Rahi who always found time to go door-to-door
preaching Islam.
Munda Bigra Jaye
Fast forward to 1996. The prevalent belief is that, finally, the times
are changing, and that Urdu cinema is on theojp. Four films are cited
as examples to support this theory: Munda Bigraf aye,feeva,Sargam,
and fo Darr Gaya Woh Man Gay a.
The film that stands out among these is Sargam because of its
non-commercial treatment. Inspired by the Indian Pakeezah by
Kamal Amrohi, it revolves around a male protagonist's love for
classical music and the non-violent conflicts that surround his
adventures. Another major factor was the casting of the angelic Zeba
Bakhtiar (of R. K. Studios' Henna fame) as the delicate heroine, who
is the diametric opposite of the pelvic-thrusting Reema, Pakistan's
number one female star.
A major feature of Sargam is its high selling soundtrack
composed by Adnan Sami Khan, who also plays the hero. Sadly,
Asha Bhosle's vocals in the original soundtrack were replaced by a
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Pakistani singer's before the film was released in Pakistan, due to
official meddling.
Sargam lasted two months and failed financially. As a commentary of class tastes, throughout its showing the galleries were sold
out whereas the cheaper stalls below remained empty. This is what
had people optimistic that the middle class had finally returned to
Urdu cinema.
feeva's main contribution is the return of movie tunes that could
be hummed. The hit song "Janoo Sun Zara" did much for the movie's
success, feeva was shot in Turkey and its cinematography was more .
imaginative than the average. Munda Bigra Jaye is a venture by the
actress-tumed-director with a Midas touch, Shamim Ara. She
combines comedy, romance and action in a well-balanced mixture,
resulting in a film that has drawn the largest number of female
viewers in recent times. The plot was plagiarised, as in the case of
the Indian Andaaz Apna Apna, from Hollywood's Dirty Rotten
The most notorious of the lot is Joh Darr Gaya Woh Marr Gaya.
A sickeningly garish big-budget production, the movie owes its box
office success to unprecedented vulgarity. Neeli, the top heroine of
a few years ago, pulled all stops and a few buttons to earn a
comeback, including a thirty-second sequence where, clad in ,
skin-tight leotards, she writhes on a bed with remarkable suggestion. Incidentally, the film is a blatantly plagiarised version of
Consenting Adults.
Film pundits who interpreted the crowds at these movies as
indicating the revival of Urdu cinema are off the mark. While more
Urdu films are being made today than two decades ago, the people
thronging the theatres are not the same. Women and families are
conspicuously absent, while rowdy young men make up the bulk of
the audience. If this be revival, then let us do without it. A
F. Nabi is a Lahore-based Journalist with The News on Friday.
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
 Arts & Society
Are Half Truths OK?
Surfing the Himalayas: A Spiritual Adventure
by Frederick Lenz
St. Martin's Press
A much-hyped book raises questions about the
transmission of Tantric Buddhism to the West.
review by Broughton Coburn
There is more than one Buddhist vehicle to enlightenment, and
Frederick Lenz in this heavily-promoted book offers a new one: a snowboard,
the flexible plank that is now terrorising
North American ski slopes. It is a tribute to
readers' good sense that the publisher's promotional efforts have not pushed Surfing
above 146 on the New York Times
bestseller list.
In January, the Washington Post ran a
long expose on the dalliances of the author,
a rich and dangerous cult figure with mansions scattered around North America. So,
this is who South Asia and the Himalaya get
as their latest representative in North
America's mass media. And it is clear that
Lenz is using the medium of a book supposedly on Tantric Buddhism to push through
his own agenda.
The nameless protagonist in Surfing is a
young snowboarder who needs no name
because he represents the West, the Occident. He acts as a primitive device for the
monologue of the book's spiritual guide and
only other character, Master Fwap Sam-Dup,
"the last master of the Rae Chorze-Fwaz
School of Tantric Mysticism and Buddhist
Enlightenment." They meet when the
snowboarder runs over the master on a
mountain near Kathmandu. Master Fwap's
own guru had prophesied that a tall young
man on a snowboard would "bump into"
Master Fwap. This is how Eastern dharma is
transmitted to the West.
While Master Fwap, in mystical tones,
explains his brand of Tantric Buddhism to
the snowboarder, I found myself searching
for evidence that the author had travelled to
Nepal, as he claims in the epigraph. In
Kathmandu (which is misspelt in the book)
he stays in a "youth hostel" on a cot, and eats
hard bread and gruel. The next morning it
snows as he rides a yak-drawn cart across
the city. Overlooking an elevation problem
there, I wonder whether a yak would ever
submit to such a device.
The master—swathed in the robes of
an omniscient Tibetan guru, except that
they are the wrong colour—conveys opinions that are frequently more Western than
'Eastern'. Conveniently, he has learned about
modem science and society, which facilitates his conspiracy with the author's
wide-ranging philosophy agenda. "Without
my knowing how or why," says Master
Fwap's disciple, bathed annoyingly in waves
of kaleidoscopic golden light, "I simply
'knew' that what he had told me was true."
The young snow surfer has blindly caught
the wave of Eastern Mysticism, and though
he doesn't know where it is going, he doesn't
want to get off.
Master Fwap's pronouncements are improperly described as "Tantric Buddhism"
and "Buddhist Yoga," and his discourse
mostly meanders through an agglomerated
mystical landscape of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, common sense, contrivance, Chinese feng shui, the "Atlantean Mystery
School," something Egyptian I'd never heard
of, and New Age nonsense such as "vibratory soul types," "auric patterning," and
"psychic pollution of the earth's aura." Master Fwap says, "You must look beyond
my words in order to know what 1 am
talking about."
"Fwapism" would be a more appropriate title for this discipline. No known Tibetan traditions or sects are referred to, and
Master Fwap is the sole source of the book's
ancient wisdom. But Buddhist philosophy
isn't copyrighted, so I wonder why Lenz
borrows and invents when the real Tibetan
Buddhist concepts work just fine.
Master Fwap correctly identifies karma
as quite simply the law of cause and effect,
sometimes realised over a period of many
lifetimes. Later, he slips into the stereotypical and incorrect sense of karma as 'fate',
"...the winds of karma change direction,
and we are blown into yet another life... And
if you don't follow your karma, if you try to
avoid it and run away from whatever your
karma happens to be, you will never be
happy..." Sounds good, but unfortunately,
that isn't karma.
Master Fwap claims to have been enlightened in dozens of past lifetimes, which
defies a core Buddhist belief that nirvana
liberates one altogether from the cycle of
birth, death and rebirth. He confirms that
humans are habituated, indeed slaves to the
"weather" of our transient emotions. He also
touches on Buddhist emptiness, but in doing so fuels numerous myths: that Buddhism is largely mystical; that meditation is
a means to stop one's thoughts (Buddhists
observe the mind, they don't control it); that
enlightened masters always tell the truth
(not necessarily); that Tibetan monks aren't
ordinary people (really?); that "To suffer
because of anything you see, feel or experience here in the a mistake."
One of Buddhism's most practical lessons is
that the experience and understanding
of suffering is our greatest source of
Surfing raises questions about the introduction of Tantric Buddhism to the West.
Are half truths better than nothing? Might
this book actually impair a proper understanding of Buddhism? I don't know. Perhaps simply inspiring readers in the West to
regard the world differently, while providing them a narrow glimpse of emptiness and
the transitory nature of existence, is
good, especially if this leads them to
further inquiry.
Surfing can be looked at as humorous,
I suppose. The protagonist says, "I had been
sitting in meditation for several hours, even
though it had only seemed like seconds to
me." He ascribes this to the higher prank
currents of the valley where he is sitting.
Real Buddhist masters recognize this state of
mind as sleep.
Those interested in learning about Buddhism would be better off snowboarding
past the poorly-researched crud of Surfing
and start with any of the readable, clear,
consistent, humorous books written by the
Dalai Lama. A
B. Coburn's most recent book is Aama in
America: A Pilgrimage of the Heart. He lives
in Wilson, Wyoming.
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Stateless in 1997
China favours Chinese-speakers, India does not allow
dual nationality, and Britain would rather they stayed
away. Ethnic Indians of Hong Kong are beginning to
feel like castaways.
by Yojana Sharma
There are about 20,000 ethnic Indians living in Hong Kong, and many
of them continue to hang in limbo as
the handover of the British Colony of Hong
Kong to Chinese rule in June 1997
draws nearer.
Many of these Indians descended from
those that came to Hong Kong as traders,
police officers and civil servants more than
a generation ago when India was still a
British colony. They hold Hong Kong British passports and could become virtually
stateless after the handover because these
passports do not grant them the right to live
in Britain. China seems set to allow only
ethnic Chinese the right of permanent residence in Hong Kong after 1997. And, many
of Hong Kong's ethnic Indians do not fulfil
the residency requirements for Indian nationality.
"Most of us were bom and raised in
Hong Kong and don't have an Indian passport," says Mohan Chugani, a garment trader
and member of the Indian Resources Group
(IRG)—a lobby group of influential Indians
trying to press Britain for British passports.
"We have been told by the authorities that
granting  British passports is  not an
No laddoos in Hong Kong after 1997
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
administrative decision. It has to go through
(the British) Parliament and that will not
be easy."
Show Your Links
The granting of passports to non-whites is
an emotionally charged issue in Britain. In
1991, with some difficulty, the then Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher had managed to
push through a package to grant 50,000
British passports to Hong Kong people in
order to shore up confidence in the wake of
thejune 1989 Tiananmen killings in Beijing.
While some Indians acquired full British passports under that scheme, no special
lobby exists for those who might become
stateless in June next year. Instead, they
must fulfil the requirements on education,
qualifications and links to Britain that other
Hong Kong people too must show to obtain
The IRG's Ashok Sakhrani, a lawyer,
says Britain has a moral duty to provide for
their future. "But we believe the British and
Hong Kong governments are attempting to
wash their hands of responsibility for these
British subjects." Despite the obvious
hurdles, the IRG seems determined not to
give up its lobbying effort. Last month, a
petition was presented to Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten, and there were plans to
go higher up with another one.
There is one small ray of hope. The IRG
says it has the sympathy of Britain's opposition Labour Party leaders. With a British
general election due before mid-1997 that is
widely expected to return a Labour government, there may be some way to get those
passports. However, the group's members
admit that passports for ethnic Indians in
Hong Kong are unlikely to top a new Labour
government's parliamentary agenda.
Dual Nationality
And even swift action may come too late.
"People here cannot wait till 1997, they
need to arrange their future now. Most have
already done so," says Mr Chugani. Many
have already joined the hordes of Hong
Kong Chinese seeking passports overseas
through emigration, mainly to Canada, the
US and Australia. Some 62,000 Hong Kong
people are leaving each year with overseas
"Most others, particularly the business
community will look elsewhere in Asia,
such as the Philippines and Singapore," says
Mr Chugani. "If you invest a lot of money in
these countries they will grant residence."
Others are hedging their bets by illegally taking out two passports, one Hong
Kong and the other Indian. They may need
their Hong Kong passports to continue living and working in Hong Kong after the
handover, but if things go awry after 1997,
they can fall back on their Indian nationality. "1 know there are a couple of hundred
people in Hong Kong who are trying to hold
both documents illegally," says an IRG member, who cautioned that those who are trying to have it both ways may be weakening
their case for claiming British passports. "In
the unlikely event that Britain is persuaded
to take positive action, these people will be
excluded from the benefits," he says.
Meanwhile, it would not take long for
the Indian authorities to weed out the double
nationals, and South Block apparently
frowns at this development. "Dual nationality is against the Indian Constitution," says
an Indian consular officer in Hong Kong,
adding that those who are found out would
be asked "to make up their mind and surrender one of the passports." He adds, "We
have no problem with anyone preferring to
hold Chinese, British or American passports
rather than Indian. Just as long as they do
not violate the Constitution."
Notice Is Served
The IRG is also seeking minimal assurances
from the Chinese government before the
transfer of sovereignty so that the ethnic
minorities can continue to invest, and conduct their businesses with the same rights
and privileges as non-Chinese nationals.
Amidst all this lobbying, the resignation last
January from the government of Haider
Barma, Hong Kong's transport secretary
and the colony's highest-ranking ethnic Indian, sent jitters through the Indian community.
Mr Barma, 51 who was born and raised
in Hong Kong and speaks Chinese, admitted his decision to step down was related to
uncertainty over non-Chinese Hong Kong
nationals after 1997. "One has got to be
pragmatic," he says. "I am not Chinese, and
one has to accept the reality of historical
China has served notice that
non-Chinese cannot serve at the higher levels of the civil service after 1997, but local
Indians read more into Mr Barma's resignation. "Clearly, the Chinese have not been
forthcoming with any assurance for the
Indian community," says one.
Hong Kong NRI
Some accuse the Indian government of inaction, and for not raising the matter with the
British. However, Indian diplomats say, a
little defensively, that the matter of ethnic
Indians of Hong Kong is firmly in the British
court. Says one diplomat, "We would help
them if they ask us, but many of them do not
want to settle in India. It is a very complex
issue. We have to see first to what
extent Britain will help these people, to
what extent China will help them, as well as -
to what extent India can help them. Some
may not even bother asking us for
In India, the idea of granting dual nationality and special residency rights for.
non-resident Indians (NRI) has been mooted,
particularly for those who invest in India._
Such measures might have helped the Hong
Kong Indians out of their dilemma, but no
decision is expected soon.
According to a Hong Kong-based
diplomat, South Block had warned Whitehall
several years ago that if the question of Hong.
Kong British passport holders was not resolved before the handover, there would be
a crisis of statelessness. "We are not in at
position to say whether Britain would act on
that representation," he says. "No one can
really know what will happen until
June 1997."
Y. Sharma is a Hong Kong-based journalist.
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Bard of the Brahmaputra
by Sanjoy Hazarika
A few weeks ago, in the northern Assam
town of Tezpur, a small group gathered in the elegant drawing room of the
Goswamis, a prominent doctor couple,
sipping drinks and listening to a long-time
politician recount one of his favorite anecdotes in the Assam Assembly.
The politician spoke of how a mischief-making MLA had got another opposition member, who was quite easy to
sway, to challenge the then leader of the
opposition, Dulal Baruah, in the House on
a point of order. An outraged Baruah thundered at his backbencher to shut up, but
the instigator was not done yet. "Press on
a point of order," he hissed at. his wavering
"Point of order!" yelled the member,
now defiant, but once again stumped
when the Speaker asked him,  quite
legitimately, "On what grounds?"
He fumbled, but then his friend whispered again, "Say, bad grammar."
"Bad grammar, sir," suggested the legislator.
The House dissolved in laughter as
Dulal Baruah turned purple with rage and
gazed balefully at his two tormenters.
The name of the assemblyman is not
important, but there is much to be said of
the mischief-maker, who was no other
than Bhupen Hazarika.
Bhupenda, as he is lovingly called by
millions, is recognised by many as one of
the greatest cultural figures that Assam has
produced, next only to Sri Sri Sankaradeva,
the Vaishnavite preacher of the 15th century, and Rupkonwar Jyoti Prasad
Agarwalla, the early 20th-century singer-
Bard and balladeer, poet and politician, journalist, singer, lyricist, musician,
filmmaker, writer—but Bhupenda is much
more than all this. He is a communicator of
romance, passion, universalism and humanism. He has gathered awards aplenty:
for his contribution to cinema, to music, to
culture, and to the vigour he reinstilled in
the Assamese, j ostling them awake through
song, and forcing them to rethink old
attitudes. In 1994, he was awarded the
Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest
award in India for contribution to films.
Hazarika is cherished in Dhaka as
much as he is in Guwahati. His song on the
war of Bangladesh's freedom, "Joijoi Naba
Jata Bangladesh" (hail the newborn
Bangladesh), is a stirring marching tune
which was on every Bengali's lips during
those harrowing days. His songs are not
limited to Assamese and Bengali, and
Bhupenda's rich baritone is equally at ease
with Hindi, Urdu and English.
Hazarika's internationalism (or 'regionalism') goes further than his vocal
chords, as is evident when he talks of his
special relationship with Nepalis. He was
bom in Tezpur, a town that has quite a
significant number of them. The black
Nepali cap, which is his signature, he
began wearing, he says, when his father
died many years ago and someone in the
neighbourhood gave him a topi to wear.
The khukuri pin that adorns his topi is a
gift from Hazarika's friends and admirers
in Nepal.
Bhupenda is without doubt one of
the greatest living cultural communicators
of South Asia. He has swayed millions with
the power and passion of his voice, and the
message of universal brotherhood and
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
humanism, which comes
through in his songs. He
has a genius for weaving a
magical tapestry out of traditional Assamese music
and lyrics, breathing new
life into the language,
synthesising old and new
strands of music, and instilling a sense of pride
among the inhabitants of
the Brahmaputra valley.
Hazarika showed signs
of early musical genius even
before he started singing
on All India Radio in 1937, at the age of
eleven. As a young adult, he swiftly made
his mark as singer and composer. Later,
Hazarika travelled to New York, where he
earned a doctorate in audio-visual and
mass communications from Columbia University. He served in the Assam Assembly
in the 1960s as an independent MLA. He
has also headed the Assam Sahitya Sabha,
the literary bastion of the Brahmaputra
valley's dominant civilisation.
Few know that, during his time at
Columbia University, Hazarika was a friend
of Paul Robeson, the great black American
singer, actor and civil  rights activist.
Robeson's passionate crusade for social justice and
black pride has permeated
Bhupenda's own worldview.
Inspired greatly by Robeson's
powerful rendition of the
song "Ole Man River",
Hazarika created his
own moving ode to the
The waterways of Assam
have been a the source of
inspiration for Hazarika's
songs and lyrics all these
years. "The Brahmaputra is
the lifeline of Assam," he says. One of his
notable collaborations for Doordarshan
was Luit Kinare (by the banks of the Luit),
a mosaic of ordinary tales that is both
cheerful and poignant. (The Luit merges
with the Dibang in Arunachal to create
the mighty sea-like expanse of the
Whereas he had been a legend in
Eastern India for decades, it was his
compositions for the film Rudali which
won Hazarika recognition across the
Subcontinent. At the age of 70, he retains
the energy of a much younger man, and
he is presently working on a television
serial on the freedom movement in Assam.
Perhaps the best example of the humanistic ideals that imbue his works is the
song "Manuhe Manuhar Babe" (for man),
composed in 1964:
If man wouldn't think for man
With a little sympathy
Tell me who will-comrade.
If we repeat history
If we try to buy
Or sell humanity
Won't we he wrong-comrade?
If the weak
Tide across the rapids of life
With your help
What do you stand to lose?
If man does not become man
A demon never will
If a demon turns more human
Whom shall it shame more-comrade?
S. Hazarika is Delhi-based correspondent for
the New York Times and an author with
special interest in the Indian Northeast.
Bedabrata Lahkar of the Assam Tribune
helped research this article. Translation of
"Manuhe Manuhar Babe" by PradipAcharya.
1. Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies Geoffrey Samuel
(Mandala Edition is being published by arrangement with Smithsonian Institution
Press, Washinton DC, USA)
2. Proceedings of the International Seminar
on Anthropology of Nepal:
People, Problems and Processes Edited by Michael Allen
3. Stories and Customs of the Sherpas
Ngawang Tenzin Zangbu - Tenboche Reincarnate Lama and Frances
4. Tales of Turquoise: A Pilgrimage in Dolpo Cornneille Jest
5. Jhankri: Chamance de I' Himalaya (In French Language) Eric Chazot
6. Gods, Men and Territory: Society and Culture in Kathmandu Vallley
Anne Vergati
7. Auspicious Music in a Changing Society: The Damai Musicians of
Nepal Carol Tingey
8. A guide to the Art and Architecture of the Kathmandu Valley
Michael Hurt
9. KIRTIPUR: An Urban Community in Nepal
Its People, Town Planing, Architecture and Arts
Editors Mehrdad Shokoohy and Natalie H. Shokoohy
Kantipath, Post Box No.: 528, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tel + 977-1-227711 (0) 216100 (R)
Fax   +   00977-1-227 600,   227372   Attn:   Madhab
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Fax: 977-1-417133, Tel: 414013
 YOUNG     S O U T H A S I
This Young SouthAsian page is for
and about children. In this rapidly
changing world, young readers need to
engage with issues and ideas—sometimes
serious, sometimes not—that affect their
lives and shape their future.
In this special section, which is
dedicated to the young citizens of South
Asia, you will receive information that
we hope is interesting. The first
instalment of Young SouthAsian presents
you with a report that happens to he
somewhat related to the cover story of
this issue on militarisation and social
Please write to Young SouthAsian,
GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal, and
tell us what your interests are and what
you would like us to include in this
section in the future.
A teenage Tamil Tiger with his AK-47 rifle
J see the world gradually being
turned into a wilderness, I hear the
ever-approaching thunder, which will
destroy us too, I can feel the suffering
of millions, and yet, if I look up into
the heavens, I think that it will all
come right, that this cruelty, too,
will end.
THESE ARE THE words of a 15-
year-old girl. They could have been
written yesterday, by a child in
Bosnia or Afghanistan. They were
written 50 years ago in the Netherlands, by Anne Frank, who died
shortly afterwards in a Nazi concentration camp.
Since the end of the Second
World War 47 years ago, there have
been 149 major wars, which have
killed more than 23 million people.
This is double the number of war
deaths in the 19th century, and
seven times greater than in the 18th
century. Among the millions killed
in those 149 wars, many, many
were children.
It is especially sad when children die or are wounded in wars
because they are caught in a
crossfire that is not of their making.
Obviously, children are never
consulted when adults decide to
fight wars. Nevertheless, millions of
children are killed, disabled,
orphaned, separated from their
families, and physically and psychologically traumatised due to
armed conflicts. Life is not easy
even for those who survive the
fighting, for they often re-live the
terror of battle. The deeply
disturbing experience can leave
children fearful, insecure and
bitter for the rest of their lives.
The statistics are quite numbing. Over just the past ten years of
fighting around the world, 2
million children were killed, 4 to 5
million were disabled, more than a
million were orphaned or separated
from their families, some 10 million
were hurt psychologically, and 12
million were left homeless.
Wars also affect children
indirectly because fighting disrupts
the services taken for granted, such
as schooling, health care, and the
distribution of food. Most of the
children who die in wars are not
killed by bombs or bullets. Instead,
they have succumbed to starvation
or sickness.
Millions of children who have
never even seen a gun are also
affected by fighting, because wars
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
force governments to squander
money on arms and ammunition
which could have been spent on
textbooks and hospital beds. Most
recent wars
have been
fought in
Africa and
Asia, by
that can least
afford them,
countries like
Angola and
children to
things that
those living
in countries
that are at
peace would
never imagine. A 1995
survey of
children in
Angola found
that 66
percent of
the children
had seen people murdered, 91
percent had seen dead bodies, and
67 percent had seen people tortured or beaten.
With so many conflicts raging
in our own region, surely, if a
survey were conducted, we would
find that many South Asian children have horrifying experiences
similar to those of Angolan children. In northern Sri Lanka, a war
between the goverment and Tamil
rebels has been going on for 11
years, and in Afghanistan, numerous factions have been fighting
each other for more than 17 years.
Other flashpoints in South
Asia, from where nearly every day,
news of fighting and mayhem is
received, include the Kashmir
region, Karachi in Pakistan, and
the entire Indian Northeast. The
headlines are so regular that we
tend to lose interest. However, this
does not make the violence any less
real for those boys and girls who
find themselves dodging bullets
and taking cover from bombardments.
One of the saddest things to
happen in recent years has been
the use of children as soldiers—
some as young as six years old.
Whereas in the past,
lethal weapons were
heavy and
nowadays light
assault rifles
can be held
and fired by
boys who are
not even in
their teens.
The guns most
This picture shows two Afghans-one old, one
young-both of whom have lost a foot to land
mines. They are walking with the support of
artificial limbs.
in use are the Russian-made AK-47
and the American M-16.
The men who plan wars find
children very useful as soldiers
because they can be bullied and
forced to follow orders. Children
are less likely to run away, and they
do not demand salaries, unlike
adult soldiers. In 1986 alone, as
many as 200,000 children became
gun-toting soldiers. In Sri Lanka
and in Burma, militant groups have
especially used child soldiers,
depriving them of their right to go
to school, to play, and to live
with family.
In Sri Lanka's north, the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) has been active in using
school children in the battle field.
In Burma, parents volunteer their
children for the rebel Karen Army
because the guerrillas provide
clothes and two square meals a day.
It is estimated that 900 out of the
5000-strong Karen Army are boys
under 15.
World leaders talk ceaselessly
about the need for peace. And yet,
all over, children continue to pay
the price for the follies of adults.
When will this stop? When will the
world grow up? A
Information for this column has been taken
primarily from Unicef's The State of the
World's Children 1996, which focuses on
children in war.
OF THE TWO types of land mines
-anti-tank and anti-personnel-the
latter are most dangerous to
children because they
explode with the
application of even
the gentle pressure of
a child's hand or foot.
In 64 countries
around the world,
there are about 110
million land mines
still lodged in the
pull ring
Currently, about 800 people die
every month because of exploding land mines. Thousands of
 others are maimed or
disfigured for life.
A land mine can be
bought for $3 and to
clear a single one of
these hidden killers
can cost between $ 300
to $ 1000. Afghanistan
is one of the most
heavily mined countries in the world.      A.
HIMAL South Asia  March   1996
 Abominably Yours
We South Asians are in the
horns of a conundrum.
Our society thrives in
contradiction, and this subject
deserves a chhota dekko.
Here we have a rich
and vibrant culture going
back millions of years (ok,
thousands) and the Immigration Officer at Indira
Gandhi International Airport grooms his
nose in a rich and vibrant manner as
passengers on BA 262 from London
disembark. And when you visit
Mohenjodaro, a khaki-clad security
guard is attending to a private itch
using a technique handed down
(pardon pun) from generation to
generation, and has changed little since
the zenith of the Harappan Civilisation.
In an area of the world that saw
the dawn of the Great Hydraulic
Dynasties where ancient Kings could
build irrigation canals that traversed the
countryside for 15 kilometres or more
in a gradient of two centimetres
without any help from the World Bank,
we have citizens lined up against the
wall at bus stops attending to IDD calls
from nature.
In Allahabad, descendants of the
authors of the world's first love manual
take gender sensitivity very seriously
indeed as they let their hands roam
inside crowded buses.
The denizens of Dhaka have
decided to turn their city into the
Shutdown Capital of South Asia just
when it was earning a reputation for
being the Chinese Food hub of the
subcontinent. Our advice to Bangladesh's squabbling politicians: you can't
have your Dim Sum and eat it too. You
either have to open up your city, or
close down the Chinese restaurants.
Compared to their shutdown
cousins back home, Bangladeshis
overseas are real busybodies:
carpenters in Kathmandu, successful
slum dons in Bombay, and in
Manhattan every other Indian
restaurant is run by Bangladeshis. And
just about everywhere else, Pakistani
restauranteurs have no problem calling
their cuisine "Indian". And the Indian
running a Nepali restaurant (called
Gorkhaland) in Washington serves
fried vegetarian momos that look
and taste surprisingly like plain
old samosas.
And look at how
much we have cross-pollinated. At any given moment
there are 1.5 million Nepali
migrant workers in India, about the
same number of Indians in Nepal,
Biharis in Bangladesh, Bangladeshis in
Assam, Sri Lankan dentists in Male,
Bhutanese in Nepal, Tibetans in
Mysore, Afghans in Pakistan, Urdu-
speakers in Sindh, Sindhi-speakers in
Punjab, Punjabi-speakers everywhere
else, Malayalis in Delhi, Goans in
Bombay, and Germans in Goa...
With so much in common, it is
difficult to see why South Asians
can't get along. Outsiders see us as one
race, so why can't we? When
skinheads dewog neighbourhoods,
they don't ask which side of Punjab
your grandfather came from. And what
of the rich heritage of myths that binds
us together?
Godmen of the Ramayana went
back and forth between India and
Nepal without passports and visas—an
honourable practice that continues to
this day. And when Ram marched
down to Lanka with his trusted
Hanuman to show guerrilla king
Ravana who was boss, he had to
invade Jaffna—another endearing
tradition that was reenacted recently.
Hanuman was the levitating simian
lord who yanked out a whole hunk of
the Himalaya, carried it across the
subcontinent and deposited it at
Hakgala in the Central Highlands of Sri
Lanka near Sita Amman Kovil where
Sita was held in detention until her
daring rescue. After the victory,
Hanuman forgot about his mountain,
and as far as my research shows there
is no historical record of this piece of
Himalayan geology together with its
flora and fauna ever being returned to
the rightful owners. A question of
intellectual property under the
International Biodiversity Convention
might or might not be raised, depending on which way SAARC amity
What use have the Sri Lankans put
the slopes of Hakgala to? If it is tea
gardens, the people of Uttarakhand
would like a rebate on chai imports. If
hydropower is being extracted,
howsoever micro, let there be power    -
lines from Serendib to Shangrila.
And while talking of regional peace
and friendship, does it do for
Nepalis to gloat, as they are, over the    _
latest excavations at Lumbini which
prove conclusively that Siddhartha
Gautam was indeed born in Nepal? Let -
me hasten to add that although the
place of birth entitled him to Nepali
citizenship, we cannot tell for sure
what nationality he opted for when he
grew up. For all we know, and going
by evidence provided by the great
Italian historian, Bernardo Bertolucci, he
could have carried a Bhutanese
passport. (Isn't it weird? When Nepalis
become famous they suddenly don't
want to be Nepali anymore: take
Tenzing Norgay, Udit
Narayan Jha, Arniko.)
And don't ask me
why Hanuman was
wearing a coat and tie.
Perhaps that's how air
cargo executives
dressed even five
thousand years ago.
March   1996  HIMAL South Asia
 Fascinating beauty.
Imperishable material.
A sure feel for the aesthetically perfect, a personal style
and a purposeful differentness: these are the characteristics of people who wear the La Coupole 'Ceramique'.
A watch whose true nature you experience when you put
it on for the first time: soft as velvet, supple, incomparable.
And imperishably beautiful, thanks to the slightly curved
sapphire crystal and the scratchproof high-tech ceramics
bracelet. Rado La Coupole 'Ceramique' - a beautiful
watch that stays beautiful - a watch that fits as though
moulded to your wrist.
jet     -'-
-A difftreufwrM
La Coupole 'Ceramique'.
Scratchproof high-tech ceramics bracelet.
In three sizes.
 * Is the world passingyou by? Do you feel
left out by international magazines that
treat South Asia as a periphery?
* As a thinking South Asian, are you frustrated to be better informed about the Gulf
and East Asia than about your own
* Does your staple newsweekly give you a
blow-by-blow account of China's economic
reforms, but blank out India?
* Do you miss a South Asian perspective on
events and trends? When was the last time
you read about the smaller South Asians:
Bhutan, the Maldives or Nepal?
This region of 1.3 billion people—stretching in an arc from Afghanistan to Burma—
needs a common voice, even to listen to itself. Southern Asia is a zone of great cultures,
varied geography and close historical affinity. Yet, neighbours barely talk to
each other.
Petty nationalism and short-term geopolitics have kept South Asians apart, and
hindered progress. By highlighting rifts, an insular press has reinforced prejudice.
South Asia falls in the media blind spot between international newsweeklies and
Hong Kong-based magazines preoccupied with Pacific Asia.
South Asians need their own magazine. They need it now.
HIMAL South Asia
GPO Box 7251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 523845/522113 Fax: +977 1 521013


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