Outlook – July 28, 2019

(Axel Boer) #1



FTER quitting the BJP, Shatrughan
Sinha seems to be at unease with his new

refuge—the Congress. His disenchantment

with the party began soon after he joined. He

had sought a contest with Modi in Varanasi,

a move that would have boosted his profile

despite an assured defeat. But Sinha was

forced to stick to his traditional Patna Sahib

that he lost. After the poll debacle, Sinha had

hoped for a substantial political role in the

Congress. But the party’s continuing leader-

ship crisis has not let this happen either. Sinha

has been getting restless—his declarations of

praise and support after Navjot Sidhu’s resig-

nation seem to echo his own frustration.


OU can’t take Black
Cobra, Double Sher,
Bichoo, Black Cat, Tee-
tar and Mor on flights
in Pakistan. Nope, not
because they’re wild ani-
mals; they are brand names
of naswar, a kind of
snuff popular across
the country. This
poor man’s drug is
concocted from
cured tobacco
leaves, wood ash

and calcium oxide. How-
ever, aviation authorities
have banned it on flights,
depriving travellers of halal
highs at high altitudes.


OTHING went right
at the launch of Yas-
hwant Sinha’s autobiogra-
phy, Relentless, in Delhi on
July 15. The broadcast was
derailed because of televi-
sion partner HTN Tiranga
TV’s winding down of
operations. Next, the hour-
long panel discussion, to
be moderated by a miffed

Barkha Dutt, was cut short
to 20 minutes because MP
Shashi Tharoor arrived
late. The Q&A session was
scrapped. An irritated
Sinha underscored how
punctuality was never a
priority in India. Any last
straw? After Pranab Muk-
herjee launched the book,
the sound system failed.


OLITICAL factionalism and ideologies of key players in
the Nepalese cabinet are adversely affecting the Oli gov-
ernment’s foreign policy. It has resulted in conflicting signals
on key diplomatic issues that are threatening to strain Kath-
mandu’s relations with a number of countries, including India.
In February, when Prime Minister K.P.Sharma Oli was in
Davos for the World Economic Forum, Pushpa Kumar Dahal
‘Prachanda’, the co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist
Party, issued a statement extending support to the embat-
tled Venezuelan government. He topped it up by denouncing
the US for its meddling in the Latin American country.
Predictably, the US embassy in Kathmandu sent a diplomatic
note to the government to enquire whether Prachanda’s
statement reflected the government’s views. But the foreign
ministry in Kathmandu decided silence was the best option.
Kantipur newspaper claimed that the tussle with the Ameri-
cans dragged on for months.
A few weeks later, another
diplomatic faux pas came to the
fore. The Indian embassy in Kath-
mandu wanted to seek clarifica-
tion on the mandatory labour per-
mits for Indians working in Nepal.
But though a diplomatic note was
sent, the foreign ministry yet
again decided to not reply.
“If we look at the pattern in
which the state is functioning,
the government appears to have
lost control over various state
mechanisms,” former foreign
minister Ramesh Nath Pandey told the media.
In another incident last month, the foreign ministry did
not reply to the US embassy after an American citizen was
refused entry into Nepal because he was suspected of being
an agent of the Dalai Lama. Nepali immigration officials,
under pressure from the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu,
had deported the wrong man with the same name. The US
embassy asked for clarification from the ministry of foreign
affairs, only to be met with resounding silence.
“How can they reply?” noted Pandey. “They can neither
admit that they were misled nor can they say they acted
under Chinese pressure.”
Oli issued a series of statements, claiming to have not been
informed about certain issues. This has prompted concern
about the prime minister’s aloofness, lack of communication
and leadership abilities.
“If the PM repeatedly says he is being kept in the dark, it
is a serious matter,” says Devi Ram Sharma, former chief of
the country’s intelligence agency. “It is embarrassing for the
nation and the prime minister.” Indeed. Hope Oli is listening.

Silence! We Are Dissenting

“If the prime
minister says
he is being kept
in the dark, it is
for the nation,”
says Sharma,
former chief
of Nepal’s



29 July 2019 OUTLOOK 11

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