Battling political paralysis at home, Prachanda takes a Goan holiday
Long-promised and eagerly-awaited constitutional amendments haven't yet been introduced at the Nepalese Parliament, but Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is headed for Goa, in India, for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit.
It will be an occasion for him to get away from the political stasis at home. His diplomatic challenges, however, are likely to be immense. Convincing two mighty neighbours that normalcy is slowly limping back into body politic of Nepal isn't going to be easy.
The leader of Thai junta, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, has already withdrawn from the Goa meet due to national mourning over the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. This has reduced the impending BIMSTEC to the level of a shorter version of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) without Afghanistan, Maldives and Pakistan, but with Myanmar in its ranks.
The jamboree on the eastern coast of Arabian Sea is being held primarily for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Heads of State or Government. It will also be an opportunity for IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) honchos to confabulate over the future of Asia, South America and Africa at global forums.
It's unlikely that President
Vladimir Putin or President Jacob Zuma will go beyond courtesies to court littoral states of Bay of Bengal. But the alphabet soups of diplomatic initiatives will offer a great opportunity for photo-ops in the city by the beach.
The BIMSTEC Summit in Goa is a sideshow. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is perhaps hosting the event to show India's sway over its neighborhood and undermine the importance of SAARC in fostering regional cooperation.
Since Nepal currently heads BIMSTEC as well as SAARC, and had to announce the cancellation of Islamabad Summit due to the inability of some of its members to attend the event, Premier Dahal shall have to exercise some diplomatic adroitness in navigating through regional controversies.
The Goa gathering will also be an occasion for Dahal to clarify his position to Chinese President
Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Modi-the two titans of Asia that exercise considerable influence in the internal squabbles of Nepalese politics. It's almost axiomatic that foreign policy is merely an extension of domestic policies. In Nepal, it's the other way round: where domestic policies are often dictated by compulsions of geopolitics. Perhaps that's the curse of being at the crossroads of great powers.
Somewhat similar to the situation of the 1960s, Kathmandu is caught in a bind as Nepal's three neighbours-two of the land and third one from the skies-jostle to have the final say as the country attempts to institutionalise the newfound republic.
Under his much ballyhooed 'neighborhood first' policy, Prime Minister Modi seems to believe that only he knows what's best for Nepal. President Xi Jinping's zhoubian waijiao is equally egocentric: it puts Beijing at the centre of the so-called 'peripheral diplomacy'.
Meanwhile, under the Pivot Asia initiative, the mighty neighbor from the skies is unlikely to loosen its grips over the byzantine corridors of power in the Kathmandu valley.
At the Goa diplomatic fest, the United States of America is likely to be the most important absentee engaging the minds of everyone present.
It was easy for Maoist guerilla supremo Prachanda to denounce "Indian Expansionism" and "US Imperialism" from the sierras as he extolled virtues of Chairman Mao from his hideouts.