The increased frequency of climate-induced weather extremes and public opinion pressure are forcing even major fossil fuel exporting countries in West Asia to make a big push towards renewable energy.
Nepal’s future may not be in hydropower, as most assume, but actually in the dung heap. A new industrial-scale biogas plant near Pokhara has proved that livestock and farm waste producing flammable methane gas can replace imported LPG and chemical fertiliser.
The people of Nepal are justifiably proud that their country was never colonised, even though most other countries in the region were under the British. The joke in Kathmandu is that the British in India took one look at the mountains to the north, and didn't bother conquering Nepal because they found it ungovernable. The Chinese, too, invaded Nepal in the 18th century but headed right back because it just seemed like too much trouble to stay.
The shaky amateur video shows the leader of Nepal's Maoist party boasting how he tricked the United Nations into thinking his army was 35,000 strong when it had only 7,000 guerrillas. He goes on to admit how he has lied to everyone about his commitment to democracy and the peace process, and that his real goal is total control of the army and the state.
Ever since he launched a guerrilla war to topple Nepal's monarchy 12 years ago, Nepal's Prime Minister Prachanda used to regularly denounce “American imperialism and Indian expansionism”. In an interview in 1998, he even said his Maoist guerrillas were prepared to fight off an invasion by the Indian Army and that Nepal's revolution would spread “to India, and then to the world”, writes Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu. On September 18, Prachanda returned from an official visit to India, stayed overnight in Kathmandu and immediately left for the United States. Dressed in a smart business suit and tie, Prachanda met top Indian leaders and industrialists to tell them they could trust the Maoists and that Nepal was open for big Indian investments in hydropower, manufacturing and infrastructure. Chief Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai is finance minister and a former Maoist guerrilla commander is defence minister. On September 19, Bhattarai unveiled the government's eagerly-awaited budget. Everyone was looking for signs that the Maoists would be trying to implement their slogans of revolutionary land reform, populist handouts to the poor and hefty taxes on property and luxury goods. But although the $4 billion budget was an ambitious 30 percent bigger than the previous year's estimate, it was a much more economically pragmatic document than most expected.
Mao Zedong is dead in China, but the Great Helmsman is alive and kicking in Nepal. What's more, the Himalayan Maoists have come to power not with the barrel of the gun but has been voted to government, writes Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu. When they form the government, possibly with the participation of other parties, the Maoists face immediately the challenge of delivering on their promise of raising living standards. More immediately, they will have to deal with the soaring cost of food. Petroleum prices need to be increased, but the government can't afford subsidies and will not want to antagonise voters right away. The Maoists will want to push through some showcase legislation to prove to the electorate that they are serious about reform. They will want to get started on the controversial process of integrating their army with the national army. The two fought a bruising war, and there is a lot of resistance within the Nepal Army to combining the two forces. The Maoist leadership will have to balance pressure from their former guerrillas with the reluctance to not open up too many fronts right away.
On April 10, Nepalis will vote in elections that will mark the end of their country\'s 240-year-old monarchy and formally bring Maoist guerrillas into mainstream democratic politics, writes Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu. In this article, Dixit writes that the elections represent the last stage of the peace process. The people will vote directly for candidates as well as parties so that the assembly will have members of ethnic and other marginalised groups never represented before in proportion to their population. With voting just around the corner, those who have the most to lose seem to be getting frantic. Absolute monarchists have been carrying out terrorist attacks in an attempt to disrupt polls by provoking communal violence, while radical Maoists, afraid they will do badly in the elections, want to intimidate voters to minimise turnout and so call into question the legitimacy of the result.
After much bargaining and dithering Nepal\'s governing alliance, which includes the former Maoist guerrillas, has finally agreed to hold its twice-postponed elections in April, writes Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu and the author of the book, A People War. In this article, Dixit writes that a lot of things can go wrong between now and then. Maoist hardliners could try to sabotage polls in which they feel they will have a poor showing. The radical right, still loyal to sidelined King Gyanendra, could provoke violence. Militant groups in the plains bordering India may prevent voting. Or all of the above. It looks likely that although Nepal is a republic on paper, the monarchy will still be an issue in elections. This would distract voters from the real issues of a new constitution. But many Nepalis now think the king is just not worth the trouble to keep any more. April\'s elections will bring closure to this prolonged transition, and hopefully clarity to the political process so that Nepal\'s new rulers can at last turn their attention to lifting the living standards of Asia\'s poorest people.
After the heady excitement of last year\'s pro-democracy uprising in Nepal that forced King Gyanendra to restore parliament, Nepal\'s eight-party coalition has fallen apart with the Maoists quitting government on Tuesday. The move did not come as a surprise, since the ex-guerrillas had been warning of just this for months. But it does put in doubt the fate of elections for the constituent assembly scheduled November 22, writes Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper and author of A People War. In this article the author writes that most of the estimated 15,000 ex-guerrillas are interned in camps supervised by a UN monitoring mission in Nepal and their weapons are under lock and key. On Tuesday, the UN expressed concern about the Maoists quitting the government, saying this would jeopardize the peace process. The hope now is that behind-the-scenes negotiations currently underway will produce an agreement that the first meeting of the constituent assembly after elections will declare Nepal a republic. It remains to be seen whether the Maoists will agree to this, and if they do elections may still be possible. Otherwise they may be postponed. Nepal\'s peace process is not in jeopardy, and the Maoists are not about to go back to war. But it is proof of just how difficult it is for a group that has pursued armed struggle to transform itself into a pluralistic, non-violent political party.
If all goes well, in the next few weeks Nepal\'s Maoist insurgents will join the government of Prime Minister GP Koirala, writes Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu. In this analysis, Dixit writes that with the restoration of democracy, it was as if the lid came off and all pent-up grievances and demands of groups that had been marginalised or excluded from decision-making wanted their say. The latest complication is an eruption of demands for fair representation and self-rule from many of Nepal\'s 103 ethnic and caste groups. Despite the peace process, Nepal is in ferment. There are strikes, shutdowns, and highways blockades every day by various groups. The unrest has caused a crippling shortage of fuel. The government has held several rounds of negotiations with representatives of these groups, but has not been able to stem the agitation. As the first anniversary of the victory of People Power approaches in Nepal, there is no doubt that a compromise has to be reached and quickly before another fire ignites from the embers of ten years of war.
It has been five months since Nepal\'s Rhododendron Revolution forced autocratic King Gyanendra to restore parliament and hand power back to an alliance of parliamentary parties. Since then, a restored parliament has carried out one of the most dramatic transformations of state structure ever realised without violence or bloodshed, writes Kunda Dixit, Publisher and Editor of the Kathmandu-based newspaper, Nepali Times. In this article, Dixit writes that Nepal still faces the larger challenge of resolving the insurgency. A ceasefire has been in force since April, and negotiations are underway between the government and the Maoist rebels. In the past month, the peace process has been stuck over disagreement on the issue of what to do with Maoist weapons. The rebels are under pressure from their rank and file who don\'t want to give up their guns, and the government is under pressure from the United States and India not to bring the Maoists into an interim administration until their weapons are laid down. There is a good chance that Nepal can come out of this having resolved not just the conflict but also the social injustices that are at the root of it. But it needs all parties to look beyond immediate strategic gain to ensure peace and stability so that Nepal\'s long-suffering people can finally hope for economic progress.
After three weeks of a growing people power movement, Nepal\'s King Gyanendra finally yielded on Monday and restored parliament, which he dissolved four years ago. That met the key demand of an alliance of seven opposition parties, who will now sit in the reconvened parliament on Friday, writes Kunda Dixit, Editor and Publisher of the Kathmandu-based weekly newspaper, Nepali Times. But it doesn\'t go all the way to addressing the demand of the Maoists for elections to a constituent assembly. The Maoists have been fighting a guerrilla war for the past ten years to overthrow the monarchy. On Friday, parliament will immediately deliberate on the Maoist demand, which would pave the way for them to renounce violence and join the political mainstream. This compromise deal was brokered by the Indians and gave the king, the parties, and the Maoists a face-saving way out of the impasse. In the end it took three weeks of nationwide non-violent people power to achieve what the Maoists couldn\'t get with years of armed struggle.
Nepal these days feels like it is in a double time warp. A medieval king who wants to be an absolute monarch is battling it out with guerrillas inspired by Mao Zedong\'s 1960s China, writes Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu. This week, an alliance of seven political parties has been leading a nationwide street agitation to pressure King Gyanendra to restore democracy and roll back his February 1, 2005 military-backed coup. Protesters have fought pitched battles with riot police for five straight days. Four people had been killed and dozens wounded. Hundreds of activists and journalists have been arrested all over the country. This week is critical in resolving Nepal\'s three-way power struggle between the king, the democratic parties and the Maoists. The king has a chance to offer an olive branch during his traditional Nepali new year address to the nation on Friday. If he doesn\'t, it will only be a question of time before Nepal becomes a republic.
On February 1 Nepal\'s King Gyanendra sacked the prime minister he had appointed, took power himself, and declared a state of national emergency, and Nepal\'s vibrant and free press was suddenly muzzled, writes Kunda Dixit, editor and co-publisher of the Katmandu-based weekly newspaper, Nepali Times. In this article, the author writes that constitutionally the emergency will lapse next week unless reimposed by parliament. But there is no parliament and no elected prime minister. There are strong calls from political leaders, activists, the media and the international community to have the emergency lifted and the press freed. King Gyanendra said his army needed the emergency to concentrate on defeating the Maoists. But muzzling the media has actually helped the Maoists because the censored press has lost credibility and few believe it even when the government is telling the truth. In addition, the media\'s reporting of Maoist atrocities are also not getting reported, and in the absence of facts wild rumours are rife. Prolonging the emergency will just bolster the argument of those who believe that it was not really designed to curb Maoism, but to put down pluralism. Lifting the state of emergency is in the interest of this country, its people, and its monarch.
Every time we in Nepal think things can\'t get any worse, they do, writes Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times. Last week, King Gyanendra sacked his prime minister, declared a state of emergency, and suspended civil liberties. Nepal\'s 15-year experiment with democracy now seems over. With complete press censorship, one of the last remaining freedoms from the 1990 People\'s Movement is gone. King Gyanendra\'s move has been welcomed by many Nepalis disenchanted by the instability caused by fractious and corrupt parliamentary leaders and by an insurgency which has cost 12,000 lives in nine years. If this is what the king had to do to restore peace, they say, so be it. In the long run, however, the answer to Maoist totalitarianism is greater and more inclusive democracy, a vibrant free press, and civil liberties. Curtailing freedom polarises society between two radicalisms and wipes out the middle ground. And even as a strategy against the Maoists it could be counterproductive.
Nepal\'s first explosion of religious violence last week has shocked the country, and prompted calls for reviving the kingdom\'s traditional values of tolerance and compassion, writes Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly newspaper Nepali Times in Kathmandu. As Kathmandu returns to normal this week after the riots, the government will have to tackle the longer term problem of restoring peace. Everyone in Nepal agrees there is no military victory in this conflict. A negotiated solution needs to be found to address the main political demand of the Maoists: set up a constituent assembly to get rid of the monarchy. The Maoists have hinted in the past that they may be willing to live with a constitutional monarchy and their demand for republic is to leave some flexibility in negotiation. What complicates the government\'s dealings with the Maoists is that the parliamentary parties are at loggerheads with the king. The three-month old government of prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of a centre-right faction of the Nepali Congress has cobbled together a shaky coalition made up of the moderate left United Marxist-Leninist. But four other parties have refused to join, saying King Gyanendra wants to take the country back to the days of absolute monarchy. The king has repeatedly denied this, but says the parties need to mend their behaviour and be more accountable.
Suddenly, after years of hostility and mistrust, peace seems to be breaking out all over the South East Asian subcontinent, writes Kunda Dixit, editor and publisher of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu. In this analysis the author writes that India and Pakistan are, once more, trying to make up, a fragile ceasefire in Sri Lanka has now held for more than a year, and in Nepal the government and Maoist rebels are trying to find a negotiated settlement. The olive branch appears to have come from Indian prime minister Vajpayee\'s effort to go down in history as a man of peace and not someone who oversaw a wasteful nuclear arms race with Pakistan and the rise of Hindu revivalists. When he dramatically announced in parliament last month that he was willing to give peace \'\'a third and last try\'\', the offer was immediately seized upon by the Pakistani side.
The mid-day tourist rush is just beginning at the island airport of the Maldivian capital.
The mid-day tourist rush is just beginning at the island airport of the Maldivian capital.
The mid-day tourist rush is just beginning at the island airport of the Maldivian capital. Germans are queuing up at security check for their flight back to Dusseldorf after a week's vacation in this archipelago of atolls in the Indian Ocean and trundle trolleys piled high with scuba gear and duffel bags.
The Second World War was just over, Asian countries were emerging out of colonialism, and the Cold War was about to begin. It was 1950, and ministers of the British Commonwealth, meeting for the first time after the war decided that a major development effort was required for Asian countries.