Draw Mohammad Day, May 20th

Pakistan has banned Facebook following huge row over a page that supports this Draw Mohammad Daywhich is on May 20th. I wrote about the issue-drawing Prophet Mohammad as a cartoon character at Associated Contentwhere I basically support the notion that anyone should be free to express themselves as long as they are not being hurtful, racist, biased or xenophobic. Thus, I support the Draw Mohammad Day-in principle. But, I am concerned too.

Some anti Muslim idiots have hijacked this and are trying spread blind hatred against Muslims. I am sure they will come up ugly depictions of Mohammad. Which is not what Draw Mohammad Day should be about. It should be about accepting differences and exercising our free speech rights.

Also, I am surprised to see that even moderate, young Muslims are against Draw Mohammad Day. Which is cause for concern because I was hoping that they used the opportunity to show that not all Muslims are zealots and they are open enough to accept other people;s point of view. It is true Islam prohibits depiction of Prophet Mohammad and God-Allah. But that applies only to people who believe in Islam or who are Muslims. I am not advocating that people offend Muslims but people should have the freedom to exercise their free speech rights-in this case poke fun at the  Prophet. Why should non-Muslims have to follow the rules meant for Muslims?

If the rule against drawing the Prophet or God should extend to non-Muslims too then what is next?

So, celebrate your freedom and Draw Mohammad but please do not go on the ugly side and promote xenophobia. And to all Muslims, you can use this opportunity to present a different picture of your faith. Don’t let the radicals steam roll you.

Nepal in Crisis and Indian Interest

also published at Associated Content

Analysts Look into What is at Stake for India as Nepal Crisis Drags On

Crisis in Nepal is nowhere near getting solved. Government lead by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal is not ready to negotiate with the agitating Maoists, and the deadline to complete new constitution is fast approaching.

Nepal's capital Kathmandu

Nepal’s closest neighbor India has lot at stake. If Nepal is pushed back further into chaos, it has direct security and social implications for India. Analysts are now wondering whether should play an active role in facilitating peaceful negotiations between the Nepali government and the Maoists.

At Eurasia Review Padmaja Murthy says

“Given the challenges India faces from its own Maoists or Naxals it is essential that the experiment of bringing Nepal’s Maoists into the mainstream succeeds. On the other hand India could continue the status quo in its policy. India’s recent statements reflect its support to the government led by Madhav Kumar Nepal. The deteriorating situation could drag India into the divisive politics of Nepal leading to India providing assistance to the Nepal Army to quell the situation. The army would gain momentary control, only to be challenged periodically. This would not ensure peace and only result in a long drawn conflict, the impact of which will spill over into India. This scenario is not beneficial for India.”

Current situation in Nepal concerns India not only because the Maoists are openly challenging the government and have significant support from the rural public; India is also worried about China’s growing influence in the Nepal. When the Maoists lead government was pushing for closer ties with China and demanding 1950 Peace Treaty with India be renegotiated, there were some serious rumbles in New Delhi.

Vishal Arora at World Politics Review says that some “elements” in Nepali politics are playing the China card against India.

“These Nepalese “elements” playing the China card include Prachanda, the leader of the country’s former Maoist guerrillas. After becoming the country’s prime minister in August 2008, Prachanda paid his first official visit to Beijing for the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games, breaking a tradition forged by his predecessors, who reserved that honor for New Delhi. Prachanda also crushed anti-Chinese protests by Tibetans in the run-up to the Olympics. Finally, in May 2009, he sacked Nepal’s army chief, Rookmangud Katawal, for his refusal to integrate the former Maoists guerrillas into the Nepalese army. “

India’s concerns about Nepal-China proximity have largely been dismissed by the Maoists and a section of Nepali public who want a more balanced foreign policy with equal priority given to the neighbors-India and China. They see India’s concerns as an attempt to maintain influence over Nepal and check China’s growing influence in South Asia.

Bhumika Ghimire at World Security Network says that India’s concerns may be bit over rated

“But Nepal is in no position to give up on India completely. It would be very short sighted for Nepal to completely ignore India and depend on China. After all, India and Nepal share miles long open and very porous border, almost 44% of foreign direct investment in Nepal is from India, and the two countries are bound by strong cultural and religious ties.”

Things could take a positive turn if Prime Minister of Nepal shows some flexibility in dealing with the Maoists and prevents further exacerbation of the crisis.

Nepal’s Maoists withdraw indefinite protest..the inner game

well, the maoists have withdrawn their indefinite protest and the people are taking sigh of relief. call me a pathetic pessimist or a myopic(medically i am myopic!!), i am not sure that this thing is over

#the maoists are serious about ousting madhav kumar nepal and his government. they failed to do so through their protest but this is not the end. prachanda and his party will launch another weapon to bring madhav kumar nepal down. and it will happen soon.

#the indefiniate protest was taken back by the maoists..after lot of pressure from india, US, EU, india and china. the comraed are seething that “foreign powers” made them back down.

#also, this debacle is being potrayed by the press-national and international as an ultimate slap on prachanda’a face. this strategy backfired and his people are now questioning his leadership and vision.

so the maoists will be back to take down madhav kumar nepal..is nepal ready for a round 2?

SAARC: Bureaucratic Giant and Losing Relevance

West Lafayette, IN, United States- Bhutan’s capital Thimpu hosted this bi-annual SAARC summit this year (April 28-29). The eight nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) 16th summit welcomed nine nations as observers-including Myanmar, Australia, Iran and China.
This year’s summit focused on climate change, following on the momentum set by Copenhagen-15 climate change summit earlier this year. For a region that is already seeing dangerous effect of changing global climate-increased floods, rising sea level, melting glaciers and prolonged drought, the decision to push environmental agenda is indeed a welcome step.

Unfortunately, observing SAARC’s history it is likely that climate change agenda will remain a paper tiger.

Since its inception, SAARC as an organization has little authority to make anything significant happen. Its charter strictly limits member nation’s ability to push an agenda-if there any opposition. This hands-off policy has stunted SAARC’s growth and influence.

For instance, during India-Pakistan war following dispute over Kashmir border areas (the Kargil war of 1999), SAARC was no where to be seen. Other regional organizations-ASEAN, European Union expressed their respective position and pushed to a diplomatic solution, but SAARC was paralyzed by indecision.

SAARC also failed miserably to push for peace and human rights in Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. The organization’s policy to not interfere in member nation’s “internal matters” has meant that state sponsored ethic cleansing in Bhutan was tolerated, violence against Sri Lanka’s Tamil’s was accepted and violence in Nepal was ignored.