Tuesday, April 12, 2005

law & order in kathmandu

Reports of the demise of Nepal have been greatly exaggerated, if my recent visit to Kathmandu is any indication of the way things are going next door. International organizations claim there has been a total collapse of law and order, but apparently tourists who frequent Sam's Bar in Thamel, where drinking and carousing continues apace, have not checked their email lately for warnings from the state department. It is true that the Maoists continue their attacks elsewhere in the country and the lives of villagers caught between the army and the rebels have become desperate by all accounts. But the biggest problem the country faces is not the dismissal of the government by the king--those who still insist that democracy is cure for all ills notwithstanding--but the fear-mongering and real danger that have crushed Nepal's tourism industry. The blow to the country's GDP must be enormous--certainly big enough to prompt the king or, one day, the prime minister, to offer some serious developmental sops to the rural areas that have so far been excluded from the prosperity available in the capital. Put roads, electricity, airports, universities, and, most importantly, jobs on the table, and see whether even the sternest ideologues bow to realpolitik.

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