“Aid” and the Political Scramble: India vs China in the Nepal Disaster-Capitalist Rush

[Frontlines:  Defensive about the appearance of an “aid” scramble in Nepal for power, influence and control, former Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Zhang Chunxiang said, “We do not have competition with India and other countries. There is no competition in humanitarian assistance.” But, not to miss an opportunity….]

“In post-quake aid rush, Nepal neighbors jockey for position”

Nepalese volunteers unload relief material brought in an Indian air force helicopter for victims of Saturday’s earthquake at Trishuli Bazar in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Wedged between the two rising Asian powers of China and India, landlocked Nepal saw rescuers and offers of help pour from both sides within hours of its massive earthquake. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Nepalese volunteers unload relief material brought in an Indian air force helicopter for victims of Saturday’s earthquake at Trishuli Bazar in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) The Associated Press

Wedged between the two rising Asian powers of China and India, landlocked Nepal watched rescuers and offers of help pour in from both sides within hours of an earthquake that killed more than 4,000 people.

India, the traditional power in the region, launched Operation Friendship soon after the quake Saturday. It has sent the most help so far, deploying 13 aircraft and more than 500 rescuers as well as water, food, equipment and medical supplies.

China, increasingly making inroads in Nepal through everything from infrastructure investment to increased tourism, also pledged all-out assistance within hours of the disaster. It has sent 62 rescuers plus blankets, tents and generators and announced plans to send four planes and an additional 170 soldiers.

India’s rival, Pakistan, also has sent four cargo planes full of supplies, including concrete cutters and sniffer dogs.

The largesse of recent days is a microcosm of something much larger. It represents a subtle brand of disaster politics, a curious but understandable focus on strategically located Nepal, one of the poorest nations in its region but — clearly — a pocket of regional importance for powerful neighbors jockeying for position.

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Haitian Lessons to Warn Nepalese: Beware Disaster Capitalists in Humanitarian Clothes

[As the horrifying death toll continues to fise to many thousands, amid the collapse of much of the home, business, and cultural structures in Nepal — the result of milleniums of colonial domination, oppression, and plunder — the enormous need for international rescue and reconstruction is a plaintive appeal to the good intentions of people everywhere.  But the aid will come with many conditions by the powers who bear gifts.  It is instructive to study the experience of the “aid” and “recovery” of Haiti from the devastating earthquake of 2010.  The US turned Haitian earthquake aid into neo-colonial, militarized occupation.  The struggles of people to control their own recovery has been an ongoing fight in Haiti, and now in Nepal.  The following except from a chapter in the important new book Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Humanitarian Imperialism makes this Haitian experience hauntingly present in the streets of Kathmandu today.  —  Frontlines ed.]

US Imperialism and Disaster Capitalism in Haiti 

Keir Forgie, from Maximilian Forte’s new book: Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Humanitarian Imperialism
 At 4:53 PM, on Monday, January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was the most devastating earthquake the country had experienced in over 200 years, with estimated infrastructure damage between $8 and $14 billion (Donlon, 2012, p. vii; Farmer, 2011, p. 54). This is particularly astounding considering that Haiti is recognized as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 70% of individuals surviving on less than $2 US per day (Farmer, 2011, p. 60). The quake’s epicentre was located 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, which is the most heavily populated area in all of Haiti (Donlon, 2012, p. vii). Approximately three million Haitians, one third of the country’s population, live in Port-au-Prince and every single individual was affected by the disaster: the Haitian government reported 230,000 deaths, 300,600 injured persons, and between 1.2 to 2 million displaced people (Donlon, 2012, p. vii). The country presented a “blank slate,” with all manner of political, economic, and social services in absolute ruin—an ideal circumstance to exercise the arms of the new (US) imperialism: notably, NGOs, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the militarization of humanitarian aid, and disaster capitalism.
US hegemonic globalization is the current world order—it is the new imperialism. The breadth of US influence across the globe in terms of politics, economics, and military are unparalleled across history, affording the nation the means to orchestrate geopolitics in its favor through coercion, masked by rhetorical altruism (Moselle, 2008, pp. 1, 8). However, the US is currently challenged by a state of economic decline and shifting international relations. In an effort to maintain its dominant position, the US must implement a number of novel strategies. As such, the “new imperialism” is distinguished by certain contemporary characteristics: notably, war in the pursuit of dwindling natural resources, the militarization of the social sciences, war corporatism, the romanticization of imperialism, and as a central focus to this paper, the framing of military interventions as “humanitarian,” legitimized through rhetoric of freedom, democracy, and the right to intervene. In truth, the militarization of humanitarian aid serves to facilitate the imposition of neoliberal economic policies through the exploitation of weakened states—a
strategy known as “disaster capitalism”.

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Al-Jazeera: Nepali migrant workers feel pain of economic downturnd

Foreign workers are bearing the brunt of the current economic downturn – they’re often the first to lose their jobs. With migrant workers sending home remittances of almost 400 billion dollars last year the subsequent loss of income could be devastating for many.

There are 2 and a half million Nepalis working overseas and the money they send home is the country’s biggest source of foreign exchange.

Al Jazeera’a Subina Shrestha reports in October 2009 from Nepal where migrant workers are beginning to return home.

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[Below is an excerpt from a report by the Deputy Manager of Nepal Bank Limited.  It a useful source of facts on the hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants who are driven by oppressive economic and social conditions in Nepal to migrate to India and other countries in the Middle East and Asia;  the important role that remittances from these overseas workers play in propping up the Nepali economy and state; and the 60,000 Nepali troops that are part of the Indian Army.–Frontlines ed] Continue reading

Dalits continue to be exploited in Nepal

Meeting of Nepali dalits

UDAYAPUR, Oct 25: Balighare tradition — the remnants of the centuries-old slavery system — is still common in Udayapur. Various campaigns have been launched against this tradition, but in vain.

 

As per this tradition, denounced by human rights activists as one of many forms of slavery, Dalits — socially oppressed people — work for Non-Dalits, especially Brahmins, throughout the year. At the end of year, Dalits get some five pathis (one pathi is roughly equal to five kilograms) of rice, maize or millets for their whole year´s works.

Bishwokarmas, people of one of many Dalit castes, craft traditional weapons (Khukuri-knives, sickles, hoes and blades used in ploughs) as required by Brahmins.

Similarly, Sarkis cobble shoes and Damais tailor clothes. They do not get payments in cash. Brahmins, particularly Bishtas here, give just Rs 10-20 along with some pathis of food grains.

Dal Man Bishwokarma, a resident of Rautaha village in Udayapur, not only manufactures domestic weapons and equipments used in farming but also repairs them. He provides his service to 21 Bishta families. However, he gets only 10 pathis of maize once a year from each of them. Continue reading