THE NEPAL CONTROVERSIES - Part 10
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
“This is excellent,” wrote Sam Pitroda, the chairman of Indian Overseas Congress, the international outreach body of Rahul Gandhi’s Indian National Congress party, after viewing the trailer of the documentary film The Nepal Connection. The five-minute-long clip gives a small glimpse into the results of years-long efforts to carefully document the complicity of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in crimes against humanity. A mutual friend introduced Sam and me after watching the film’s preview. Pitroda, the telecom entrepreneur and inventor, sits on the board of directors of our mutual American friend’s company.
In politics, fortunes change faster than campaign promises are forgotten. A few months earlier, Narendra Modi was predicted to lose the election, but now the fortunes of Rahul Gandhi had turned, as Modi and his BJP party retook the lead. Gandhi needed a boost and perhaps the feature-length documentary would be a useful tool, my American friend suggested. Shortly after Sam’s email, the Indian election commission ruled that until the election was over, films that might influence the outcome of the election could not be released. This ruling had nothing to do with the controversial topics addressed in The Nepal Connection, but was issued in response to the impending release of a feature film covering Modi’s biography. The film portrays Modi highly favorably and many consider it a work of propaganda. Still, the ruling also affected the release of The Nepal Connection.
The silver lining of the election commission’s ruling was the elimination of the sense of urgency my co-producers and I felt to release the film during the election. We now had more time to finish the time-consuming process of building the trust of a number of key interview partners, before flying to their respective locations in order to film their interviews. Meanwhile, the short preview of The Nepal Connection convinced a number of people to come forward with their own eyewitness accounts of Narendra Modi’s involvement in two separate cases of crimes against humanity – first during the 2002 Gujarat riots, as part of which a pogrom was enacted against the state’s Muslim population, an act which the then-chief minister approved in meetings with state leaders under his authority. This resulted in 2,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injured and displaced people. Then, in 2015, as the prime minister of India, Modi gave the nod to plans drawn up by the Indian intelligence service, R&AW, to enact a secret economic blockade against Nepal.
In 2002, the United States, Britain and the European Union all issued travel bans against Modi for what obviously was his involvement in the pogrom. Unlike following the Gujarat riots, Narendra Modi would not be turned into an international pariah by the West for his actions involving the blockade. Instead, in the middle of the blockade, world leaders fell over themselves to host the diminutive leader. Modi’s support was critical for the success of the Paris Climate Accord, which meant that at the height of the blockade, in late 2015, Nobel Laureate Barack Obama had won over the reluctant Indian, whose team of advisers moments earlier badgered Obama to make sweeping concessions, which would have enabled India to play by its own rules in terms of emissions. Yet Obama's schmoozing was nothing compared to the welcome Modi received by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron a few weeks earlier. Cameron could not have known, that half a year later his country would vote to leave the European Union, thus making it even more dependent on India. It’s hard to imagine, however, that if Cameron had known of Brexit at the time he welcomed Modi, he would have been able to heap any more praise on his Indian counterpart.
World leaders have long identified India as the counterweight to an increasingly confident and adversarial China, which has aggressively pursued a highly controversial infrastructure project of epic proportions. This project, called Belt and Road Initiative, has at its heart the rapid expansion of China’s long-term strategic geopolitical ambitions, both economically and militarily.
Nepal is uniquely positioned in this high-stakes geopolitical turf war. The landlocked Himalayan nation shares its borders with only two countries: India and China. Nepal’s fate is therefore directly tied to its two giant neighbors, which exert their power in the tiny country in a plethora of ways. Nepal is often compared to a yam between two boulders. Culturally, Nepal is much closer to India than to China. However, India’s secret 2015-16 blockade alienated an entire generation of Nepalese from their southern neighbor, leading K.P. Oli to win the country’s first democratic elections under a new constitution with a 2/3 majority.
The election result was a rude awakening for India’s foreign policy establishment. Not only had the Indians failed in their objective to derail the constitution from being enacted by Nepal’s lawmakers, the ensuing blockade swept into power a government with a strong mandate to counter India’s bullying. K.P. Oli and his Communist party members have since reached out to China in ways that Western powers find extremely unsettling. However, according to a number of officials and observers in Kathmandu, Oli and his United-Marxist-Leninist (UML) cadres are Communist by name only. “They’re really businessmen…capitalists with Communist hats,” one insider told me. Still, to foreign powers, the UML win presented a significant challenge to the West’s policy of containing China’s aggressive moves.
Chinese ideology is the real enemy of Western supremacy, and so the West’s concern over China’s actions in Nepal is certainly warranted. However, where the West made a considerable miscalculation, was to support India in its myopic strategies in Nepal. “India wants to take Nepal over, that is its end game,” a European diplomat told me privately. “We just aren’t certain if they want to cherry pick the best parts and leave the rest to China, or if they want to swallow Nepal whole.”
This ambiguity over India’s objectives in Nepal causes considerable concern among Nepalese officials. One former prime minister shared with me his reservations over Nepal’s long-term viability as a sovereign nation. “Look at the way China treats the Tibetans. But we have to let them because we need China to push back the Indians,” the prime minister said. China has long pursued an aggressive stance on Nepal’s Tibetan refugees, who are forbidden from celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday. One reason why the Dalai Lama has not visited Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha, is because China exerts so much pressure on Nepal not to welcome the Tibetan leader. “Yes, we want to be close with India,” the former prime minister continued, “but if we are too close, they will do what they did in Sikkim. Already they are doing similar things in Bhutan.”
To understand the mindset of Nepalese leaders, who privately express concern over a possible takeover by India, one has to look at India’s foreign policy blunders across its neighborhood. After destabilizing Sikkim, India quickly took control of the small Himalayan kingdom in 1975. It was this rapid action that caused several Nepalese senior officials to grow increasingly worried during the 2015-16 blockade that India might be pursuing a similar strategy. “That’s not the case,” a U.S. diplomat told me, “it’s just not gonna happen. They’re just flexing their muscles,” the official continued. When I relayed this assessment to some of my friends on the Nepal side, they were mollified. “India has America’s blessings, but they are doing things that the Americans don’t like,” one official said. That the Americans posted in Nepal were not happy about India’s blockade was, indeed, true.
Numerous U.S. officials confidentially expressed their surprise and concern over the complete disregard the Indian leadership showed for the suffering of the Nepalese, who only recently overcame two back-to-back earthquakes. Despite having a small number of strong ties to the U.S. foreign policy establishment, all of my dealings with the Americans in Nepal were informal and purely private in nature. The only thing I wanted to accomplish in Nepal, was to deliver the fire trucks, organize the expedition, and make a 3-part documentary film about this undertaking.
Faced with the realities of the blockade, however, my colleagues and I began filming. By the time the blockade ended, we had accumulated hundreds of hours of footage, documenting, in great detail, the adversity faced by the Nepalese. After the blockade was over, a number of other incidents occurred which needed to be filmed in order to –hopefully- effect positive change in Nepal. However, the greatest project of all was to prove Narendra Modi’s direct involvement in the blockade. This, combined with the man’s actions in 2002, leading up to the Gujarat riots, would give context to a film that unmasks Modi, who is internationally seen as the only man in India strong enough to stand up to the Chinese.
Modi faces another major challenge, namely to provide 24-hour electricity and running water to hundreds of millions of Indians living in primitive conditions. “India needs water,” Kanak Dixit, the Nepalese investigative journalist said during an interview for David and Goliath, the documentary about the blockade. “It needs water, and Nepal has all the water flowing down from the Himalayas.” Essentially, India’s drive to control Nepal is derived out of a long-term objective to secure sufficient water resources to safeguard its population against the increasingly dramatic effects of global climate change. All of these elements would make excellent material for a documentary film, I thought.
While working on the Modi film quietly, always keeping my notes outside of Nepal, I was soon contacted by a number of Chinese and Pakistani officials stationed in Kathmandu. Having seen a preview of the documentary about the blockade, the Pakistani ambassador contacted me by telephone. “Mr. Kobold, please come to my office, I have something I wish to discuss with you,” the ambassador said. After the call ended, I wondered how the Indians monitoring the conversation would react. To collaborate with the Pakistanis was never an option but I wanted to hear what the ambassador had in mind.
A few days later, after a cordial introduction to the local ISI station chief, the three of us sat down for tea in the ambassador’s office. “Mr. Kobold, you see, we have the same problems with the Indians as the Nepalese do. The Indians consider everyone in the neighborhood to be a step beneath them. Let me show you what they are doing to our people in Kashmir.” The local ISI head handed me a thick folder containing photographs of injured and deceased people, presumably in Kashmir, with a majority of the victims showing injuries of the kind sustained after being hit by shotgun pellets. "The Indian government and the Indian people hate our government and the people of Pakistan, but the people of Pakistan are innocent," the ambassador said.
“These are crimes, committed by the Indians. They are terrorizing the civilian population. Our people have suffered so much and we believe the world media is only interested in telling India’s side of the story,” the ambassador said. A similar assertion had been made earlier by a Pakistan-born U.S. intelligence officer, whom I had befriended at the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu. The two of us became friends over the course of hundreds of meetings. I therefore had some knowledge of Kashmir’s violent history. However, I also had a lot of knowledge of the nefarious nature of the dealings of Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI. This, however, I did not yet want to reveal to the Pakistani ambassador. Instead, I sensed an opportunity.
WQED, the Pittsburgh affiliate station of PBS television, had agreed to be the fire truck expedition’s broadcast partner. Through WQED, the expedition’s 3-part documentary would be beamed into households across America. I was quite proud of this collaboration, but by the time of the meeting with Pakistan's ambassador, I was concerned that the fire truck expedition may not happen due to India’s strong objections. While no monies had changed hands between WQED and the expedition or me, I nonetheless didn’t want to return to Pittsburgh empty-handed. If I could make a documentary about Kashmir, in addition to the films on India and Nepal, perhaps the WQED program chief, Darryl Ford-Williams, would look kindly on the matter of the ill-fated fire truck expedition.
“We want to ask you to speak about these crimes in Kashmir at a panel we are hosting here in Kathmandu, Mr. Kobold. Would you be willing to speak at this event,” the ambassador politely inquired. Not sure how to react, I asked when the event was scheduled, and then declared that I would likely be traveling around this date. “But I would like to offer to travel to Pakistan and make a film about the situation in Kashmir,” I said. Looking surprised, the ambassador agreed: “I can travel with you and show you what is happening there,” the diplomat said. “It would be great if you could take up the cause of the Kashmiri people.” This is when I felt it would be appropriate to clarify my objective. “Your excellency, thank you for the kind offer, but I want to be perfectly transparent with you. I cannot take up the cause of the Kashmiri people or Pakistan’s cause, because I know full well about some of the things ISI is up to,” I said. The intelligence officer sitting next to the ambassador stopped in the middle of taking a sip of tea.
Assessing the look on the ambassador’s face, I continued: “you see, I have a great number of Navy SEAL friends and other friends that are in the military or who recently retired, and so I’ve heard a lot of stories about ISI. I know about how your government turned a blind eye on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, and how ISI is behind a lot of the terror attacks in India. Please understand that I’m not an enemy of India. I just love Nepal. And it’s only because of the blockade that I’m still here,” I said. The ambassador looked concerned. “You’ve told me about India and about Modi, and I appreciate your offer to work together,” I said, “but I can never be seen as a supporter of Pakistan or China, because that would undermine the objectivity of the films I’m working on. You have been very friendly to me and I don’t want to lead you to believe that I’m here in any capacity other than a filmmaker who has an agreement with a PBS station. I’m not a spy and I don’t do propaganda films. So if I go to Kashmir, it would be to tell an objective story. I’ll ask difficult questions and I’ll try to do as good a job as I can to give solid answers in my film.”
The ambassador and the ISI station chief looked at each other. Then the ISI man spoke. “Mr. Kobold, your friends are mistaken in their assessment. These things are propaganda and not fact,” the spy said. “My country is peaceful and we are being bullied by India and judged by the international community.” I realized that there would be no positive outcome to the meeting and bid my farewell. “Please, Mr. Kobold, take this folder with you, I hope it will prepare you for your speech at our event,” the ambassador said.
A week later, the ambassador called to inform me that someone else had been found to take up the cause of the Kashmiri people. I knew from a number of Western journalists that India did indeed play dirty in Kashmir, but in my mind Pakistan had crossed the line too many times with its state-sponsored attacks on Indian soil, and with its support of the world’s number one terrorist. Subsequent to the meeting at the Pakistani embassy, there were a number of humorous interactions with the Pakistanis.
A few months after the meeting, the Pakistani president visited Nepal. Like most visiting heads of state and senior government officials, the president stayed in the Hyatt Regency, where he took up residence in the expansive presidential suite. The service at the Hyatt is exceptional, but by this time I had grown tired of being waited on, and so I usually prepared my own meals, or fetched the ingredients for my breakfast from the hotel’s large kitchen. One morning, on my way to get a jar of peanut butter out of the refrigerator, I found Chef Arun standing in a small makeshift kitchen, evidently set up specially to prepare meals for the visiting dignitary from Pakistan. Maybe he’s allergic to nuts, I thought, and jokingly wondered if the Indians would let the fire trucks into Nepal if I dropped a spoonful of peanut butter in the president's meal. The tall south Indian chef looked up from the omelet he was preparing and greeted me: “Good morning Mr. Kobold!” Arun was by far the politest chef among a crew of unfailingly polite kitchen workers. Sometimes, in order to loosen up his corporate-trained professionalism, I made impossible requests or other tongue-in-cheek comments, always drawing a chuckle in response.
Remembering what the Pakistani ambassador had told me about the Indian people's negativity towards Pakistan, I decided to lob another tongue-in-cheek comment at the genteel chef. “Good morning, Arun! And…tell me, did you poison the bastard?” I called out loudly. However, on this occasion, instead flashing his trademark smile, Arjun’s face was overcome with a look of horror. I continued walking, trying to make sense of why Arun was so tense. This was certainly not the first time the hotel's assistant chef prepared a meal for ahigh-profile guests. After a few steps, I was inside the make-shift kitchen, which was set up in front of the refrigerators containing my prized jar of peanut butter, hand-delivered from America. It was there that I discovered two stern-looking Pakistani men in suits, MP-5 machine pistols slung around their shoulders. My heart stopped. “Hi guys,” I said as nonchalantly as possible, before retrieving the jar of peanut butter from my private stash of groceries.
Months later, the Pakistani embassy hosted a book launch in the Hyatt Regency’s ballroom. Presumably due to the outcome of the meeting in the ambassador’s office, I had not been invited. However, a number of my friends were on the guest list and told me that they would be at the Hyatt that afternoon. As on many previous occasions, I made my way past the security guards with their guest lists and walked into the ballroom, relatively late. After finding my friend, I sat down next to him and observed the event. Before too long, one by one, a number of men in suits approached us and started taking pictures of us with their phones. “What the hell did you do that they’re taking all these pictures of us,” my friend whispered. After some time, the men went away and took pictures of a few other guests.
After being warned to leave Nepal on short notice, I took up residence at my family’s compound on a small island. Fortified with 12-foot walls, barbed wire and a heavy steel gate, the compound was completely off the grid. Postal deliveries were not possible and in case of an emergency a staff member would have to drive to a nearby road to meet and guide first responders. There, I began for the first time the process of sifting through a massive collection of information on Narendra Modi and the BJP. “Which film do you want to focus on first,” one of my colleagues asked. “I think first we make the strongest film possible about Modi, to set the tone of the next film, which will be about the blockade,” I said.
Excited to finally be able to work on this subject after years of quietly researching the matter, I received a phone call from Washington. “They’re going to do a story on you and it's being pushed by someone close to the Indian embassy,” the person on the other line said. I already knew that the Kathmandu Post’s team of so-called investigative journalists had been questioning a number of people close to me, but I assumed the questions would be relating to actual misdeeds, such a driving on the wrong side of the street for the entire length of a specific journey. There were a number of occasions when my team and I simply couldn’t miss a meeting with a source, or when a traffic policeman made a hopeless mess of an otherwise straightforward job, namely to keep a given intersection clear of gridlock traffic. “You are a Westerner, you should follow the rules more than us Nepalese, do you drive like this at home,” one angry motorists asked me. He was right, after all I was merely a guest in his country and should follow all the rules.
The intense thrill of driving in Kathmandu's chaotic traffic cannot be accurately described. Therefore, while various matters of great urgency certainly did provide valid excuses to steer the green Range Rover into the general direction of oncoming motorists, in order to pass a section of stand-still traffic, doing so without a valid reason carried a penalty of only approximately $15.00. In essence, for one sixth of the cost of a ticket to Disneyland, one can enjoy a far more exhilarating experience in a country that, thanks to its medieval ways and friendly, colorful people of countless ethnic groups, could quite reasonably pass for the original inspiration behind Disney's "It's A Small World". Just like at Disneyland, there are helpful people in uniform, whose job it is to make the experience more enjoyable.
During one encounter with a exceedingly friendly policeman, I was delighted to discover that a ticket for reckless driving carried a penalty of the equivalent of only $5.00. Usually, regardless of the degree of the infraction, the Nepal traffic police officers looked on happily, even returning Namastes in some cases. During the very few instances in which the traffic police did make contact, it was to advise me to stop the extensive use of the Range Rover’s horn, not, however, to issue a citation -whether for reckless driving or any other offense. This, naturally, did nothing to temper my growing enthusiasm for driving in Nepal.
Hence, when the initial series of articles appeared in the Kathmandu Post, my friends and I were quite surprised to discover that not only had the so-called investigative journalists completely missed the mark, but also –perhaps knowingly- repeated a number of easy-to-prove lies. “Michael, this is a big deal, they have never done anything like this,” one friend in Kathmandu told me by telephone. “Your name is ruined here, this is the first time they’ve done something like this to a Westerner. They don’t even do this stuff to Nepalese unless they’re officials. You must respond against every false allegation and set the record straight.” I explained to my friend that this was not the time to respond. “We have much bigger things to do, the films are taking up all of my time. So I don’t want to deal with any distractions. I’ll put a few things out via social media, but that’s it.” Indeed, we spent more time sitting around laughing at the ridiculous allegations and the poor effort of investigative journalism than we spent on responding to the smear campaign. A particularly enjoyable moment of levity was when we came up with the name Roast the Post for the campaign to prove the allegations wrong.
And so, in between cataloging and arranging information for The Nepal Connection, as well as setting up interviews with key witnesses, I sent a few volleys in the direction of the Kathmandu Post via Facebook and Instagram. If my 7-year-old daughter and her friends had gotten together to do an investigation, they could have done a better job than this, I typed out on Instagram, amused. “When the film is finished, we’ll take these guys down,” I said to a friend in America.
Almost half a year later, the Roast the Post campaign kicked into higher gear. Evidently caught off guard by the revelations in a series of articles published under heading The Nepal Controversies, the Kathmandu Post reacted quickly to contain the damage. First, by pushing back against the allegations of fraud. Then, only a day after my article about the Nepal Airlines Corporation’s shortcomings was released on July 5, in which I called out the Kathmandu Post for failing to cover the topic in favor of pursuing its smear campaign against me, the Kathmandu Post published its own article on a NAC controversy. However, in typical Kathmandu Post fashion, its NAC article only covered a relatively minor controversy while failing to report a far bigger story, one which affects thousands of Nepalese and foreign travelers. In doing so, the Kathmandu Post proved two other central criticism I have leveled against the newspaper, namely the fact that the paper routinely missed the point –an indication that it is not a serious news organization- and second, that Kantipur Media Group is orchestrating a smear campaign against Prime Minister K.P. Oli.
In its July 6th article, the Kathmandu Post reported on the Chinese-made planes which Nepal Airlines procured a few years ago. The planes are sitting idle due to a lack of pilots. However, what the Post article missed to address, is the fact that the Chinese-made planes were actually forced upon the airline from a senior government of Nepal official. In yet another lapse of good journalism, the article fails to actually address the important question of how NAC came into ownership of planes that neither its management or pilots desired. This is not a trivial matter, because by missing this detail, the Kathmandu Post is guilty –yet again- of withholding information that will allow the reader to form a balanced opinion about a given controversy. The fact that a foreigner can get this story right is even more embarrassing for Nepal’s biggest –and proudest- English-language newspaper.
The issue that lies at the center of the NAC Chinese plane debacle is one of widespread government ineptitude and corruption. However, instead of Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s government being guilty in this specific instance, as alleged by the Kathmandu Post, a previous administration forced the poorly-made planes onto NAC. Reporting this accurately, however, would mean that the Kathmandu Post would have to lay blame with someone other than Oli, and this would run counter to its mandate to make Oli appear as incompetent as possible.
Why does the country’s #1 English-language newspaper fail to ask, let alone answer, tough questions that are of relevance to thousands of Nepalese? The answer is that the Kantipur Media Group, along with its Kathmandu Post, only appears like a serious news organization. The reality is simply that at the core of Kantipur’s mission statement does not lie a benevolent objective –informing the public by publicizing impartial and well-researched stories– but a finely-tuned racketeering and propaganda operation. The Kantipur and Kathmandu Post newsrooms and studios, along with the content they generate, only serve the singular purpose of giving Kantipur a respectable veneer to conceal its nefarious activities.
“This is like watching new episodes of a TV show,” a young filmmaker in Nepal wrote after reading the first seven parts of The Nepal Controversies, “it’s like watching a movie…the plot keeps on thickening.” -high praise from someone with far more knowledge of Nepal than I. When someone with many years’ experience of turning political thrillers into highly successful Hollywood films told me that these stories should be turned into a screenplay, my interest was piqued. “This will make a fantastic movie and with your connections and mine, this could be a really successful project,” the American filmmaker and writer said. I decided to further pursue this possibility.
Hollywood knocking on the door was not the only unintended positive outcome due to the Roast the Post campaign. The unprecedented public attacks against Kantipur Media Group and its Kathmandu Post resulted in a number of foreign media outlets expressing an interest to cover the story. “Please wait, we first need to get the trucks on a ship, then we drop the hammer on these guys,” I told the producer of an American news program. A prominent magazine expressed an interest to serialize the story across multiple issues – almost unheard of in today’s arid media landscape. In all instances, I asked the media to hold the story until the fire trucks shipped. The reason is very simple.
In part due to the Kathmandu Post’s one-sided coverage, a significant portion of the public doubts that the fire trucks even exist, and that I have ownership over them. The fact is that while plenty of video footage exists of government officials handing over the equipment –vehicles that were either donated by municipalities or purchased by me- and that a federal law enforcement agent is a key member of the procurement team, the only thing that now counts is the delivery of the fire trucks. It is this objective that my colleagues and I continue to pursue daily. The reason for the continued delay is the lack of funds necessary to ship the vehicles.
Prior to the Kathmandu Post’s smear campaign, the Nepal Tourism Board and I were within days of signing an amended memorandum of understanding (MoU). This amendment had at its core a single revision, namely that a sum of $100,000 that NTB is supposed to pay my company upon completion of the agreement, would instead be used to pay for the shipping costs of the vehicles. It’s critical to understand that a great number of points outlined in the original MoU have either been completed satisfactorily, according to Deepak Joshi, NTB’s energetic CEO, or were not of immediate importance (“this can wait until the fire truck ship”) according to both Deepak and his colleagues.
For example, the original MoU stipulates that my company must host five VIPs in Nepal who speak out in support of the fire truck expedition. This number has already been exceeded, yet the fire trucks have not yet arrived. Some of these VIPs did not visit Nepal on my request, but were friends -or friends of friends- who had previously agreed to be part of the expedition, such as in the case of Hollywood actor Michael Imperioli and drummer Chris Adler. Once in Nepal, both Chris and Michael confirmed their participation in media interviews. And both gentlemen were hosted by my team and me at fire truck expedition related publicity events in Nepal, thereby technically satisfying the relevant point of the MoU. It is therefore pretty easy to arrive at the logical conclusion, that once the fire trucks do arrive, more VIPs will come to Nepal in order to drive them.
Another example of my team and me exceeding the requirements of the MoU is that of the documentary films which we have to deliver to PBS-affiliate WQED. In addition to a film about the fire trucks, Start Digging, another film starring Bollywood icon Manisha Koirala and Malcolm McDowell in which the fire truck expedition plays a role, and a documentary film about Hollywood actress and model Gabriella Wright exploring the Ancient Trade Routes of the Himalayas, we produced a short film, titled Nepal Spells Adventure, which follows a number of vintage cars rallying through the bustling traffic of Kathmandu. These films are in the final stages of the post production process.
The Kathmandu Post’s editor-in-chief, Anup Kaphle, along with his team of so-called investigative journalists, was aware of all of these initiatives. Yet in its glee to smear my name, and that of the fire truck expedition, the Kathmandu Post team failed to mention any of the above facts.
“You should return the $100,000 you took, it was Nepal taxpayer money,” a well-educated Nepalese entrepreneur wrote. “You did nothing in return for Nepal,” another Nepalese citizen claimed. “Did you take money from NTB/Nepal government promising something to deliver? Did you deliver as promised? If not, then when are you going to return the money,” a clearly uninformed tourism entrepreneur by the name of Binod Adhikari wrote. Ironically, Binod is from the Brahamin caste, traditionally the most educated group in Nepal. If this guy won’t do his research, how can I expect anyone else to be objective, I thought after reading his lengthy message. In response to all of these questions, my colleagues and I have not only pointed the commenters to this website, but also to the various short videos evidencing our body of work. Yet this is not sufficient to calm the concerns of the doubters. “You can never win an emotional argument with logic, you just can’t. So forget Nepal and move on,” Richard Fuisz told me by telephone.
To the contrary, my colleagues and I are as determined as ever to ship the fire trucks and complete the expedition. The Kathmandu Post’s intense media spotlight has only emboldened us. The reason is simple: Nepal needs the fire trucks. Far bigger, however, is the fact that the fire trucks and the expedition have taken on a symbolic meaning. We understand that if this project is successful, not only will the fire trucks help the people of Nepal, the ensuing media attention will promote Nepal tourism. The Kathmandu Post and the Roast the Post campaign have only amplified the international interest in covering this story. With the Visit Nepal Year 2020 just around the corner, the fire truck expedition will be a welcome component in Nepalese tourism officials’ arsenal in the campaign to reach their targeted number of two million visitors. Finally, the expedition will instill a sense of hope in countless Nepalese – hope that one can overcome all hurdles so many people face in Nepal.
Thus, the fire truck expedition bundles too much positive energy for us to simply abandon the project.
But first, Roast the Post will continue! (follow #roastthepost)
Please click on the below link for Part 11 of The Nepal Controversies: https://www.michaelkobold.com/post/the-nepal-connection-part-11