Nepal's gay rights revolution

The AP reports that Nepal is actively looking to become a destination for gay tourists in South Asia -- including a publicity stunt to hold the world's highest-ever gay wedding at the Mt. Everest base camp -- a sign of just how quickly things have changed in this conservative Hindu country:

Just five years ago, police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets.

Now, the issue of gay rights is almost passe here.

Nepal has an openly gay parliamentarian, it is issuing "third gender" identity cards and it appears set to enshrine gay rights — and possibly even same-sex marriage — in a new constitution.

"(It) is not an issue anymore, for anybody," said Vishnu Adhikari, a 21-year-old lesbian. "Society has basically accepted us."

Peter Williams recently looked at four other emerging gay-rights battlegrounds for FP.  


The Indispensable Axis

Time magazine's cover current package is the third of their annual “10 Ideas” issues; this time it’s forward-oriented, focused on "10 Ideas That Will Shape the Next Ten Years." One of those is a piece on the U.S.-China relationship by yours truly: “The Indispensable Axis: Their frenemy-ship will shape the decade.”  

Every concept need some catchy jargon, right? A year ago we heard a lot in Washington about the "G-2," the notion that an expanded bilateral relationship between Washington and Beijing might steer the world. Well, there's certainly a lot less of that talk lately. Not only because heightened tensions between the two countries on myriad fronts have since taken the shine off the idea, but also because the notion of grand pooh-bahs from the U.S. and China hashing out the world order in grand summits was always a bit starry-eyed anyway. Last year, Elizabeth Economy and Adam Segal of the Council on Foreign Relations sliced and diced that notion in a very smart Foreign Affairs article, "The G-2 Mirage." (Summary: "A heightened bilateral relationship may not be possible for China and the United States, as the two countries have mismatched interests and values. Washington should embrace a more flexible and multilateral approach.")

It's telling that one of the strongest proponents of the "G-2" concept has been former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose vision of how two superpowers get along (or don't) was shaped by the Cold War. But we aren't really back to the U.S.S.R. Although Soviet-era memories and defensive reflexes are apparently never far from the thoughts of Washington and foreign-policy elites (in his New York Times column, Tom Friedman is lately fond of billing China's expanding green-tech manufacturing sector as the "New Sputnik," tapping into latent anxieties on Capitol Hill), we aren't headed for a new Cold War. The U.S. and China are far too mutually dependent and economically intertwined -- a notion that's been widely explored in recent books and already birthed its own jargon, from Niall Ferguson's "Chimerica" to Zachary Karabell's "Superfusion."

So if we aren't going to see future smoke-filled summits on par with Yalta or SALT negotiations in which the leaders of two superpowers decide the world's fate -- nor a cozy alliance resembling the United States' "special relationship" with Britain -- what will we see? With apologies to Madeleine Albright, who declared the United States as "the indispensable nation," here's how I frame the next decade of the U.S.-China indispensable axis: 

There is no precedent for this unique evolving relationship, one in which the two sides will both compete and cooperate, perhaps simultaneously, as they shape and support a global system they can benefit from.

In some ways, this axis might resemble the fluidity of the G-8, the group of industrialized countries that cooperate on economic issues where they share interests but go their separate ways on issues where they don't. Washington and Beijing will increasingly be the 800-lb. gorillas in multilateral architectures like the G-20 or Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation while developing a shifting bilateral relationship, working together closely on some issues and hampering each other's unilateral actions on others.

The good folks at Time, bless 'em, shortened this in the headline to: "frenemy-ship."

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