An inside account of NepalIt is all about power, who did what and ended up getting what in reciprocation.
Atul K Thakur
As Nepal is not stopping to surprise even its keen observers, out of necessity, it is highly recommended that they read senior journalist Sudheer Sharma’s The Nepal Nexus. In long-form though, it’s a sort of prescription for all what ails the country, but keeps it moving with a complex background and foreground. He looks back on Nepal’s painful political transition and gives an inside account of the ‘Maoists, the Durbar and New Delhi’ calling it ‘Nepal Nexus’.
At the outset, his insightful contribution was cited solely for knowing the nature of Nepal’s democracy, the statecraft and its eccentric ways of functioning. It is all about power, who did what and ended up getting what in reciprocation. The Maoists came to centre stage and benefited before it lost its way with factions in the party and fell prey to the grand design of ‘communist unification’ propounded by Oli and his camp. The Durbar ceased to function with the ‘royal massacre’ and an inconclusive follow-up to that; what remained in the form of succession lasted too early and on a disappointing note. The third important component, the capital of the friendly neighbour ‘New Delhi’ continues to stay in the public imagination, but mostly for satisfying the instant gratification of the political classes who otherwise could be held accountable for pursuing corruption and incompetence that led to endless misery for the masses of the homeland.
Ignorance is bliss
Recently, Prime Minister Oli made a series of statements with Machiavellian traits, successfully diverting the minds from the humanitarian crisis that is in full swing in Nepal and the world at large with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and long lockdown. The leadership is endangered in most democracies today. Nepal is no exception and people are sentimentally captivated to take whatever is offered through home-grown demagogues. While the country is facing a public health failure, the collapse of industrial activities, mass unemployment, starvation, reverse migration and an uncertain future, the people are being forced-fed ‘unnatural nationalism’ that justifies ‘ignorance is bliss’.
It would be wrong to say that a country like Nepal, that has no history of colonial occupation and external aggression, needed a new reckoning on sovereignty and patriotism, and the long-pending matter of the boundary dispute with India was not something that deserved such a hurried and shocking response. Was it an easy scheme of things for Oli to let India-Nepal bilateral ties see an unprecedented low? What made him so compelled to not offer condolences for the 20 unarmed Indian soldiers killed by Chinese forces?
Since Sudheer Sharma has artfully tried to cover ‘Nepal’s Nexus’ that is more about the past than the present, it is to be wished that the next print run of his book enables him to write about Nepal’s ‘New Nexus’. No matter what happens tomorrow, the current Nepali establishment’s neighbourhood policy sends the message loud and clear. It is not about just exercising the choices or maintaining a balance between India and China, it is about manipulating a troubling equation between two countries with nuclear capabilities and very large economies. In the process, the danger lies where Nepal could emerge as a flashpoint for a geo-economic tussle between India and China.
Sadly, in the absence of consultation and rumination, Nepal is faring poorly by entering into a vicious spiral of mistakes. It needs to be known that it is not the ‘Indian virus’ that is deadlier than the ‘Chinese virus’, what in fact is deadlier is leading the country into a risk zone rather than towards normalcy after the global breakdown. The bid for a new nexus has flashed out brighter possibilities and put a question mark on the communist unification in Nepal that was never believed to be on ideological lines.
The enforced camaraderie
‘Standing on the blood shed by tens of thousands of patriots, we are not willing to bow down before any foreign master’.
Possibly without knowing it would become fateful, Sudheer Sharma has meaningfully quoted Pushpa Kamal Dahal from the latter’s public announcement of his resignation from the prime ministership in 2009. In the changed times, would he like to recall this? Irrespective of how long he continues with the current arrangement on the organisational front, the onus is on Dahal to give a re-think on enforced camaraderie. He will be at a loss for turning his eyes back from the upturns in the geostrategic scenario that clearly is not in favour of Nepal. China is not altruistic with its Belt and Road Initiative and other cheap offerings. Its imperial intention can easily be understood. Nepal will do better without negating conventional wisdom and pursuing absolute non-alignment in international affairs.
As the political process is worrisome and the economy is facing a major contraction, Nepal surely has to look within. Instead of keeping petty political considerations and the urge to overstay at the helm, the political classes must think about reviving the level of discourses and make them development-centric. Baburam Bhattarai, once a comrade-in-arms of Dahal and an old rank Maoist, is someone who certainly has a clear view on the economy and the credentials to fix it. History will be kinder to Dahal and his estranged comrades if they can come together again in the mainstream democratic left framework and rescue Nepal and its people from a phase of deep troubles and uncertainties. An unscientific and irrational position on matters of national interest, if prolonged, will be troublesome. The ‘nexus’ serves the purpose of a lexicon, it should not be relied on beyond the trifling texts.
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