Harvesting our souls in a reset worldNepal needs to set a new developmental narrative by giving weightage to continuity and change.
Atul K Thakur
More than a reckoning, it’s a sort of collective realisation that the deadly coronavirus and deadlier counter-responses have damaged the world beyond complete repair. On the cusp of an unprecedented transition, it is necessary to reflect on what exactly will be the new normal in the changed times. Even before we had witnessed a bleak scenario, the world where we lived in was made a theatre of the absurd by a flawed decision-making process and inept decision-makers.
A system of this sort came into existence with the absolute failure of the custodians in upholding progressive ideas. Their acts have been not altruistic, and history should not be kinder to them than their detractors. Coming to South Asia, it is important to notice the significance of the agenda drive. This has emerged something like a virtue with capabilities to shake up the judgmental attitude of the masses, the lost plots of priorities are glaring even though they can’t reach the collective imagination as the interest-sharing culture across ideological blocks is in deep harmony.
Separation of powers
Today, it is not easy to establish separation of powers as the dichotomies are forthright through predictable outcomes. The degenerated state of the media sans exceptions poses a big challenge before fixing up the accountability of the leaders in different walks of life. With no or wrong figures of the damage incurred due to the global pandemic, lockdowns and counter-responses by governments, the world today has lost its comfort. It was never perfect earlier, though the worse is being witnessed now.
In political culture, optics is of great significance. When it comes to economics, the same method is of no use. Mass unemployment is the case now in the informal sector, and the formal sector too is ravaged to the core with large workforces left on their own by employers. It is time to accept the situation as the new normal and reorient policies to create a way forward for recovery. Here, taking into consideration the cases of India and Nepal, we get majorly disappointed.
Bilateral relations have seen a downward spiral at a time when both sides should have shown greater sensitivity towards cooperation. Unfortunately, in the meantime, China found space to go the extra mile in leveraging the weaker economies of South Asia, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, with its encircling policies. To India, it has offered a two-front war-like situation.
Why is China showing such urgency with its imperialistic drive? Possibly because China is the only country that remains insulated from any major changes in its political system. Now it is seeing a great chance for recalibration when the rest of the world is facing serious challenges from the China-originated coronavirus and home-grown misplaced political tendencies. However, it is too easy a calculation that certainly has no merits to be validated.
By showing strange aggression against India, China has turned South Asia into a zone of confrontation. Nepal’s political leadership should show the required maturity in dealing with China. In no manner should it mix up its ties with India when shaping up its bilateral engagements with the northern neighbour. In recent times, Nepal’s reliance on foreign policy has gone unusually high. Sadly, the changes figured out has come at the cost of giving domestic matters their well deserved due. As a country, Nepal has to keep its priorities clear and forward-looking.
For over the last two decades, remittance has been the major contributor to Nepal’s economy. Now that this source of income has been severely hit, about a million people are back from India and other countries where they were engaged in gainful employment. Back home, the prospects of insecurity, indebtedness and hunger are making them jittery. Noticeably, Nepal is among those few countries that could not offer even a symbolic economic relief package to the people or a stimulus package to industry.
Next door in India too, the response to the disaster was far short of expectations. The Indian economy is facing a 24 percent contraction in the current fiscal year, and the outlook looks uncertain for an economic rebound in the foreseeable times. India’s struggle on the slippery economic pitch will have serious ramifications for the subcontinent, especially on a deeply linked economy of Nepal. What is worrisome in India is the persisting demand and supply shock, a pattern that goes straight against conventional fundamentals.
No longer finding a common basis for economic recovery is something optional for connected economies. Nepal, being largely an importing economy, has to be particularly cautious in exercising its choices as the new times have brought out existential challenges. At this point of time, the writing on the wall is clear. Poorly conceived policies can be counter-productive, be it for the home or the world. Nepal clearly needs a balancing act. Hopefully, the leadership will acknowledge its urgency and let better sense prevail.
Cooperation with India
India has its own ways to take on China for its adventurous strategic and economic overplays. Nepal will be greatly benefitted by not giving China undue traction. With India, it has an open border and common civilisational links besides being on friendlier terms. The trust-based bilateral relation between India and Nepal is unique in the world, nothing else can form the bond of sharing like this. All pending matters can be tabled and resolved. Widely respected as a modern sovereign republic, Nepal has all the reasons to deepen the level of cooperation with India.
Much inspired by the people’s aspirations, Nepal needs to set a new developmental narrative by giving weightage to continuity and change. A crisis phase like now calls for an outcome-oriented approach. All escapist tendencies should be bidden adieu. Knowing the complexities of the South Asian region, Nepal should assess and exercise its choices in the reset world. India-Nepal relations should return to the best of elements.