Nepal: Crisis As A Teacher: Prem Khatry
We are lucky to have large and almost extra large size neighbours, and it is comfortable to feel this. Often times we also feel how cozy it is to sit on their lap and be pampered so much so that you may feel a crack on your backbone while experiencing their loving and deep going pat.
Despite the tough time during the two most important festivals - Dashain and Tihar - Nepalis have braved the scarcity, unusual price hike and related hardships. One ambassador keeps saying there is no 'embargo' and adds, 'the embargo is here to stay' until another notice, that is. So there is no embargo officially, but the embargo will persist for some unknown time cracking the bone of Nepali nationality, economy, diplomacy, age-old relationship and Nepal's right of access to the nearest port.
Now the question is: Do the diplomats have to speak as if they are more concerned about one small issue and one region against the larger interest of the people they have to spend their term together? It is difficult to say what is what, but at least one ambassador is doing just that. People feel he shed tears at the agitating leaders and their campaign against the unity and integrity of the country where he is deputed as a diplomat. He earned enough unpopularity for this reason.
Why blame others and why not look inside our own growth as a nation that must learn from a bitter experience like this one? In fact, history shows Nepalis are slow learners. It took 30 years for the monarchy to realise after all liberal democracy is the solution to many problems facing the developing world and it is time to quit. Quit it did under compulsive situations, but the Nepali people are now beginning to ask, how long will it take to bring the country back on the track of self-dependency, self-defense as well as national esteem against unusual and undesirable external pressure and internal squabbling for power? The answer is blowing in the wind, and it is not easy to catch it up.
When a nation is in crisis, when people are facing serious problems, when a nation's unity and integrity are at stake, when the state is not finding a solution, there is one party that comes up and speaks - the intellectuals and/or civil society. In Nepal, there is no dearth of this sector. However, at a time when the Nepalis are facing such humiliating behaviour, the civil society is keeping quiet. Its famous leaders do not speak a word of plea, determination or call for international observation of the situation.
True to the national feeling at this hour of crisis, one brave Gurkha soldier serving as one of the 65,000 strong Nepalis in the Indian Army as the legacy of the Treaty of Sugauli (1816), and in this season deputed on the disputed Indo-Pak border, wrote a note to Prime Minister Modi explaining how he had a rifle in hand to protect the Indian border and a pen to plead for the smooth supply of goods to his native Nepal.
He said he was thinking of his family members and countrymen wandering around for a litre of gasoline with a bottle in hand and not finding one or a sick person not finding an injection or a life saving pill that is imported from the country he serves with his life in the hand of his adversary on the other side of the border. Let us hope he doesn’t have to face a court martial for his boldness, for showing concern towards his suffering native land, against his ailing employer.
In the same vein, the Gurkha Soldiers' Association in London handed over a protest letter to the government in the UK while visiting Indian Premier Modi is there. The Gurkhas described how their countrymen in Nepal are facing history's rare event when a neighbour and friend of millennia is behaving without mercy and sense of compassion and against the existing international conventions on the landlocked nation.
The embargo issue has also been raised in the British Parliament where the government has been asked to clarify the situation that led to the current crisis in bilateral relations. Now even the UN Secretary General Ban Kyi Moon had to send his message to India to lift the embargo.
In these separate incidents, the Nepal government or the people of Nepal did not have to do anything. It was spontaneous, and it was against the silent war of inhumanity declared by a powerful nation against its neighbour. And, history shows, it is not the first time. There was one short-lived embargo in 1970 when the Indian check-posts on the Nepal-China border were sent back home. The second embargo came when King Birendra didn’t bow down to the political pressure to lift the ban on political parties. This embargo was lifted when the king finally gave up and transferred his absolute power to the people.
The Nepalis now say India knows where to strike and when. A big, long and strong Madhes separated from the mainland is said to be the solution through the amendment to the constitution. But should we amend the constitution, there must be five provinces as proposed by senior UML leader and former prime minister Jhala Nath Khanal and expected by the nationalists of Nepal as the ultimate solution. In fact, the government was well advised to do so much earlier. The time has come to stop right there, finalise it and move forward without listening to any suggestions otherwise from home or abroad.
Finally, there is much Nepal can learn and do from this crisis. We need to look back and see how electrification using small and medium size sources including solar power could have come very handy in this situation. Also, opening more border points on the north, importing battery powered vehicles, cutting the volume of vehicular import from the south, increased use of bicycles, reinstallation of trolley buses on the Ring Road and other recently widened roads through a private agency, and strong border regulation with an amended 1950 Treaty with India are lessons to be learnt, if we intend to be strong. But this is the personal opinion of this writer without any ill-will against any one.