Monday, June 18, 2007

Decaying Nationalism?

Many westerners know Nepal as a tiny Himalayan nation that is home to the bravest of brave-Gurkhas. We are proud of our history. We take pride in mentioning the bravery of our founding fathers who gave up their lives so that we, the Nepalese people, could live free. Needless to say, Nepal's non-colonial survival during the 19th century is the result of the bravery of the countless men and women that gave their lives to secure the territorial integrity of the nation.

Whether one would consider Nepal’s non-colonial survival as beneficial or not is debatable depending upon their perception. Some may value freedom over material well-being, whereas others might prefer development and economic well-being through colonization.

No matter what side of the fence one is, the unquestionable reality is that the Nepalese citizens, not the political leaders, are largely nationalists. They want to be identified as citizens of a sovereign nation. However, when it comes to the Nepalese politicians, for the most part, the term “pseudo nationalists” better fits their character. Most of our leaders pose as diehard nationalists, but their frequent visits to our southern neighbor to seek the blessings of Indian politicians would make it seem otherwise. It appears that for Nepali politicians, the buck stops at the Indian Prime Minister’s door.

The frequent southern sojourn of Nepalese politicians provides a very important message: the power center lies in New Delhi. The list of recent visitors include stalwarts of both the Nepali Congress and United Maexist Leninist (UML) – Madhav Nepal, K.P Sharma Oli and Bharat Mohan Adhikari, Chakra Pd. Bastola, Sekhar Koirala and Ram Baran Yadav. An increase in the frequency of visits and the subsequent behavior of the politicians has clearly revealed that Nepalese politicians cannot agree among themselves unless India forces them to. The inability to come together and build consensus on pressing national issues among the politicians is further enhancing the level of dependency and reliance on India to solve our problems, which certainly is not a good thing. As citizens of a sovereign nation, we should be able to make decisions that are good for the people without receiving directives from our neighbors.

Madhav Nepal, the supremo of the UML termed his recent visit as, “One of the most successful political visits to India in recent times.” His reasoning behind this is that the visit was important in guaranteeing India’s continued support towards establishing peace and stable democracy in the country. Like Madhav Nepal, many of our politicians are disillusioned about where the solution to our problem lies. They seem to think that the solution to all our problems, including securing peace and stability and strengthening democracy, rests in New Delhi. Their actions reveal that they have completely lost faith in themselves; that they cannot get all the players on the same page until they get directives from the politicians in India. Is this a sign of decaying nationalism?

With passing of each day, India’s indulgence in Nepal is increasing by leaps and bounds. It appears that the politicians have handed over the decision making authority on Nepal’s internal affairs to politicians in New Delhi. The general public is bitter about India’s over indulgence in Nepal’s domestic affairs, but we need to look at the root of the problem. It is not India who is forcibly intruding into our internal affairs, but our political leaders that are inviting India to intervene in our domestic affairs.

There is no problem that we cannot solve on our own. Our inability to solve the problems is due to our politicians’ inability to see things beyond partisan politics. They cannot agree on things that are detrimental to securing peace and prosperity in Nepal. They have completely bypassed the constituents. It is hilarious to see them indulge in bitter rhetorical exchanges when at home, but when India wants them to flock together for whatever reasons it might be, they kiss and make up.

As far as India’s selfless desire towards establishing peace and stable democracy in Nepal is concerned, it may not be as selfless as India would like it to seem. India’s stance on democracy is highly questionable. It preaches democracy but supports Bhutanese Monarch’s autocratic regime wholeheartedly, which has forced thousands of genuine Bhutanese citizens to languish in refugee camps and waste their precious lives. India’s silence on both the Bhutanese refugee problem and the restoration of democracy in Burma clearly exhibits the double standards on the principles of democracy. It’s not only Bhutan but other south Asian countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, where democracy has been choked to death. When it comes to democracy in Pakistan and Bangladesh, India seems to be in denial. To the dismay of millions of freedom loving people in South Asia, India is encouraging and perpetuating the military dictatorship of General Musharraf by engaging in peace dialogues with General Musharraf. In other words, instead of making conditions conducive for emergence of democracy and helping citizens overthrow a dictator in Pakistan, India is bestowing a political legitimacy on General Musharraf. There is a difference between talking-the-talk and walking-the-walk and when it comes to democracy and democratic rights, India is certainly not walking the walk.

So, the question that arises now is: Is India selflessly for democracy in Nepal or in a long term plan to create the likes of Dasho Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the Monarch of Bhutan and Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, the president of Maldives, who would serve Indian interest and help India administer proxy rule in Nepal? If it is really for democracy in Nepal, why is India turning a blind eye on other South Asian countries where people’s right to freedom and democracy has been choked to death and dictators are having their field day? How are democratic rights of Nepalese people more valuable for India than the democratic rights and freedom of millions of people that have been crying for freedom and democracy in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Maldives, and elsewhere in Asia? It is high time that we reassess India’s motives and restore confidence among ourselves. We have got to learn to trust fellow citizens and learn to work together to solve our problems; we have got to learn to govern our nation ourselves.

India helped us defeat the despotic monarch and we are thankful for that. But there is only so much India can do for us. At some point in time, we have got to learn to deal with our problems on our own, and the sooner the better. Let us acknowledge the fact that India can never be an honest neighbor and selfless well-wisher of Nepal because of its short term and long term agenda here. India’s national interest and the security concerns come way ahead of Nepal’s overall well-being. Nothing is free in this world. If services are rendered, you have to pay for it. The encroachment onto Nepalese land in Susta VDC, Nawalparasi and other places by India clearly demonstrates how India makes us pay for all its help and noble intentions.

Seeing the politicians crossing the border to obtain lessons and directives on how to tackle domestic problems is painful for average Nepalese citizens. It is neither jingoism, nor hatred towards India. It is love towards the nation and the desire to be perceived by the world as an independent and sovereign nation. Our politicians can definitely do a better job than merely work on New Delhi’s directives. A democracy that is home grown and nurtured by the very people who have a stake on it is far more functional and durable than the one that is forced to work by external forces. Thus, instead of enhancing dependency and relying on India to solve all our problems, our leaders must learn to trust fellow citizens as well as to solve problems on their own. They should instill the habit of listening to the constituents. That will definitely make us feel proud

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