Monday, December 28, 2009

Try Being An Indian For A Moment

Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna might want to prepone his visit to Nepal.
The normally suave Indian foreign minister was a little sour when he asked a group of visiting Nepali scribes why his country keeps getting a bad press. The journos probably fingered our politicos. So Krishna scheduled a fact-finding mission in the new year. Not so fast, said the folks at the Asian Center for Human Rights. Quit coddling the generals first.
But Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal felt he had to go straight to the heart of the matter. He gave Krishna an earful to take to his bosses. Dahal may have backtracked a day later, but not without some success. The Maoist supremo’s outbursts emboldened people as diverse as Hari Roka and Manmohan Bhattarai to chastise India in their own circuitous ways.
Could Dahal have been a bit diplomatic? Sure. But would he have kicked up the same firestorm? Predictably, the other left-of-the UML reds aren’t impressed by this resurgence of patriotism in the Maoist leader. There could be umpteen ulterior motives. As for Dahal, agent provocateur is not an appellation that exactly bothers him.
Opinion seems to be crystallizing on the opposite end, too. Madhesi Janadhikar Forum leader Upendra Yadav suggested that the quality and content of India’s interest in Nepal is but natural for such a neighbor. Now, Maila Baje can’t figure out whether Yadav has revised his own recent criticism of India for having conceived the Madhav Kumar Nepal government in sin. But, then, Yadav’s real grudge is probably against the rise of his rival, Bijay Kumar Gachchadar.
What separates affable interest from odious intervention when it comes to India? Nepalis have been debating this forever. For quite long, the Indians weren’t terribly perturbed by the creepiest manifestations of our antagonism, either. Sure, in the early days Jawaharlal Nehru used to convey to the two older Koirala brothers his displeasure with Nepalis’ collective ingratitude. But one he realized how far he could get by pitting Matrika Prasad against Bisweswar Prasad, Nehru’s resentment diminished in public.
Over time, you could almost sense a national consensus across the southern border that eternal anti-Indianism was a fair price for perpetual mastery over Nepal. Something seems to have riled the Indians lately. And it’s not just the red lines the Maoists keeping crossing vis-a-vis China. It has something to do with Nepaliness.
Try being an Indian for a moment. When the Chinese beat up Nepalis on the bordering regions, harass traders, surreptitiously foist a draft peace and friendship treaty on the country and haggle over the size of the prime ministerial entourage, it becomes news for five minutes. Kalapani, Susta, Kosi, Gandaki, Mahakali, and the 1950 Treaty, on the other hand, have become diabolic metaphors feeding on each other.
And look at the confidence Nepalis have mustered during what is perhaps their most vulnerable era. Regardless of the facts of history, would today’s Indians living across our eastern and western borders really want to be part of a Greater Nepal? Doesn’t the fact that the westerners have their own state and the easterners are agitating for one count for anything?
Contrast that with the controversy over the northern half of Mount Everest. Even the fiercest critic of the monarchy’s alleged sellout to China does not demand the restoration of that side to Nepali sovereignty.
And the asymmetries over the wider motives of the neighbors? The Indians are always accused of seeking to “Bhutanize” and “Sikkimize” Nepal. On the other hand, the Qing emperors, Chiang Kai-shek and Chairman Mao all claimed Nepal to be part of the Chinese empire based a 1792 treaty that exists nowhere.
The Chinese ditched the Shahs, Ranas, the mainstream parties and the Maoists. Yet Nepalis somehow feel heaven still has a way of conferring its mandate from the north. Maybe that is why they complain of Indian subjugation but are happy to see China subdue Tibet.
Maila Baje doesn’t want to bask in a see-I-told-you-so moment. So coddle the generals or not, Mr. Krishna, but hop on the next flight. See it for yourself.