Saturday, July 13, 2013

Time For A New Tack

The Chinese media were quick to cover the firestorm kicked off by the dash six of our former prime ministers made toward visiting Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid. “Many perceive that Nepali leaders should abandon the tendency of bowing their head to low-ranking Indian officials,” Xinhua news agency gleefully reported in a dispatch widely covered by Chinese outlets.
The Indian media ran equally fast with that Xinhua report, and with that additional subtext: No matter how loud these men might rail against us at times, in the end…
Then came the blizzard of editorializing and opinionating in the Nepali media. What these six hapless men may or may not have discussed with the esteemed visitor was drowned out.
Doubtless, the sight was unseemly – before and after. One ex-premier cut short a trip to Singapore to be with Khurshid, who himself had abbreviated his trip. A former deputy prime minister later publicly regretted having met with the Indian dignitary.
Maila Baje recognizes that the affair represented an egregious breach of the code of conduct introduced by the previous government, which barred former prime ministers from meeting lower ranking foreign guests at their hotel. Moreover, the former prime ministers did not take consent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the meetings, which the code also stipulates. Making matters worse, Khurshid asserted that he had not invited anyone to his hotel.
Yet, in the end, what we all saw was perfectly understandable in its wider context. Khurshid and his interlocutors merely underscored the basic reality gripping Nepal since we started out on our rapturous march toward national renewal.
Throughout this process, the Indians have carefully avoided reminding us directly who’s in the driver’s seat. But to a different audience – and for a different imperative – they continue to take great pride in having forged the alliance between the mainstream parties and Maoist rebels against the monarchy.
Then foreign minister (and now President) Pranab Mukherjee was only among the more candid Indians when he pointed out this ‘feat’ of Indian diplomacy during that interview on Al Jazeera a couple of years ago. (And that discerning assertion of the Indian version of the Monroe Doctrine became part of a resume enhancer for Mukherjee.)
The Wikileaks cables covering the 2005-2006 period bear out what was known all along. Yet we still have Indian apologists in our politics and media asking us: “Do you really think Indians spend their entire waking hours plotting how to destabilize Nepal?” Ridicule your critics, and no rebuttal is necessary. Alinskyites are ensconced everywhere these days.
The Indians made a rather safe bet on the Chinese vis-à-vis Nepal. Since familiarity eventually breeds contempt, New Delhi thought it would let Nepalis themselves figure out whose stifling embrace they abhorred more.
The crux of the matter is very much within. After our 2006-2008 hopey-changey high, we went downhill. We began hating the Maoists for being Maoists and the Nepali Congress for being the Nepali Congress, and so on. Sensing the ifs and buts running through our collective DNA, the political parties, largely under Indian tutelage, began assembling a patchwork of compromises and foisting them as bold turns in the peace process. And we went along, still wailing and moaning. Ultimately, the parties can’t change who they are. Nor can we change who we are.
So maybe it’s time to try a different tack. Let the Indians take open charge of the process. And let us wholeheartedly welcome it. If the Indians help us reach where we Nepalis think we should get to, then what would we have to complain? If not, it’s not as if we’d ever have to stop castigating them for constantly pushing us around.