Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Love-Hate Relationship, Indeed

In less than a year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned from an adorable novelty to a self(ie)-seeking ogre. And all it took was the Great Earthquake.
Some Nepalis saw India’s alacritous aid dispensation a diabolic lack of altruism.
The Indian media did not help matters by acting as if Nepal were an adjunct of the federal government in New Delhi or that somehow the earthquake offered the perfect opportunity to shed any semblance of sensibility during person-on-the-street sessions.
But Modi didn’t seem perturbed by his blazing effigies. Not only has he promised to wipe every Nepali tear, he has cited cooperation with China on rescue and relief as a model of strategic cooperation between the Asian giants.
It didn’t take long for the international media to detect regional rivalries hover over Nepal. But something more expansive seems to be going on.
The development community sees people-driven dynamics as a harbinger of change. Statists see in the post-disaster official turmoil the need for centralized control. The political class stood out of the way of the plethora of other players because they could have neither led nor followed. After all, shutting down the country through mass mobilization for political gains is far easier than opening up roads and city squares in the aftermath of nature’s fury.
The international goodwill for Nepal was manifested during the five-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the United Nations, where virtually every high-level speaker prefaced his or her homily with expressions of support and solidarity for Nepal. Fundraising became such a popular cause that international law-enforcement agencies had to start warning everyone to beware of crooks.
Three weeks and a second earthquake later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution urging more concerted international action over the short, medium and long term and across a variety of areas. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, lamenting the underfunding of the $423 million flash appeal, sung the praises of Nepal Army and police personnel.
During the post-adoption explanations of vote, countries big and small scrambled to assert what they had done for Nepal and Nepalis. The European Union alone sought progress on the constitutional front as part of durable post-disaster recovery. Otherwise, it was here’s-what-we’ve-done time.
Cuba and the United Arab Emirates didn’t want to be left out as India, China, the United States and United Kingdom detailed the scope and extent of their engagement. Of the Big 5, only the Russian Federation sat out the back-patting fest. 
From the South Asian region, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan let India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan speak as forcefully as they could. China took pride in the fact that Nepal saw the first overseas deployment of People Armed Forces.
So where are we? Since this was the first major natural disaster to strike since the international agreement on disaster risk reduction was reached in Sendai in March (although Vanuatu was hit by a typhoon on the first day the conference opened), the urgency to act superseded any ambiguities associated with the international commitment to undertake a resilient recovery approach.
If Modi considered the Nepali reaction to India’s assistance rather irksome, he was prudent in exhibiting patience. When the international spotlight fades and fatigue sets in the rest of the world, the heavy lifting would still be needed.
It’s called a love-hate relationship for a reason.