Sunday, April 03, 2016

Now, That Would Really Hurt Our Feelings

Our government maintains that the March 30 India-European Union joint statement’s emphasis on the need for “a lasting and inclusive constitutional settlement in Nepal that will address the remaining constitutional issues in a time bound manner, and promote political stability and economic growth” has ‘hurt’ the sentiments of the Nepali people. Not so fast, says one group of Nepalis, who feel the government statement has injured their feelings.
Admittedly, the process of drafting and promulgating a constitution are essentially internal matters of a sovereign and independent country. So there is no philosophical basis to quibble with the cabinet’s assertion that the joint statement was “disruptive to the sovereignty of Nepal”. But hasn’t the ‘sovereignty’ bus long departed, at least as far as our political process goes?
You could argue – as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement did the other day – that the constitution institutionalizes significant democratic gains. However, to say that its promulgation formally concludes the nationally-driven peace process initiated in 2006 [italics added] is a bit of a stretch.
Forget the 12-Point Agreement. For all its nationalistic push, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli’s government itself committed itself to a four-point agenda on addressing the demands of agitating Madhesi parties. That, too, at a time when senior government ministers were busy demonizing Madhesi leaders calling for greater inclusiveness.
Brute majority does not carry the same weight in geopolitics as it does in national politics. Perhaps that’s why those who sought to dismiss India’s concerns (which manifested itself in the border ‘blockade’) as a camouflage for its desire to restore Hindu statehood in Nepal were among those most shocked to see the prime movers of secularism allied with the most overtly pro-Hindu prime minister of India.
All this didn’t just come out of the left field. The perils of aligning our relations with India with the ebb and flow of China-India relations were amply manifested in 1950, 1960, 1990 and 2006. After the latest ‘blockade’, as we were threatening to internationalize the situation, New Delhi stepped up its global campaign against the ‘small-brotherly attitude’ of Kathmandu.
And the irony of it all? Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, who as home minister in the royal regime in 2006 plunged the deepest dagger in the Maoist-mainstream opposition alliance by castigating its creation on Indian soil, ended up signing the four-point commitment with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on what was ostensibly a private visit to the Indian capital.
Condemnation of Indian interference alone – as much of the political establishment is busily indulging in – is not the way to go around, especially considering the credibility of the current process. (Why the Maldives, which also finds reference in point 17 of the joint statement, has chosen to maintain silence is beyond the scope of this write-up.)
What, if anything, are the countervailing powers/stakeholders prepared to do, when they are not allying with India on Nepal? If we are to go it alone, what do we have going for us?
And consider this. If, God forbid, another authoritarian axe were to befall our leaders any time soon, India might still offer that contrite lot physical refuge and political mediation. How much would that hurt the sentiments of the Nepali people then?