Sunday, November 06, 2016

Could This Be What Really Upset Us?

Photo courtesy: OnlineKhabar
Here we were complaining for over half a generation about how the Indians thought us so undeserving of a presidential visit. Their guy comes over (almost inviting himself, if you ask me) and we go nuts all over social media.
In fairness, Pranab Mukherjee sounded all the right notes during the visit, in keeping with the dignity and decorum of his office. If Nepalis were expecting some significant breakthrough, well, he was not the man.
True, officially Mukherjee is for India what Xi Jinping is for China. But that’s the extent of what they share. The two men cannot be compared – in core or peripheral terms – vis-à-vis their ability to influence their respective countries’ policies on Nepal.
In terms of symbolism, however, Mukherjee proved to be the stronger man. Let’s not forget that this time last year, it was Xi we were expecting to host around October/November 2016.
Our national ambivalence on the Mukherjee visit cannot be fully considered without juxtaposing it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s in 2014. Barely a year after sweeping us off the ground by his speech to the constituent assembly, Modi had Nepalis locked under a virtual economic embargo. And that, too, knowing full well how wrathfully nature had wrought its fury on us.
The point is, even if Mukherjee had exceeded his constitutional bounds and lavished us with bold promises, the bilateral context could easily have shifted any time.
So the social media outcry was in a sense valid, you’d think. Sure. Except we complained too much about the inconveniences the Nepali government inflicted on the people in the name of good neighborliness. How long before open arms begin to look like sheer obsequiousness?
Or was our collective non-official reaction to the visit emblematic of something more subliminal? A few years ago, Mukherjee as his country’s foreign minister, remember, bragged on Al Jazeera television about how and why New Delhi drove the Maoists and mainstream parties to sign that 12 Point Agreement against the monarchy. That footage stands out as the most candid official explication of events.
The years since have demonstrated the futility of that endeavor to all sides. As individuals, many Nepalis have long acknowledged as much. However, in our collective selves, we are too proud to recognize that. The Indians see that experiment as a work in progress. We do too, in our own way. If we can’t go back, move sideways or stand still, we must move forward, not matter how uncomfortable the road. And that’s not a nice place to be in.
So when wanted to be gracious hosts to Mukherjee, we couldn’t resist complaining about the hospitality our government extended to him. Does that make sense? If not, well, what does these days, anyway?