It is worrying to go through daily media report in Nepal that China and India are vying with each other to play a dominant role in Nepal as its deteriorating conditions could affect each of them in different ways. In the context of Sino Indian competition and rivalry in the present day world and in the long standing border problem yet to be solved amicably between them, Nepal as a buffer state between the two Asian giants has to be vigilant and do the needful to create an environment in its soil not of confrontation but of cooperation between the two. Nepal can not remain insensitive to its strategic importance nor can it ignore the positive role that it has to play in coming years for its survival and prosperity. Definitely some elements should be acting in creating suspicion and hurdle between these two Asian countries against each other and prevent the process of strengthening its friendship so much coveted with increased cooperation and expansion of trade and commerce between them. Better relations between India and China can never harm Nepal rather support it, particularly in the economic field.
Nepal has always taken a policy of establishing and maintaining good relations with both its neighbors since ancient times as evident from the precepts formulated by the builder of new Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan Shah the great. “Nepal is just like a yam between two boulders” or “establish good and amicable relations with China, have relations with the emperor of South understanding well that he is very clever..” signifies the importance of bilateral relations for Nepal. It does also shed some light on the vulnerability of Nepal as a yam if, in King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s words, the boulders were to collide. This realization is neither new nor an afterthought during problematic circumstances. Despite the assertions by the so-called intellectuals and thinkers of Nepal in modern time that Nepal was playing off one neighbor against the other during the Panchayat regime, it can be taken simply as an attempt of some individuals to discredit monarchy at the cost of the nation. Such a fatal mistake should never be imagined much less repeated as all Nepalese are fully aware of the consequences of a wrong action that might threaten independence and sovereignty of Nepal.
Notwithstanding Nepal’s tireless efforts to acknowledge, understand and appreciate the support that it gets from its closest neighbors and reciprocate fully, it is well known that India has been playing a dominant role as far as Nepal is concerned. Right from 1951 since the end of Rana rule and even before that as humiliating 1950 treaty of peace and friendship exemplifies up to this day as twelve-point agreement was reached in New Delhi among the political parties of Nepal with India playing a dominant role. India seems to have failed in its attempt to get that agreement implemented smoothly and raise its dominance to overbearing level. Of late China’s growing interest in Nepal is being misinterpreted from various sources and quarters. In fact the policy and interest China has adopted and pursued is not a new development. As a next door neighbor China is equally interested in seeing Nepal’s independence safe and intact, of course, within the ambit of the five principles of peaceful coexistence. After the establishment of diplomatic relations China had come out openly in support of Nepal’s independence and territorial integrity in 1960s, and now it is being asserted in the same vein and spirit. For Nepal, it is most welcome and it should neither be taken differently nor viewed with suspicion?
Knowing that the national consensual unity government is indispensable to write a new constitution and take the peace process to its logical end the principal parties themselves are at loggerheads with each other even now for their own narrow interests and thinking and at the huge expense of nation and its people. If that is not going to happen why not agree to go for an independent care taker government to be led by the present or retired chief justice and then concentrate and accomplish these two assignments for which the constituent assembly, duly elected by the people, was brought into existence. After these two agendas are successfully addressed and completed the door will be wide open for the general election of a new parliament and any party contesting it will have the opportunity to form its own government or a coalition one depending on its result. Then only a new chapter of peace, stability and lawful democratic regime will start in Nepal. People are impatient to see it.
Every single moment is of utmost importance for ailing Nepal. Any negligence on the part of leaders or even a slightest error is bound to affect it adversely for a long time to come. What is needed on the part of party leaders is prompt action and hard decision with a measure of flexibility and accommodation to break the long standing deadlock and quickly proceed to do the unfinished job. After failing to elect a Prime Minister for the ninth time Maoists have demonstrated not only some flexibility and positive thinking in their stated stand but also created some room for onward march by withdrawing their candidacy and agreeing to work in the special commission formed to settle the combatant issue. If one party relaxes its hard position and modifies its stance the other party should also reciprocate in a similar way and not take it as other’s weakness and become stiffer. This is a simple rule practiced by opposing parties all over the world for arriving at an agreement not only acceptable to the parties concerned but also to the general mass.
The recent development has provided another opportunity for the parties to work together and achieve the set objectives. It is not wise to miss it and bring disrepute to everyone involved in this gigantic task of nation building. At this critical juncture resilience can be an important factor but not obstinacy. A ray of light that has unexpectedly appeared in the Nepalese dark political sky must not be allowed to disappear like in the past. Also, the Nepal government, though critical and in strong opposition to the continuance of UNMIN for some time has finally agreed to its extension for another four months is another indication of good thinking. Without UNMIN the country would have plunged once again into another phase of violent struggle thus eliminating the remaining hope of settlement for some time.
It is certainly hurting to witness the painful decline of a country which had at one time established its reputation as a well administered country capable of providing peace and security to its people. Nobody had even imagined that Nepal would go down so soon with all its state mechanisms and democratic institutions in total disarray. And now what remains to be seen by the unfortunate Nepalese people and its foreign friends is the increasing danger of Nepal being turned into a safe heaven for terrorists, mafia armed gangs and violence in one form or another affecting not only its immediate neighboring countries like India and China but also the South Asian Region and even beyond. Nepal, rich in leaders, seems to be without vision, responsibility and commitments. It is just like poverty in the midst of plenty. Now instead of continuing this artificial drama of nation building in the form of mere slogans and empty promises Nepalese leaders should once again rise to the occasion and discharge their responsibilities with the single objective of preventing the country from going into total anarchy. Or else it will be no surprise if Nepal is declared a failed or a debt ridden bankrupt state in the near future.
Nepal needs to bring its crumbling house to order and prepare itself for this very challenging and responsible job. As far back as 1985 former German Chancellor Mr. Helmut Schmidt had predicted that China would be the world power if it did not repeat the mistake like that of great leap forward and cultural revolution. He did not miss to appreciate Deng Xiaoping’s offer to open up China to outside world in the context of globalization. Now China is strongly poised to overtake Japan as the second largest economy in this year. India is also not far behind in economic progress and now briskly moving towards attaining the same kind of growth rate that China has achieved. At one time India was in a bad condition due to scarcity of foreign exchange reserve so much so that it had to nearly sell its gold reserve and tap foreign exchange from its neighbors including Nepal. Both these neighbors have given a remarkable lesson to Nepal that given the right choice of policies and strong determination nothing is impossible.
(Bista is a former prime minister)