The dynamism and the speed that the planet earth and its inhabitants emit is in fact mind boggling and not at all easy to fathom for most nations. Even within my own lifetime—a mere period of 90 years, I have seen so many astounding events including the Second World War, landing on the planet Moon and going beyond to red planet, technological advancements, particularly the television, that bring all important events live to our homes, make me wonder whether this is the same planet that we inherited from our ancestors. The horrors of the past—especially the annihilation of millions of innocent human lives during the Second World War and its aftermath, are neither easy to forget nor worth recounting for today. Nevertheless, the good things that the present humanity was able to do such as the advances made in the fields of medicine, agriculture and education, have perhaps saved as many lives as would have been destroyed without these feats. However, all these wonderful things would not have happened if the conscientious and visionary leaders had not taken the right step at the right time for maintaining global peace and stability through the United Nations and other related bodies.
In this regard it becomes quite pertinent to mention here that following the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, United States emerged as the sole superpower on earth possessing strong military, economic and technological might. It could have turned arrogant and done things its way ignoring the global reality but the American leadership was so far sighted that it has not lost any time in seizing opportunities to adjust its policy to emerging and changing situations. Re-establishing relations with Vietnam, now Cuba and Iran, and working with the Russian Federation for preventing ISIS's atrocities spread in the Middle East befits the stature of a global leader that the United States is. Besides the security issue America's leadership in the G7 (then G8) nations in assisting LDCs—particularly highly indebted poor countries--in their fight against poverty through writing off debt reflects that country's resolve to support global fight against poverty. In fact, the American administration had clearly spelt out its policy for Nepal way back in 1971 to help assist it through aid for its self reliance in the economic and political fields. Even before the end of cold war,the establishment of diplomatic relations with China cannot be taken as an engagement in regular bilateral activity. Today,that master stroke has once again placed the United States at the top enabling it to play an important role for global peace and security along with China and other countries.
It also proves the point that no country in this world, however rich or strong, can retain its influence for long without being patient and choosing the right time to act for the good of the nation and the world. It is also often seen that some countries in power have not been able to build the country because of their weaknesses as evidenced in their shifting thinking, behavior and position.
Turning to our own region Asia and Nepal in particular, it might be worthwhile to try to understand the current situation that has added insult to injury to the Nepalese by a ruthless act carried out by Modi's government for reasons best known to it. The recent undeclared embargo is an example of Indian Government heartlessness impinged on the Nepalese people at a time whenthey were deprived of their homes and hearths by the big earthquake of April 2015. To think that this act can be taken by Nepal's closest friend and neighborfor whom Nepalese in thousands have been sacrificing their lives for generations for India’s defense and security, is simply beyond imagination. In addition to the invaluable contribution made by the sons of Nepal, it has also been fully cooperating in quenching the thirst of millions of people in India, irrigating millions of hectares of land continuously for several decades. India’s present development and its march towards economic prosperity are being fully supported by the perennial water resource flowing from Nepal’s Himalayas. Despite these sacrifices, not even acknowledged much less commended, it appears that the time of agony for Nepalese is not yet over.
Nepalese should be prepared to undergo more sufferings as its next door neighbor India is not in a mood to heed to reason and reality because of its arrogance flowing from its might and money, now further emboldened by U.K. and the European Union to involve itself more in the internal affairs of Nepal. Nobody except the Indian PM had thought that the U.K. and the European countries would take this position adversely affecting the internationally accepted covenant and practice of state to state relations and conduct. It raises a serious question on the very foundation of international compact reflected in the Charter of the United Nations following the end of Second World War. Can the U.K., a responsible permanent member of the Security Council, and the European Union vying to become a distinct power in Europe, be trying to unsettle the doctrine of “sovereign equality of all independent nations—big or small, code of conduct of neighborly relations particularly ‘non-interference in the internal affairs of each other’ that is largely responsible for regional stability and peace?
To treat Nepal from India's angle and policy is not only undignified but also misleading. It is not acceptable to Nepal as long as Nepalese people remain the masters of their soil. Nepal should be thankful to Japan for not following the line adopted by the U.K. and the European Union. As far as the United States of America is concerned it could never be a tail to India. So it is high time for Nepal to make it crystal clear not only to India but also to other countries that it will not budge an inch in its long adopted, well tried pragmatic policy based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence and never handover its sovereign right to govern the country under the system it chooses and suited to its soil to any other country.
Nepal, as it stands once again, in its solid form enriched by its unique culture, art and architecture ingrained in its world famous temples, shrines, stupas, and historic sites like Lumbini, Janakpur Dham, Muktinath, Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath and Changu Narayan, is now set to achieve its long cherished goal of peace, stability and prosperity with the signing of historic Transit and Trade Treaty with the People's Republic of China. So far Nepalese had to depend entirely on India not only for supply of goods and services but also imports and exports to and from third countries according to Indian Government's whims so much so that Nepal had to undergo national humiliation several times and its economic downfall, despite its natural wealth and hard working people, is caused from direct or indirect involvement of India in its internal affairs.
It might be interesting to know that at one time when relations between the former Soviet Union and India was moving towards a special status like the United States and the United Kingdom I had put a simple question to the then Soviet Ambassador to Nepal in a water project, also benefiting India, whether Soviet Union would look to Nepal through India's eyes: he had promptly responded that Soviet Union would treat Nepal separately as an independent sovereign country-- that it is and will ever remain. There was also a similar question posed to the USA’srepresentative about this issue and Nepal was assured of its independent dealing. China, which is going to play an important role in international affairs, never looked upon Nepal from other's eyes but its own.China is assisting Nepal in various ways from defending Nepal's independence to its economic uplift from the very beginning as it is also permanently related to its security and that of the region.
Nepal should never forget the past efforts made by different persons in order to protect and preserve Nepal's culture, identity and national unity. It was no ordinary job to transform its sinking image into a vibrant independent Nepal playing its due role not only in the Security Council but also actively engaging itself with the Non-Aligned Movement activities that could never be minimized when Soviet Union and the United States of America were at loggerheads with each other. If Nepal wants an all round development it has to learn from its past and move forward with no malice to either of its neighbors rather live and prosper together in cooperation, trust and understanding.
In course of advancing national interests PM Oli has committed a mistake by abruptly cancelling Nepalese President's visit to India at the eleventh hour. Now, it is going to take more time in improving Nepal-India relations that is so necessary for both. Though India is responsible for shaking the root of cordial and cooperative relations and turning it into a bitter one yet the Nepalese PM's 'TIT FOR TAT' behavior is both undignified and harmful in the conduct of state-to-state relations. Sooner or later both the countries have to settle their differences and learn to live and work together.
In the context of Sino-Nepalese relations the miraculous success of China in constructing a railway line up to Shigatse of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and going to touch the Nepalese border in about four years’ time must be taken as a boon to Nepal. With the construction of a railway line up to Lumbini via Pokhara, Nepal would be serving the interest of Buddhists all over the world to visit Lumbini in their lifetime by providing easy and smooth access to the holy site. It is sure to create an environment for peace, stability and progress so vital to Asia.
Nepal's growing relations with China should not be misconstrued by Indian leaders as being one sided and harmful to them rather take it as helpful to India also. Senior Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping's famous quote "to be rich is glorious" and now his successor President Xi-Jinping saying that China is not only rich but it is also committed to share its riches with neighboring countries by coming forward to invest massively in various projects, including one belt one road, is beneficial to all concerned. Further, India lost no time in becoming a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, focused on security and development, proves the merit of the Chinese initiative.
When the whole world is talking about connectivity and regional cooperation and integration for accelerated development of developing as well as the developed nations, some voices being raised by India’s ruling party parliamentarians in creating a wall from East to West on the Indo-Nepal border speaks of de-connectivity. Whereas China seems to be attaching great importance to connectivity at an immense cost and time. What an irony! India, linked to Nepal in every way since times immemorial is thinking of getting apart but China, despite the distance and difficulty of present day transport, is thinking of ways and means to connectivity.
Nepal-China desire for connectivity through rail and road links will be realized soon as China is willing to assist Nepal both in the short-term and long-term. Now it is the responsibility of Nepal’s government to advance the cause of nation building with timely execution of people's constitution. PM Oli's role is going to crucial as it is connected with the implementation of Trade and Transit Treaty between the two countries. It can be done only by a capable leadership with a strong willpower and commitment and prevent Nepal from going the Sikkim way. Before it is too late Nepal has to move forward steadily towards its goal without leaning either to the north or south but trying to have good relations not only with its next door neighbors, China and India, but also with several countries such as the United States of America, Japan, Russian Federation and the like which are interested and supportive in Nepal's economic development and stabilityas its strategic importance is rising steadily. Long live Nepal!
Bista is a former prime minister of Nepal