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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Learn Chinese to know Kathmandu

Published on :-14 Sep 2008,

Maoist Guerilla turned democrat Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' arrives in New Delhi this Sunday with a bagful of positive notes and
a clear China Bhakti. South Bock geared up to welcome him with the correct diplomatic decency and warmth. We are dealing with a nation so close to us since ages and not with individuals. A change in guard shouldn't change our policy or perception towards people and a land that has been the most extraordinary friend and a soul mate for us.

He faces greater challenges than his predecessor put together. First task is to establish his credibility as a man who can deliver. Nepal is one of the poorest countries of the world with one-third of its population living below poverty line. Eighty per cent of its revenue comes from farming and 65 per cent trade is with India linking its economy with us. It lacks infrastructure and educational facilities, which makes younger Nepalese go out and find better avenues. Previously India was the biggest provider of such opportunities but of late European countries, US, Australia and New Zealand have occupied this space for various reasons. With a literacy rate of 58% (females literacy 34.9%) and gross national income at 320$, Maoist leader faces an uphill task to fulfil promises that were lavishly made during the twelve-year-old violent upsurge that saw Nepal turning into a Federal Republic, abolishing monarchy and eliminating its constitutional status as a Hindu nation. All under a Maoist upsurge.

Younger Nepal turned the tide in favour of a change with a balance. Kingdom's Hindu status was meaningless as it failed to strengthen the democratic roots and provide food, water and education to the rural poor. Pro-Monarchy people couldn't establish their credibility- they thrived on an anti-India note and kept religious affairs bound to the personal loyalty to the King which meant no spiritual insurgence could take shape and the religious discourse remained limited to ritualism. No strong nationalist spiritual fervour was allowed as King felt threatened hence no tears were seen at the demise of its Hindu nation status and the abolition of monarchy.

For long, under the royal dispensation, Madheshi politicians had been treated as a discarded and pariah people. Correcting the regional imbalance and implementing a new, all inclusive policy that addresses the nascent political aspirations of the children of re-invented Nepal while dealing with major powers on both sides-China and India will not be an easy task for someone who had believed that all power comes from the barrel of a gun.

Sources in Kathmandu say Prachanda is fast learning his lessons in diplomacy and a demanding home front. India has long back adjusted its radars to deal with the new situation and accept Chinese influence on the new rulers as a matter of fact. The best thing that has happened in the interest of Nepal and India both is the consensual formation of the three party coalition that would work as a check and balance mechanism on the dictatorial Maoists.

The prudent course would be to take Prachanda into confidence and help Nepal economically in a spirit that has marked our policy towards her so far. If Prachanda says he won't play China card against us, tell him we will watch and form a policy that would address a situation seeing him playing ping pong more vigorously with not only Beijing but also inviting Dhaka and Islamabad's bigger involvement in Kathmandu in his enthusiasm to show that he is at an equidistance from his neighbours. If it happens, it would certainly mean greater trouble for us.

He is what he has always been- so take it or lose whatever you have even now. See a few of his facets.

When the rulers turn corrupt and abuse peoples' faith and trust, public unrest and angst gets expressed in different ways. Nepal saw it happen in
the form of a Maoism that prided to declare it's all the sources of inspiration and support to the neighbouring Communist China. The terror outfit was named after Mao-Ze dong, its rogue army called Peoples' Liberation Army, the tactics adopted to capture power were same as Chinese Communists did-annihilation of all voices of difference and a complete control in the garb of 'revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat'.

After a long drawn battle-twelve years- and fifteen thousand deaths of Nepalese, elections threw a result that gave clear majority to none.

Hence, Maoists had to form a coalition government whose primary task is to write a new constitution. The other major partners of this government are Nepal Communist Party-United Maoist Leninist (CPN-ML) and Madheshi Janadhikar Front (MJF). Inspite a reign of terror by the Maoist guerrillas they could win only 229 seats and 32% votes in a 601 seats strong parliament. With CPN-ML (108 seats) and MJF (54 seats) Maoist leader Prachanda led government was installed on 19th August amidst many 'new traditions'. Nepali Congress bagged 115 and chose to sit in opposition.

Prachanda took oath as the first Prime Minister of this tiny Himalayan federal republic, once the only Hindu State on this planet, in the name of the 'people of Nepal'.

Earlier all the PMs had sworn in, invoking God's name. He chose to wear a western dress, three piece suite with a necktie. Earlier everyone had worn a Nepalese traditional dress called Daura Suruwal. He also became the first PM not to visit Pashupati Nath, as has been the tradition of all the Nepalese leaders and he chose to visit China first, again a new precedence, although our PM Dr Manmohan Singh was the first head of the state to congratulate Prachanda and invite him to visit India within half-an-hour of his election to the post.

Earlier we never needed a passport or a visa to visit Nepal and there were no currency bar. Now soon these restrictions would be introduced for better adherence of security issues. Nepali is written in Devnagari script and our religious life remains incomplete without a visit to the holy Pashupati Nath and for Nepalese Hindus a visit to Badrinath and Rameshwaram. Nepal's state's coat of arms has a line spoken by Rama and quoted in Ramayana which says that motherland is greater than the heaven. It faithfully follows a Vikram Samvat calendar based on the most scientific Hindu system of time and space.

Things have changed and look how.

Hardly a new CEO of a nation would find it prudent to admit that his source of inspiration lies outside the boundaries of his land. Prachanda, our guest and the newly elected Prime Minister of Nepal said so to BBC. "I would be lying if I said no" he said in reply to a question that China is the land of your inspiration Mao Zedong.

Maoists in Nepal have been demanding scrapping or re-doing the 1950 treaty of peace and friendship, though it’s heavily favourable to Nepal. It allows free and unlimited access to Nepalese goods in the Indian market and allows any Nepalese citizen to get employment in India without a work permit and also purchase property.

While these rights have not been given to Indians in reciprocity in consideration of Nepal's small market and underdevelopment. Prachanda had been encouraging his people to raise issues of a greater Nepal too, which imply that India has 'grabbed' one-third of her land which has to be taken back.

In June, this year he awarded a 'critique's award' to a filmmaker on his documentary-titled Greater Nepal which focuses on this issue. Similarly Prachanda gave a public statement to revise the Kosi river treaty, which he said heavily discriminates against Nepal. While the truth is Nepal has been putting hurdles to repair Kosi barrage which resulted in an unprecedented havoc in Bihar. Still India kept silence and didn't play the blame game. Every treaty with Nepal has been drafted in a manner that would benefit her more than India, but Maoists have always playing an anti-India tune.

According to the MEA sources, since January this year India has given a help of more than 832 million Nepalese Rupees for various projects including hospitals, schools, bridges, ambulances and Pashupati Nath Temple Dharamshala. But none speaks about it in Kathmandu. While they demand a re-look at India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, because 'it was done with a feudal Rana representative' another treaty with China done in 1960 with Nepal's King another feudal-doesn't invite such a demand.

Another big problem that may take bigger proportion now is the security along the 1400 km long border with Nepal, which has remained open due to the trust and faith in each other. Now this border has become a grave security threat as a number of madrassas have opened and Pakistani secret service ISI is at full place along these fault lines according to Indian intelligence sources. Kathmandu has also become a favourite place to have the fake currency notes distributed in India.

It needs a strong will and a patience to engage a nation that is going through radical changes. As a friend, Nepalese people's wishes should remain supreme to guide our long term Nepal policy.

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