Reclaiming our destiny

Published On: September 3, 2017 01:30 AM NPT By: Devendra Gautam

New Delhi’s active interest and involvement in all our political transformations further weakens Nepal and ends up progressively increasing Indian clout here.

Our southern neighbor is an unparalleled expert when it comes to muddying waters in neighboring countries and fishing in them. This write-up will focus on how this neighbor, in the holy name of democracy, gets into the dirty business in Nepal of overthrowing regimes that have become irrelevant to it by fanning discontent and using political transformations, achieved through sacrifices of Nepali people, to its advantage. Looking at the recent history of Nepal, we find storms of change greeting Nepal every 10 years. 

There is no doubt that dissatisfaction within sections of the population is a reason behind this revolutionary zeal, but that is not the only reason. New Delhi’s active interest and involvement in such transformations further weakens Nepal and ends up increasing its clout here. 

Take the struggle against the Rana regime. Nepal’s political forces launched a struggle against Ranarchy by establishing themselves in the territories of the neighbor next door. When the regime was about to collapse, Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher inked a Peace and Friendship Treaty, severely limiting Nepal’s sovereignty, in a last-ditch effort to protect the regime. But the regime collapsed soon after because, among other factors, it had outlived its utility for our dear neighbor. 

Then came the government of Matrika Prasad Koirala, who signed the Koshi Agreement that has limited Nepal’s water sovereignty and inundated huge swathes of Nepali territories. With this superstructure, Koshi, earlier called the Sorrow of Bihar, has become the Sorrow of Nepal, causing deaths, inundating thousands of hectares of Nepal’s flatlands and causing losses, worth trillions of rupees thus far, in diverse sectors such as infrastructure, private property, agriculture and fisheries. This year alone, more than 80 percent of Saptari went under water, also because the southern neighbor tried to further alter the course of the river by building water-channeling infrastructure in Kunaunli. 

Barrage of sorrow 

The picture of kin leaving the dead body of eight-year-old Kamal Sada of Saptari in the Saptakoshi River, for want of a sliver of land, portrays how grave the situation has become. Incidents like this should make both Nepal and its Big Brother bow their heads in shame. The Big Brother has an additional responsibility to protect lives and property on either side of the border because it operates the Koshi Barrage built on the Nepali territory. 

Looking back, the Koshi was barely enough for our neighbor. The BP Koirala-led government gifted the Saptakoshi River through another controversial Gandak agreement. By the time Koirala realized he had made a ‘mistake’, it was too late.  

Back to our never-ending cycle of revolutions. In the 1990’s, winds of change started blowing in Nepal again. With generous help from India and participation of Nepali peoples, the autocratic monarchy became history and Nepal embraced a multiparty democratic polity with constitutional monarchy. That was great. But then came time to pay for Indian assistance with a pound of our flesh: This time, it was the Mahakali River, which the ‘democratic regime’ gifted by overriding the sovereign parliament. 

Yet another struggle against King Gyanendra’s autocratic rule, in the backdrop of a Maoist insurgency, also brought about a regime change, transforming Nepal into a federal democratic secular republic. That sounds great. But in this transformation, too, India played an instrumental role by supporting the insurgency by providing sanctuary to Maoist leadership, so it deserved some ‘Dakshina’. An indebted regime feebly tried to appease India by gifting the Karnali River.

In Nepal, every prime ministerial visit to the southern neighbor triggers fears that Nepal may end up losing more than ever before to Delhi. So it was quite natural for Nepali populations to worry about ‘possible gifts’ of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to our southern neighbor at a time when the sovereign parliament had rejected the government-sponsored constitution amendment and when the southern neighbor was engaged in a standoff with our northern neighbor, China. (I leave it to the readers to decide what Nepal ‘gained’ from Deuba’s recent India trip.) Indeed, most of the controversial deals with India have taken place at a time when regimes are at their weakest. 

Dirty secret 

In the global context also, it’s no secret that powerful countries engineer coups and regime changes in smaller, weaker countries that have strategic importance and that are rich in natural resources, primarily to fulfill their vested interests and push their divisive agendas. World history is full of foreign intelligence agencies turning such countries into their playfields. 

In Nepal, too, domestic aspirations for change have a role in shaping revolutions and political transformations but they are not the sole factor behind these changes. After toppling of a regime, interests of foreign powers start to prevail and countries like Nepal become weaker as they have to accommodate foreign interests at the cost of national interest.     

How can we prevent this slide? How can we prevent foreign forces from muddying our waters and fishing in them? 

By reading, re-reading and understanding the history of this country better. The world order was never friendly towards smaller, weaker countries sandwiched between two or more giants. But our ancestors somehow left this country more or less intact. That was no mean feat, that was no small gift for a generation used to seeing regular incursions along and encroachment upon its porous border. A lot of diplomatic acumen, a sound knowledge of Nepal’s strategic vulnerability, a lot of statecraft and sound vision were at play. That is what protected our territories.

By realizing that, in this wild world, it will be futile to think that some knight in shining armor will come to our rescue whenever we land in trouble. By realizing that even that knight will have vested interests.

By striving to cement national unity further. By trying to understand each other better. By reaching out to each other. By making every effort to sort out our differences on our own. By making democracy a part of our lives instead of treating it as a domestic servant meant to serve us (this is for our political leadership too). By truly putting our country above all else. By reclaiming our destiny.

We can at least take first feeble steps in that direction. And the time to act is now.

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