Few kilometers away from Kathmandu on the hill of Makawanpur district stands a palace, also called a castle and a fort. It has a lot to communicate to us about our history and heritage, which I am going to write in this article.
Diplomatic relations between Nepal and Israel were established on June 1, 1960. Israel opened its embassy in Kathmandu in March, 1961 and Nepal opened its Consulate in Israel in 1993. Nepali Ambassador to Egypt was concurrently accredited to Israel until Nepal established her embassy in Tel Aviv on August 13, 2007. The bilateral relations, marked by mutual cooperation, goodwill, understanding and friendship have expanded in various developmental and cooperation areas. Nepal was the only country in the region until recent past to recognize Israel by maintaining continued diplomatic relations.
As India stood reluctant to resolve the border matters with Nepal, the government of Nepal has published the new political map including Limpiyadhura Lipulekh and Kalapani region, the land which belongs to Nepal but which India claims and which it is even occupying. Since this incident, there have been several interpretations and discussions regarding India’s intention vis-à-vis Nepal. People are angry, sad and agitated by the recent behaviors from Indian side. But the type of response and reaction coming from Indian side and its deferral to resolving border issues through friendly peaceful diplomatic dialogues reinforces the fact that India has not changed its old habits when it comes to dealing with Nepal. For those who follow history, India’s overbearing attitude and behaviors with its neighboring countries is not new.
Today (May 18) is the International Museum Day, the day which, because of pandemic ruling the whole world, is likely to remain unnoticed. Museology and history have yet to become the subjects of intense study in Nepal anyway.
Nepal is often projected as the nation that lost the war with the foreigners. The Anglo-Nepal war (1814-16) is often cited to prove this claim. Yes, the war with the East India Company government turned out to be a losing battle for Nepal at the end. Nepal suffered a defeat but given that Nepal had fought with small troops against huge and well-armed troops of British India, the defeat was almost a foregone conclusion.
Muslim kings of India attacked and plundered the temples including Pashupatinath and golden and silver statues of Kathmandu Valley several times. These attacks were meant for accumulating wealth. Qasim Ali Khan, also called Mir Qasim, the seventh Nawab of Bengal and Orissa who later became the Nawab of Mursidabad with the help of the British rulers, followed the same trend.
Push 1 (December 17 this year) is the day when commentaries are written about King Mahendra. This is the day Mahendra had taken powers in his hands and started direct rule. Most people writing about it describe King Mahendra’s action as a coup (the action he took on December 15, 1960) and considerable length of space is used to demonize him in Nepali media. Mostly, the people to demonize and vilify the late king are those who are, or perceived to be, close to Indian power centers. No wonder, most Indian intellectuals have also focused their energies in portraying Mahendra in bad light. In this article, I look into why Mahendra model of nationalism, as is popularly used, came to be the subject of scorn among them and what that brand of nationalism was mainly about.
Allow me to say something at the outset. I have been in a mission to document history. I have been travelling across the country and hope to go across the border too. The main mission of my travel is to explore how Nepal was under attack from various powers in the past and how Nepal managed to resist or fight back for the sake of safeguarding or expanding its territory.
Museums are repositories of history and heritage and remain preserved in the form of writing, picture, objects and audio-visuals for the present as well as future generations. They give the holistic picture of status of industry, pattern of settlement and agriculture, art and artistry of temples, churches, monasteries and mosques, festivities, birth and death rituals, pattern of house construction, dress making and costumes so on and so forth. In the recent times, practice of taking writings, arts and artifacts, objects and ornaments, costumes and audio visual materials of historical and cultural importance to display in different places is gaining ground.
Everything might look honky dory from outside, but several challenges stare Nepali politics at the moment, some of them with roots in happenings of a decade back. The first is Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on November, 2016 between the government and warring Maoist. It was probably the first agreement of its kind in the world in which the agreement was signed more with the partners in peace than between the parties in conflict. Parties in conflict at the time were royal palace and Maoists. Agreement should have been between the two. Instead, agreement was signed between the Maoist and the parties which together were in anti-monarchy movement. Nowhere else are agreements signed between the partners in peace. This makes the peace accord fundamentally flawed.
Tibet was a good market for Nepali traders and Nepal had good ties with Tibet. With marriage of Nepali princess Bhrikuti with King Tsroang Chong Gympo of Tibet, diplomatic and official relations became cordial. Following that many Nepali merchants and officials also married Tibetan girls. Eventually, Tibet and Nepal had both people-to-people and government-to-government ties.
King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s unification campaign was focused on Kathmandu but it seemed like a powerful state to win over. To weaken it, he blockaded the Kathmandu Valley. This affected East India Company’s trade with Tibet (and China) because their trade was carried out via Kathmandu.
After Dalai Lama fled to India, Chinese security operation started in Tibet in 1971 and some Khampas started to settle down in the adjoining areas of the Himalayan border on the northern region of Nepal. They started to operate anti-China activities from Nepali territory, which was against foreign policy of Nepal. So Nepal launched military operations against Khampas. Many of them were killed, others fled and some surrendered. This episode is known as ‘Khampa Disarming Mission’ in Nepal’s military history.