Prem Singh Basnyat is a Brigadier General (Retired) of Nepal Army. PhD in military history, he has authored several books on military and political history of Nepal, besides being a visiting lecturer to universities in Nepal and abroad. He is also the Chairman of Nepal Museum Association.
There has been a serious breach of norms in making of provinces. Whose interestwere our parties trying to serve by chopping Province 2 off from the hills?
National security of a country does not remain static. It waxes and wanes along with time and political context. National security should take a major departure when the country witnesses major changes such as revolution and constitution writing.
Nepal has the long history of political struggle for rule of law, starting from as early as 1947. Ironically, demands for rules-based society have not contributed to our national security. Public aggression for the same demand (rule of law) is still on the rise threatening to dislodge national security itself. In this article, I will discuss the key national security concerns for Nepal, identify their sources and suggest ways to address them. Ninety percent of challenges to Nepal’s national security are of our own making. External challenges are threatening but they are negligible.
CPA, the genesis
The first and foremost source of challenge is Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in November, 2006 between the government and the then Maoist. I am not exaggerating. Consider the context and content of this document.
This was probably the first pact of its kind in the world in which the agreement was signed among partners in peace instead of between parties in conflict. This is not according to the world norms and standards. Conflict parties of the time included His Majesty’s Government (HMG), Nepal Police, Nepal Army and National Investigation Bureau (on one side) against the eight political parties, Maoist included.
By the time CPA was signed Maoists and seven parties had already united against the king’s rule. Therefore they cannot be taken as parties in conflict. Thus the CPA signed by Girija Koirala-led government with Maoist party cannot be considered as the pact between the government and the rebels. It was a pact between two sides with the same goal and, as such, it has breached the very principle of peace accord. Partners of peace settlement rejoiced in making peace with the partners already in peace.
If this accord had included king Gyanendra it would add to legitimacy of the whole process. Debates on monarchy (of any form), secularism, federalism and many other issues would have been comfortably settled by now.
We have been facing the consequences now. There has been a serious breach of norms in the making of federal states. For example, whose interest were our parties trying to serve by chopping Province 2 off from the hills? It could be nothing else than a design to allow a few lords there to rise to power by making regional slogan a bargaining chip. As a matter of fact, Province 2 in current form was none of the demands of indigenous Madhesis. They have always lived in harmony with the hills, like the hills have lived in harmony with the plains.
On hindsight, it was nothing but a sinister design to create space for the free play of external forces and to sow the seed of conflict among Nepalis. Demand for Tarai as separate state, Hindi as official language and the most liberal citizenship distribution system for the new entrants etc raise ominous signs. Nepali Congress, Nepal Communist Party, Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and other nationalist parties should take collective effort to ensure that this does not happen.
Some members of Nepali intelligentsia are openly inciting violence and unrest in Tarai. Therefore the federal government must provide basic services to the people there without any delay.
Matters of faith
The government should never neglect the sensitivities of Hindu, Buddhist and Islam religions coexisting here since long. To everyone’s worry, they are weakening and wearing down for some years now. And, there has been a deliberate attempt to give more space to other religion than the ones which are our own. This is wrong. Of course we respect Christianity, but we cannot afford Christianization as a campaign because imposition of Christianity has only bred conflict in other parts of the world. It might happen here as well.
Secularism, it seems, is going to cost us a lot at the end. Secularism is the product of Nepali top leaders falling into Western influence, for greed of money. Otherwise, why did we have to adopt the system that goes in total disregard to overwhelming majority of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, who support Hinduism?
Nepal was house to Hindu religion. It is religion that binds people into discipline but this bond has been broken. The Nepali leaders failed to correct this mistake during constitution-writing process. This could finally become a source of communal conflict in the country.
A large of Nepali people, who support monarchy and Hindu state, live outside the country. They express anger and frustration over how the new system brought by the constitution has only allowed the dons and goons to thrive and how it has made the living for the poor people extremely difficult. They are aware of the fact that the eight party (eight because Maoist party is also the part of this alliance) alliance unwittingly deposed monarchy in their whims and fancies. They did not even consider then King as the stakeholder of peace process. I see the imminent possibility of pro-monarchy voice becoming more dominant in the days to come.
Misrule on the ground
Nepal never needed the three tiers of government with mammoth size of bureaucracy, leaders, lawmakers and ministries at the cost of unbearable expenses for the country. In operation of three levels of government alone, we have been spending billions of rupees at the moment. Our economy is not going to sustain it. If the state imposes tax in unjust manner, people are going to rise against the state. For many Nepalis, the new system has come to mean rising number of ministers, civil servants and lawmakers. This impression will negatively shape people’s mind.
Then there are CK Raut and Netra Bikram Chand. The government seems to look at them through the same lens, and this is where it is making a mistake. The former is apparently, raised, incited and mobilized by foreign forces and instability mongers within the country. The latter is a homegrown disgruntled force once involved as the rebels for change. The former is openly challenging the nation the latter is expressly committed to national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It would be a terrible mistake to treat Biplab and Raut in the same way.
Burgeoning corruption has deeply frustrated the people. Political leaders have amassed huge money and to secure it they play every game to influence the anti-corruption body, the court and the police. Shamefully, Nepal has earned disreputation of being a country without rule of law and justice. Such feeling raises frustration and aggression among the masses and they will develop disinterest for their own country. It is then that the nation becomes weak.
Youths in large number from the hills and plains have left their place of birth to escape to foreign land to seek opportunities. The empty houses and barren fields mock the future of our country. The current education system has only bred unemployed youths for the political parties to use and mobilize as their cadres and activists. The generation that once prided over the very name of Nepal is missing now. Everyone—including those in security agencies—runs after money and materials. ‘Service to the salt’ sounds like a story. And the so-called intellectuals are inciting more conflict in various names.
International Conference on the Constitution of Nepal 2015 was held in Kathmandu last month. Many of the participants criticized our national charter. But when Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli spoke of the strengths of our constitution at the closing ceremony, many people hailed him. When we do not tell the others who we are they will keep viewing us from the faulty lens.
It’s time for us to identify the possible dangers for our nation and take measures to avert them. If for that matter, we need to reverse some of the constitutional provisions through amendment, we must be ready to do that as well.
The author is Brigadier General (retired) of Nepal Army