Reason to worry for Nepal

Published On: September 12, 2019 01:30 AM NPT By: Devendra Gautam

Recent developments in the immediate neighborhood down south should be a matter of serious concern for us, given our complicated relations with it. Of course, diehard optimists in favor of reaping the benefits of prosperity in the neighborhood may not bother much about these ‘developments’. But there’s no harm in hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. 

One can claim for sure that these developments are internal to a country. Of course they are internal if they affect the country concerned only. If these developments have the potential to affect other countries too, then they cease to be internal. Having said this, there’s hardly any development that’s purely internal in this interconnected world.    

Two disturbing developments just across our open border are likely to seriously affect our fragile country already reeling under multiple crises fuelled primarily by prolonged political instability. 
Economic crisis
Let yours truly start with an emerging economic crisis in India that has already dealt a huge blow to foreign investment, the auto industry, the GDP, the stock market, manufacturing, farm sector, real estate, hospitality industry, etc. In fact, there’s no aspect of the economy that’s untouched by this crisis that seems to have international dimensions, making the media wonder if a global recession looms large.

In a desperate attempt to tide over this crisis, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn around 170 lakh crore rupees from the Reserve Bank of India, the bank of banks. Despite the crisis, the Modi government does not seem to have concrete plans as yet to tide over it.

What’s more worrisome are indications that our next-door neighbor is showing signs of an unfolding global economic crisis that will be far more serious than the depression of the 1930s that hugely impacted the economies of the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, among others. This crisis is said to be behind the rise of Adolf Hitler and pushed Germany, hurt deeply by the Treaty of Versailles after its defeat in the World War I, into the World War II.    

Already, there are tell-tale signs of a global economic crisis fuelled by the US-China trade dispute, chances of the UK leaving the European Union without a trade deal, a slowing growth of the US economy and a jittery German economy, among others. 

While the economic crisis in India will have a profound impact on our closely-linked economy with chances of millions of unemployed people seeking to enter our country through a border that’s virtually open on our side, a global recession means Nepali nationals working abroad may lose jobs and will have no option but to return home. Sadly, with the economy already in doldrums, providing jobs to these sons of the soil will not be easy. What’s more, their return will be catastrophic, at least in the short run, for an economy that has remittance as its backbone. But in the long run, their return may give the national economy a boost as these people will seek to utilize skills learnt abroad at home, create small industries, opt for commercial farming etc. 
Denying citizenship 
In what seems to be another misadventure, the Modi-led government is implementing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of India, in the northeastern state of Assam. Amid tight security, it has released the NRC, listing more than 1.9 million peoples from a particular faith said to have migrated from neighboring countries, where that faith is dominant, as stateless. 

Of course, these people can appeal for a review by submitting relevant documents, but given high legal costs and other constraints like lack of clinching evidence given that they are from a flood-prone region where people have to keep shifting to escape the Brahmaputra flood havoc, getting justice, if at all, will be a long-drawn affair. Till then, these people will have to live in jails-turned-into detention centers. In Assam, the government has already set up six such centers for the ‘stateless people’ and plans to add 10 more to provide for these ‘stateless people’ in the interim. 

Amid this brewing crisis, it should be noted that Bangladesh has already stated that it will not allow entry of these people.

While the NRC is already creating chaos in Assam, this is not enough for the BJP, it appears. 

There are indications that the BJP-led government will implement the citizenship register throughout India. If the Indian government chooses to implement the NRC nationwide, the humanitarian crisis resulting from this initiative will get more serious with millions more becoming stateless. One can guess that the Indian state will seek to drive away these people from its territories as keeping such a huge number of people in detention centers will not be possible.

How will the international community, including the champions of human rights like the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, react to such a move? Will it be able to stop the world’s largest democracy from rendering a sea of humanity stateless, even if they do not have clinching evidence to prove their citizenship?

Well and good if the world community somehow manages to stop India from causing a humanitarian crisis.  

If it does not, a country like Nepal may also have to bear the brunt of this crisis, apart from the economic slowdown in the neighborhood and beyond.

As a passive recipient of the poor, the jobless, the persecuted and the displaced people (the list goes on) from the immediate neighborhood and beyond, Nepal is in an unenviable position this time also as multiple crises unfold.

It’s not yet clear as to what steps our government will take to shield the country from these crises. No word thus far from the government about this unfolding scenario indicates that the state is either unaware of the scenario or is in denial. That hardly gives any respite to the citizenry.   

One thing is clear though: Mere waiting and watching will not be enough to deal with the crises. The government should explore options to minimize the impact of these crises on the country and the peoples.  Curbing the unchecked inflow of multitudes through tighter border controls may be one step in the right direction. The sooner the government takes some concrete steps to deal with the crises, the better. 


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