When Mohan Baidya led CPN-Maoist announced that his party was interested in cooperating with ex-king Gyanendra Shah to safeguard Nepal’s sovereignty, it set off an uproarious debate on nationalism. With NC president Sushil Koirala urging political parties to make elections a success and CPN-M chairman’s vehement opposition to elections, the common citizen is stuck in the middle.
However, the debate is not a new one. After the advent of democracy in 1990, ‘nationalism’ was used by all parties to blame one another. During the 1991 election campaign, the UML accused the NC of ‘selling’ the Kosi and Gandaki rivers to India. The CPN (UML) boycotted the house after the then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala signed the Mahakali Treaty. In 1998, the CPN (UML) split over the Mahakali Treaty with Bamdev Gautam forming the Communist Party of Nepal. When the CPN failed to secure even a single seat in the parliamentary elections of 1991, few leaders including Gautam returned to CPN (UML) while a few others joined the Maoists.
In Nepal the definition of nationalism and who is a nationalist or who is a broker of foreign powers is contingent upon whether a party is in power or in the opposition. Maoist leaders in particular are most guilty of double tongue when it comes to nationalism. In 23 January 1995, Baburam Bhattarai, chairman of the United People’s Front submitted a 40 point memorandum to the then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. The first nine points deal directly with protecting Nepal’s ‘nationalism’ from foreign elements:
1 Abrogate all discriminatory treaties, including the 1950 Nepal-India Treaty.
2 Annul the so-called Integrated Mahakali Treaty signed on 29 January 1996, as it threatens our nationality and can be prove to be more damaging in the long run.
3 Regulate, control, and systematise the open border between Nepal and India. Prohibit vehicles with Indian licence plate from plying in Nepal.
4 Close down the Gorkha Recruitment Centres and provide dignified employment to Nepali citizens within Nepal.
5 Priority should be given to Nepali workers in different sectors. If foreign workers are required under special circumstances, a work permit system should be implemented.
6 End the monopoly in Nepali industries, business, and finance sector.
7 Devise and implement appropriate customs policies that facilitate economic independence of the country.
8 The country is being invaded and corrupted by imperialist and colonial culture. Ban the import and distribution of vulgar Hindi films, videos, and magazines.
9 Prohibit the invasion of colonial and imperial elements in the name of NGOs and INGOs.
But when the same ‘nationalist’ Bhattarai came to power in 2011, he signed two major agreements including the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) without a moment of hesitation. According to the deals, Nepal government is liable for any damage caused to industry with Indian investment.