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Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

India expects us to wave the white flag. Our leaders are waving the national flag. Neither is a way out.

Flag-waving Nepal and India

Sooner or later (the sooner the better) this blockade will come to an end. It must. It is unnatural, illegal, destabilising and detrimental to the long-term national interests of both countries.

Once the border is open again, we will have to start counting the cost. Nepal will have lost hugely in monetary terms – already the economic damage to the country of the two-month long blockade far exceeds the impact of the earthquake that affected 12 districts in April. Nepal’s already-shaky economy will take years, to recover from the cumulative destruction of the earthquake and the blockade. Nepal’s growth forecasts for the coming years will have to be revised downwards. Development has been pushed back.

Of more immediate humanitarian concern is the effect that the blockade is having on the delivery of relief and construction material to nearly 2 million survivors of the earthquake so they can rebuild before a harsh Himalayan winter. This is an unfolding and ongoing disaster, and unlike the earthquake is completely manmade.

Yet, parachutist journalists from the international media who were so quick to descend on Kathmandu in April are nowhere to be seen. This time, there aren’t any visuals of pancaked temples, of bodies crushed under concrete beams, of babies rescued alive after 24 hours being buried under the rubble. A blockade, what lead to it, and what it is doing to us, is too complicated to explain to the outside world. Food scarcity, the shortage of medicines and the lack of fuel is now hurting Nepalis all over Nepal but it does not fit the definition of ‘news’. So the stories take the predictable on-the-one-hand-this-and-the-other-hand-that approach.

By now, only the propagandists and the most gullible believe that the obstructions at the India-Nepal border are a result of the Madhesi agitation. India’s border SSB and officials at the Indian Oil Corporation have repeatedly let the cat out of the bag: “orders from above” not to let trucks and petroleum tankers to pass through. What is surprising is that the Indians expect us to believe it. Or maybe they don’t really care what we believe which, if true, is even more baffling. This will have an impact on Nepal’s stability long into the future by irreversibly polarising hills-plains relations, which in turn will have a bearing on Nepali-speaking India. It will make it doubly difficult to sell any joint river basin project to the Nepali public, and further alienate the Madhesis within Nepal.

The international community is watching aghast. Doesn’t New Delhi realise what this is doing, they ask.  Even Nepalis who have always been sympathetic towards India are bewildered. A long-term Indian resident of Kathmandu said to us the other day: “I have never been as ashamed to be an Indian.”

People here have long stopped buying the argument that this is about the constitution or the Madhesi cause, it is about India out to teach Nepal a lesson that we will not forget any time soon. It may work, or it may not. Either way, it will destroy what trust there was between the two countries. We can just look back at Sri Lanka and hope there is some memory of the price India and its leader paid for playing dirty there. If it is true that this is all about Bihar state elections, then it is even more bizarre.

We will not even try to enumerate the various international treaties that India has violated with the blockade. Enough just to say that it breaches just one code: the one of decency and good neighbourliness. Nepal passed a new constitution adhering to principles of democracy, trying to balance the demands of all interest groups while trying to protect national unity. Despite serious flaws, it is a document that for the first time takes a significant break from our feudal past. The points of disagreement (over demarcation of provinces, etc) can easily be rectified through amendments and the main parties in Kathmandu have publicly pledged to do so.

Nepal’s curse is that we rarely had the pragmatic statesmen we deserved, we never had leaders who lead by example. We either had populist chieftains, greedy demagogues or foolish adventurists. The current crop of leaders in the coalition is to blame for mishandling the constitution process and misreading Delhi. They broke it, so they must fix it.

India expects us to wave the white flag. Our leaders are waving the national flag. Neither is a way out.

Read also:

Lose-lose Editorial 

Fixing what’s broke Editorial

Proxy war Editorial 

Restraint, resolve and resilience Rubeena Mahato  

A race against winter Om Astha Rai

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8 Responses to “Flag-waving”

  1. namah on Says:

    If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs … (IF by Rudyard Kipling).

    Kunda: Bravo…you pass the test. The men have been separated from the boys. In good times, it is facile to maintain poise of mind and spirit, during adversities are we truly tested to write with balance and grace.

  2. Joe Niemczura on Says:

    Dear Mr. Dixit:

    I’ve been chronicling the Siege of Kathmandu since it began, on one of my other blogs, DailyKOS, for a USA readership. read my blog entries at

    I think I may be the only one trying to interpret the twists and turns. I like to think I’m not a “parachute journalist.”

    I will keep this brief: Over and over again, I hear people of Kathmandu asking “Where is the international community? Why don’t they help us?”

    There is a simple and direct answer. Everyone in the international community is on the side of the Nepalis of Terai. All of them. Every response has been, for Nepal to get their house in order internally. All of the responses. The UN, the international media, the Human Rights Watch and other INGOs, prominent citizens, the New York Times, and for that matter, the government of China. Not to mention Prashant Jha, who has received an inordinate share of abuse by sharing this same view.

    A set of fast-tracked amendments to the new constitution will do wonders. The problems will evaporate and Nepal will walk proudly in the daylight. Focus the energy there.

  3. Daniel Gajaraj on Says:

    Wave neither nationl flag ,nor white flag .
    Have we not already waved/ shed our the fig leaf flag?

  4. Vivek on Says:

    The Nepalis make adequate use of Indian hospitality and facilities in education and jobs and then spit venom at India. I really think they should seriously let Mr. Prachanda guide them (with help of Indian communist parties) to merge with China. This will also make things easier for India since they will have to defend a border closer to their land! Go Nepalis go where your heart lives!

  5. sayal on Says:

    great article

  6. Marjolaine Hohberger on Says:

    India’ s goal is the eradication of poverty. This should be a common goal.

  7. gaurav on Says:

    If India wants to teach a lession , then why is it doing so ? There must have been some reason ! Or you dont just see it because waving a national flag feels heady. Sri lankan crisis had some reason too. Tamil elam wasnt created to teach Sri Lanka a lession. With such peurile line of argument one can only wish best to Nepal.

  8. Ravi raj kaur on Says:

    Wave the buddhist flag and welcome the smart indian. I agree with most twitters that it is nepali managed. And I repeat Baburams Party is wonderful, marvellous.
    Madhesi are just nepalese with some oversmart chromosomes. Do not hate intelligent people, this clever as buddhists say is not rotten, it is a way of survival….
    The main thing in the federal maoist communist republic of Nepal is to rise from rubble, a little peace here and some shanti there. Happy Dipawali to all nepali times readers and poets.

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