Nepali Times
Been there, done that

The diplomatic grapevine and the Internet discussions are humming with a sanctimonious cry for sanctions. There is loose talk of a trade and investment embargo, a tourist boycott and one donor has already opted for an aid moratorium.

A section of our diaspora democrats have joined in the frenzy through group emails to register their transcontinental outrage at February First. A word of caution here to these long-range well-wishers of our freedom.

Kathmandu based ambassadors who have been called back to their capitals for consultations this week and the governments they represent must be advised against taking any knee-jerk and precipitous display of pique. For any retaliation, you have to ask yourself: who are you trying to punish? As Nepalis in Nepal it is our sincere suggestion that lobbying for sanctions, embargos, boycotts or moratoria will end up hurting the very people who have borne the brunt of the conflict in the past nine years and decades of misgovernance.

The challenge of service delivery and the need for aid is even greater now that the conflict is more entrenched. Both sides are hunkering down for the long haul. In the present information vacuum when society's feedback mechanism is thrown into low gear, response time for emergencies will also be delayed. That is why it is dangerous to talk about cutting aid at a time when the Nepali people need it more.

How have sanctions fared elsewhere? Take Burma. The country is vilified the world over, it is a pariah state but all that sanctions have done is pushed the Burmese people deeper into wretchedness while the junta thumbs its nose at the world and continues to keep freedom fighters in cruel detention. Burma's neighbours dance with the generals and have made a packet. Sanctions only harden the defiance of regimes and force them to retreat into their shells.

And New Delhi must desist from any temptation of re-enacting its petty-minded 1989-90 economic blockade of this country. It will have to go back in history to evaluate how shutting out Nepal failed to make a major economic impact and only convinced most Nepalis that their worst supicions of Big Brother were true. A repeat would allow those at the helm this time to rally domestic public opinion against what they will label foreign bullying and then retreat into xenophobia to garner legitimacy.

As must be apparent to a lot of you, we are no great fans of what has happened here. We have spoken out against absolutism, even though at the present time we may be forced by circumstance to express these beliefs in somewhat intricate sentence structures. The sense of time-warp has been intense, especially in the past week of resurrections. We've been there and done that all before.

All this is not to say that pressure should not be brought to bear. But use a scalpel, not an axe. Be precision-guided to avoid collateral misery.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)