Effusive declarations that peace would turn Nepal into the Switzerland of Asia had the Hand (Foreign) ecstatic (briefly). Apparently the only thing stopping us from joining the exclusive club of the world?s most wealthy nations was mayhem, murder, and the chaos of war. Ain?t politics grand!
Despite being ludicrously puerile, the idea does have a certain pedigree. King Birendra?s once touted Zone of Peace initiative envisioned a strictly neutral Nepal with Switzerland as the role model. Possibly the only creative proposal to emerge from the palace in over two centuries, it was soon squelched by India, who never took any of this seriously nor considered granting official neutrality to a country so firmly in its orbit.
Nonetheless, the similarities between the two nations gave the concept an irresistible allure; landlocked, mountainous, multilingual, and beautiful beyond description, the idea had visionary Úlan that lent it fleeting credibility. After all, if Switzerland could thrive in the middle of Europe, why couldn?t Nepal prosper in the heart of Asia?
Prachanda?s recent gushing that the country he spent the last decade wrecking would soon be on par with Switzerland (ever notice how these big shots all end up sounding the same?) was impressive for its naivetÚ. Having already put paid to the Zone of Peace by instigating a bitter civil war for reasons that are still unclear, he now postulates Nepal will become a liberal, democratic, highly-developed international banking capital. Conceivably the first Maoist ideologue to propose such revisionism without getting shot, he expediently neglects to mention the main reason Switzerland is so rich: it never had a communist government.
I suspect being hemmed in by insurmountable mountains has contributed to the scanty knowledge of geography among many Nepalis. That got me thinking that Comrade Pundit, in his enthusiasm at finally being taken seriously, may have actually meant ?the next Poland? of Asia. Alas, I fear even Poland is beyond reach; if the comrades have their way the best Nepal could hope for is to become the next North Korea of South Asia.
Talk is cheap, and hyperbole cheaper still; it is time to forget the crackpot delusions of kings and would-be kings and take bold action. Instead of trying to be ?like? Switzerland, why not pass a law that arbitrarily declares Nepal to be the 26th Canton and an integral part of the Swiss Confederation. If we immediately adopt their national anthem (since we need a new one anyway), allow duty free entry to all the cheese and chocolate they can ship, and recognise yodelling as a time-honoured custom of mountain people the world over, they might not object too much.
Free movement of population would see the burgeoning criminal/ political class of East Switzersthan drift west in search of richer pastures, where the ?mainland? Swiss would simply arrest and jail them the minute they stepped out of line.
Mainlanders coming here would soon build top-quality roads to their chalets dotting the hillsides, initiating a building boom that would boost the economy for years. If we hired a few of their famously efficient bureaucrats to run the Customs Department (watch government revenue increase dramatically) and police (watch crime decrease immediately) and banks (watch will-full defaulters fall over each other to pay back their loans) Nepal stands to benefit greatly. Hell, if we could rope in a few to run the political parties it would be a real bonus!
Naysayers will point to Pakistan, East and West, a union surely doomed to failure, but at least they managed to hang in there forty odd years before plunging into devastating civil war. Well, we?ve already had the horrible war, and it is highly unlikely East Switzersthanis would rebel against union with the world\'s richest country. West Switzerland, on the other hand, could get so fed up with us they secede unilaterally, but even if we only squeeze a few decades out of the deal, think of the progress we could make (and weep).