Nepali Times
State Of The State
The rise of the diaspora



The enrolment of Nepali students in US universities increased by 28 per cent last year. With 8,936 legitimate students admitted in 2007, Nepal surpassed Pakistan to become the 11th biggest source of foreign students in the United States.

Recent data suggest that even more Nepali youngsters are heading west for 'further studies'. Counseling centres that assist students with admissions and visas say most clients go abroad with no intention of coming back and choose subjects with the highest probability of acquiring Permanent Resident (PR) permits.

Unlike Nepali Workers Abroad (NWAs) toiling in the deserts of Arabia and swamps of Southeast Asia, migrating students aren't potential foreign currency heroes. In fact, they drain away a chunk of the country's remittance income. Increasingly, the elite pay their own way.

Reports are impossible to verify but insiders say Maoist threats of takeover have exacerbated capital flight, as assets are transferred into the names of their children studying in Australia or the United States.

The exodus has political implications: it has depleted the support-base of the NC and UML in urban areas. During elections of professional organizations such as Management Association of Nepal (MAN), Nepal Engineers Association (NEA) and Nepal Council of World Affairs (NCWA), 'democrats'-a euphemism for NC-supporters-find it hard to field competent candidates and rely on former-royalists to face the challenge of assertive leftwingers.

The joke at the recently concluded annual convention of MAN was that for the democrats to win their elections on their own, polling stations would have to be set up in Massachusetts and Melbourne and not in Kathmandu.

The members of the diaspora are traditionally much more vocal and extreme than the parties they profess to support. The blogosphere is teeming with agitated comments of non-territorial nationalists speaking about the plight of the motherland from the relative safety of their adopted homelands. Uprooted as they are from their natural habitat, the diaspora tends to back the politics of identity with unrestrained enthusiasm. It was the same with Khalistanis in Vancouver, Tamils in Toronto and Hindus in the US. Perhaps the reason the NC hasn't been able to complete its building in BP Nagar is because it's not rightwing enough to motivate diaspora kangresis.

Overseas UML sympathisers have successfully made their parent party take a right turn. A prominent visage of Karl Marx had a pride of place at the Butwal extravaganza this week but the UML has long forgotten the man's teachings.

Girija Prasad Koirala alienated many NC loyalists abroad by cosying up with the Maoists against the Monarchy.

Former IMF official and teacher of economics at the University of South Pacific in Fiji, Sukhdev Sah falls into this category. He probably embraced the MJF because Upendra Yadav was the only politician who didn't concede an inch to the Maoists in the run-up to the CA elections. The MJF has rewarded him by nominating a former-kangressi to the ambassadorship in Washington.

If Sah is stalled in his tracks during parliamentary hearing, UML and MJF-as representative parties of Pahari and Madhesi ethnicities respectively-stand to lose a substantial section of their overseas supporters. When deciding about the nomination of Sah, the parliamentary committee would be setting precedence for politically ambitious NRNs advocating dual citizenship and angling for public posts.

UML had already accepted the logic of long-distance patriotism by appointing Murari Raj Sharma during its rule at the foreign ministry. Now it's the MJF's turn to push the envelope by patronising a green card holder as envoy-designate.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)