Nepali Times
Newton’s laws

Nepal's relations with the outside world seem to be governed by Newton's third law of thermodynamics: every action has an equal

and opposite reaction. So, as we get politically and economically weaker, outside powers get stronger. It is physically impossible for a country that is so dependent on the largesse of neighbours and overseas countries to be totally independent. We can remind ourselves about our brave and glorious past, we can go on ad nauseum about the fact that we were never colonised, but what really matters is how we manage our present. Do we grovel, or do we manage our affairs with dignity and self-respect and strive towards self-reliance?

There are some 'patriots' among us who are so sensitive about foreign interference that they don't notice we are walking around in rags. "We'd rather go hungry than be under the foreign yoke," is the credo of people who have never gone hungry in their life. Others go on bended knees to kowtow to friends and neighbours, only to selectively denounce outsiders.

It is a hangover from the Panchayat past that national figures openly function as proxies of this or the other power. When there is so little self-esteem, don't expect outsiders to admire us, or respect our wishes.

Foreigners may not be actually micro-managing us, but it is clear they are more active than they have ever been in the past. Some of them have been speaking very bluntly about human rights violations, and tying future support and even a vital multilateral aid package to a restoration of democratic norms. There has been an unprecedented growth in military support in hardware and training. Some have slipped the aid in quietly, others boast about it. To be sure, there is also the shadowy involvement of the agencies of some countries that are not so innocent. People are asking: why detain and interrogate a party leader, and not the Maoists he went to meet?

Commensurate with this involvement, foreigners have also been dispensing advice more openly than ever before. So much so that some members of the diplomatic corps are embarrassed about the trend and have criticised their colleagues in public for overstepping diplomatic bounds.

In the final analysis, the active involvement of Kathmandu-based envoys in guiding events in Nepal is an outcome of the chronic failure of our own successive leaderships to do so. Besides, not all interference is bad. When outside entities speak out against Nepalis being disappeared, about the lack of due process, about attacks on the free press or democracy going into deep freeze, it should be welcomed.

Nepal's rulers may see it as interference, but for Nepalis it means at least someone is standing up for our rights. And if the foreigners use the 'aid card' so be it. After all, Newton's first law also states that an object at rest will remain at rest until an external force is applied to it.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)