Nepali Times
Guest Column
Arm-twisting Nepal


After enjoying power for some months, it is time again for UML to resurrect its 'alliance' with the NC and other straggler parties to clog the streets of Kathmandu, this time for 'total democracy'.

Like the NC, the UML also launched the street undertaking with a confession of past mistakes, obviously believing that this mea culpa would win back public support.

The parties together have the means to land a few thousand banner-waving cadres at Asan Chok, but they know the public mood is still skeptical. The party jatras are a joke for most people, others just fume at the government's incompetence to keep the traffic moving.

A decade-and-half of mistakes and not learning from them are hard to erase. The parties have never atoned for their indulgence in unbounded corruption, cheap promises they never meant and never kept, and an utter lack of concern for the country's progress. If the parties want to regain popular trust, they need to rid themselves of their corrupt leaders which would, of course, wipe out most of the top leadership.

Despite all this, the EU and India recently backed the seven party alliance hoping it would lay the foundation for dialogue between the constitutional forces and the king. A similar argument was echoed in the editorial of this paper ('United we stand', #248).

This view is both naive and callous. The EU sahibs have to answer this: would your voters tolerate such corruptible leaders in your own union? This dabbling in Nepal's internal affairs is a diplomatic no-no, but if interfere it must why doesn't the EU's advocacy of democracy begin by getting the parties to purge themselves of their rotten cores? Nepal could benefit from such housekeeping: at least it should make the EU's own aid programs responsive to host country needs and if it had been adhered to in the past may have prevented Nepal from sliding down into the present morass.

Nepal's foreign friends must know how condescending they sound lecturing to us on democracy. We know and value democracy, and at present the public opinion is to let the political party leaders that squandered democratic gains to wilt in the wilderness where they can do no more harm. We know what genuine democracy is, and why it should have transparency of management and accountability of leaders.

The forest legislation of 1988, founded on just such governance conditions at the level of local communities, helped us rescue our country from the brink of desertification, restore our forests and turn them into a major resource for local development. This was a unique and demonstrable exercise in grassroots democracy, and it was completely home grown.

India's lecturing on democracy is a different ball game altogether. It has always fished in troubled waters here: since the 'Bhutanisation' proposal as far back as 1949 to the Ranas. Then it imposed an unequal treaty of 'peace and friendship' in 1950, foisted its verdict as 'tripartite agreement' ending Rana rule in 1951, struck a secret 1965 treaty with King Mahendra exacting extraordinary concessions, arm-twisted the Marich Man Singh government in 1989 that led to the demise of the Panchayat system in 1990, and continued refusing to help repatriate Bhutani refugees. Media reports last week of Indian officials secretly meeting Maoist leaders in India is just the latest on this list of Indian meddling.

But it also proves the penchant of Nepali political leaders to run crying to New Delhi every time they suffer a setback at home. Sadly, Nepal's political parties, mainly the NC, have acted as Indian surrogates for regime change in Nepal. One of its leaders even issued a call on India recently to stay the course in persecuting her own motherland.

Here is where geology becomes a metaphor for geopolitics. If Nepal is seen as drifting increasingly northward, it is only because of the tectonic push from south of the border.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)