Nepali Times
Here And There
Vale of Forgetfulness and Unreality


That's it going to take to wake up the elite of this blighted land?

Anyone who puts so much as a foot outside this Vale of Forgetfulness and Unreality discovers that Nepal is in deep distress and getting worse. Yet all we hear from all levels of the national leadership and the international community here is the same old nonsense.

On a security level, we're supposed to believe that the war is going in favour of the authorities and against the Maoists. Cited as evidence of this is the absence of major Maoist attacks, like those before the ceasefire, in which dozens of policemen and soldiers were killed. Also, the dissipation of the withering fear felt by the rich, famous and high-profile in September, when it seemed the rebels were finally starting to tackle those at the top. These are evidence, we're told, that the conflict in the countryside can have a military solution, a 'victory' by the 'government' of the moment.

It reminds me of the old joke about the man jumping up and down on a street corner and barking like a dog. A passer-by finally asks him what he's doing. "Scaring away the wild elephants," he replies, which prompts his questioner to point out that there are no such animals within a thousand kilometres. "See," says the jumping man, "it works."

Turning to politics, we have the parties announcing yet another 'stir' and more muttering about the king forming an all party government. Foreign diplomats add their two cents worth. Which is all its worth, frankly. Haven't we been here before? And haven't things moved on since 4 October 2002 when any self-respecting democrat should have been out on the streets protesting the king's dismissal of the Deuba government? With respect to His Majesty, what does it take to get a sense of urgency into the royal palace? Things are deteriorating badly on every level and only a serious attempt to restore equilibrium, to bring the people back into power, can offer a glimmer of hope.

The economy? Forget it. The Finance Minster may have been a competent man in previous avatars, but no country can consider itself solvent with nearly three-quarters of development expenditure coming from outside sources. And the rest of the national pie is going to yet more military spending, something that only makes sense if- like the United States-you manufacture most of what you buy for your army. If Nepal were a business, the bank would have foreclosed long ago and the welfare cheques would be arriving in the mail.

Then there's the question of national morale, no small factor in troubled times. Frankly, Nepalis are running low on their fabled resilience. More than three-quarters of this mountainous, lovely land is either bandit country or run by the Maoists. The 'government' holds no sway outside of most district headquarters, and it seems that Maoist central control over the rural cadres has long since slipped badly. Without the rule of law, Nepalis have nothing. They disappear, their sons get killed, they leave for other countries.

Yet here in Kathmandu, we've just had a woozy week of Christmas parties and weddings. Most people seem more worried about hangovers than the dire state of their country.

Perhaps it's time for Nepal to declare its independence once and for all. From Kathmandu and all its denizens.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)