Nepali Times
State Of The State
Model multilateralism


Schizophrenia seems to have struck the state apparatus. Senior government functionaries have always loved to play victim, now they regard international media, activists and even diplomats with ill-disguised paranoia. If you are not a Pakistani, Chinese, North Korean, Sudanese, or Cuban these days you could be a potential enemy.

This the Hermit Kingdom Syndrome all over again. Just like mid-19th century Nepal, fear of outside influence once again forces the entire nation to withdraw into its shell. For an outward-looking country that had a good international reputation for tolerance and freedom this descent into isolationism is deeply disturbing. It shows we are too preoccupied with present concerns to care about the future.

We need to continue to be fully engaged with the outside world, because what happens there direectly affects us here. Paul Wolfowitz's appointment as president of the World Bank and John Bolton's selection as America's new UN rep will affect us all no matter where we live on this planet.

Robert McNamara is still remembered in Nepal's midhills as "Makaimara"-they blame the World Bank for crops that were devastated by his policies in 1968-1981. Nepalis need to be even more careful about Wolfowitz. But we can't fight the new neocons that dictate policies that affect us by shutting ourselves off. We protect our national interest by projecting internationalism in our foreign policy not by being xenophobic.

And what happens here affects how the outside world sees us. The travel trade is complaining of trekking groups which have cancelled, saying they will not visit Nepal until democracy is restored.

Last week, a local school held a Model United Nations and simulated debates at the world body. The exercise proved that the size of a member state isn't an obstacle to be heard in the international arena. The resolutions passed by the Nepali boys and girls on the environment and human rights will do credit to any UN committee in its real New York headquarters.

Proceedings of the mock General Assembly discussing the agenda for reforms, including the expansion of Security Council, were even more riveting. Students had researched the policies of member states and accurately simulated their stance. The Chinese delegation was its inscrutable best, the Americans were characteristically unilateral, the French argued both ways, Germany wore its injured pride well, Britain was hanging on to America's coat-tails, the Indians and Pakistanis got into a completely predictable argument over Kashmir.

Hours of heated debates ended in an inevitable stalemate, just like in real life. At the end of it, you couldn't help admiring the verve of the young Nepalis playacting adult delegates. If this is the calibre of our future diplomats, we have nothing to worry about.

But given the state we are in, most of these promising youngsters will probably end up in the west if ground realities in Nepal do not change. None of us can them to return to a country where three of five ambassadorial appointees, the press reported this week, are ex-military brass.

In the hierarchy of an individual's responsibilities towards humanity, country, community, family and self, everything seems to be giving way to the personal. At the 50th anniversary of the Federation of Nepalis Journalists last week, a media person remarked that he was a Nepali first and journalist second. He forgot that he is a human being above all else.

Democracy, human rights, and the inviolability of basic freedoms are the most fundamental values of humanism. We may also have to re-invent internationalism so Nepal remains engaged in the world arena. The government may be contemplating change in curricula to make education narrowly 'nationalist', but in the age of globalisation it will be a wasted effort.

Paranoia shouldn't give way to a national schizophrenia that forces citizens to sacrifice life itself through a mistaken notion of survival.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)