Why India should keep hands off Nepal


The reason Nepal is still unstable, and hence unable to protect India’s and China’s interests is because she was always denied the time and space to practice democracy. This time, let Nepal exercise democracy and please trust us to serve your interests.

I would like to provide a very simple reason. On this blog, I have previously provided other reasons on why India should rather support the Nepalese people, who have expressed their will through the election instead of relying on its spooks, middlemen and their favorite politicians. Former PM Baburam Bhattarai, and a section of India’s administrative-intelligence establishment recently lobbied vigorously in New Delhi. They want India to play an active role in the current Nepalese political deadlock, and support a political line that has been defeated in the elections. Others have written about how this will sabotage the constitution writing process, and the blame would lay on India.

I will provide another, very simple reason for why India should not listen to such spooks and their network- let Nepal exercise democracy and please trust us to serve your national interests.

The reason Nepal is still unstable, and hence unable to protect India’s and China’s interests is because she was always denied the time and space to practice democracy. Nepalese people have repeatedly expressed their will to be governed under a democratic government and live in a free society. There have been multiple popular uprisings for those very reasons. But Nepalese people could not choose their leaders, make mistakes, learn from them, and grow as a democracy. Look at how India had a long streak of democratic governance since her independence and how China had her share of stable political system during the same period. They have practiced the political system they wanted to live under, made mistakes within that setup, learned from them, groomed leaders, prospered economically, and are today formidable forces in the regional and global balance of power.

Relying on select few people and politicians at the top while thinking the Nepalese people don’t know what’s best for them will backfire, like it backfired for Nepal’s active monarch, and for the neighbors in the past.

Now let’s look at Nepal. The King in Nepal, with support from both India and China, thought he knew better than the people. The messy democratic system, weak political parties, and opportunistic leaders won’t do Nepal any good- that was the logic behind the support for an active monarchy. Had the monarch stayed away, and allowed the political system to mature and democracy to function, we’d have perfected our style of democratic system, the political parties would have institutionalized better, and through various elections and policies, people would have separated the chaff of opportunistic leadership from the responsible one.

This is not to say that international support is harmful at all times. When there’s an authoritarian government in Nepal and the people want to get rid of it, it is the moral imperative of the international community and our neighbors to stand by that will of the people. When basic freedom of the people is in danger, we expect our international friends to stand by the universal values and help us restore an open society. None of this is the case today.

Instead, our neighbors should learn to trust us as a people. They should let us have regular elections, and let us decide our policies within that framework. Relying on select few people and politicians at the top while thinking the Nepalese people don’t know what’s best for them will backfire, like it backfired for Nepal’s active monarch, and for the neighbors in the past.

A democratically stable and experienced Nepal is in the best interests of both India and China. We will make some mistakes along the way, but those are mistakes worth making. Nepal will not destabilize or be a haven for anti-India and anti-China activities. Instead, nationalistic fervor rises and opportunistic ultra-nationalists become popular whenever foreign intervention tries to impose their will against the popular choice in Nepal. In the past, there were attempts to instill a strong anti-India feeling by the royal faction and the communists (the Maoist party’s rise to power was based on its jingoistic and ultra-nationalistic stance). But with time, people have recognized this as harmful, they have come to realize the dangers of such ultra-nationalism based on the hatred of others. Such forces have been defeated by the people, through uprisings and elections.

This is a sign of how if given the time and opportunity, Nepalese people will make mistakes and ultimately learn to be a stable, mature democracy. Only such a Nepal can help India and China.

So, what should India do at this time? The best she can do is to have trust in Nepalese people, and let them decide and learn what kind of society they want to build. India should be wary if this very process is in danger because of authoritarianism, and it’s ok if India helps us avoid such path through her experience and insight. Other than that, the best thing she can do for Nepal right now is to keep her hands off.

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