FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Few Political Alternatives for Nepal

by

The people of Nepal must be wondering what happened to the international outpouring of concern and relief aid following the April 25th earthquake there. Because today they find little outside interest in a crushing economic embargo that many of them feel exceeds the hardships precipitated by the earth’s upheaval. India which seemed so sympathetic and which offered generous relief following the earthquakes has a hand in a new predicament, allied as it is with Madhesi Nepali residents of the southern lowland whose opposition to Kathmandu precipitated current border closures.

A blockade on indispensible fuel and other essentials imported from India now enters a third month. The crisis reached a new low last week when Indian troops reportedly crossed illegally into Nepal and shot at least four people.

Nepal’s diplomatic overtures towards India have proved ineffective in overcoming the standoff at their shared border. Indian authorities continue to insist that Nepal revise its constitution to accommodate Madhesi demands. This population claims the new constitution  marginalizes them and insist on a more prominent place in the constitution.

The two neighbors have peacefully resolved differences (usually to India’s advantage) in the past. One leading voice in Nepal, publisher Kunda Dixit argues that Nepal has no choice but to concede. No choice, arguably because Nepal has unwisely grown over-dependent on the South Asian giant for necessary commodities like fuel. Small wonder the interruption of fuel supplies has brought life for the four million inhabitants of the capital and residents of other cities to a standstill. Schools and businesses are closing; there is a critical shortage of medicines and tourists are cancelling visits at the height of the trekking season.

A steadily flow of aid and political patronage from India had become the norm in Nepal. Every political party and leader, monarch or prime minister, bears some responsibility for this dependence and for Nepal’s lopsided relation with India. Nepal never made a serious attempt, even after the Maoist revolutionary success (The People’s War) in 2006, to develop a self-sustainable economic model or seek an alternative to Indian dominance beyond another kind of dependence, namely western charity (including Australian, New Zealand and Japanese). Nepal’s NGO industry never challenges the traditional model; rather it reinforces Nepal’s consumer economy and lack of self confidence. This is furthered by a new reliance on remittances (used to purchase yet more imported goods) from the hundreds of thousands of unskilled men, former farmers, who flock to Malaysia and the Arab Gulf states seeking work.

During the past decade, China, Nepal’s equally giant and wealthy neighbor, has increased its presence in Nepal. One finds more Chinese products in the market every year; Chinese-made carpets have displaced Nepal’s once thriving carpet industry established by refugee Tibetans. Increasing numbers of Chinese tourists join Europeans on Himalayan trails while other Chinese visitors invest in businesses in the capital. (“Chinatown” is a new quarter in Kathmandu’s city center.)

The Tibetan Buddhist presence is thriving in Kathmandu Valley, but today that influence is being directed from India, not Tibet, with substantial financial support coming from Europe. The mountain peoples of Nepal such as the Sherpa and Mustangi who once had significant exchange with Tibet, are now south-oriented, their communication with Tibet having almost disappeared over the 60 years since China established its rule there.

The Chinese government hasn’t ignored Nepal. It was a major presence after last spring’s earthquake and might have been stronger had the tremors themselves not interrupted northern access routes. Because those roads cut through the highest passes in the world Chinese assistance and influence is limited in normal times.

No one views China as an alternative to India, although in today’s fuel crisis Nepal is negotiating emergency shipments of gas and petrol from China to Kathmandu. What is needed is not a temporary solution however. Nepalese people and their leadership have taken the easiest economic route, charity and big brother support–a flawed strategy that now manifests itself in this unprecedented crisis. Long term options are available, but is there the leadership to pursue them?

More articles by:

Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org. She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail