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Nepal: Doting On Doctored Democracy

Nepal: Doting On Doctored Democracy

By Madan P. Khanal

A self-empowered House of Representatives (HoR) continues to foist abysmal resolutions and decisions on the nation on the pretext of restructuring the state. A multiparty government claiming to draw its mandate from a “historic” popular uprising cannot seem to speak in one voice on a single issue.

The charade being enacted in the name of strengthening peace and democracy in Nepal actually threatens to undermine it sovereign existence. For the principal external instigator, this sordid succession of events is perfect.

As the Nepalese people struggle in a haze of confusion, India continues with its time-tested strategy on Nepal. For New Delhi, “democracy” remains an ideal camouflage for all the deception and deceit needed to perpetuate instability in Nepal. Many members of the Indian establishment must be awed by the ease with which Nepalese political parties and leaders present themselves as willing accomplices.

Influential sections of India’s security and bureaucratic establishment simply refuse to recognize Nepal as an independent and sovereign nation. Some politicians in New Delhi still lament India’s failure to annex Nepal during the creation of the republic in 1947.

Efforts made by successive Nepalese monarchs to free the country from India’s stifling embrace always have been branded anti-democratic. Nepal’s efforts to counterbalance India’s hegemonistic ambitions by strengthening political and economic ties with its northern neighbor have been criticized by India as a brandishing of the “China card”.

No one can ignore the multifaceted realities that underpin Nepal’s relations with its giant southern neighbor. Over the last 60 years, New Delhi has been more interested in using the principles of cooperation to impose its views and policies on Nepal.

Having identified the monarchy and the military as the last remaining guarantors of Nepalese independence and sovereignty, India has stepped up its campaign to undermine both institutions in the aftermath of the political changes it engineered in April. Few outside the neighborhood have either the interest or inclination to see these developments as anything other than the “triumph of people power.”

New Delhi has also reverted to its strategy of undermining Kathmandu’s relations with other South Asian nations. Under tremendous pressure from the Indian establishment, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s government arrested two Pakistani nationals in connection with the recent train blasts in Mumbai.

The protestations of the Pakistan government and organizations the detainees were said to be affiliated with have been drowned in the wider national cacophony over whether and when the HoR should be dissolved.

Legislators that feel emboldened enough to sever all links with the monarchy through an arbitrary proclamation feel no compunction in lamenting the Indian ambassador’s absence in the inaugural session. The “people’s representatives” who feel entitled to impose sweeping changes on the nation maintain a deafening silence over the dams India is constructing along parts of the border, throwing countless people in distress.

Representatives of the key constituents of the SPA dominated the panel that drafted the 1990 constitution. As political instability deepened, with the opposition taking to the streets to bring down governments they could not defeat in parliament, many of today’s SPA leaders insisted that the constitution was one of the world’s best. Some maintained the statute did not require as much as an amendment for at least 30 years.

From these leaders’ standpoint, King Gyanendra’s interventions on October 4, 2002 and February 1, 2005 forced them change their posture. Is the SPA’s objections rooted in the palace’s “trampling” of democracy or a reflection of their Indian patrons’ disapproval of the monarchy’s determined effort to steer Nepal away from India’s unhealthy dominance.

Shortly after the promulgation of the 1990 constitution, India discovered that the constitution was not in its interest, especially in the field of water resources and citizenship. The Supreme Court proved to be a major obstacle to Indian designs on Nepal through its landmark decisions on the Tanakpur Treaty.

A few years later, parliament had drafted a highly objectionable bill on citizenship and forwarded it late King Birendra in the form of a finance bill. The labeling was intended to preempt the king from vetoing the legislation.

Under that bill, countless Indians would have received Nepalese citizenship. Amid growing public concern over the long-term implications, King Birendra referred the bill to the Supreme Court, which deemed it unconstitutional. The newly restored HoR voted to grant citizenship to children born of Nepalese mothers with foreign husbands. The demographic effect of the new vote would be precisely the one the late monarch strove to avoid.

So a logical question is whether, after the monarchy and the military, there is a concerted campaign under way to make the Supreme Court toothless. This question is highly important, considering that the country has not been fully taken into confidence on Prime Minister Koirala’s recent visit to India. There is lingering suspicion that Koirala may have signed objectionable accords on several sensitive issues with India. Would the HoR proclamation be used to endorse these accords?

Suspicions of Indian interference have deepened after New Delhi chose Kathmandu as the venue for a conference of Indian ambassadors posted in South Asian nations. On the surface, the venue would hardly seem inappropriate, considering that Kathmandu hosts the secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

However, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who led the proceedings, made more headlines through his meetings with Nepalese politicians. Was the Indian ambassadors’ conference merely a cover for Saran to read out to senior members of the SPA government the next phase of the plan scripted in New Delhi before a senior Chinese delegation landed in Kathmandu with its own list of concerns?


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