Professor Anand Aditya
Sixty years ago, the people of Nepal were given a pledge to strike a new tryst with the nation’s destiny. It was a pledge that was ignored, shelved, debated, and then abandoned again. Four years ago, we made a solemn pledge again, this time with ourselves, to strike a new path for peace, democracy and development. It was a pledge to secure a clean and green country and a safe and civil society for everyone by restructuring a Kingdom into a Republic. Indeed, considering the fact that Nepal happens to be one of the fifteen oldest in the comity of some two hundred states on the world map what dream could have been more exciting and fascinating?
That dream somehow lies mangled and mutilated today. Following the endless marathon on the election of the premier and the Army agenda, the debate has only turned itself into a dialogue of the deaf in a regime little more than a chamber of buffoons. In the nation’s political stage, one can see fully bare and stark many an actor, affirming General Stilwell’s dictum: The higher a monkey climbs, the more you can see the behind. The risk that looms today is much higher however, with the government of the defeated having turned itself into the nation’s central scoula di sandalo which has muddled the water so much that fears are now rising that the baby may be thrown with the bathwater. If the regular headlines tell of riots of communities, impunity, political stalemate and a rot inside the body politique of this nation, the manipulations abroad smack of acute vulnerabilities this nation has now been exposed to which the chronic brinkmanship of those who are at the helm of affairs can least be anticipated to help, engendering the risks of state failure and collapse. Amid all the chaos and trepidations, is there a glimmer of hope? Or even a faint measure of scope?
Given the murkiness of Nepal’s political environment, given the hydra-headed nature of the conflict in Nepal it is easy to despair and it may look like truism at this point to state that the agenda is too complex and hence poses an irresoluble problem. But no problem is complex enough and sans a solution, however challenging it may appear on surface. In fact, the challenge a problem brings often is matched by the opportunities it can open up. This is not to underestimate the gravity of risks inhered. It was such a risk embraced by quite a few protagonists of conflict who ultimately had to pay with their life. History is littered with such cases — Lincoln (killed), Hitler (shot himself). Tojo (executed), Mussolini (hanged upside down), Allende (bombed), Saddam Hussein (hanged). Yet one can notice a ray of hope in the midst of all the darkness that now prevails. If Muammar Gaddafi can abandon his weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) program, there is reason for hope. If after hundreds of years of colonial conflict the Irish issue is closer to solution, it gives one reason for hope. If divided Germany can unite, that offers hope. And, if France and Germany can unite, leaving their centuries of war behind, that also gives hope. If, moreover, against the onslaught of half a dozen imperial powers a small Himalayan state survives in full glory, that offers hope. And, when a centuries-old monarchy succumbs peacefully to the will of the people, that too gives hope. There is a reason of hope for yet another reason. If each carnage has its Ta Mok (the Butcher of Khmer Rouge) and each civil war its Milosevic or Iang Sery every peace process also hides, even in the darkest of its hours, its own Stauffenberg and Sugihara. Moreover, if this state of ours evidences features of a hard state, with virtual democracy, it also is equipped today with the tools of hypermedia and science and technology that bring the power of knowledge to dispel ignorance among the mass. Finally, the forces of peace are not alone: they are rallying together in the form of the now emerging global community which is armed not only with human rights but is now robustly being assisted by the third generation of peacekeeping, called Multi-Dimensional Peace Support Operations (PSOs) as also organizations such as the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). In view of all this, one may emphatically claim there is both hope and scope to establish peace.
The search, moreover, is already on for a more human Political Science (Thomas C. Wiegele’s Bio-politics is an effort in that direction) just as efforts are underway to explore pathways to a more firm foundation for Irenology (science of peace) and an ideal global society based on trust, cooperation, and service (Young Sek Chou’s Oughtopia, for one example). The transformation that the subsidiarist strategy of 3-track policy can work and the efficacy approach that mass beneficiaries of peace dividend could unveil remain an almost unexplored part of the peace story.
Compared to many countries on the world map, particularly the neighbors to its north and south, Nepal may certainly look small, but it is not too small to house a medium-size population and mega-diversity within the small span of 150 kilometers. What it lacks in territorial depth, its geography and strategic location between two emerging super-economies make up with 40% of world market next door. Even the lack of fossil fuel, a depletable source, is compensated by hydro-energy which is indepletable.
Nepal may have been too small, too poor, and too vulnerable so far to demand and win the liberty to determine its own future. But this means neither that it is destined to remain so in the future nor that the scope for growth will remain as tantalizing as it has always been so far. The bigger the world economy, as John Naisbitt’s Global Paradox puts it, the more powerful its smallest players. Growing out of its century-old chrysalis, it is a society with a glorious past, a hospitable present and a bountiful future, waiting for its true potentials to be realized. It must be some such feelings that may have pushed Perceval Landon eighty-three years ago to note: “Nepal stands ... on the threshold of a new life. Her future calls her in one direction and one only. Inevitably she will become of greater and greater importance ...” and to announce: “the great days of Nepal are before her, not behind.”
In the beginning, when the concept of Nepal as a nation-state was taking its shape the idea that such a small mountainous country squeezed in between two leviathans might endure ran against all lessons of history. The vindication of that experiment was entrusted by Destiny to hands that stewarded the state’s journey safely and successfully through times of historic travail and considerable political turmoil for full two centuries and a half. That is something. It is due to the unfailing spirit, clear vision, unstinting valor, and political craftsmanship of these pioneer statesmen and commanders who gave not only their blood and toil but often also their life to its cause that eight years from now, the people of Nepal can look forward to celebrating a quarter-millennium of their nation-statehood.
The challenges that lie ahead, however, are going to be fundamentally different in nature and magnitude than the state has faced so far. These challenges are likely to be as much ethical in their nature as ethological, as much as ideational as institutional, and as much professional as political. All this however, demands a fundamental change in our national style and habits of heart and work as well.
When all is said and done, there is no road to democracy and there are surely no shortcuts to development. But if we are mentally and capably ready for such a test and the ordeal that it implies, and brace up ourselves with the right kind of national vision and the adequate measure of political will, we could still strike our tryst with the nation’s destiny to which Landon beckoned decades ago.
The test of the pledge that the political parties made long ago to the people in the course of the half-century of struggle will therefore lie in the evolution of a nation:
A nation that is not just independent or sovereign, but also democratic;
A state that promises not just law and order, but also equity and livelihood
A government that not only pledges prosperity, but delivers it
A country that every citizen can regard as one’s true home
And a society where everyone can walk with heads held high, in full freedom, and also without fear
(Keynote address by the author at a National Seminar Organized by Telegraph Weekly and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung-Germany, December 19, 2010-Ed)