Terai disturbance is more dangerous than Maoist insurgency: Dr. Jaya Raj Acharya
Dr. Jaya Raj Acharya
Dr. Jaya Raj Acharya served as Nepal’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1991-94. He is currently Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at US Institute of Peace (2006-07) and will return to Nepal soon. A Fulbright scholar in 1984-86, he earned his Ph. D. at Georgetown University in 1990. During the democracy movement of 1990 Dr Acharya lobbied for support from the US Congress, and edited ‘Nepal Update’.
Last week our correspondent in Washington Mr. Sujeet Aryal talked to Dr. Acharya on contemporary issues. Below the results-Ed.
Q1: While in the US, how did you contribute in the 1990 democracy movement in Nepal? And also tell us your achievements as Nepal’s representative to the UN?
Dr. Acharya: My association with BP Koirala had politicized me so when I got the Fulbright Scholarship, I came to Georgetown University for contacts with political leaders in the US capital. When the first Jana Andolan started in February 1990, I started lobbying for support from the Capitol Hill. We were a team and we urged Congressmen and Senators to write to King Birendra. We also organized a first Nepalese rally in DC on March 16, 1990. Congressmen Steven Solarz and Jolene Unsoeld and Senator Edward Kennedy sent messages to the rally. I still have the copies of their message as well as the letter they wrote to King Birendra. I had interviewed Kennedy, Solarz and Unsoeld for Nepal Update.
As the first ambassador after the restoration of democracy, I tripled our UN Peacekeeping troops from 880 to 2,400. We were only in Lebanon. Then we went to Yugoslavia, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Kuwait, Cambodia and Zimbabwe as well. Besides Nepal Army, we also started contributing Nepal Police for UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO). I was able to obtain the position of the Force Commander for a Major General of Nepal Army (NA) for the first time. That was the highest position an NA officer ever got in UNPKO. We also got a permanent position for a Colonel of NA in the situation room of UN Peacekeeping Department. It still continues. I was Vice-Chairman of UN Disarmament Committee, Special Committee against Apartheid (SCA) and UNICEF executive board. I had successfully lobbied for UN Human Rights Prize for Ganesh Man Singh, previously received by Nelson Mandela. PM Girija Koirala addressed the UN General Assembly in 1993 and was the second Prime Minister to do so after BP Koirala in 1960.
He re-dedicated a bronze visage of BP Koirala made by Bulgarian artist Mihail at Columbia University, and planted a tree in BP’s memory at Central Park in Manhattan. Nepal also established diplomatic relations with the CIS members and Czech and Slovak republics, Guyana and South Africa. As Vice- Chairman of SCA, I had met with Nelson Mandela many times at UN and South Africa, and had contributed to SCA’s final report to UN General Assembly in 1994.
Q2: Having stayed in the US for such a long time, how do you see Nepalese organizations and institutions across America? In your opinion what area(s) should the Non-Resident Nepalese (NRN) focus on towards the development of Nepal?
Dr. Acharya: In the 1980s Nepalese in the US were about 1000; now they are about 100,000. They should make their presence felt in this society. They should try to lead the departments in universities, head the business corporations and win elections in US local government bodies on the strength of their honesty, intelligence, hard work and dedication to social service.
Tourism, hydropower, agriculture, education and health should be the top 5 priorities for Nepal’s development. NRN should also know that the dollar investment will be too expensive for the Nepalese to enjoy its benefits. The investment of Indian rupees may be right so they should explore joint investment with the Indians.
Q3: The Nepalese missions are without the Ambassadors for over a year. What impact does it have on Nepal as a state?
Dr. Acharya: We should have ambassadors as soon as possible. They should be required to deliver as they are paid by taxpayer’s money. We must increase our business. Nepal’s garment export to the US was the highest in the 1990s. I remember buying in New York clothes made in Nepal. Today, there is lethargy. Our export has gone down. Nepalese economy is sustained by remittance from the Gulf and SE countries. Nepal has become weak. Foreign powers, even NGOs are playing their games. Ambassadors must be able to know it and advise the government on the way to stop it.
Q4: What is your take on the Constituent Assembly election in Nepal scheduled for November and the ongoing Terai Crisis?
Dr. Acharya:I hope it takes place on time. I hope also that the Nepalese people will be able to take the right path for peace and prosperity. Nepal is at the historic crossroads today. If we take a wrong turn, we may be heading to a national disaster.
The Terai disturbance is more dangerous than the Maoist insurgency. Citizenship issue has almost been resolved. The issue of proportional representation must also be resolved. The ongoing violence may turn into a festering wound if it is not addressed immediately, so early diplomatic initiatives must be made together with India to deal with the security situation in the Terai, which is a common concern because of the open border.
Q5: What about the Nepalese people living abroad demanding voting rights for Nepal’s election, and the dual citizenship raised by the NRN?
Dr. Acharya: There is a logistical issue. Embassies can be voting booths for those who want to come and vote there. The status of citizenship and age has to be checked. I am in favor of NRN’s demand for dual citizenship, which can be selectively fulfilled at the first stage. Then we can see what its practical consequences will be. We have one lakh Nepalese in the US, but we have 60 lakh in India. If the other countries can flow with the spirit of globalization, there is no reason why Nepal cannot move along. [Sujeet Aryal, Washington, USA]