Media academic, India
Mr. Bhupen Singh, a journalist and media expert from India, has edited two books on Indian counter culture and media. He is actively involved in human rights and anti globalization movements inside India.
Sujit Mainali for The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com interviewed this Indian media veteran on several facets of Nepal's politics and its regional dimensions.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TQ1. During an informal sharing with the representative of the telegraphnepal.com, some political analysts of Nepal who are closer to the Nepali Congress (NC) party, have expressed their dissatisfaction that India now prefers Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai than any leaders of the NC, which is presumed to be closer to New Delhi since its formation. Mr. Singh, can you please tell us why the relation of India with the political parties of Nepal and its leaders witnesses frequent shift? What should Nepal and India do to make bilateral relations more stable?
Singh: The first thing we need to understand here is (from) which quarters do these questions arise from? This also demonstrates the Indian establishment’s undue influence on Nepalese politics. It is a poor indicator of the state of things for any sovereign country when it engages in debates of such nature.
Since Nepal’s PM is Bhattarai, it is but natural for the Indian government to deal with him. Most definitely, it does not mean that India favors the Maoist party. The neo-liberal Indian state has been generally averse to communists in South Asia. India is apprehensive of a ‘domino effect’; the sort which America perceived at the time of the Vietnam War: that Vietnam’s neighboring countries too would have communist governments at their helm if communism were allowed to flourish there.
The Indian state harbors the suspicion that the communist movement in Nepal might strengthen the one in India. It also perceives that the Maoist party in Nepal is close to China. Therefore, New Delhi and Bhattarai can hardly be called natural allies.
It is, however, disturbing to note that any political party in Nepal would want to appease India and be in its good books.
TQ2. A section of analysts in Nepal accuse Indian academicians/leaders for making comments on Nepal in a superficial manner without understanding the ground realities of the existing Nepali affairs. Do you think some flaws remain in the understanding of Indian Intellectuals vis-à-vis Nepal and its internal affairs?
Singh: Intellectuals, either in India or Nepal, never belong to a homogenous category. Some are from the ruling class who have gained prominence after the advent of neo-liberalism and are merely spokespersons for the state apparatus. The media has had an important role in the spiraling growth of such debates, be it in the print arena or the television or any other for that matter. The intelligentsia also orchestrates such debates in universities.
The other category of intellectuals is critical of the Indian state and has always condemned the “India Shining” campaign which disdains other nations in the region and indulges in high-handedness. This segment of progressive intellectuals upholds the notion of equality among nations in the region and elsewhere and, pays close attention to the events and problems in Nepal. They support the idea of an independent, sovereign, secular, and modern Nepal.
In fact, this argument holds true for Nepalese intellectuals as well; some justify neo-liberalism and encourage greater proximity with New Delhi for their personal interests. When they feel they are not given enough importance, they tar all intellectuals in India with the same brush.
TQ3. The western countries are now inflaming ethnic radicalism in Nepal. Analysts in Nepal believe that if the maneuvering of western nations in the complex ethnic composition of this strategically significant nation is not curbed soon, its spillover effect is likely to trigger ethnic animosity inside India as well. Do you agree with this school of thought? Do you think the firm presence of western countries in Nepal is in the larger interest of India?
Singh: It is important to understand what the interests of the Indian state and Indian people and that of the Nepalese state and Nepalese people are. It is not a new event for either India or Nepal what western imperialism is doing; diverting the attention from basic needs such as food, healthcare, education, shelter and dignity, and taking it towards identity based politics such as caste, religion and ethnicity. The biggest example in this ‘identity issue’ division is the partition of India at the end of its so called colonial slavery.
Imperialist powers continue to encroach upon Nepal, India and other third-world countries, pushing their agenda through the medium of NGO’s. These are funded by international agencies such as the Ford Foundation and thrive in bringing forth issues based on identity while sidelining those which are the real issues of survival as they are politically inconvenient.
Let us not forget that international funding agencies have clearly defined goals. Their funding has a distinct agenda and, in every third world country it is promoted by their paid agents in order to manipulate the policies of the country. These agencies create paid intellectuals to suit their purposes in every third world country.
TQ4. President of Nepal Dr. Ram Baran Yadav has recently said that he is committed not to endorse the new constitution as the Head of State if the basis of restructuring of the state incorporated in the constitution may lead to the secession of the nation ultimately. As an Indian scholar closely watching the ongoing Nepali affairs, how do you analyze such remarks of the ceremonial President? Do you think the restructuring of state on the basis of ethnicity suits Nepal? Your enlightening comments please?
Singh: Although Ram Baran Yadav might be the ceremonial head, he upholds a certain form of politics. Ordinarily, the ceremonial head is perceived to rise above party interests and work for the nation. However, this notion is incorrect. Looking back at the time of his election, the Maoist party, which was the single largest, could not have their candidate elected while Yadav, who was NC’s candidate got elected. Let us not forget that the NC is the same party which, until the last moment, was childishly talking about having a ceremonial monarchy. Since he became the president, there have been several instances wherein his decisions have favored a certain form of politics.
The talk of federalism on the basis of ethnicity has been brought forth by the Maoist party. Advertently or inadvertently, most parties have been forced to support this structure. In the face of popular support, most parties have been unable to deny this demand but resort to oppositions of technical nature regarding the number of federation in Nepal.
I don’t see any threat of secession in Nepal as of now. As a well wisher of Nepalese people, I hope that Nepal accepts a constitution on 28th May that would usher it into a new phase in Nepalese history.
I don’t oppose justice for the oppressed communities on the basis of caste, religion and ethnicity. If Nepal creates a federal structure keeping this in mind, it is good. But, it must be kept in mind that the issues facing the oppressed communities regarding dignity and identity are not reduced to issues of vote bank and appeasement. The important thing is that we talk about the overall progress of the people, not just hand out privileges to a few.
TQ5. The arm race is likely to escalate in Himalayan Asia (South Asia plus China) after India successfully launched its long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ‘Agni V’. How the armament of this region will affect peace loving countries like Nepal?
Singh: First, the proliferation of arms is going to benefit neither the people of China, nor those of India nor those of Pakistan. Had even a portion of this huge amount of money been spent for the progress of the people, we would have seen great benefits.
In my opinion, it would be better if Nepal stays away from the arms race and opposes it. I believe that no country in the world, even if it were armed with the most advanced weapons, would be able to challenge the sovereignty of Nepal and the power of Nepalese people. But, the condition here is that rather than bow before antagonistic powers, the Nepalese political parties repose faith in the power of the people and wage a moral war to defend the sovereignty and dignity of Nepal.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com
( Published May 2nd. 2012 in the Telegraph Weekly).