No colonial hangover, please!
Age of absurdity
As absurdity is reaching to the level wherethe VC of India’s premier university, JNU, demanded installation of an army tank in the university campus to create a sense of respect among the students for Indian Army, it becomes essential we all take notice of the alarming time in which we live presently with no foreseeable ways to come out of it. As when the world is in grip of an unknown ‘fear’ and the entire design of governance and diplomacy is boosted through ignorance and falsehood, it’s time to break the ugly shackle of jingoism, offered as ‘new wave of nationalism.’
The rise or fall of China or India should not be necessarily seen in comparative terms, as the two countries are driven through very different kind of world-views, civilisational attributes and existential priorities. While the theory like 'Century of Asian Dominance' is clearly in air and flying, it has no chance to land anytime soon.'Altruism' is clearly missing in both the Indian and Chinese camps and I agree that the small neighbours deserve a better deal. The standoff between two would do well to only those few with vested interests in arms-trade and hysterical nationalism, but certainly at side of loss, we all will be standing.
It is wishful that all the opinion makers and writers should come in sync with this and cast their opinion with utmost care. This is the high time when we think of 'region', no point wasting efforts in making our neighbourhood hostile and full with wretchedness. The war should be shunned, for giving an easy and enduring passage to peace.It’s not really pleasant to enter in China debate but with the simmering tension in the region, the concerned contexts are not something to be ignored. We need to clear the air, to avoid harmful pollutants. Let's hope the better sense prevails and we stay on path of progress and development, instead deviating towards muddy morass.
But before we imagine of a better time and conditions in the region, it’s utmost crucial that we deal a bit more with the colonial history as well as the initial post-colonial decades which single-handedly shaken the core of natives’ lands. When China is clearly risen from slumber – if not from the deep sleep – and posing existential threat but in benign manner to Pakistan with a greater colonisation plans like One Belt One Road (OBOR) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), otherwise an indifferent and clueless Nepal’s ruling establishment should certainly not track as usual and come in terms with new geo-strategic time that is seriously threatening the good vision of ‘South Asian Economic and Cultural integration.’
SAARC is not dead, but should it get a long life?
With a permanent weak moral foundation, the self-claimed champions of South Asian Economic Integration have made the South Asian Association of Regional Co-operation (SAARC), just another meaningless acronym. It’s not that the South Asian Region (sans Nepal) that has a unique past of getting ruled by the weak, incompetent and fairly wretched foreign rulers, have overcome those strategic weaknesses which factored the slavery for centuries.
An association like SAARC is equally relevant today, but the challenges have now new havocking nature and that would be difficult to deal at the government level. This primarily so, as the government of each country of the region has own political economy to cope with. And the greater challenge is free fall of democracy and institutions in Pakistan, to get SAARC back to work, Pakistan’s dangerous hangover with China will be detrimental.
BIMSTEC and BBIN deserve a serious chance
The prevailing condition is certainly not different for both, but where the smaller countries’ stakes are stronger – there are possibilities of marked improvement in regional ties. As Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Meet is round the corner, the efforts should be made to keep the focus on possible cooperation beyond borders.
For improving regional connectivity and economic integration, the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative is an important sub-regional architecture of countries in Eastern South Asia. It has immense potential to grow in near future.
At near flash-point when China is hell-bent-on to create troubles from Doklam near Bhutan borders to Kashmir where it has been sponsoring the proxy war against India for over two two-and-half decades, it would be too naïve to imagine a scenario where both India and China would be the peace-makers and take genuine interest in Nepal’s strategic location and standing, for helping the inter-border trade and large-scale investments in pathetic infrastructure near borders.
Also, there should be a reckoning that China will be keep preferring a mild-tension with India but without checking its burgeoning trade deals. Precisely, because China can’t formalise a war with India in 2017 – the trust it enjoyed back in 1962 and that helped its nefarious ploy to attack India, is nowhere to be seen now. Strategically and with military capabilities, Indiais not a country that can be dreamt to be attacked – it is just too powerful to be belittled!
The way ahead
Later month, PM Sher Bahadur Deuba’s India visit was a litmus test for him and the delegation, since he never had an edge with ‘negotiation skill’ and in the time when the Indian leaders keep extra fragile egos – it would have fair for him to keep his focus on long-pending issues of economic co-operation and stalled hydro-electric and major infrastructural projects. But trying to draw the consolation would be not possible, as PM Deuba visited India like a routine trip with no stated purpose.
Equally, it would have been helpful had he shown more concern towards Madhesh and solving the serious Constitutional crisis – rather giving traction to China’s nasty reactionary attempts in Nepal, with ‘cheapness of everything’ as core USP. China is a cheap manufacturer of injurious policies and goods, which should be shunned by everyone who can’t bear with ‘perpetual insanity.’ Nepal should always play its own cards, and this is the demand of the time.
Lastly, the words of wisdom from economists John Maynard Keynes and Paul Samuelson should awake us, not just the Premiers: “When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?”
(Thakur is a journalist and public policy professionalbased in New Delhi, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)