By Zhou Shengping
After Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India last month, it is very natural for Nepal, another important friend of China in South Asia to feel a little bit disappointed and to expect Xi’s visit in the near future.
With China’s new diplomacy of giving top priority to its neighbors and to honor the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Sino-Nepal diplomatic ties, speculations of Nepal visit by Xi in 2015 stand a good chance of becoming a reality.
What worries this writer is that to what extent will Xi’s prospective visit influence Nepal’s political ecology and economic development?
18 years ago in 1996, Chinese President Jiang Zemin came to Kathmandu. After that, Nepal fell into a bitter decade-long civil war. Two years ago in 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao came to Nepal that seemingly is experiencing another lost decade of political instability and economic stagnation, causing the largest scale-up of brain drain in the Himalayan nation’s history.
The new young generation can’t carry guns to fight in the jungle and mountains as what their frustrated ancestors had done in 1996-2006. There are even less youth who are willing to march the streets to struggle for their own fate and the motherland’s future. They rather choose to flee away, to find greener pasture abroad.
Youth migration has reached almost an average of 2000 per day, so the Passport Department is probably the busiest organization of Nepal government. I fear with a heavy heart that the endeavor to build a New Nepal will eventually end in bubbles, like the fall of monarchy in 2008, when I work out and run past the department every working day morning inundated with passport applicants.
Needless to say, Nepal is sick, like the heavily polluted Bagmati river, the largest holy river of Kathmandu Valley and which used to boast of crystal clear water some years ago.
To quote Robert Francis Kennedy, “it is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped”. Unfortunately, there seems no courage among Nepalese politicians, the courage to stand up for ideals, the courage to help improve the lot of tolling masses.
There is also no belief in Nepal’s politics. Each party just works for its own political interest, not for the country. With excessive stubbornness and ignorance thinking its policy agenda more important, more urgent, righter that other parties’, no party easily recedes. Even they finally compromise and ink a political deal they will soon squabble and bicker over implementation, treating the formal promise as a joke.
As a Chinese saying goes, “Even an upright official finds it hard to settle a family quarrel”, it is impossible for Chinese leader to guide and even advise these politics players to do something useful just for Nepal’s own national interest.
In April, 2013, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The honor of being the first South Asian leader to meet Xi in China after the once-in-a-decade leadership handover formally happened in March, however, is not helping to improve Dahal’s influence over Nepal in the long run.
The same to Nepal. It is true to say that Xi’s Nepal visit is sure to take the relation of the two nations to further greater heights. After that, so what?
In the international arena, no country can win real respect and become really important just because of its good relations with its neighbors; no country can become really rich and powerful just through external aid, donations and remittance.
When talking about Nepal’s future, every politician seems very optimistic, saying that Nepal has huge potentials in tourism, hydropower, and so on. It is true to say that everything will become better in the future, but in the future everyone will die.
The great thing for a nation in this world of increasing competition is not so much where it stands, as in what direction it is moving.
Nepal is lucky to be landlocked between two fast developing nations, but how to realize the greatest good for greatest number? Nepal can be a vibrant bridge, but what if the bridge in the reality is poor, risky and with too high toll? Strategic geographically location and the nation’s own effort go together, or if they do not, the location was wasted.
So, if Chinese President Xi comes to Kathmandu next year, can Nepal, as a good partner of China, show him something new like a new constitution? Please do not just say “Nepal is committed to one-China policy”. These easy platitudes can’t really please this innovative leader.
(Source: APD 2 ND issue of October, published in 2014)