By Bihari Krishna Shrestha
The ultimate responsibility for keeping our own house in order rests squarely with our own people, ithas to be said that given the asymmetry in the relative size and resource capabilities of the two neighbours, Nepal and India, thelatter, with its historically predatory intents–for instance, IndiraGandhi’s agenda to annex Nepal’s tarai–does possess the capacity to
overwhelm the former through various forms of disingenuous moves likepolitical instigation, buying the politicians,promoting terrorism andextended blockades. Just a few months ago, India used the Maoists – whoare now dead scared of India after the latter raised the issue ofwartime abuses in the UN Human Right Commission in Geneva lastyear–and the NC to topple the highly popular Oli government which,for once, was working in Nepal’s national interest. While PushpakamalDahalPrachandatoeing India is understandable, it remains highly enigmatic why SherBahadurDeuba too is no different from people like Prachanda andRajendraMahato to act diehard “Bharatbadi”. As a matter of fact,Deubajee as NC supremo is now in a selling spree. As media reports go,he just auctioned off two ambassadorial appointments to most unlikely but highest bidding individuals. So, India must have found it easy tohandle him.
I believe that India, bereft of any ethics that otherwise should thebasis of governance of a democratic state, is a sick nation withpsychopathic compulsion to derive sadistic pleasure by tormenting andexacting unconditional obeisance from its smaller neighbours, theweaker the worse. It is rooted in her ever-gnawing awareness that sheremains a big but chronically impoverished and misgoverned countryand that nobodyrespects and count her for anything around the world, except, of course, for selling expensive war machines. The latest
example of this neglect at the world stage comes from one recentdevelopment. When the world powers held talk with Iran for curbinglatter’s nuclear ambitions, the “five-plus-one format” was constitutedof the five UN permanent members plus Germany and not India which, forreasons of its size, should have been the natural claimant to thatstatus. Strangely, India found it okay to remain quiet about thishumiliation.
Nepal itself remains an impoverished and chronically feudalisticcountry, made worse by its India-locked position and India’s ceaselessonslaught to interfere in its internal affairs through all kinds ofirresponsible and unprincipledmachinations. She spends enormous sumsof money for buying off politicians, had hosted, aided and abetted theMaoists–even after India had formally declared them”terrorists”–leading to 18,000 killings in Nepal, its diplomaticoutposts (embassy and consular offices) blatantly instigating violence
and unrest, blockading Nepal at regular intervals, sending its Trojanhorses to destabilize tarai in particular, and forcing its owndiplomats to lie through their teeth and so on. Given such corruptinginfluence from India in particular, Nepal’s political class, all ofwhom come from among the feudal elites in the first place, has sincedegenerated into what people see them to be a composite of “thieves,dacoits and murderers”. Compare this with what US has done with itsless fortunate neighbor, Mexico, by integrating her in a growthtriangle in the form of NAFTA. As for India, she has had no problemwith signing FTA with far flung Singapore, but definitely not withBangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and so on, because a strongerneighbor may be so much more difficult to subjugate. So, India’sgenuine neighbourhood policy has been that it does not mind hurtingitself as long as it also hurts one or more neighbor.
Regarding India’s high growth rate and higherGDP, one should recall what the former RBI governor Raghu Rajan had to
say. For India to boast of being the “fastest growing major economyin the world” is like a “one-eyed person becoming the king among theblind”. And lately, even that nominallysignificant crown has sincebeen surrendered back to China after PM NarendraModi’s ill-conceived demonetization drive, which at least one Indian economist has equatedit with “the carpet bombing of the poor”. While India’s per capita
income may be higher than that of Nepal (although much less than thatof Sri Lanka), this superiority is utterly misleading due to highlyuneven distribution of income. As one Indian data source has it, “1)About one million people have an average percapita income of Rs.12 Crper annum; (2) About 100 million Upper Earning Class enjoy Rs.300,000average per annum; (3) About 250 million lower working class earn justabout Rs.90,000 percapita; (4) about 950 million poorest sections have percapita less than Rs.10,000”. An eminent US-based Indian author,PankajMisra recently quoted economists Jean DrÃze and AmartyaSen whohave characterized wealth misdistribution in India as “islands ofCalifornia in a sea of sub-Saharan Africa”. Writing on the issue ofskewed distribution of wealth in India, another author of Indianorigin and the Chair of theInternational Development Studies,Dalhousie University, Canada, NissimMannathukkaren, has lately observed, “among the prominent economies of the world, India isonly second to Russia, which is known for its mafia capitalism, interms of the wealth owned by the top one per cent says something about
our rapacious model of development, especially underliberalization.”
He further added, “the revenue foregone by the government in corporateincome tax, excise and custom duty since 2005-06 is Rs. 42 trillion — an amount which can fund the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for over 100 years! …. state-owned banks have written off Rs.1.14 lakhcrore of bad loans from 2013 to 2015 or that just two corporate housesalone owe over Rs.3 lakh crore in debt to the banks”. The celebratedBookers Prize winning Indian author, Arundhati Roy herself has put 800
million of Indians remaining “impoverished and dispossessed”, thatmakes it two of every three Indians remaining chronically impoverishedon this planet. So, clearly, the year 1947 does not mark the end ofcolonialism in India; it only marks the change of address of thecolonial lords. They now live in New Delhi, Mumbai and other similar Indian metropolises.
Finally, India’s persistent (and state-condoned) inequality is onlymatched by its pathetic performance in poverty reduction. The OxfordPoverty and Human development Initiative (OPHI), 2013 had reported thefollowing: “India also made significant progress in reducing povertybetween 1999 and 2006, but at a rate that was less than one-third ofthe speed of its neighbours, with a reduction in poverty rates of 1.2percentage points per year [instead of 4.1% (Nepal) or 3.2%(Bangladesh)]. The more grievous problem, however, is that the Indian
leadership, both the politicians and their bureaucratic handlers, theBabudom, do not seem to mind this nationwide stink of abysmal povertyat all, to such an extent that one Indian author even sarcasticallydubbed it “glorious poverty”. Writing in the Indian Express (Jan 15),author Tavleen Singh observed that “Absurd though this may sound,there are huge benefits in keeping poverty alive. Very poor people askno questions. Not even when they see their poverty-loving leadersstrive to become very rich as soon as they enter public life.”
I am sure many of us are familiar with allthese info about India’s hopeless performance in governance andeconomic development, particularly when it comes to making them
effective, inclusive and participatory. Therefore, as India’s closestneighbor with much of history and culture in common, it should be ourduty to remind her that she has much more to worry about in her owncountry and therefore, must not be wasting her valuable time, energyand resources worrying about Nepal. With China closing in real fast,Nepal’s future is now better assured for the first time in decades.
The transition that is taking place now in Nepal is that it is tryingto break free of India’s stranglehold and emerge as the buffer economybetween two giants, China and India, with the prospect of economicgrowth of a vastly different order. Of the various regions in Nepal,it would be the tarai in particular–which alone has the bestcomparative advantage in attracting investments in industrial andagricultural development– which is destined to be one of the mostprosperous spots on this planet.
Talking about Bhutan too, recently there was a BJP leader who had theimpudence to tell his audience in Kathmandu that India would like tosee Nepal remain “as happy as Bhutan”. One just has to ask theBhutanese if they are happy to be remaining as what is basically India’s caged pet!
India in Nepal
By Bihari Krishna Shrestha