This week we chose to publish interview of our political analyst senior journalist and former minister Shrish Shumser Rana on contemporary national political issues and foreign affairs as well. Excerpts of the interview as given below:
Q. Former special director of the Indian intelligence R&AW, Amar Bhushan, has confirmed in his book “Inside Nepal” that under the R&AW plan, the institution of monarchy was removed and the then NCP Maoist supremo Pushpakamal Dahal and other political leaders were used by R&W. Isn’t it a serious issue to debate by the Nepali intellectuals?
A. I have yet to read the book. But why is it that whatever is being discussed and commented upon is as if we have covered the pages over and over again? What should be of interest, though, are comments from certain quarters within the country that tend to dismiss the book as fiction. It is, after all a fictionalized account as has been admitted by the book. What is interesting is that there are quarters in the country still who would want the public to see no truths in the book. That such a pithy attempt at cover up should take place in Nepal where the story takes place and not India where the book originates tells its own story. In actual fact there have been so many books, statements, analyses and reports available in the public domain that merely corroborate Bhushan’s fictionalized account so what’s the fuss? Your paper and people of our ilk have been discussing this for over the decade now and a virtually authentic account emerging from the horse’s mouth is more than welcome to us who would want corrections in India’s hegemonic Nepal policy ; obviously those among our population who have benefited from that policy at this country’s expense cannot distance themselves from their role as partners and so they must rubbish it. This is especially so in an environment of looming change where the Indians must make corrections since their traditional policy have neither gained for India nor for Nepal objectives that should have been fair to both neighbors but, instead, furthered a dangerous degree of instability in the country that threatens not only both countries but the region itself.
Indeed, the reason that it is not being discussed as it should is because the Nepali establishment and their intellectual and media lackeys would rather that it not be discussed. On the other hand another reason that it is not being discussed is because the whole gamut of revelations has been continually discussed over decades of democratic Nepal. I think what should be discussed is the timing of this purposive undertaking. What is India saying by admitting its role in making the disaster that is Nepal today? None less than a former Indian president has already claimed credit for the change when in office. Is it an admission that RAW, having achieved so much in Nepal, did nothing other than heighten international competition in this country threatening the very same Indian priorities that RAW was to have achieved. A highly antagonized and aware Nepali population with global powers catering to a combustible leadership is certainly a ‘dagger aimed at the fertile Indo-Gangetic Hindi power belt’. More than a signal for change in Nepal, one can merely pray that the book signals fundamental corrections in the Indian neighborhood and global priorities of which RAW is merely an arm.
Q. Obviously, the former R&AW chief didn’t speak this fact without permission from the Indian security organs. What message has Bhushan tried to give from the present disclosure?
A. As I said, the colossal failure of the changes that RAW claims it engineered in Nepal has been put to public account. Any cursory knowledge of official Indian decision –making especially when it matters on publications and policy matters, more so when it comes to as sensitive a topic as intelligence and undercover Indian machinations, suggests that it would surely have been under official supervision. As I said, again, let us hope that RAW going public on its Nepali version of Sri Lanka is a signal for the better. It is enough to say that we now see a Chinese port in Sri Lanka which at one time RAW had found its ASEAN-like ambitions threatening Indian priorities there. Similar developments elsewhere within the region despite RAW should have called for a review on Indian policies. RAW after all is to pursue Indian policies. Want can’t blame RAW for what it had done in Nepal. Everyone knows, except RAW lackeys it seems, that its policies have virtually brought this country to ruins. But has it served Indian purposes?
The servility that New Delhi big wigs seek in Kathmandu has been proved a chimera. The monopoly that it has for long sought in Kathmandu has evidently been hijacked at the hands of willing givers and takers. A population long suspicious but now aware of India’s Nepal policy handicaps RAW in its conventional function here and so what may be deemed a RAW confessional at this moment should surely have some meaning. Let us but hope that corrections are coming and that a policy of rebuilding trust and amity is underway in New Delhi that will contribute to a better environment of confidence and stability for relationships in the region to be tasked for mutual, regional and global development.
Q. Nepal is receiving grant assistance from the European countries to function federalism. When we need foreign grant to run the system, what will be the achievement for the nation?
A. Precisely. I cannot but pity a finance minister who, when assuming office, paid due cognizance to his academic worth by pointing out the inaffordability of Nepali federalism. That he should ask those who foisted this foreign program on Nepal constitutionally to foot the bill for its implementation is only logical it seems. But, what is equally illogical and outright unreal is the inability of our political masters and the minister himself to comprehend the actual costs of this foreign priority in the constitution to the country both economically, politically and constitutionally. It has for long been admitted by political science that developing countries such as ours where policy choices are not matters for democratic political competition tend to lean towards the convenience of communal, regional and religious for organizational purposes thus contributing to fractious instability. The designs of Western democracies in helping prop such issues in Nepal and contribute to external dependency thus must come under very serious scrutiny in the neighborhood. One suggests it has. What the lay person has been exposed to by this Western indulgence, however, is the costs in terms of systemic corruption and official impudence at their very door steps. The population moreover is seething at the rising prices and shrinking purses with unaccountable parties and public officials benefiting over them. It is this that signals change and this could be inimical to interests who invest in a change designed for their strategic requirements to the detriment of the general good of us Nepalis. This situation, moreover, could also be to the detriment of third country interests in Nepal which has always been a cornerstone in Nepali policy.
Q. Political observers say that the 2006 political change paved the way for strong presence of the Westerners, which was against the expectation of the Indians, the main actor in the political change. In the meantime, India has come to compete in the foreign race in Nepal as the country has become playground of mainly three forces – India, China and the West. What is your analysis?
A. I would take you back to 1960 and king Mahendra who reminded a London gathering of Gurkha families that the then current obsession with India and China in our foreign policy rhetoric was totally out of keeping with the fact that our formal diplomatic relations began with Britain and not with either of the two. By time India and China gained their respective freedoms in the neighborhood Nepal was already conducting diplomatic relations with third countries. Indeed, three primary characteristics of India’s Nepal policy since its independence in the region seem outstanding if one is to go through narratives of that period. The first has to do with limiting Nepali sovereignty when it comes to conduct with third countries—see Matrika Koirala’s account of how Nepal, India and the U.K. dealt with feting Tenzing Sherpa’s conquest along with Hillary for their conquest of Everest in England as example. Secondly reduction of Nepali armed forces on the plea of modernization and implanting Indian security personnel in Nepal appears to have been very much an Indian priority along with the political change in Nepal. And, thirdly, the exercise since the 1950 revolution has evidently been to directly or otherwise impress Indian priorities in Nepali policy making. The assertion of Nepali sovereignty over these three priorities since the Fifties has gradually been reduced almost to naught and Bhushan’s book only recounts how. The success of Nepal’s emergence in the International community coincides also with how much our relations developed with the West and how well we succeeded in preventing such third country relations from being inimical to the interests of our immediate neighbors. This careful exercise though was reduced to wanton one-upmanship in Nepal serving the interests of none but threatening the interests of all including Nepal after the change in 2006. This is especially so in lieu of the changing world order where consensus is that global economic engines have emerged in our part of the world once again the sustenance of which demands a modicum of cooperation and understanding and not competition, conflict and conflagration.
Q. It is said that Nepal is under the strong pressure of the Indo-Pacific Strategy and BRI. How have you analysed the situation?
A. These are but symptoms of the emerging new order from which Nepal cannot easily disentangle itself in the current scheme of Nepali politics where a consensual national priority has yet to emerge dependably given the crass levels of shameless pandering to foreign interests for individual gains. To the detriment of Nepali interests the system is not transparent on public standpoints on many related points. The Indians have made abundantly clear that their Indo-Pacific strategy cannot extend to policing the South China Sea nor does it include sustaining U.S. interests in the Gulf. Our government does not tell us what the Americans mean when they say we are very much part of the American scheme of things. I am sure, we, if not the Chinese or the Indians would want to know what our response is. It is the same thing with the BRI where we are a signatory. It is the Chinese I think who have done a better job in explaining their priorities in Nepal than we have in New Delhi and I think this is very much why subsequent event should explain why there is very much anticipation here of a change in tri-lateral relationships. It is the emergence of just such a relationship in concrete and determined terms that will perhaps end the evident obfuscation on the Indo-pacific issue. Perhaps thee developments if, as one hopes, imminent will reset the limits and terms of third country roles in Nepal.
Q. How have you observed the recent act of India on Jammu and Kashmir? Do you believe Jammu-Kashmir are the internal matter of India? What could be the role of Nepal as the SAARC chief?
A. As a proponent of regional cooperation in South Asia and India’s leadership potentials in this movement, I cannot but deplore how traditional Indian foreign policy has ultimately succeeded in almost shelving SAARC for bilateral advantage. In the long run though, there are hopes that the change occurring in traditional Indian policy, including that in the neighborhood, will result in India dusting SAARC from the shelves to which India seems to have relegated it for a utilitarian role in neighborhood cooperation just as, for example, the erstwhile Soviet Union rediscovered the utility of Helsinki as a venue for East-West talks on arms limitations and détente. As for Kashmir, the opportunity that recent developments that has given this casual observer to pontificate on the preservation of the democratic rights of the people there cannot but be approached with quite some relishment in Nepal. On a more sober note though, it is perhaps to call for caution and responsible behavior on all sides. Prolonged issues of territory and population breed vested interests inimical to peace and stability and the parties involved are aware of the changing global order. When one can say so much, one is sorry that us the Chairman of SAARC can say so little.