By Maila Baje
Why did Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli choose to undergo such a risky kidney transplant in Nepal considering that he flew abroad for the most innocuous follow-up medical consultations? Why didn’t he designate a caretaker while absenting himself for days? It’s hard to figure out which question is harder.
Maybe our collective circumstances have desensitized us to painful probing. After all, those most strongly ridiculing the idea that our former monarch met the Indian premier and US president in New Delhi either individually or jointly seem to be the ones strongest in their conviction that something is on the so-called regressive right.
Moreover, the otherwise amiable Chinese ambassador in Kathmandu is accused of exceeding diplomatic propriety in her dealings with the Nepali media, but it’s our bloke in Beijing who is recalled for reasons unknown. The new Indian ambassador, minutes into his official tenure, begins hectic political parleys.
Our inability to form something even remotely resembling common opinion on anything these days leaves us individually flustered. We have long rested in the comforting knowledge of the futility of worrying about our political fate. The upside of having external drivers of change lies in knowing that it’s their job to validate, legitimize and sustain the transformation.
Do we still have that luxury? Despite the accepted wisdom of the existence of cross-party consensus and continuity in Indian foreign and security policy, the incumbent government in New Delhi is not an all-embracing stakeholder of the transformation of April 2006. For one thing, it saw the discarding of Hindu statehood along with the monarchy as the proverbial throwing of the baby with the bathwater. And that vision, moreover, tends to define pretty much everything.
Today’s Chinese leadership, too, is a far cry from the one that existed 14 years ago. Then, a president schooled in the geopolitics of our fringe during his earlier tenure as party chief of Tibet, sought to organize a flawless Beijing Olympics as evidence of his country’s integration into the global order. Today’s president is neo-Maoist whose visions of grandeur approximate those of the Great Helmsman. And he has far greater resources at his disposal than did the earthy moon-faced titan from Hunan in his shared quest to redefine the global order.
Then there’s our sole superpower. A neo-conservative US administration in 2006 initially couldn’t countenance the anointment of a Maoist takeover in Nepal but was sufficiently allured by the prospect of a civil nuclear deal with India to speak of a ‘messy abdication’ at Narayanhity. The current White House occupant loves to shock and awe far more – but in his own way.
Wars are still being wage and bombs are still falling, but paleo-conservatives wedded to American national interest rule the roost. As the international dimensions of ‘America First’ are still taking shape, there are possibilities galore that we can ignore at our own peril.
Among the other players, the Europeans have pretty much exhausted their narrowly defined options. The Russians still want to keep everyone guessing about their intentions. Amid all this, it is natural for our political players to wait and see. As the highly evolved political animals they are, their antics are but an expression of their inability to stand still. Their real trick is to stop us from finding out what they are waiting for and seeing.