In the eye of the beholder

  • It is a matter of satisfaction to hear Ambassador Teplitz say that the US will look at Nepal with its own eyes
- Shyam Kc
The joint EU-India and UK-India statements had mentioned Nepal in an objectionable manner perhaps due to the desire of the EU and UK to please India

Jun 3, 2016-Beauty, they say, lies in the eye of the beholder. This assumes that the sight is not coloured by different shades of different hues. Recently, the US Ambassador to Nepal Alaina Teplitz was quoted in the Nepali media as saying that her country looks at Nepal with its own eyes and not through the perspectives of other countries. The US Ambassador, who was speaking about US policy towards South Asia, was obviously aware of the general feeling in this country that most western countries, including the US, look at Nepal through the lens of our big neighbours. The recent joint statements by India and the UK and by India and the European Union only reinforced the Nepali feelings. Therefore, the US ambassador’s statement is a welcome departure from the generally accepted, whether rightly or wrongly, concept that the West is wrongly influenced and misled by our southern neighbour.

When the time-tested adage credited to Plato came out, there probably were no such gadgets like glasses to help you see the world better. Specs and sunglasses were later inventions that help the human eyes to see more clearly even when blinded by the blazing sun. Similarly, the human mind is conditioned by different theories, although the most influential is the one with which one is brought up. In fact, theory determines to a large extent the way one looks at the world and how one identifies beauty. This probably applies to humans and some animals, but does it also apply to countries with diverse cultures and traditions? Or do countries make compromises to win over the powerful ones or those situated in strategic locations? Do countries or union of countries such as the European Union compromise to appease the strong at the cost of weak countries like Nepal? 

Formulating foreign policy

Obviously, many factors go into framing the foreign policies of any country or union of countries, be they the US, UK, EU or Nepal. They have their own mechanisms to formulate their foreign policies. Most depend on their mission in the concerned countries to assess that country’s situation. Nepal hosts a number of embassies that assess Nepal’s current situation and possible future scenarios, and send their reports to their respective countries. And such reports are said to be the basis for formulating their policies towards our country. The number of embassies in the Nepali capital has been rising, but many countries still depend on their embassies located outside Nepal and their reports can be expected to be coloured by what they see and hear. But the most influential factor by far will be the media, which is generally seen to be apolitical, impartial and non-judgemental because of its promotion of freedom of expression.

The number of western media houses operating in Nepal has increased by leaps and bounds in recent times. 

And they carry a lot of influence in shaping the foreign policy on any country. But many of the foreign media outlets operating in Nepal are still controlled by the regional offices, mostly located in India, where the regional head is also based. The fact that the supposedly impartial and non-judgemental media describes Nepal’s actions in its own way such as “playing the India card or the China card” cannot but have more than a little impact on policy planners in western countries, which seem to view India as a strong bulwark against burgeoning Chinese economic and military power. In the rivalry between the two neighbouring giants, one can only hope that they or the powerful western nations do not make our country a pawn while seeking to establish and spread their influence all around Asia. 

Coloured vision

The fact that the joint EU-India and UK-India statements had mentioned Nepal in an objectionable manner may be due to the desire of the EU and UK to please India. But in so doing, they have hurt the feelings of the Nepali people, especially when such statements were unwarranted and pleased none but our southern neighbour. True, the EU representative in Nepal, soon after the release of the joint statement, clarified that the European bloc fully backed this country’s new constitution. But the dissemination of such clarification is mostly confined to this country alone, as the international media houses hardly care for such a piece of news.  They attach much more importance to the joint statement, which is disseminated worldwide. 

Once damage is done, it is difficult to rectify it. The fact that a similar joint statement also came from the UK and India was shocking in that Nepal has had diplomatic and other relations with Britain for two centuries and yet the former colonial power seemed to be influenced by factors other than reality. Maybe the EU and Britain looked at Nepal through another country’s eyes, perhaps because it suited them to do so. So it is a matter of satisfaction to hear Ambassador Teplitz say that the US will look at Nepal with its own eyes, and not through those of other countries. The beholder will then know what beauty is, and what Nepal is and what it stands for. Let’s hope that other nations or unions will not allow their vision to be unduly coloured by third countries and judgemental media. 

Published: 03-06-2016 08:32

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