Print Edition - 2017-01-10  |  Oped

Margin of error

  • Nepal should think about adapting to the new global trend of 'responsible' nationalism
- JANAK RAJ JOSHI

Jan 10, 2017-

Despite recent historic changes, which the majority praises excessively as big political achievements, Nepal has once again become unsettled, and the people are forced to adapt to the shock of ‘new Nepal’.

On the economic front, the 1990’s liberalisation was considered important for the country’s growth and prosperity. However, except in financial sectors, IT, health and education, liberalisation has had adverse effects on Nepal, especially in the area of manufacturing. 

On the political front, tough battles were staged in the last 65 years for the cause of liberal democracies, with the exception of dogmatic groups who still aspire to authoritarian rule. The central theme in Nepal, from the time of the Sugauli Treaty till today, is a nationalism that is too narrowly defined by the political agenda of the parties. Unfortunately though, the political actors of Nepal have never advocated economic nationalism. If economic nationalism had been the focus, political 

parties would have put national interest before their competing and conflicting interests.

Changing global practices

The global trend in the recent past has been towards strengthening bilateral agreements rather than multilateral ones. Americans voted for Donald Trump because they want the US to pull out of multilateral agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many countries in the west are planning to protect their national interests rather than following an idea of global integration that is perceived as a threat to these interests.

The United States’ interests still dominate the world order despite the emergence of a multi-polar world. Hilary Clinton perhaps misjudged the American people’s wish to put their country first. What was once unthinkable has become reality today: Britain leaving the European Union is a glaring example of a ‘neighbours shouldn’t take advantage of us’ attitude. After the various terrorist attacks in France and Germany and other parts of Europe, other countries are also seriously considering being in charge of their own destiny rather than being dominated by global rules. BBC Chief Correspondent Gavin Hewitt argues this change of attitude in the west is a form of ‘responsible nationalism’, an idea that the responsibility of the government is to maximise the welfare of its citizens.

Failing to keep up

Nepal seems to be behind in appreciating this shift in global dynamics. Perhaps, the changes are too fast for us to comprehend and adapt to as we still seem to be struggling hard to adjust to the values advocated by the IMF and the World Bank in the 1990s. In the name of liberal democracy we are cherishing the values of illiberal democracies as manifested in an unholy alliance between the leftist-centrist-rightist forces. Politicians would do well to comprehend the reasons for maintaining some distance with various international organisations.

Gavin Hewitt argues that whether we like it or not, isolationism has returned. This is hard to believe for us as we have been advocating the merits of global integration for a long time. In the context of a fading national identity, this is an occasion for the political leaders to rise above their petty party interests and dare to review, revisit and redefine our national identity and social fabric, except those that are anti-social and inhuman such as untouchability, and discrimination based on caste, class and geography.  

Let’s ask a question: are we, under the cover of liberal democracy, becoming too defensive and uncertain? If that is the case, Gavin Hewitt has an answer: national identity matters again; meaning multiculturalism is fading away, and parallel societies are not as welcome as before. 

Way forward

It is hard for the political parties to accept that they are failing in the eyes of the public because they failed to deliver. They seem to be complacent, claiming that they have demolished the age-old despotic monarchy, ushered in a republican system of governance and introduced federalism and inclusiveness. 

But what about nationalism and protecting the interests of the nation? How about striking a balance between global actors, mainly China and India? How about implementing the constitution? And finally, how about easing the life of millions of Nepalis who live below the poverty line?

We should be grateful for the sacrifice and contributions of our martyrs, freedom fighters, political leaders and parties. And Nepali people have graciously honoured those achievements, but it would be an empty gesture to rest on their successes. The next phase of the political battle should concentrate on who is there on the ground to serve the best interests of Nepal and its people. 

Joshi is a nominated Member of Parliament

Published: 10-01-2017 08:24

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