Sunday, April 3, 2016

Nepal Will Rise

Cheers to Mr. Bibek Paudel and The Wire for the insightful coverage of Nepal and beyond, The Pan Himalayan Reality that Awaits South Asia. That said, with all due respect, I take issue with describing Nepal as an ‘earthquake ravaged country’….depicting the whole country as 'ravaged' is untrue and is a disservice to the vital tourism industry that has been decimated by unnecessary, negative hype. 

Certainly, slivers of the country were affected tragically by the natural disasters and those areas have received attention and will continue to receive humanitarian aid…again, these are a relative few pockets of the whole of Nepal. Painting the entire nation as ‘ravaged’ turns away visitors and decimates a lifesaving industry that could help resuscitate the economy, and at the same time, negative portrayals invite foreign agents and the donor class to more unneeded influence in domestic affairs.

That is, portraying Nepal as if in ruins is a tactic used by some I/NGOs that targets donors and invites more foreign funding and intervention…just what Nepal does not need, more foreign meddling in would-be paradise.

As the wise author notes, until some 60 years ago, trans-Himalayan trade fostered "the exchange of culture, commerce, and ideas". Can we get back to that era when rugged routes were traveled by talented and hardy people? Commerce then was driven largely by the trade of Tibetan salt .  Commerce along these trans-Himalayan routes fell off dramatically when less expensive, iodized salt from India was introduced to the wider market and fell off further after China gained control of Tibet in the late 1950s.

Another extremely unfortunate event from the 1950s, indefinite aid schemes were allowed in and gained a foothold in Nepal. They have never let go and decades of  indefinite aid has little to showcase while countless funds have gone to who knows where...meanwhile, poverty and suffering is chronic and endemic. 

Are aid paradigms a neo-colonial scheme
 ? Most I/NGOs operate with little to no oversight other than internal reviews that are generally toothless. Since the decades long aid tenure, the ruling class has maintained its powers and has been abetted, knowingly and most often unknowingly, by well-meaning but often clueless aid agents. 

Interlopers keen to effect change in distant lands often operate with few to no local language and culture skills and repeatedly play into the wrong hands locally. The ironic setup between typically leftist aid workers and an autocratic bureaucracy in Nepal has allowed dysfunction and corruption to reign for the foreseeable past. 

Aid kept on through the civil war and constitution squabbles and blockade (and some aid agents took sides on issues that they might not have thoroughly understood, actually worsening prospects of resolution). Further driving home their elite status, during the ruthless blockade, aid agents were among the privileged few with access to petrol for the standard aid-vehicle, a petrol-guzzling SUV. On the other hand, locals abstained from travel or struggled to find transport on vehicles jammed with passengers, many of whom were hanging to the sides of vehicles or riding on rooftops.

In my humble reckoning, it is time to re-evaluate the impact of indefinite aid and perhaps end the schemes and foreign meddling altogether. With all due respect to well-meaning interventionists, the best for Nepal, a would be Himalayan nirvana, is to aim for a free, fair and transparent liberal democracy. Otherwise, intervention tends to have the opposite effect of entrenching dysfunction and corruption and prolonging development issues, primarily by endowing a ruling gang of long-standing, self-serving oppressors who foil the ability of the people to pursue their own interests. 

The people are more than talented and capable of looking after their own interests , their own dreams and own future with their own skills, talents, knowledge and wherewithal… if given the chance. To be given the chance, both the domestic government and foreign players have to remove themselves as obstacles and stop interfering, regulating and dictating. 

As the author noted, traders have known how to do this since ancient times. Let them trade both north and south of the border. Let intrepid entrepreneurs lead the way again to unite cultures, commerce and the sharing of ideas and goods and good-will as they once did. Let them do it freely and without a subversive political agenda from any quarter. Let them do it without meddlers trying to interfere and control people and outcomes one way or another. Let the people of Nepal rise of their own free will and talents. 

Let Nepal rise by unbinding her wings and allowing those wings the freedom to fly.

Cheers for your kind consideration.

#Nepal #silkroute #globaldev #freeNepal

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