From India Speak (31 March, 2022)
In the latest episode as part of the special series on India-China relations for India Speak: The CPR Podcast, our host, Sushant Singh (Senior Fellow, CPR) is joined by Kanak Mani Dixit (Nepali Publisher, Editor and Writer) to understand India-China ties through China’s relationship with Nepal. In this episode, Singh and Dixit discuss Nepal’s current relations with China after the recent visit by Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor, Wang Yi. They uncover the main drivers of this relationship, how it contrasts with Nepal-India ties and the Nepalese view of the China-India border crisis. Dixit sheds light on the Chinese contentions over the Nepal-US Millennium Challenge Corporation project, his critique of the Nepalese political and bureaucratic class and their ‘courting’ of the Chinese as a counterweight to India. Finally, they compare the foreign policies of South Asian countries and discuss why the region has failed to take off, particularly with the failure of experiments like SAARC. Find Kanak Mani Dixit’s article in the Nepal Times as mentioned in the episode here, https://www.nepalitimes.com/banner/fixing-the-broken-parts-in-nepal-china-ties/
Sushant: Hello, and welcome to India Speak, a podcast by the Centre for Policy Research. I am Sushant Singh Senior fellow at CPR. in this series we have been speaking to the leading experts and academics on the many facets of Sino-India relations, and important aspects of the China-India rivalry is often visible in the countries of South Asia. Today, we are looking at Nepal, and its relationship with China. As it stands after Chinese Foreign Minister, and State Councillor, Wang Yi paid a visit to Kathmandu. To do that our guest today, is the Nepalese Publisher, Editor, Commentator, and Writer Kanak Mani Dixit, is the founder of the magazine Himal Southasian, and Co-founder of Himal Media. He has degrees in law from Delhi University, and international relations, and journalism from Columbia University. He has been a journalist since 1971, and worked at the United Nations Secretariat between 1982, and 1990. Lately, he has been engaged in civil rights activism in relation to peace, democracy, and human rights in Nepal. He is an author of children’s books and has contributed to several South Asian anthologies. He is also the author of two works of political commentary, “Dekhe ko Mulk”, “The Country I see”, and “Peace Politics of Nepal”, Kanak welcome to India Speak.
Kanak: Thank You Sushant!
Sushant: Kanak the day Wang Yi landed in Kathmandu you wrote a long essay, by your own admission a bit too long in Nepal Times, highlighting the broken parts in the Nepal-China relationship, and asking him to have a better understanding of Nepal, the link to the essay in show notes,I hope Wang read that essay, and the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu, got it translated in Mandarin. Now that the visit is over, what do you make of Wang’s trip? How did it go particularly from a Nepali’s perspective?
Kanak: I personally believe that Wang, Sushant was, in Kathmandu to sort of make amends for certain overreach by Chinese commentators who, we take to mean as taking the position of the Chinese State in relation with Nepal. Several things that have gone wrong lately, some of them having to do with the Nepali overreach. But the largest issue had to do with the particular grant from the United States for Nepal for 500 million dollars called the MCC (Millennial Challenge Compact) to make transmission lines, and highways. It was a pure grant of 500 million dollars, and at the time of covid when the international grants dried up, it was a bonanza for Nepal. But, the Chinese suddenly piped up, if that’s the right word, to oppose it publicly before it was adopted by Nepal’s parliament, the agreement. So I feel that there was a patch up needed, and we can come to the MCC later. But I believe essentially Wang Yi’s visit was to reach out to Nepal which is the vital state for the Chinese, even though China borders many countries of Asia, and South Asia, but Nepal is vital because it’s in the Himalayan land with India on the other side, with which it has problem, and Tibetian population on this side. So, for these reasons I think the Chinese made an extra effort to come to Kathmandu. I believe the results have been mixed. In that there was a proforma meeting, and there was no bilateral communicae if I remember. But, from the read out from the Nepali side, there was not a mention of the BRI, “The Belt and Road Initiative ”, which has been the Chinese foriegn policies flag, of the last five years atleast, and with presidency Xinjping wanting that. But, the Nepalies obviously chose not to highlight that, so I believe Wang Yi would have gone back thinking that he has made some amends for the highly charged commentary coming out of Beijing in the last few months, but beyond that I think we are not further ahead on mending Nepal- China ties to the extent in my view that we need the Chinese to better understand Nepal, and Nepalies, rather than think of Nepal as a supplicant state, which I believe they do.
Sushant: What do you mean when you say Chinese do not understand Nepal. What would it require from them to understand Nepal better? What is it that they get wrong about Nepal?
Kanak: They do not interact enough with Nepalese. We do not know who they talk to or how they make up their point of view. For all the mistakes for example India makes, you know India has a wide network of journalists, civil society, average Nepali citizens that they will as a matter of course meet. Whereas you do not know who the Chinese meet, and who they talk to, what kinds of opinions they make based on actual interactions. Instead it is a kind of imperious, if not imperial outlook, and not to blame the Chinese entirely, the Nepali response has been at some points near civility or obsequiousness, and there is reason for that we can get to, but the Chinese essentially need to understand Nepali society, Nepali people’s desire for example for democracy, which will be hard for the Chinese to understand, but they would have to because what we know is, Chinese were very supportive of royalty in Nepal, the King in Nepal when Nepal was a constitutional Monarchy, before that a monarchy because, and that would seem incongruous to some because China is a communist country, and this is a monarchy. But, China’s primary focus vis-a-vis Nepal is political stability. They want to know who they are dealing with, and there is some kind of planning that they can do in Nepal. After Nepal became a republic, and the rambunctious, and the credulous democracy that it has become with many parties, many voices, lots of ranker, China feels that we need somebody stable in Nepal, but it is not done. Firstly, it should accept that Nepal will be like this. We will not go back to being a stable country whether a dictatorship or a democracy that China can play with. China will have to understand Nepal better, Kathmandu better to play a role in the punges. I don’t think they have got the capacity at this point whether they have think tank studying Nepal, or whether they have individual scholars studying Nepal, and even there we don’t know whether these think tanks and scholars really have a say in the central CPC corridors the Communist Party of China which essentially defines China’s foreign policy, and directs Chinese foreign ministry. We actually are flying blind when it comes to who looks out of China, into Nepal, and this might be true with the other countries as well.
Sushant: Kanak you spoke about the Washingtons Millennium Corporation Challenge, or the MCC project. For listeners who may not be aware of the issue, can you help summarize it for them? And also, bring in SriLanka, and other examples which were part of MCC.
Kanak: About a decade and a half I believe, when Americans were deciding how to have a different type of support outside of the US to support developing countries they decided on a criteria, having to do with governability, corruption, or lack of corruption, democratic values etc, and then they put out a call, Nepal also applied like other countries, and you had to make the grade. Make the grade in a nice way, that essentially you are a democracy, to begin with I don’t believe the Americans do everything right, by long short they have their own burdens to carry including in Nepal. But, when it comes to the MCC in relation to what it was offered in Nepal it was a clean grant that was negotiated over 10 years, and finally it was ready for the signing, and a requirement was slipped in that it had to be passed by parliament, it need not have been but that came about and, ok that’s a long story. So things came ahead when Nepali politics had changed enough and players wanted to utilize MCC for the purpose, stand against MCC for their purpose. So the major parties, the UML, and the Nepali Congress were for it. The person who was decidedly against it was a coalition partner of the current government Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known to the world as Prachanda, the Maoist chief. He decided to play politics by raising the ante on MCC. Essentially letting his supporters and circles to present MCC as an imperialist project against Nepal’s greater good. And, this is where things came to ahead and where China comes into the picture at the last moment, when MCC was about to be passed by the parliament, China came out publicly against it. The spokesperson in Beijing of the foreign ministry, came out called it, said adopting the particular resolution in the Nepali parliament would be opening up Pandora’s box. They spoke of the American influence without naming America, in getting Nepal to pass this as a part of coercive diplomacy. The main problem that I have with what they did was they denied Nepal the agency of adopting it for its own good. Rather they saw it as a play of the United States in Nepal and I believe that is where in a way China got found out because it seems to have actively worked for Nepal not to get a 500 million dollar grant.
Sushant: Kanak two questions on that, what kind of projects were exactly there in the MCC? I believe there were only power projects, infrastructure projects and road construction projects. Were they in any way detrimental to the Chinese interest? And the second question is that even Wang Yi’s statement yesterday in Nepal, on Saturday in Nepal asking the outside powers not to interfere was almost in the same tone and tenor as the earlier statement of the Chinese foreign ministry, that you referred to.
Kanak: Yes, that Comes out that the read out from the Chinese side, the Nepalis side is trying to downplay it but Nepali side did not prefer to BRI, the Belt and Road Initiative, which China pushed on Nepal like the other world it is not entirely a bad thing, but indicative that Nepal preferred not to mention it at all, whereas the Chinese readout is essentially what you said.And, I believe that is very undiplomatic, and if Wang Yi’s visit to Nepal was to make amends, that one statement if he has said it, that you know, Nepal should have an independent stance and China stands for an independent Nepal with full flexibility vis-a-vis its international scope, it was a pointed reference to the fact that Americans foisted “MCC”. MCC itself to go back to the earlier is in my view an innocent project. Provided in Nepal by the Nepalis and if somewhere it becomes coercive down the line, Nepalis are alert enough to reject it. And there is a clause in there, three months or so after which you can get out of it.But, what the project actually is, it’s mostly a project for high tension lines and electricity transmission lines to make up for a shortfall in the grid within Nepal. After many years of negotiations, the MCC came that included Nepali and American officials decided that as Nepal wanted the thing that was lacking was power evacuations from many hydropower stations that are being made in Nepal. And, so it is good for Nepal’s economy, it’s good for Nepals society and there is no doubt that this would be good for Nepal. The point is a smaller quotient of the project is for some highway maintenance project, highway maintenance essentially.
Sushant: Kanak you earlier spoke about Beijing is now making the same mistake in Nepal which New Delhi earlier made. And, that is something a lot of Indian commentators bloat about that we did learnt our lessons the hard way in Nepal, now China is going to learn the same lesson. But what are those mistakes? Everybody says, what are those mistakes that China is now making, and is China likely to cross correct or you don’t see any signs of it at all?
Kanak: Well, to begin with the Nepali society marches to a different drummer for various reasons. One of it could be as it was non colonised so the world doesn’t understand Nepal enough or doesn’t invest in understanding Nepal enough. There is a kind of nationalism and a kind of resilience in the society that if you go beyond a point then the society rejects. They will keep quiet for long enough and then come up and reject anything being foisted on Nepali society. And, there the Indians have certainly messed up in the past and, the fact that I wrote that Chinese are making the same mistake that Indians have made does not necessarily mean that New Delhi will not make mistakes in future. Because, New Delhi was taught, if you don’t mind my using the term kind of a lesson. During the blockade that India conducted in Nepal, in the second half of the 2015 as indication of the displeasure for the constitution that was adopted in September 2015. And, that was just the most egregious kind of activism that the Indian state did. But, before that there was a lot of what you call micro management of Nepali state affairs by India. Much of that happening because the Nepalis allowed the Indians that space. The Indian diplomats, the Indians spooks, they allowed that space. But, when something as horrific as the five and a half month long blockade was conducted, the Nepali public sort of came together to resist. It was an economic hardship that they bore much harsher than what the earthquake of 2015 April, the kind of impact that it had on Nepal. So, that was, the blockade in a way like the apogee of Indian interventionism. Now,
Sushant: Kanak, if I may intervene, I was there with you in Nepal during the blockade and I remember even the elite of the Nepalese society, top Generals, top politicians actually using firebrick to cook and, I remember sitting on the roof of your house and, discussing this early in the morning. Nepal was going through a very very tough time due to the blockade and even some of the elite areas, some of the high end areas of Kathmandu were suffering.
Kanak: The whole society was. By now there are enough Indian commentators who conceive in their writings that it was a blockade by India but for a while it was made as if it was the Madhesi agitation of the south. Citizens blockading their own citizens which was not really what was happening. But, what is interesting to know in the context of Nepal-China, is that the Indian blockade of Nepal in 2015 was such a bad disastrous strategy on the side of India because we all know India regards its northern himalayan frontier as vulnerable, Nepal also as a vulnerable neighbour because it borders the Himalaya. So, everything to keep Nepal with you, but on the other hand, the Himalayas is no longer a strategic or economic barrier. So sooner or later Nepal would open up to the north, what the blockade did was to bring that date forward by about a decade at least. Meaning, when you did the blockade, Nepal suddenly realised, the Nepali public that we are not landlocked, but we are India locked. So, we must reach out to the North because it is not like we are absolutely without capacity of going elsewhere to get our land borders, transit to other countries etc. So, there was what I call pivot. So, Kathmandu did a pivot towards Beijing and signed a slew of agreements and protocols one for cross border trade with Beijing, one for connectivities, highways, transmissions,railways, railroads, all of them plans till now, but nevertheless the northern Himalayan frontier of Nepal is breached for much closer interaction with China and that is not a pie in the sky anymore because, the Chinese railway has arrived in the Tibetan plateau in 2000 in Lhasa and in 2006 in Sigachi,and so you have and you can look forward to a day to all these and the third country transit. Seven ports and dry ports and,sea ports are now allowed access for Nepal to reach out to the world.All of this happened, it would have happened 10-15 years later, all of it at least in terms of agreements on paper were signed because of the Indian blockade. So this is how I see the problem, that India at least New Delhi perceives as a problem, was generated by itself.
Sushant: Kanak if you have read the former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rai’s book, he mentions a very specific line when Prime Minister Modi asked him why does Nepalis hate us so much or dislike us so much. Kanak you seem to be almost suggesting that New Delhi or India made it too easy for Beijing and Nepal. Is that what you are saying?
Kanak: Yes I am saying exactly that. New Delhi not realizing as I said earlier that Nepal marches to its own drummer. I would just like to make a point about if it is Mr Modi’s understanding that the Nepalis hate India or dislike India, they don’t. There is ,firstly there is an open border, secondly there is so much cultural interaction not just between the Terai communities and Uttar Pradesh and, Bihar but the hill communities of Nepal and India that there might be a sense of suffocation at times when the Indian states comes down hard on the Nepal and that’s why the corrective for India is to let Nepal go its way. And, fortunately since the blockade I feel that India has kept more or less to that track.And I would want it to keep on that track and China to learn from India to let Nepal be Nepal. That is what China should be doing. You asked in an earlier question, “Do I think Chinese will learn”? Well, given that Wang Yi came for what I was thinking was a fence mending exercise but he would not like any kind of coercion on Nepal’s foreign policy, because Nepal is independent. Well that is true, Nepal is independent.Nobody needs to make that pointed reference that could be referred to in any other country.
Sushant: Kank what exactly are the drivers of these China-Nepal relationships, other than India? Or India’s behavior in 2015, or earlier can be defined. How will you contrast them with the drivers of India Nepal ties? This seems to be very distant. India Nepal ties seem to be driven more by culture, more by open borders, trade, almost an integration of Nepal with India, in the sense of culture, economy, society etc. Whereas with China it seems to be more driven by BRI, tourism, keeping out rough (—-). How are the two drivers different, if you can number them and explain them?
Kanak: Nepal is integrating into India, or India is integrating into Nepal, it’s more or less we are talking on the same frame. That Nepali society knows and values its links, if you call it civilisational links to India. But historically, economically Nepal was more linked to Tibet. When we speak in historical terms Kathmandu valley was actually doing trade with Tibet and it took on a lot of culture from the south the Gangetic plains. But, its actual trade was more with Tibet than with Gangetic plains. All of that changed with a YoungHusband Mission of 1902-03. In a way Tibet pivoted via Kalimpong into India, British India rather than through Nepal. So when we talk now about Nepal- China links, I wrote this recent article to also remind Nepalis that you can not neglect Tibet. Grant it as a part of China even the Dalia lama would be looking at it more or less in the same frame. He would want it to be truly autonomous within China. As far as Nepal is concerned, Nepal regarding Tibet in China, is also that Nepal’s historical linkages to the North have not been with Beijing, they have been with the border region that is Tibet. Why is it important to say this because, right now Tibet is almost like untalked, not talked about in Nepal. Whereas for the sake of Nepal’s culture and Nepal’s economy it is important for the Tibetan border to be opened up for people to people contact. People of Tibet and people of Nepal should continue but for right now it is a rigid blockage. This rigid blockade also came up because New Delhi is not, sorry, Beijing is not confident enough about its optics control over Tibet. So, particularly after the 2008 Olympics, Beijing olympics. Beijing has made the border between Nepal and India very harshly closed as a result the contact between Tibet speaking people of Nepal and China Tibet particularly the trade and including now the trade from mainland china into Nepal through the Nepali border point these have all dried up. It is not fair and it is not good. I have mentioned this because Nepal-Tibet linkages while conceding and accepting Tibet as part of China, the discourse in Kathmandu does not speak enough about Tibet. That’s what I referto now. As far as drivers of China- Nepal relationship are concerned, till now it has mostly been about china’s sense of vulnerability, about any kind of activities in Tibet being supported out of Nepal, and that’s why China ritually asks nepal to repeat the line that we are for the one china policy, number one and the other one, we will never allow our territory to be used against China. So I have proposed again in that article that there should be a billboard put up at the national arrival lounge of the international airport in Kathmandu, saying Nepal accepts one china policy as its policy and will never allow its territory to be used against china, which is true and Nepal would never do it. But why do we have to repeat it ad nauseam before every meeting, before even getting into substandard agendas in bilateral meetings, we are supposed to by rule repeat these lines. And this is not how you treat a respected neighbor.
Sushant: Two parts you did not speak off. One is tourism, another is BRI. Because none of the BRI projects have been signed so far, The BRI projects all have been announced and the Nepalese elite talks so much about it portraying them as something big, but as a fact during this visit nothing has been signed on BRI.
Kanak: Yes, Belt and Road Initiative, firstly let’s keep in mind, there were lots of Chinese activities not only in Nepal but around the world, the infrastructure, loans given etc. It’s just that everything is now being subsumed in the title BRI. Right? So now we accept Xi Jinping’s vision for China to promote infrastructure around the world. Now Himalaya needs any kind of work in Himalayan region for connectivity which requires massive infrastructure and massive funds for the infrastructure. So what the Chinese and Nepalese have done is they have signed an agreement in 2017 for the BRI project. In the beginning Nepalis went with a vision, wish list which was too big and the Chinese asked the Nepalese to vitle it down.So the only catch there is Nepal has been alerted enough of the debt traps. Including debt trap vis-a-vis China.They seem to be looking carefully but it is feasible for Nepal and I believe I haven’t spoken to the officials yet but I believe that the nepalese side took the position it took in Wang Yi’s visit that we want grants. Apparently Prime Minister Sher Bahadur, specifically said we want grants rather than loans, and BRI from what I understand is it should be concessional loans at 2 percent or less. And I believe the Chinese in the end are mercantilist and they have not been able to offer this. So now at the position where we are merely deciding to do the detailed project studies of these BRI projects. The biggest one you should know about is the railroad planned from the Rasuwagadhito Kathmandu, which is Chinese railways through the Himalayas breach coming into Kathmandu. I have a personal belief that the Chinese would never spend, or give concessional loans or grants for such massive infrastructure, mile and miles of tunneling through the Himalayas etc. would never do itif they were notin the Indian market. So, ultimately Chinese are looking ahead into the day, what they are trying to convince the Nepaliese is that mainly for you guys is actually meant to excess the plains market of the Gangetic plains.
Sushant: What about tourism? Nepal seems to be the favorite destination of Chinese tourists.
Kanak: Well, Nepty have never picked up enough on the statement made by President Xi Jinping and when he came calling to Kathmandu, in October 2019 where he said certain problematic things, but one of the things he said interestingly was, he said among all the countries for South Asia it is Nepal that the Chinese people want to visit the most. And, the Nepali tourism industry has not been able to make enough of that statement although in between we have had covid but what is interesting specially for an Indian audience to know is without anybody really watching or planning, China is much better connected by air to Nepal, than India is.There are six, at last count five or six airports, before Covid with daily if not twice daily flights from Vangxao, Kunming, Chengdu even Shanghai at the last instance in Lhasa flights into Kathmandu daily over the Himalayas coming, where as the Nepal India flights have essentially stayed where they were. Kolkata few flights a week to Bangalore, there used to be some flights to Bombay but after covid everything of course has dried up. So, it’s mainly Delhi-Kathmandu. Whereas the spread into China is much more, what it is doing is taking much more Nepali students to China. Nepalese are now studying and understanding China better, studying Mandarin for sure and coming back with a lot of understanding of the Chinese people and the Chinese government, and tourists are also coming in. If you go to Pokhra in central Nepal, there is a lake and a grand view of the Annapurna, you will find that there are little lanes that are practically Chinatown. And Chinese sign boards without even English indicate who the clientele is, same with the touristing neighborhood in the Thumming in Kathmandu. But I think what Chinese are really eyeing in terms of destinations for Chinese pilgrim tourists is Lumbini KapilVastu. Why? Because there are five sites to the life of Siddharth Gautam The Buddha and only one site is in present day Nepal, all sites are in present day India, Vishnunagar, Bodhgaya , Sarnath, whereas Lumbini the birthplace of the buddha and Kapil Vastu regarded as the hometown of the or the home base of the lord Buddha are in Nepal and international airport has just been, is about to be completed which is known as Gautam Buddha International airport, next to Lumbini. so, you can expect hundreds of thousands of Chinese pilgrim tourist visiting Nepal also because as been an interesting evolution in terms of the Chinese state looking at what is the approved religion “within China” even growing middle class will need some spiritual solace they are looking at what could it be it wont be falun gong, it wouldnt be Islam it wont be anything, and Chinese do regard Buddhisn as an indiginious religion or a faith because it arrived there early enough before it spread to the rest of Asia so we expect in the days ahead, quite an expansion of Chinese visit in Nepal.
Sushant: India and China are in the major border crisis for the past 22 months which shows little sign of resolution. Wang Yi’svisit to India just before Nepal has not moved the needle at all, on the relationship or on the border crisis. What are the various views whether dominant or not or dominant in Nepal about the crisis.
Kanak: Nepalese are only at this point they state as well as civil society are only passively reading up and looking at what is happening in Ladakh, in Galwan, and also before this what was happening on the other side in Bhutan at Dokhlam or at Arunachal. It is in Nepal’s interest, strategic interest that India and China patch up. Because one Chinese assertiveness along the Himalayas makes it problematic for Nepal as well. Because anything that makes India nervous constricts Nepal’s own way vis a vis China vis a vis India as well. The Himalayan region there is a kind of paranoia in India that has not gone away since 1962 and the debacle. So Indian policy look as the Himalaya as vulnerable space and Nepal the way they look at nepal is also because nepal is part of Himalaya and what Chinese have gone and done with there assertiveness, which is i think continuity of what they are doing from the South china sea to Ladakh is upturn the cart so to speak. And what I see looking out from Kathmandu is an Indian inability to countenance or do anything about Chinese activity. So if anything even though it is not talked about India has fallen in esteem if I may say I am choosing my words very carefully, it seems flummoxed, in my writings by the chinese assertiveness I won’t call it billigience but some may call it that but India is tongue tied to do anything about it. So that certainly will have been given without commentators really talking about it in Kathmandu. It certainly would give a sense that India is weaker today than it was in the past vis a vis China.
Sushant: Kanak moving on to the regular to all countries of South Asia, I know you have traveled Pakistan , Sri lanka, Bangladesh very very regularly besides India ofcourse. How Nepal of today is different from today’s Bangladesh or today’s Sri Lanka. And I am choosing these two countries carefully because of the similarities in size, form of a government etc etc when it comes to its foreign policies.
Kanak: Nepal is perceived by the international community including south asian communities as a kind of a basket case. And it’s always in political turmoil , it is always changing Prime Ministers. It has kind of managed a conflict but there still seems to be resolute as a society but I find it important to tell the world and to tell south asia that at this point now Nepal is the most free country of south asia , it is a place where media is most free, there is least self censorship and fundamental freedoms and human rights are the most at play. Now that is saying a lot because in my personal view india is taking a back step in even though India was an exemplar for the rest of south asia in terms of democratic values and we all want india to remain where it is as an exemplar also in terms of inter community relation, in terms of fundamental freedom democracy whatever you call it but there seems to be a sleepage in india. Regarding the other countries they are more or less at the various points of slippage. Sri Lanka with the Rajapaksa brothers having a nepotistic control over the society, Bangladesh doing economically very well, and everybody would want to emulate Bangladesh including big India, not to even talk about Nepal. But, Bangladesh has got a brittle regime governance system because it is very autocratic at this stage, and there is no opposition to peak off in Bangladesh. So in that sense, Nepal for all the little but bad press that it gets around the world, Nepal actually is the place to be right now. How Nepal could do better if only we have more political stability in democracy, not political stability in autocracy, that South Asia is doing. Nepal can be the exemplar, as a country that is a messy democracy but remains open. We need this in Nepal because when one, Nepal can only wipe tied everything from autocratic monarchy to two messy democracies and now we once again are trying messy democracy. Nepal succeeded in adopting a constitution, when one constituent assembly didn’t work, elected constituent assembly not a nominated one, another constituent assembly. There are problems in the constitution document, there are contradictions, there are some issues there but essentially it is that constitution that we can carry, and work on it over years so in that sense there is also a foundational reason that Nepal will be stable, where we have instability is in the political ambitions of individual players. Particularly a player such as Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachnada, who drags down the values of Nepali politics so low that Nepal becomes unstable. So, if we can get over this period, I believe that Nepal needs and will remain a well defined democracy by itself. But, to be there for the rest of South Asia.
Sushant: Kanak that’s a very hopeful Nepalies view Kanak. But, final question Kanak. Where does South Asia go wrong? You know going by what he spoke of Bangladesh, what is happening in Pakistan, SriLanka, ofcourse India you mentioned. Where did we in South Asia go wrong ? And, I am just not limiting SAARC, which now seems to be on the verge of extinction.
Kanak: South Asia went wrong because, all of us in each of our country allowed not nationalism or cultural nationalism to rule but ultra nationalism. That ruling elite of each country learnt to use ultra populism to promote ultra nationalism, and there are examples where the ultra nationalism also laced with religion. Pakistan taught us how to do it, certainly India seems to be following in that direction. So ultra nationalism, religion based tried arouse the populous all of this are giving us a lethal bru that separates us. The people who would want to look for social justice in the sub-continent though using the South Asia formula. Which would essentially mean bring down the rigidity of the borders, allow economy of scale to work, allow trade to happen across. South Asia trades least amongst itself. Whereas when you look at the historical evolution of South Asia we are essentially one large you could use the world civilization. It is now cut up and there is a great asymmetry because they are largest and that too in the center, that gets to define as much as the world understands of south asia. So what happened with South Asia I believe is that a good idea that we must try to bring down these barriers, but it was formulated wrong. For example, SAARC is an essential organization of eight foreign ministries, and anything that has to be promoted has to have the agreement of all eight, there is no life there, so it becomes a rigid organization. That doesn’t not mean that the visionaries, who lead us of south asia, understand that you need a SAARC like south Asian formula because it will make people richer, it will provide more social justice, there will be more local or regional government. These are the kinds of the visions, that south asia vision should have been, South Asian ontology or conceptualization. But unfortunately, South Asia to you, and me as it is presented me its a SAARC south asia which means i am a Nepali and you are an Indian, and we meet in a SAARC conclave, as a Nepali, as an Indian. Whereas, what you should be doing is south asia being unique in relation with many other parts of the world that your identity requires you to be on the one hand at the local level. You are from some shehar or some mauhaulla, you have this language and you have that faith at the interpersonal level there is that hidentity. Then you have the state. I am Indian, you are Bangladeshi, you are Srilankan, but South Asia will never be complete unless you have an additional identity that links us to our past, and that’s the term South Asia, which is a geographic term but what it means is what earlier people might say is the broader Hindustan. Now this doesn’t mean we are looking for Akhand Bharat, because it is something beyond that idea of the Akhand Bharat ideology. I feel that we have not done enough homework to make South Asia real. And, so people just think when they think South Asia they think of SAARC. When they think of SAARC they think of an ineffectual organization. We don’t really, we haven’t even begun to imagine what we have lost when we do not consider South Asia as a space for all of us. Some day with some crisis we may begin to think about that.
Sushant: Let’s hope Kanak that your vision comes true with or without a crisis. As always it was a pleasure talking to you Kanak. And, I look forward to seeing you again whether in Kathmandu or in Delhi. To all our listeners, Thank you for listening. For more information on our work follow us on twitter @CPR_India and log on to our website at www.cprindia.org.