Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ concluded his 8-day-long China visit on September 30. Prachanda went to Beijing from New York, where he arrived from Kathmandu to attend United Nations General Assembly meetings. Given the sensitivity in India-Nepal relations and how some Nepalese leaders in the past used China as a bargaining chip with India, Prachanda’s China visit was closely watched by analysts in India. Interestingly, Prachanda’s visit didn’t yield any big-ticket agreements or deals.
The most important agreement seems to be Nepal agreeing to expedite the MoUs signed in the past. Some of these MoUs are part of China’s ambitious Road and Belt Initiative. Besides, Prachanda’s China visit would be remembered for his trip to Mt Kailash and Mansarovar. His visit to these Hindu religious sites in China is seen as the next step of what he initiated during his India visit by paying a visit to Ujjain’s Mahakal temple. Almost as a strategy, Prachanda is trying to prove that he is not anti-Hindu. It is important as Nepal has witnessed Hindu-Muslim communal tension, which is very uncommon in Nepal until recently.
Marking a departure from his predecessor KP Sharma Oli’s pro-China policies, Prachanda is trying to balance the egos and interests in this region of three top world powers – the United States, China, and India. His trip to China began from New York and ended up in Kathmandu with a meeting with a top US official, a columnist wrote. Besides, Nepal has allowed US agencies to work in areas such as the Jumla district, which is close to Tibet. Overall, under Prachanda as the Nepal PM, there is a sense of balance and equilibrium in how the country deals with these three world powers and their conflicting interest.
In recent months, Nepal has witnessed communal tensions, a school teachers’ strike and a strike by doctors and medical professionals. These incidents highlight how the idyllic, laidback country is coming to terms with the changes it undergoes to transform into a modern, prosperous country. The teachers have been put under the control of local provincial governments, and they are agitating against the move. Nepal now has seven provinces with elected Assemblies. How it’s impacting the Himalayan kingdom and its administration is working is worth taking note of. The government machinery is now making its way to the rural and remote areas. There is a transformation taking place.
In the case of medical professionals going on a strike, they were protesting against the beating of doctors and medical staff of Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara by the family and friends of a patient who died during the treatment. While Nepal has been peaceful, it’s yet to be a fully rules-based country. Nepal still runs with ad hoc and informal administration. It’s yet to become a country ruled by law and constitution. So, people taking the law into their own hands is not uncommon. If we can say, the feudal mindset still runs deep. That’s something Prachanda would need to address.
We must appreciate how Kathmandu and Pokhara are emerging as intellectual centres. They have been the bedrock of the Nepali tourism industry, but now they are also being recognized as educational hubs. The university activities have grown significantly, and visiting scholars and Nepal’s pool of foreign-educated students and teachers are creating ripples in Nepal’s education scene. For example, recently, Nepal hosted a 3-day international conference on lightning. Given how lightning takes its toll both in human casualties and damaged properties, it was something of interest to people well beyond the borders of Nepal. While most of the English media missed it, Nepali language publications enthusiastically covered the event.
Surprisingly, when this columnist sent a WhatsApp message in the dead of night to the organizers asking for some updates on the event in English and went to sleep, he was surprised to find the following day that his request had elicited a reply and a handful of internet links to the events and its proceedings in the same night itself.
Kathmandu is burning the midnight oil. It’s coming up on education and holding workshops and seminars with the same energy as India is losing on these fronts. Interestingly, Nepal exports cheap labour and attracts educated people and professionals in different fields. With its virtually collapsed university education, with no seminars and workshops happening anywhere, India is now a giant laboratory of human engineering. As this continues, India will not need China to pip it; Nepal can do it with a smile. (IPA Service)