By Jyoti Dhakal, KATHMANDU:- At a time when unnecessary controversy is being created by some non-nationalist forces of Nepal against the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project – a purely development assistance of the US for Nepal – sometimes it is better to take a lesson from the history, when Nepal’s diplomatic ties with the US and Great Britain protected Nepal from the aggressive expansionism of Jawahar Lal Nehru of India and Mao Zedong of China.
When Nepal was (and is) in a position to have friendly diplomatic relations, agreements and treaties with the then global powers of Great Britain and the United States of America, India and China were still in deep slumber. When Nepal was (and is) a sovereign state, India was a colony of Britain and China was a colony of Japan and several other countries.
As a sovereign state, Nepal signed the Treaty of Sugauli with Britain in 1816 and the Nepal-Britain Treaty of 1923. In 1947, Nepal signed the Treaty of Friendship and diplomatic relations with the United States. These three treaties and in particular, the treaties of 1923 and 1947 were the milestones achieved in Nepal’s foreign relations sphere – much ahead of India and China – who were then struggling just to be called as the sovereign states.
India’s former masters – the British – were Nepal’s equal friends bind by treaties and mutual assistance. Nepal sent its military troops to India to help the Brits suppress the Indian Rebellion of 1857-59. Nepal provided its army men to Britain and the allied forces to fight for them and ensure victory in the First World War (1914-18) and the Second World War (1939-45).
Immediately after getting freedom from Britain, Indian leadership had a Herculean task to assemble more than 600 principalities and states into one single country. The then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and his Deputy PM Ballav Bhai Patel went on for this mission with a “by hook or by crook” attitude and managed to assimilate them all into one single country of India. In this course, they had a bad motive for Nepal, as per which, they wanted to take over Nepal as well. But, because of the two treaties Nepal had already signed with Britain and the US as a sovereign state, and as Nepal was already having foreign relations beyond India and China, these attempts of Nehru and Patel proved to be badly futile.
In China, as Japan gave up its colony after a defeat in the Second World War and as China claimed back its territories, the Community Party of China led by the rebellion forces of Mao Zedong ultimately took over the vast land of China. Even after getting a massive land under the Communist Party’s control, Mao used to say there are “five fingers” of peripheral territories that China needs to get back under its expansionist policy. The “five fingers” that Mao referred to as were: Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. Mao ultimately succeeded in taking over Tibet, while India succeeded in taking over Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Bhutan had to compromise on its foreign relations with India, while Nepal was the only state that practiced sovereignty and foreign relations beyond the geography of India and China. And that’s why, China could not take over Nepal and failed just like India.
The treaty of friendship that Nepal signed with Britain and the US washed away India and China’s motive to under-estimate Nepal’s sovereignty and helped Nepal stand as a sovereign and independent country – as it was always – throughout the modern history of humans. These all circumstances led India sign a treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal in 1950 and compelled China sign a similar treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal in 1960.
If the history of Nepal vis-à-vis its foreign relations is anything to go by, then it vindicates that Nepal’s diplomatic ties with the US and Britain saved Nepal from the expansionist policies of the Nehruvian India and the Maoist China.
Today, some non-nationalist forces of Nepal, who want to weaken this balance of power that Nepal is historically maintaining vis-à-vis its immediate neighbors India and China by cooperating with the US and Britain simultaneously, are protesting against the MCC Project in Nepal.
The US was the first country that extended economic and technical assistance to Nepal especially under the Regional Transport Organization (RTO) Project back in the 1950s. Since then, the US has spent millions of dollars in various development projects of Nepal. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, in which the US and Britain own a large chunk of investments, have approved and implemented a number of development projects for Nepal.
As Nepal’s economy is dwindling due to a sharp decline in remittance, lack of industrial and business activities and a large number of unemployed youths – all of them triggered mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis – Nepal needs not just one single MCC project, but tens of MCC projects that can rejuvenate Nepal’s economy, which is really in a bad shape now.
Owing to Nepal’s position as a buffer state between India and China, it is natural that this very fact attracts the attention of all the global players, including Germany, France, Russia, Japan, US, UK and many more. Nepal has to be able to take an economic advantage from all the countries, while aligning with none for a military purpose. In this regard, MCC can be a good opportunity for Nepal to inject some significant amount money in its ailing economy as well as take Nepal’s long-time development partners into confidence.
This is high-time everybody should be aware of those people, who are hell bent to prove that MCC is a controversial project and that it is not in the national interest of Nepal. It is an open secret that China played a key role in unifying two rival communist parties of Nepal – CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist). As a result of the Chinese maneuvering, the two parties contested the general election as a single party under the banner name of “Nepal Communist Party” (NCP) and secured two-third majority in the parliament, forming a government of their own, too.
Even on the matter of MCC Project, a faction of ultra-lefts within NCP including Prachanda, Jhalanath Khanal and Bhim Rawal, among others, are protesting almost on a frequent basis. For the ultra-lefts of Nepal, serving the Chinese interests looks more attractive to them than serving Nepal’s balance of power equation vis-à-vis its foreign relations.
There are data hacking incidents hatching inside the compounds of the North Korean Embassy in Kathmandu. The Chinese Embassy distributes money to Nepalese journalists to write against the MCC and offers them attractive trips to China. The Chinese Embassy even “purchases” the protesters by bribing them with money and bringing them to the street against the US and the MCC project. But very few of the journalists write on these issues, which are actually less important issues for the big wigs of Nepal.
India builds a road in Nepal’s territory in Darchula district that includes Lipulekh, Limpiadhura and Kalapani. But the Chinese government supports this initiative because China and India have a game plane in Nepal, under which they conspire for a change of government that stands against the US’s MCC project. China and India view the MCC as a US presence in Nepal that may curtail their influence in the Nepalese politics.
Owing to these various factors, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, very much aware about the game plan of India and China, wants to strike a right balance of power by ensuring that the MCC project gets implemented in Nepal without hindrance. However, as PM Oli himself is vulnerable for falling into a minority group within his party, an uphill task lies ahead for him to get the MCC project endorsed by his party as well as the parliament.
Even when the motive of the non-nationalist forces of Nepal – both from the far left and the far right groups – is to serve their vested interests ignoring the national interests of Nepal, it is nobody’s secret that they want to see the MCC project as a failure, just like they conspired decades ago to fail Arun III, a World Bank initiated hydro power project in Nepal.
The onus now lies on every nationalist citizen of Nepal to thwart any ill effort and motive targeted against the MCC and save this project from becoming a fiasco in a similar fashion to the Arun III project.
To strike a right balance of foreign relations with India and China, Nepal needs to embrace the friendships of the US and Britain, too, but only for the non-military purposes of the mutual cooperation.
If an issue of a military purpose or alliance arises, then it is pretty clear for everybody that Nepal is – by nature – a non-aligned country and is obliged to maintain its non-aligned nature.
And if the opponents of the MCC call this project a project with a military intention, then their ridiculous claims are actually nothing, but just an ill effort to hide the truth under the broad daylights and spread the propaganda of falsehood for a public consumption.
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