Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recent Developments in Nepal: The Way Forward

Seminar on
Recent Developments in Nepal: The Way Forward

(January 6, 2011)

Inaugural Session
Welcome Speech by Director Mr. Ajit Doval
Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, Your Excellency, the Ambassador of Nepal to India, Shri C.D. Sahay, dignitaries, distinguished scholars, ladies and gentleman; it is indeed my great pleasure to welcome you all to Vivekananda International Foundation. This non-partisan and independent Foundation, aims at studying, analyzing and researching events and issues that have a bearing on India’s national interests, the interests of our neighbourhood, global peace and harmony. The Foundation particularly focuses on issues of strategic and security interests, foreign policy issues and matters pertaining to economy, governance and civilisational studies. We are so grateful that all of you have been able to spare your very valuable time and have come here despite your busy commitments.
We are delighted that we are starting the New Year with this dialogue on Nepal and I take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy and successful 2011. I hope that the New Year brings greater prosperity and happiness to the people of the two countries and promotes better understanding and cooperation between them. Starting the New Year with a discourse on Nepal is probably the most rightful thing to happen. We enjoy a very special mutual relationship – a relationship built on strong fundamentals whose constants are something that have remained and are going to remain with us irrespective of ups and downs of politics and short term perceptional variations. In this very unique relationship, we cannot overlook or overstate realities of our geographical proximity, civilisational and historical links, close people to people contacts and our intertwined interests of security and stability.
We are aware that Nepal in its process of political evolution, is undergoing a period of momentous change and transformation and we earnestly hope that a great future is in the offing for her. The process of change can, at times, be ridden with uncertainty and in any major and fundamental process of change there are bound to be twists and turns, problems and challenges galore, but given the will and determination they are not insurmountable. I have no doubt that at the end of the tunnel there is a mighty light of hope, stability and progress awaiting the people of Nepal. But, there is one point, however, that I would like to underline. It is a point that transcends governments and events that tend to blur our vision and obfuscate issues – it is the reality of huge goodwill of the people of India and its civil society for the people of Nepal and vice versa that provides a solid bedrock to our unique relationship which has perhaps few parallels in the world. We can build on this strength to help each other, particularly in trying times like the present ones.
I would like to underline that in these difficult times, the need for this people-to-people relationship assumes special significance. It is important therefore that thinkers, intellectuals and opinion builders converge and try to discover or evolve ways and means by which the problems could be better comprehended and analysed and result in their communicating to the civil society views and perceptions that are informed, well analysed and done with a greater sense of objectivity and responsibility. In Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) we highly value this necessity of an informed dialogue to help resolve contentious issues. Probably, the people of India feel as much troubled as the people of Nepal if situations and events do not develop the way they ought to, lose their envisaged trajectories or lead to sufferings and hardships to common people. And I do feel that the common man in Nepal also feels the same way about India. Such an empathetic relationship imposes a certain responsibility on the intellectuals, opinion makers and thought leaders on both sides of our borders. Such a sense of responsibility gives rise to the question, what can we really do to contribute towards resolving the problems, ending uncertainties and strengthening the forces of peace and stability. The VIF initiative to hold this seminar stems from this sentiment. It is premised on the assumption that ultimately the resilience of the civil society, civilisational values and will and determination of its people dictate the traction of any nation’s future, and Nepal is inherently strong on these basics.
The last few years have been seeing history in the making in Nepal and the landmark was reached in May 2008 when it became a republic. But it is not only Nepal becoming a republic that was important, that was indeed a historic watershed, but there was something much more significant and they were the offshoots of that epochal event. Firstly, it ignited the hopes and aspirations of all sections of the people who felt that a new Nepal in the offing promised a great future for them and their progeny. The second important factor was that it created the building blocks for the reconstruction of Nepal. These cardinal building blocks were conflict resolution through dialogue, harmonizing diverse views and interests and promoting understanding. It was, in essence, the acceptance of democracy and political pluralism as the guiding principles of the new Nepal. The third was a unanimous faith in constitutionalism as the basis on which it decided to traverse it journey ahead.
It is unfortunate that today some of the hopes and expectations have been belied. The euphoria has subsided and has started showing signs of despair. The cause of concern is not that some of the deadlines have not been met; they are not consequential by themselves but rather what is consequential is something much more important and subtle and it is that the building blocks on which the future was to rest have been lost somewhere on the way. The faith and trust in them have started getting eroded. The intensions and integrity of the actors who brought about the change have started being questioned. The spirit of common purpose is probably not as intense now as it was earlier. The challenge before Nepal and all those who wish it well is how best to reverse the trend.
Where does the future lie? The future lies in rediscovering these lost building blocks. Placing them back on track and providing the process with the traction with which it had initially begun. If we can find the right answers to the causes of derailment and how to rectify them we would have solved half the problem. The goal will always remain elusive in case we, either by default or design, advance and believe in wrong causes or extend spurious excuses for narrow political gains. The danger of seeing the problem where it does not exist and of ignoring where it really does compounds the vulnerability manifold. The ghost of external conspiracy for internal failings may be both a shortsighted strategy and bad tactics.
We in the Foundation very strongly believe that all solutions to Nepal’s present day problems lie within Nepal – with its people, its leadership, its political parties and its intellectuals. People in India, thinkers, intellectuals as well the common man strongly feel that Nepal must get out of the existing morass as fast as it can and the capacity to do this rests only with people of Nepal. India as a friend can at best facilitate the process.
In this seminar we are only trying to provide a platform where all shades of opinion holders in Nepal can interact freely and candidly and have a better appreciation of each other’s view points. Sharing of their perceptions by Indian scholars may highlight some new aspects enriching the discourse. The holistic broad spectrum awareness may help appreciate each other’s point of view better facilitating the process of conflict identification and resolution. During the deliberations here, can we move a step forward in identifying the real problems and the bottle necks, evaluate the grave costs and consequences of continued instability and understand implications for Nepal of failure of democracy and absence of constitutionalism? If we do we will consider this seminar a success.
I once again welcome all of you to discuss these issues confronting Nepal. We have gathered here some of the best brains and informed people about Nepal - people with great experience and best of intentions. We do hope that after two days of interactions and exchange of ideas, we should be able to find the ways and means by which the stalled political process could gain a new lease and direction. I would like to reiterate that the people of India have a tremendous amount of goodwill for Nepal and are ever eager to hear any good news emanating from there.
I express my profound gratitude to all of you once again and particularly to the honourable Deputy Prime Minister who, despite her extremely busy engagements, has agreed to grace the occasion and participate in the seminar. With these words, I request her to deliver the inaugural address.