We don’t as yet have a designated Economic Czar of the country but, if an opinion poll is to be conducted, the current Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat will surely emerge as a clear choice. Mahat has commanded the all-powerful Ministry of Finance, off and on, for over two decades, with absolute control of nation’s finances and its economic fortune. Additionally, since he has been an emissary of the nation’s most popular and reputable Congress party, Mahat was able to persuade foreign donors and financiers to back his efforts.
Given such an exotic background, the nation expected an exemplary performance from Mahat when he assumed the reins of Ministry of Finance of a super-majority government.
“Keeping young girls and women away from their home during their menstruation (chhaupadi) is violence against women”. This sentence has been repeated many times by many community-based organizations working to reduce and eliminate this practice in the Far-west and Mid-west Nepal. But the practice has not abated.
In Achham district, I talked to some young women about the rituals of chhaupadi practice and the restrictions imposed on women during their periods. They said, “During their monthly period girls and women are not allowed to walk on the same path as others, to enter their own house (even the garden), or to take a shower in their house. They are forced to clean themselves in rivers. They are not allowed a bucket of hot water to clean themselves even in winter. They are not supposed to walk on the main paths and need to be careful of their steps. This is all because of the superstition that minor deities living in rocks and stones may get angry if a menstruating girl touches them.”
On August 1, 1927, the first shot was fired against the darkness hovering over Old China by the Chinese Red Army, an army of the people, founded and led by the Communist Party of China (CPC). Seven years later the Red Army took the first stride on the Long March, leading to the great turning point in the modern Chinese history after 12,500 km of hardship and battles.
Sixty-five years ago, on October 1, 1949, the New China was founded, opening a new page for the Chinese nation. Fifteen years ago on December 31, 1999, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops assumed defense responsibility of Macau, when the last piece of Chinese territory ruled by a foreign power was finally returned to China opening a new page in the history of modern China.
Appearance is everything in international diplomacy. The inequality of the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship was as such established even before it was signed. For signing on Nepal’s behalf would be its prime minister (Mohan Sumsher Jang Bahadur Rana) while on India’s behalf the task had been delegated to its ambassador to Nepal, Chandreshwor Narayan Singh. The symbolism has never been lost on Nepalis. What also rankles is that the treaty was signed by an autocratic head of the government who could not in any way be seen as a representative of Nepali people. This line of argument has been at its strongest after the 2008 overthrow of monarchy and bestowing of complete sovereignty on Nepali people. There has subsequently been a strong demand for substantive revisions of the 1950 treaty; the ultra left wants it ditched altogether. More recent bilateral agreements on sharing benefits of water resources for irrigation and power have also come under the scanner, as they, rightly or wrongly, came to be seen as perpetuation of the ‘unequal’ 1950 treaty.
These days the media is rife with reports, interviews and panel discussions on the proposed power trade agreement between Nepal and India. In keeping with normal practice, drafts have been exchanged between the two countries and negotiations are underway. Since the Indian Prime Minister is planning to visit Nepal in the near future these negotiations have gained added momentum; so much so that the possible signing of a power deal during Narendra Modi’s visit has been projected as a start of a new era of relationship between the two countries. The Indian PM is said to have first signaled this change of era by inviting South Asian heads to his swearing-in.
Unfortunately, a long deficit of trust between Nepal and India has cast shadow on this seemingly new shift in Indian diplomacy. Following its leakage to the press, the proposed Indian draft agreement on power trade has evoked a commotion in the Nepali public life. The backdrop of the controversy over the draft is primarily based on two-pronged distrust: first among Nepalis themselves and second between India and Nepal. This distrust has its genesis on the inept handling of Indian foreign policy vis-à-vis Nepal. With the country entering a republican era, relation between India and Nepal has degraded from State-to-State level to the level of faceless apparatus of Indian bureaucracy and power aspirant politicians of Nepal.