By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 23 April 2020) – Actions speak louder than words. What you do is more important and shows your intentions and feelings more clearly than what you say. In the fight against COVID-19, the government has whole-heartedly thrown itself into action. Consequently, coronavirus is in second stage with limited local transmission. Four corona patients, including a 65-year-old woman from Baglung have been discharged from hospital after recovery. Therefore, we should just be aware of the pandemic but there is no need to panic. Frontline personnel especially doctors, security personnel and concerned government officers, are working tirelessly to save the lives of the people with the limited resources.
But a fringe section of politicians and intelligentsias blame the government is not properly handling the pandemic. It seems there is sheer bias and prejudice towards the establishment. The fight against coronavirus is not a romantic movement; it is gigantic crisis that poses a threat to human civilisation. Some can be emotional and deliver their rhetoric against the government but mere sentimentalism and populist tendency does not work. This is the moment to get tough as the life of many people is at high risk.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has resolutely been leading the nation in the battle against the virus that is an invisible enemy, which can be defeated only with the joint collaboration of all people. ”This is not the interest of the government; it is the question of the safety of people. It would be better to continue lockdown than to allow the deadly virus to infect more people and kill them” Prime Minister Oli said in a recent interview with The Rising Nepal. This shows a sense of urgency and greater responsibility on the part of the highest executive of the country.
This article will not get engrossed in futile debates intended to defame the government’s efficient measures taken against the coronavirus. Rather, it is focused on the government’s coordinated and balanced approach to deal with the neighbours and friendly nations in the present context.
When some major powers such as the USA, the UK and India have been battling the pandemic, discourses have also been made about the likely scenario of global order. Most thinkers and strategic analysts have sketched the strip map of potential world order, alliances and axis with a shared view that China will have the dominant role in future world. They have similar viewpoint that the world order is shifting towards East from West. China and India will have greater role in reshaping global order. Nepal, situated between the two powers, will have to play significant role to transform the potential challenges into enormous opportunity.
Prime Minister Oli and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali have constantly been holding talks with their counterparts of neighbours and other nations. China has succeeded in controlling the pandemic in about three months and India has been efficiently fighting the deadly virus though it is still in risk zone. President Bidya Devi Bhandari, as a guardian and custodian of the country, has been taking briefings from the ambassadors of Nepali’s foreign missions about the situation of Nepalis residing abroad.
Prime Minister Oli talked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone and exchanged verbal and written messages with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, expressing support and solidarity in fight against the pandemic. Prime Minister Modi on 14 April extended the lockdown in India until 3rd May. Nepal’s government has also extended the lockdown until 27 April bearing in mind the nature of virus that respects no border. Prime Minister Oli has clearly said: “We must not talk about opening the border without assessing the situation in India.”
Minister Gyawali on 13 April held telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi and requested for the facilitation for purchasing medical equipment from China. Chinese State Councillor Wang assured that required medical goods would be supplied to Nepal. Both the Ministers agreed that the bilateral relations would be brought to newer heights during their tenure. According to the commitment made by Minister Wang, Nepal Army Tuesday inked an agreement with China Sino-farm International Corporation for the procurement of medical supplies.
Similarly, Minister Gyawali is in constant touch with his Indian counterpart S. Jayshankar for fighting against the pandemic. India has been continuously supplying essential goods to Nepal even during the lockdown and expressed commitment to send even necessary medicines. Prime Minister Modi demonstrated the regional leadership and called for unity among the SAARC member states. His idea of setting up an emergency fund was instantly approved by other SAARC member states during the recent video conference among the SAARC’s leaders. Similarly, President Xi showed the global leadership, offering humanitarian support to the pandemic-hit countries including the USA.
Indian and Chinese ambassadors to Nepal have been active to facilitate all the process for supplying essential goods and medicines. In Nepal’s history of neighbourhood relations, such opportune environment never came before. It has been possible due to the balanced foreign policy of Prime Minister Oli. The continuous high-level interaction of Prime Minister Oli with the executive heads of south and north is the result of this balanced neighbourhood approach. Nepal needs to be engaged with both India and China not just to curb the virus but also to improve the devastated economy.
Showing concerns about the Nepalis living in many parts of the world, especially in Gulf countries, the government has been raising the issue with senior officials of these countries. It has been functioned through three-tier mechanism – Prime Minister, Minister and senior officials of the concerned countries. Nepal government has a policy to stop all Nepalis where they are until the situation comes under control. Nepal has no other option but to halt their movements wherever they live. It is almost impossible to bring them back home safely since the world is almost in lockdown.
Prime Minister Oli, Minister Gyawali and Labour Minister Rameshwor Ray Yadav have been inquiring about the conditions of Nepalis living abroad, urging their counterparts to take care of Nepalis facing difficulty. Prime Minister Oli talked to the Indian Prime Minister and Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates regarding the safety of Nepali nationals there. He also talked to senior officials of Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The government cannot bring back Nepali citizens to the country during the worsening situation. In Nepal’s request, they have assured that Nepali citizens will receive equal treatment as their own. The Nepali ambassadors stationed in the Gulf countries and Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) are putting their best foot forward so that no Nepali suffer from medical and financial problem in the alien lands.
In nutshell, Nepal government’s right approach in right time has brought favourable results, which amply justifies the very saying – deeds are more important than words.
This article first appeared in The Rising Nepal.