By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 10 January 2021) – Nepali politics today stands at the crossroads. It is passing through various twists and turns, with some forces trying to move its course for fulfilling petty and parochial interests. Since politics is a game of possibilities, the personal exchange of extreme hatred and prejudice might take a U-turn owing to the hot-tempered politicians and tricky situation.
No matter whatever pans out, the Nepali political leaders should not forget to maintain unity over the issue of national interest and foreign policy. When a leader invites the neighbours and external elements to intervene in the domestic affairs of his country for personal and vested interest, s/he can be labelled as conspirator. Such anti-national move should be denounced in the strongest terms.
Strong political unity is needed to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity and uphold the Nepali identity, which Nepal’s founder King Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723-1775) had bequeathed to us. As the National Unity Day is approaching, King Prithvi Narayan Shah is being remembered vividly with pride and honour. Perhaps he is the most revered name for the nation and Nepali people. An architect of modern Nepal, PN Shah unified the country divided into dozens of principalities. He was the last ruler of the Gorkha Kingdom and first monarch of the Kingdom of Nepal. We respect him as father of nation for he gave us national identity though the country has not formally recognised him with this title.
While holding a press conference, actress Manisha Koirala, accompanying other personalities on 5 January announced programmes to mark the national unity day and birthday of Nepal’s unifier. People of all walks of life now feel pride to pronounce the name of PN Shah despite the fact that monarchy has already been abolished, which was dismissed as the symbol of feudalism. As history is being revisited, there has been wider acceptance of Prithvi Narayan Shah.
Similarly, Nepal Army on 5 January started unification march from Gorkha that will follow the unification trail en route to Kathmandu. The NA has taken right move with an aim of preserving Nepali history and igniting a feeling of unity among all Nepalis. The unification of Nepali states was crucial to ensure the continued survival of the ancient country as the East India Company was swallowing up divided Indian states one after another by setting up their base in Bengal. Had King PN Shah not launched that unification campaign, Nepal would have not been in today’s status and shape.
If we respect history and national heroes, we will be inspired to move forward with a broad vision and deeds. Therefore, even today, when we hold discourse on geopolitics, foreign policy and defence strategies, we mention the policies of PN Shah. Even the ex-Maoist rebels, who were involved in smashing the legacy of PN Shah is now following him. This is a manifestation of collective ownership of the glorious Nepali history.
The geopolitical understanding of PN Shah some 250 years ago is still relevant although major structural and political changes have taken place all over the world, including the neighbourhood. King PN Shah defined Nepali state as a ‘yam between two boulders,’ referring to China on the north and India on the south, and suggested that Nepal should always maintain a good friendship with China and British India but he asked to maintain caution against shrewd British rulers.
India and China have changed fundamentally over the years. There no longer exist British rulers and Chinese emperors. China is the world’s second largest economy while India ranks sixth. India and China are the two major driving forces to transform 21st century into the Asian century. If both unite, Asian Century is not far to achieve. Nepal became democratically and culturally advanced state and it has carved its niche in the global diplomacy. Nepal has shown her way towards peace by bringing the party of bullet to the path of ballet after 10-years long fierce and violent insurgency. Nepal’s fundamental peace process is unique to the world.
Whatever the changes seen in the current world, the geopolitical importance of Nepal has not been lesser. Practically, there have been the adversity and comfort to conduct the neighbourhood relations since it also depends upon the political establishment and leadership. But, Nepal has not deviated from its foreign policy of maintaining balance if we examine it thoroughly. Not only in the part of geopolitical understanding and dealing with the neighbours, had King PN Shah also showed us the way to be independent and strong enough to fight against the internal enemies and quislings.
King PN Shah was of the idea that if foreign traders enter Nepal then they will suck the country dry. He, therefore, suggested boycotting wearing foreign clothes and promoting training of the local people to weave local clothes. He also wanted the money to remain inside the country. Now, this doesn’t sound new today. But imagine how strategic and far-sighted he was. He realised the importance of self-rule and independence of citizens. In India, 200 years later, Mahatma Gandhi, launched this self-rule movement.
Nepal has adopted a balanced foreign policy. If Nepal loses balance, it might lose the prospect of development. Nepal is looking to the support of neighbours to build infrastructures. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been in a mission not only to protect the moves of national unifier, but also to build partnership with the neighbours for making Nepal developed and prosperous.
PM Oli knows unity is strength. This unity was demonstrated in parliament when the government issued a new map of Nepal. The House passed it to insert into national emblem. The Prime Minister is again appealing to people throughout the country to unify for national interest. At a time when the mid-term poll is announced, national strength should be focused to make it happen. The Prime Minister is reiterating that national problems should be resolved domestically. Let’s honour history and move ahead with the achievement we made.