‘Give Us a Train, Mr President’

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‘Give Us a Train, Mr President’


This time Tihar followed Dashain in no time. In years gone by it would come at least two weeks later. Almost the day after Dashain, colourful flowers blossomed on the roads of Kathmandu. It seemed Tihar had come to the country along with Chinese President Xi Jinping who visited Nepal recently. But the festive mood lasted for only two days as it was just a two-day visit! It was as if Tihar was suddenly over and the people didn’t even get the chance to play Deusi. Because by the third day, the flowers on the roads had either dried out or had been returned to the nurseries from where they had been rented! This was the ‘country’s Tihar’. However, as these lines are being typed, there are still a few days to go before the ‘people’s Tihar’ comes.

There is a fine difference between the ‘country’s Tihar’ and the ‘people’s Tihar’. In the people’s Tihar, people visit the homes of others and sing, dance, play Deusi while asking for this or that. But to play Deusi in the country’s version of Tihar, the government had to invite the head of state of a foreign country to its own country. And that’s why, following custom, the Nepal government presented a long list of demands to China.

Xi, on his part, gave a lot to Nepal. It’s the people who, without knowing the whole story, complained that Xi returned with the pledge to give just 56 billion rupees to Nepal. But the fact is Xi gave a lot more than that. For example he gave the ruling NCP leaders the free advice that they should not just think about filling their own bellies but should also give a thought to the people. He gave them the mantra to rule the country – deliver on the promises made to the people. He gave them the advice that they should focus on good governance and keep the party and the country safe from the corrupt. He also gave the commitment to help Nepal in matters of law. Moreover, he gave Nepal the permission to open a consulate in Chengdu, China. Similarly, he gave promise that he will give Nepal connectivity. Maybe he will. Likewise, he has said he will give BRI projects to Nepal, though in the form of loans. Maybe he would have given Nepal much more if it had agreed on the repatriation deal!

Not only that, China will now give Nepal facility to export citric fruits. Now we will be able to export such fruits to China even if we have to import them from India first! Moreover, Xi said China will give Nepal the world’s longest tunnel. He also said China will open a Confucius centre in Nepal. Now don’t be confused about the outcome of opening such a centre in the country!  

Xi couldn’t meet the Madhesi leaders so there was nothing to give there. The Madhesi leaders didn’t get to meet Xi maybe because there is no culture of playing Deusi-Bhailo during Tihar in Madhes or maybe because they are used to asking India for anything and everything or maybe they didn’t try that much to meet him thinking he wouldn’t give them anything! Xi would certainly have given them something if they had met him. No surprise now if the Madhesi leaders start going around singing - “Everything for the hill people, nothing for us.”   

In the past too, China gave a lot to Nepal. Industries worth hundreds of billions of rupees such as Gorakhkali Rubber Industry, Bansbari Leather Industry, Bhrikuti Pulp and Paper Industry, Hetauda Clothes Industry, Himal Cement Industry, Trolley Bus Service, Butwal Yarn Industry, Harisiddhi Brick Industry etc were started in Nepal with Chinese grants. Now don't ask were these are and how they are! This time, besides giving several other things, Xi also gave a warning – “China will break the bones of those trying to disintegrate it.” It is still a mystery, however, why Xi chose his Nepal visit to give this warning.  

Nepal, too, gave Xi whatever it had. For example, Nepalis bunked offices and schools and queued up at roadsides to welcome Xi. Madam President threw (gave) a dinner reception in honour of Xi. The Hotel Soaltee where Xi stayed gave him a Nepali menu. When Xi was returning, Nepal’s who’s who gathered at the airport to give him a massive send off. The kind of farewell that the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, National Assembly Chairman, President’s daughter etc gave Xi at the airport was unique and worth remembering.  In the past too Nepal gave Bhrikuti and Araniko to China. And this time Nepal made it a lot easier for Chinese President Xi by not raising the issue of Lipulek during his visit. Nepal has already given China some projects of national pride. It gave Budhigandaki twice to China. And it will keep giving other projects too. The signs of that have already been seen. What more is there to give?

But though the Nepalis gave this much to China, Xi gave no ‘surprise package’ to Nepal. Most glaringly, he did not give Nepal any trains. It needs to be investigated why the Chinese president did not attach any priority to building a railway track connecting Nepal and China despite being aware that it is one of the dream projects of PM Oli. So Nepal should send a team to play Deusi in Beijing this coming people's Tihar or some time after that.This team should be led by Deuba who Xi has already invited to visit China. If there is this fear that Xi won’t understand the Deusi recitations by Deuba, then people at the Nepali Embassy in Beijing and the consulates in China should be sent to Xi’s residence to play Deusi, singing in clear tones “Give us a train Mr President, give us a train”. If Nepal does that, how could Xi not give Nepal a train or two?

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