No sooner had the US announced USD 500 million in grants to Nepal under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement, than the Nepalis divided into two sides and started hissing and growling at each other. With one side saying, “MCC is an attack on the country’s dignity.” And the other claiming, “MCC is our way to prosperity.” I say both are right. After all these years of planned development, if the country is still in a situation where it needs such an amount like USD 500 million, then any sense of dignity that the country had has probably gone out the window anyway. But if an amount as small as this in aid can open the doors of hydropower development in the country, then this is certainly going to bring about prosperity in the country. Why the need to quarrel then?
This government failed to notice the flight of an unauthorised Indian military aircraft over the Nepali sky in broad daylight about two months ago. How could such a government then know about the fate of a Nepali youth who went missing in the Mahakali River after the Indian border security forces cut the cables of an improvised cable-crossing he was using to cross the river? After widespread protests, the government formed a probe committee just for formality's sake. It also sent a diplomatic note to India. No one knows how much that note was really worth! However, the government did nothing more than that. It could do no more than that, otherwise putting at risk its own existence? Nevertheless, these days, especially after the MCC saga and the cable-crossing incident, a lot of people have started saying that Nepal’s sovereignty is at risk. Many people say the influence of the ‘foreign hands’ has been on the rise in the country. The present ruling alliance, too, used to say this until it eventually rose to power! Does this mean Nepal has started bowing down to foreigners? Or the government has failed to implement the country’s foreign policy? Or everyone has started bullying Nepal? The government which was quick to form a committee to investigate if China has encroached upon Nepali land along the northern borders has kept mum on the incidents of India encroaching upon Nepali territories for years!
But again, there are many other issues more important than border encroachment and cable-crossings at hand for the government. For example, it has to get the MCC passed, it has to beat the opposition, and it has to feed its cronies delicious treats. Who cares about foreign military aircraft or cable-crossings, when such important issues are at stake? How are we, the general public, supposed to understand the priorities of the government which says one thing and does the other? What’s more, how are we supposed to know what work our government is doing and what work is being done under foreign orders?
It has become increasingly difficult to separate what is and what isn't foreign meddling in our country's domestic affairs lately. Is the report of a party leadership battle in the media instigated by a foreign hand or not? Similarly, if a financial scam is exposed at a ministry or government department, whose hand is in it? Who is providing the information to the media? A person who didn't get his/her share of the cut or somebody else? Is s/he a Nepali or a foreign agent?
Are foreign powers at play even when an inmate escapes from a local prison? Who is responsible for leaking the question papers of an exam? Such astonishing incidents keep taking place in politics, too. For example, if a powerful hand in the ruling party’s high command decides to favour an ordinary person, that ordinary person climbs up the political ladder, like in the game of snakes and ladders, and at once becomes a powerful minister or the chief of a constitutional body or gets a juicy government job. And again, even powerful people like province chiefs, chief ministers or ministers find themselves on the street if the same hand pushes them down. Then they're not even given the time of day.
If it is the case, then what do these invisible foreign hands do in Nepal?
It's said that unseen foreign hands are at play when it comes to forming or toppling governments in Nepal. Likewise, foreign hands are deciding who gets the contracts of big projects. Similarly, foreign hands are responsible when there is an outbreak of an unknown pandemic in the country, leaving the government helpless. If that's the case, then foreign hands are also why corruption is growing and prices are rising in the country. If the situation gets out of hand for the rulers of the country, then we can agree that there is a foreign hand behind it!
Such is the case that people are starting to see the invisible foreign hands even behind the government’s failure to meet the revenue target or flag off the Janakpur-Jaynagar train! And they are not wrong. Because, when imports of foreign goods decrease, the government cannot meet its revenue target. In the same way, there is invariably a foreign hand behind the lack of job opportunities. When foreigners don’t take Nepali workers, job opportunities decline naturally. In the same way, the foreign hands are responsible when trees, herbs and animals disappear from our forests. The situation is such that many have already started blaming the foreign hands behind the support for or protest against our festivals!
Thus, what will happen to the country’s future if a foreign hand is behind every incident, big or small? And what will happen to the home-grown 'hands'? Are these hands more dangerous than the foreign hands? These hands may not be any less dangerous than the foreign hands. We may be making a big mistake if we do not take them seriously. Moreover, what will happen if they and the much-dreaded foreign hands are both hand in glove, so to speak? Many say that such a situation has already been created. Then, what to do?