Prime Minister KP Oli is criticised and even ridiculed for the myriad dreams he has been spreading about the country’s future. However, some have appreciated it because the leader has to stir optimism among the people about the future and Oli’s statements have achieved that. The entire country is now discussing the practicality of these dreams. You can ridicule and criticise Oli for these dreams but you cannot ignore them. And the discussions are not limited to just our borders. Lots of discussions are taking place in India too because if Nepal actually embarks on taking concrete steps to realise those dreams, the effects will spill over to India as well.
As a matter of fact, none of the Oli dreams are impossible to realise. Some may take longer, but some others can be realised in the near future.
Take for example the dream to have ships under the Nepali flag plying on the high seas. It is quite a practical proposition as there is no restriction in international law that prohibits a landlocked country from having its flag fluttering on the ships that sail across the international waters. While landlocked Switzerland headquarters of some of the biggest shipping companies of the world, even Mongolia has about 300 ships in its official registry. Nepal can do the same. It requires some laws for which the template can be lifted from the countries which already have such laws.
And one advantage of having Nepal’s own shipping registry is that it can be a good source of government revenue if properly executed.
But if the Nepal shipping registry and the laws that govern it have loopholes that can be exploited by unscrupulous elements or the regulatory system is not strong enough, the Nepal flag will be a mere ‘flag of convenience’, highly criticized across the world for various reasons and there is a risk of international convention being finalised to completely ban this practice. However, if the regulation is strong and the Nepali shipping companies become as professional as those in Switzerland, it will add to the country’s prestige.
Another aspect of the dream about ships with the Nepali flag is bringing a ship deep into the interior of the country from the high seas. For example, ships plying from the Indian Ocean to Chatara of the Koshi river or Galchhi of the Trishuli river. Or ships plying up and down the Nepali rivers within Nepali territory. Even these are possible propositions, but not economically viable as of now and not even in the near future as it will require lots of preparations. River Ganges which is the only option to connect Nepali rivers to Indian Ocean is not like the river Rhine which connects the port of Basel in Switzerland with the Rotterdam port on the cost of the Netherlands. Navigation up and down the Rhine is regulated by international treaty which makes the Rhine accessible for all the countries that are parties to the treaty. But there is no such treaty on the Ganges with Nepal as one of the parties. Getting such a treaty looks impossible in the present circumstances and ironically the reason is the Oli dream which has come about in retaliation to India’s recent policies towards Nepal. Even the second possibility of ships plying up and down the Nepali river within the Nepali territory is a distant dream as it requires a lot of infrastructural development.