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Dealing with demi-gods due south

Devendra Gautam

Devendra Gautam

Dealing with demi-gods due south

The demi-gods of the Indraprastha have begun moving northwards to build multipurpose projects

Age-old. Special. People-to-people. Unparalleled. Unique. Time-tested.

Make no mistake, these are not just flowery words. Rather, they are some of the sacred, power-packed mantras that our foreign policy pundits, diplomats and high officials chant all too often to describe our relations with India.

Indeed, these incantations form a very important part–or perhaps the only important part–of their job. Over the years, these people have taken this important skill to a whole new level.

There may come a time, sooner than later, when high heavens become happy with these sweet-sounding chants and shower the devout band with flowers.  

 But let us also remember the sad times in the history of our adjectives-filled relations. The blockade in 2015 after the promulgation of a federal republican constitution through a popularly-elected Constituent Assembly meant even those faithful lips used to singing the glory of our bilateral ties had to mute themselves for a while and deal with the death and devastation that the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake had left behind. By the way, in the course of seven decades or so, Nepal has weathered at least three blockades from the wrathful gods of the modern-day Indraprastha aka Hastinapur. Despite this, our relations remain rock-solid.

Pity is, even those super-powerful mantras are no help when you are under the rubble. You have to extricate yourself, with a little help from friends and well-wishers.

Unsurprisingly, help from the modern-day Indraprastha took quite a while in coming as the demi-gods became quite angry with us for trying to chart our own destiny by shedding a bit of the historic baggage that was getting heavier and heavier, that too on a rather steep journey.

At that crucial juncture, Nepal’s supposed tilt towards Beijing did not help. Nor did the Limpiadhura-Lipulek-Limpiadhura dispute and Nepal’s move to include the 400-sq km land in her political map. Apparently, Nepal ended up paying a heavy price for giving refuge in her land to vanquished troops at the end of the Sino-Indian war of 1962. 

Then came a dispute over the birthplace of Lord Ram, with Nepal’s learned Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, pointing that the actual birthplace was at Ayodhyapuri in Bara district of Nepal. 

Despite the beating of the patriotic drum for the domestic audience, efforts to propitiate the Indraprastha were also in progress. 

The ruling dispensation tried a time-tested way to appease the Indraprastha by offering a pound of flesh. Indeed, gifting of the lucrative Arun III hydropower project contract perhaps undid some of the damage. 

But it became clear later that the Indraprastha was not comfortable with the Oli-led dispensation that was dealing with bruised egos and was on the verge of a split, anyways.     

The ouster of the Oli government should be read in this context as well. 

Things are back to normal after the installation of the Sher Bahadur Deuba government–or are they? The Janakpur-Jaynagar train service that has started its operation will move at its own pace, neither not too slow nor too fast as it is based on a technology that is neither too old nor too new. 

Meanwhile, efforts to propitiate the Indraprastha, which is trying to assert itself here, there, everywhere in a fast-changing global geopolitical scenario, are going on in full swing by gifting more of our lifelines, our rivers that have the potential to quench our thirst, light our homes, power our factories and run our transport systems. Indeed, they have the power to make us an economic powerhouse of sorts, provided they remain in
our hands.  

These propitiatory efforts come amid escalating energy prices resulting mainly from the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in the wake of reports that future wars will be over fresh water.

 During his recent Indraprastha visit, Prime Minister Deuba agreed to the Nepal-India Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation. Whether this instrument will benefit us or sell us down the river further is anyone’s guess. Pity is, our good-for-nothings don’t care.   

During the return Buddha Jayanti visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, Nepal was expecting the Indraprastha to open more air entry points. But that was not to be. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Deuba took the occasion to gift him another lucrative hydro project: Arun IV. 

Notably, the Indraprastha is already in possession of Arun III and Lower Arun projects and has been holding on to the Upper Karnali with impunity, for quite some time.

 All this is in keeping with the Nepali Congress’ practice of gifting major river systems in its continued efforts towards appeasing the Indraprastha that had fed it and sheltered it during its struggle against the Rana and Shah regimes. Successive generations of Nepalis should never forget that this party, while ruling the country for decades, has gifted Nepal’s lifelines like the Koshi, Gandaki, Mahakali and the Upper Karnali in its desperate bid to please its demi-gods.

Having exploited our mega-rivers to the hilt through the construction of regulatory structures in the plains and inundated large chunks of our territories, the demi-gods of the Indraprastha have begun moving northwards for the construction of multipurpose projects that not only generate green energy but also feed its river-linking project, which will transfer water from its water-surplus to water-deficit territories. 

Imagine the ecological losses we will suffer, the disasters that will result in and the ecological gains the Indraprastha will enjoy as a result of these projects! Notably, among other parts of Nepal, eastern hills are already experiencing severe drought. It will be no wonder if this is due to development works carried out with little regard for the environment, like the transfer of huge quantities of water for the construction and operation of hydropower projects. 

As the demi-gods move towards the sources of these rivers and we move with them not so willingly, the air will get thinner and thinner and we will start gasping for breath even as the burden of maintaining these relations and ‘taking them to new heights’ will largely be upon us.

Apparently, our troubles are growing by Himalayan proportions.