It’s a mammoth undertaking. Around 1,500 delegates from 45 countries are taking part in the ‘Asia-Pacific Summit 2018’ being held in Kathmandu from Nov 30-Dec 3. Among the notable dignitaries will be Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Myanmar State Counsellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Aung San Suu Kyi, senior BJP leader Vijay Jolly from India, and other Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian religious leaders. The event is being hosted by the Nepal chapter of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a New York-based INGO of South Korean origin. The UPF has five stated guiding principles: one, everyone belongs to one human family created by God; two, the highest qualities of human beings are spiritual and moral; three, the family is the school of love and peace; four, each person is created to live for others; and five, peace entails cooperation beyond ethnic, religious and national boundaries. With national chapters in nearly every country in the world, the UPA runs on voluntary donations. Impressive. But why is such a gigantic summit being held in Nepal, and by an organization most Nepalis had not even heard of? And what is the Nepal government’s role in it?
Why is such a gigantic summit being held in Nepal ?
The choice of the venue is not coincidental. There are few other countries in Asia-Pacific where an oft-controversial INGO can so easily rope in vital government officials, who have long grown accustomed to free all-expenses-paid foreign trips, often sponsored by INGOs like the UPF. That the UPF has friends in high places in Nepal is evident from the inclusion of senior ruling party leader Madhav Kumar Nepal as among the ‘welcoming party’ for the Kathmandu summit. This despite the suspicion that the UPF has been involved in evangelical activities in Nepal, something the communist government promises to tamp down.
Opposition parties have berated the government for its association with an organization with a questionable history in country, and have vowed to break the odd-even rule for vehicles imposed in lieu of the summit. There was another curious coincidence though. On the day the odd-even rule came into effect, yet another NGO-hosted international symposium, on Mahatma Gandhi, was being held in the Nepali capital. BJP heavyweights like ex-Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and actor-turned federal MP Shatrughan Sinha were in attendance. With the government in a mood to tighten alcohol regulation, Nepal may not be able to lure in the targeted 20 million tourists come 2020. Its prospects as a host of high-profile international jamborees appears brighter.