After dismissing the Maoists as 'anti-government guerrillas' for a decade, the Chinese seem to have decided to establish fraternal ties with a party that swears by their Great Helmsman. With characteristic flair they are hosting uncrowned prince Prakash and Ananta. One is Comrade Awesome's son, the other his aide-de-camp. Ultra-nationalists of both the extreme right and left in Nepal believe that kowtowing to China is an effective way of countering Indian influence.
The guarded observations of Ambassador Zheng Xianglin ('China won't tolerate foreign intervention in Nepal', From the Nepali Press, #353) are being stretched to mean things that we wish to be true. But, alas, our northern neighbour may have different priorities. Perhaps Beijing is more alarmed by an invasion of western advisors, busybodies, consultants, and do-gooders than any Indian domination.
This fear is probably shared by New Delhi which looks at how the goras and their DINGOs (donor-inspired ngos) are running the show in Nepal. Rakesh Sood, the possible successor to Shiv Shanker Mukherjee, is currently Indian envoy in Kabul. He has seen the mess that DINGOs, often working at cross purposes, can create during political transitions.
The expansion of foreign-funded ngos have begun to worry the political class as well. Addressing the convention of the Democratic NGO Federation that has been created by NC sympathisers to counter existing outfits of similar nature this week, Koirala asked our social entrepreneurs to be more transparent in their activities. But who will bell the big cats: ingos that spend astronomical sums to bring personalities like Jimmy Carter to Nepal and FLAMINGOs (fly-by-night ingos) that sponsor daily consultations at various five-star venues?
The 12-point deal between the seven-party alliance and Maoists in November 2005 happened without inputs from foreign conflict experts here. That should have stopped do-gooder donors in their tracks. And for a while they kept a low-profile, and hired talented locals. Some of the most promising Nepali journalists writing in English deserted the media en masse and became overnight analysts, program officers, project managers, and inclusion advocates. They are doing fine as liaison officers, but it is the impending invasion of foreign parachutists that we have to beware of.
Unsurprisingly, most foreign advisers are cynical and find fault with law and order. What they don't realise is there never has been rule of law in this country. The law has been the king's command and order administrative fiats to fulfil the wishes of Kathmandu's power elite. Law and order won't prevail just because donors make constituent assembly elections conditional upon it. Creating faith in the future is much more important.
Advisers prosper when they can predict a catastrophe and convince their clients that they posses the ability to avert it. They have a vested interest in fanning doom. In this they are dutifully aided by DINGOs during trainings for political leaders, civil society, NGO entrepreneurs, and the social innovation vanguard. Some of the political nonsense these pricey professionals spout has to be heard to be believed. Presumably on their advice, a consortium of donors is planning to fund a massive voter's education campaign. What we need instead is an intensive political mobilisation to reassure voters, raise their hopes, and build confidence.
This is something that only political parties can do, despite all their deficiencies. The class of intellectual comprador created by short-term consultants will perhaps push for more opinion polls, wider consultations, fresh hearings. These activities provide a convenient alibi for laidback politicians to shirk from doing what they are supposed to do at a time like this: go back to the people.
Donors will spend their money in the way they like. But at least till the polls the political parties must ask their cadre to desist from attending donor binges and DINGO jamborees. It's not just a waste of time, it is counterproductive.