Carter’s visit : Will it have lasting impact?

Former US president Jimmy Carter’s recent visit to Nepal vindicates his known commitment to resolving the ongoing political conflict with intent to put the Nepali politics on track for democratisation and stability. Soon after his first visit in June earlier this year, it was publicised that he would revisit Nepal in November to observe and oversee the election to the constituent assembly slated for November 22. Despite the Nepali government’s failure to hold the much hyped election, he made it a point to meet the Nepali politicians of various hues and leanings to put an end to the political uncertainty and confusion that have affected Nepali society.

Looking back at his presidency during 1977-81, he emerged as one of the towering US leaders who tried to use his political savvy to make the world congenial for democracy.

During his incumbency as president of the United States, he made the issue of human rights

a fundamental component of his foreign policy. His unflinching pursuit to work for peace and human rights with an unabated dedication to resolve the political crises in various parts of the world has won him the highly coveted Nobel Peace Prize. His political stature has since grown worldwide.

Undeniably, he commands respect and honour, especially in the conflict ravaged countries and societies. He has also earned the much respected soft power that can play a crucial and constructive role in getting the international attention to resolve the long-going conflicts and

turbulences. The soft power itself is not a magic wand, but an instrument that can be used to heal the wounds inflicted unjustifiably and inhumanly.

The soft power Carter possesses may become more effective than the hard power

of economic might and military prowess of the US as a global player in the international politics. The hard power can enable the incumbent president to impose sanctions and offer sops considered appropriate depending on the situations encountered. Such practice in the changed context may or may not be effective. But the soft power in the hands of a dedicated

person with far-reaching political vision could be more effective and acceptable to the suffering societies.

Carter came to Nepal with the weapon of soft power — the power garnered through appreciable ideas and ideals and pragmatic ideology to peep through the intricacies of Nepali politics and see for himself if something could be done to end the political impasse that has caused heavy losses in Nepal, not only in terms of political instability but also socio-economic depression.

He drafted the proposal to make Nepal a republic by an overwhelming majority of the Interim Legislature-Parliament, later to be confirmed by a simple majority of the constituent assembly and to elect the members of the constituent assembly with 70 per cent allotted for proportional representation and 30 per cent to be filled by the first-past-the post election, which sounds like a pragmatic solution given the state of fragmented Nepali politics much more characterised by the ethnicity building than by the democracy building.

The political scenario now prevalent in the country reflects the absence of truly charismatic political leaders and signals

the power grabbing mentality of those at the political helm. The major political parties are unwilling to budge, disappointing the people’s aspirations for greater wellbeing.

Naturally, the chaotic and unmanageable politics of Nepal has invited external influence which is often exerted through non-publicised channels of the neighbouring countries and global powers like the United States depending on the stakes conceived as their national interests. Political observers are aware of the India factor assuming greater dimension, closely followed by the Chinese interest in Nepal.

True, the United States in particular appeared to haven taken stock of the chaotic situation in Nepal that can contribute to the suspected growth of terrorism because the law and order situation is getting worse each passing day. Observation should not be a figment of the

guessing game, but must consider some degree of ground realities to make the right observation.

The political suggestions Carter has advanced before prominent Nepali politicians deserve a close assessment with a mindset of compromise and reconciliation in the larger interest of the country.

Today, what Nepal urgently needs is the proper sense and political sagacity on the part of the big political players of the country. If they are true to their words, they must come up with matching deeds to lift the country out of the political marshes. The adamant posture of the big political parties and their leaders would be of no use if they wish to emerge as respectable statesmen.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official