By Rabindra Adhikari, Coordinator, Nepal Peace and Solidarity Council
Nepal has a population of 26.6 million with an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent. Sixty-two percent of the population are living under the poverty line, i.e., earning less than two dollars a day.
Principally, Nepal stays neutral and is a strong advocate of the non-aligned movement. Laying in between two growing powers of the Asian Continent (China and India), Nepal maintains it’s peaceful relations with both countries and at the global level does not show membership and alliance to any ideological or military alignment, neither during the cold war nor now. Nepal is one of the major contributors to the UN peacekeeping forces. Being the birthland of lord Buddha, Nepal always stands for Peace, Respect for National Sovereignty and Non-Proliferation.
Though almost four thousand kilometers from the current NATO-invaded zones, Nepal has been highly affected by what happens in the Middle East and Iraq, including the current US-lead sanctions against Iran. While there is no direct involvement of NATO interventions in the Nepalese security system, and no armed proliferation except a few military exchange programs with the US and other countries of world the increasingly created environment of fear and the militarized “democracy project” in the Middle East has threatened the social, economic and political life of Nepalese society. The impact of NATO invasions is seen mainly on three aspects of Nepalese society: access to basic needs and supplies for the common people, militarization of social and cultural life, and increased expenditures on armament — an economic burden on Nepalese poor communities. With the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan by NATO allies in the militarized “democracy project,” the price of fuel has gone so high that it has almost tripled since the war began. In addition to that, the scarcity in the fuel market has further excluded poor and marginalized people from access to fuels and basic supplies. Increases in fuel prices and scarcity raised the market price of foods and supplies in many cases more than double.
Government and business house have an easy excuse of war and sanctions against Iran for price hikes that have been uncontrollably rising up. Due to the insurgency in the Middle East, Nepalese migrant workers lives are highly affected, ultimately jeopardizing the lives of their families, children and elderly people at home. The situation has increased risks to their lives, reduced demands for workers and also reduced remittances. On the other side, in post-war Iraq workers are demanded and deployed, which has drained the workforce in Nepal and is increasing it’s dependency on remittances.
The post-9/11 situations have became a triggering environment for armament and security investment, benefiting security and armed business. Militarized security action is now not limited to military camps or security posts, rather has gone to private houses with electrified compounding, with metal detecting gates in temples and not allowing people to practice their cultural performances in their temples and mosques. In addition to this, armaments expenitures in Nepal at the moment take two percent of GDP.
Friends, the world has became a global village; fire in one corner drains the pond in another corner. We could not skip the environmental, economic, psychological and political impact of any action in one part of the world just on account of the distance of the place in current globalized world. Thus, NATO invasion and militarization under the banner of “democracy project” and “partnership for peace” ultimately affects the life of the poor population living in developing countries, like us. The rich countries may be able to afford the increased fuel prices and increased cost of foods and supplies, or may ensure the security of the life of their population, or may ensure justice and absence of unnecessary security interventions in personal life; but people from a developing country like Nepal hardly can avoid it. The outcome on fuel prices, food markets and security actions ultimately excludes and marginalizes the poor population and increases gaps between haves and have-nots, and also further deepens poverty. Thus, we demand the end of NATO invasions and also call on world leaders to believe that peace can be achieved through mutual trust, equal opportunity, security and safety for the poor and marginalized, and not by armaments and armed forces.