It’s somewhat strange that the visit of Shri Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, the former Prime Minister of Nepal and the chairman of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal on 7th September to the Punjab Himachal and Delhi Chamber of Commerce (PHDCC) in New Delhi for inauguration of the Indo Nepal center has not received the due media coverage. In today’s world economic strength is the currency of power and thus economic relations- trade, investment and technology exchanges define the strategic relationship between nations and not just by defence cooperation.
From this perspective, Shri Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s 7th September address to the packed house at the PHDCC hall and discussion with the assembled group of development specialists, investors ,industrialists and diplomats on a broad theme “Road maps for accelerating Nepal’s inclusive growth” signal a positive direction to Indo Nepal relations.
First, PHDCC and its Chairman Anil Khaitan deserve recognition for the bold initiative of setting up the India Nepal centre under chairmanship of KV Rajan, former Indian High Commissioner in Nepal and a known Nepal expert with a broad mandate to help growth of increased trade, investment and technology cooperation between the Indian private sector and its Nepali counterparts in areas the PHDCC identified as mutually beneficial.
These are – growth of enterprises in employment generating Medium , Small and micro enterprises( MSME), hydro power development and establishment of strong trade investment and technology upgradation and linkages to boost entrepreneurship in MSME ,skill development, manufacturing and services in Nepal. Agriculture, which engages 70% of Nepal population needs diversification and requires a strategy to develop agro processing and especially fruit processing, organic farming, and floriculture. And tourism needs a big push to rebrand Nepal by concerted efforts to upgrade the tourism infrastructure.
Addressing the conclave Shri Prachanda referred to the historic ‘ cat and mouse’ analogy the then Chinese President Deng Xiao ping gave to the world – “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice ” to herald a shift to a market led economic growth path from Maoism. The message of Prachanda is clear – Nepal too has opted for a market led economic development strategy departing from professed communism of the ruling party which ironically enabled the party to mobilize the masses and capture power. This is clear in the conclave theme- Nepal’s inclusive development.
Every one knows that in a democracy inclusive growth is stressed when GDP growth enriches the owners of capital, inherited wealth and enterprises as documented brilliantly in Thomas Picketty’s pathbreaking work- Capital in the 21st century but bypasses the masses who find prospects for advancement bleak. Shri ” Prachanda” must be aware that Deng’s China is now among the most unequal of nations and there is growing demand in China for inclusive growth despite her tall claims of being” a socialist country with Chinese characteristics”.
Thus a policy to broaden the base of MSME and skill and entrepreneurship development is certainly a sound move, in Nepal’s situation to day the first step to inclusive growth must be land reforms and a sustainable land use policy. These strategic development issues were obviously not raised in the conclave by the representatives of the trade and industry; but nevertheless India Nepal centre is a bold Initiative of the PHDCC to expand Indian trade and industry’s participation in Nepal’s development efforts and merits support of the government of India.
( The writer is a retired IAS officer of the Assam – Meghalaya cadre and has served as Scientific Consultant in the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India)