It is time India stops antagonising its neighbours

I don’t trust the media too much — with its selective coverage, it is hard to rely on it. What is news and what are views, separating the chaff from the wheat needs exceptional intelligence and mind space.

But when Pratistha Koirala, my friend from Nepal posted on the South Asian Youth Conference alumni group, I had no second thoughts about legitimacy of the post. I have met Pratishtha, a bright young emerging leader from Nepal. I have heard her, her dreams and aspirations. Together, we have held the intention of a strong South Asia.

Her update speaks about how she has to walk to office because of fuel shortages. She wonders why no one is pushing the Indian government to clear up the economic blockade? And she prophesizes, “Very soon, India is going to become a country with no friendly neighbours.” Clearly, her celebration of the new constitution is short lived — and this is something she will find it hard to forget.

It doesn’t matter whether we are really creating a blockade or not — such cases can be endlessly argued and there is little objectivity in them. What matters to me is that the blockade is REAL — the shortage is real. And it is being felt by a friend, who is clearly very angry.

Through the South Asian Youth Conference, young leaders across South Asia are building deep ties and connections. The shared dream is a strong coherent region. And we have had successes — we have hosted the tricolour in Islamabad (at the Pak China friendship center) and sung our anthem along with those of every country. We have had invitations for marriage ceremonies across borders. We have gangs of friends who share love and warmth.

And personal connections can support change too. Recently, at the time of the earthquakes in Nepal, Jaya R. Nepali who used to head AYON (Association of Youth Organizations of Nepal) reached out to us. He needed support in Jhanga Jholi village — we connected him to Anshu Gupta (from Goonj, now a Magasaysay award winner) who was in Nepal. Promptly, Jaya had 160 tarpulins, 300 blankets, dal and rice delivered to him — this was possible because of the deep connections and ties we had built. There was help pouring into the country — this connection helped it move to one particular place faster.

This is the diplomacy that we dream of — of connections and ties between those who will eventually be in power. It is a slow process of building trust and making things work. The conference itself is hosted by countries for no financial gain — but just for the experience of hosting young people from South Asia with a vision of peace and solidarity.

But hundreds of such small steps forward can be set back by one such blockade — it erodes what we build so carefully and with such care. It doesn’t seem very wise to me — and yet again, politics undoes what people have painstakingly created.

To whoever is a part of this decision, please reverse it. And if it is because of protests (which seems to be the official government stand), let us help supplies reach through those protests. I hold faith that good sense will prevail. Either ways, there is already damage done — the least that can be done is to repair it as promptly as possible.

I stand in complete solidarity with my Nepali friends — friends who have smilingly welcomed us to Bhaktpur, and who are always present to support the South Asian Youth Movement.

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