After UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour culminated a tour of Nepal by calling for war crimes trials, the New York Times reports that the UN Security Council has decided to send a political mission to Nepal to oversee the ceasefire.
This is the first time since my arrival in UNistan that the organization has begun a serious involvement with a country I actually know something about. I’m certainly not a Nepal expert, but I’ve been there twice and followed its story over the years. And I’m not at all certain that the fragile new order needs outside interference.
Like Thailand, another tourist favorite, Nepal was never colonized. Certainly it has deep-seated problems, but they are not the problems of post-colonial societies. The thought of Western good intentions going awry in Nepal fills me with dread; I imagine Nepal’s warm hospitality — which, let us not forget, is its only really viable product for foreign trade — curdling into the bitterness and resentment of the colonized.
On the other hand, my concept of Nepal’s internal sensibilities comes from visits to the Kathmandu Valley, one particularly tourist-favored stretch of the Himalayas, and one small town on the edge of a lowlands national park. The angry part of Nepal is down there, in the area known as the Terai, where the draining of malarial swamps has opened up new land for farming, but where the zamindar system of landlordism keeps most people impoverished and powerless, just as it does in some neighboring Indian states. Or so I have read. Maybe these sections of the country feel just as colonized as anyone else ruled by people who speak another language and see them as less than fully human.
In any case, it’s a test for the UN and for Ban Ki-moon, and one in which I feel a personal sense of anxiety over its outcome.