Interview with David M Malone, Canadian Ambassador to
David M Malone, is Canadian Ambassador to
David, who is here for a few days in Kathmandu on his regular visit, spent a few minutes with Puran P Bista and Kamal Raj Sigdel of The Kathmandu Post talking over issues relating to Canada's concerns over Nepal's peace process and his individual observations.
Q: How do you assess Nepal-Canada relations?
David: We have different ties with every country in
One very serious problem for
Q: Do you foresee that
David: I hope so. It depends entirely on the politicians. You don't waive the magic wand and hope the stability infused. Stability in democracy results from compromises made by different powerful parties represented in the parliament or not represented in the parliament. The habit of compromise is the most interesting thing about ancient parliament that parties that swore they'd never support this or that measure one day end up supporting them because they think something else is even more important.
In the West, the system took too many centuries to evolve. It did not happen overnight. Our democracy is not perfect, we have lots of problems, but the quality of the problems is not so severe as the quality of the problems of
So, am I hopeful? Yes. Am I optimistic? I'll be optimistic if the elections take place on the 10th of April, if the results of the election are accepted by the losers. Elections are very worrying for politicians because they are unpredictable. So, the outcome of April 10 is tremendously important. If we have another postponement of the elections the international community will be ready to give up on
Q: How is
David: We are trying to do it in a number of ways. First, our aid tends to target people rather than the government and large institutions. But one large institution we admire very much is the Election Commission. Through the UN fund we have been supporting the EC directly. They are doing very well and for them the postponement of the elections last time was deeply frustrating and by the way quite a lot of money was wasted. But mostly our aid in countries like
When we think there is a good project worth supporting we support that. We have not wanted to hinge all of our support to the election process because there are many people who continue to be desperately poor in this country and who continue to need as much support as they can get.
Q: Do you think the losers will accept the election results?
David: I don't know. I certainly hope they accept the results. That is the basis of democracy. But the alternatives for a party that is not keen on accepting an outcome are unattractive also. What you do? Do you create violence? That's a risky strategy. Do you withdraw to the hills and resume the war? Not easy, once you've been part of a government.
So, that fact makes me quite optimistic. The study of what goes on in other countries is useful because insurgencies are rather alike. I am very much hopeful that Prachanda and his colleagues will see what support they have could be further eroded by strategy of non-acceptance of the results because my sense is the people here want the elections. The people here will accept the outcome of the elections and will expect the parties too accept the outcome of the elections. So, in that sense I am very optimistic.
Q: You have experiences of working in a federal structure. What do you think of the demands of the different ethnic groups for autonomy and right to self-determination?
David: It is very complicated. And it takes a lot of time to think about and negotiate. With
So, I sympathize with the people of tarai because they have been marginalized for a long time. And nobody listened to them for a long time. But I think frankly there is no magic constitutional solution to their problem. If a new designation within the new Nepali federation, that is somehow distinct for the tarai, helps them psychologically that's good. Does no harm. But the people in the tarai and rest of
So the business in
One problem in
Q: Do you think
David: It seems small to you because you live next to
Q: You are also the ambassador to
David: That's a question you would have to ask a Bhutanese, not me. What I can tell you though is when I am in Thimpu I raise this. I do mention that we will now accept 5,000 of these people -- I am sure they will be very good immigrants, so I am not worried about it -- but indirectly, Bhutan has created real cost for Canada as well as for Nepal. For us our response to the plight of the people in the camps was not at all political. In Nepal, the issue has been much too political frankly, not enough thought about the people -- great deal of hostility towards Bhutan. So our approach was strictly humanitarian. But having a bad relation with neighbors is a terrible policy.
Q: Don't you think that Canadian government's offer to take in 5,000 Bhutanese refugees would encourage Bhutan to go ahead with its policy of ethnic cleansing?
David: I think there is this risk. We have also mentioned that. But we don't want the fact that we were taking these people to provoke such actions. What the result will be I simply don't know.
Q: India has been obstacle to this refugee crisis. How do you analyze this?
David: I cannot really comment what India is up to. So it would be actually much more complex what India is doing in Bhutan. It is the policy of Bhutan that we have criticized. We have made clear to Bhutan that we don't want the resettlement of these refugees to trigger a second wave of refugees. I know we have been listened to, more than that I cannot say.
Q: Do you have any aid program in Bhutan?
David: Very limited. Because Bhutan, unlike Nepal, is developing very fast. It grew at the rate of 12 percent last year. It is not going to need aid for very long. It supplies hydroelectricity to India which India pays quite a lot for and it has found a model that allows it to grow rich keeping its own traditions. We have been involved in Bhutan in educational works. It was Canada that started secular modern education in Bhutan. Since the early 1960s we have tried to help develop secondary and university education in Bhutan.
I think Bhutan is very close to the point where it will not need foreign assistance anymore.
Q: As you mentioned earlier that Canadian companies would be interested in investing in Nepal. What could be the areas of attraction for them?
David: Provided there is political stability, there are many areas that would interest. For example, a number of Canadian engineering firms have been very good at developing hydroelectricity and have done a lot of work in India. We are very good at some aspects of infrastructure, if, for example, Nepal decides developing rail road, it is an area where we are doing a lot of business.
We are a big mining country: it is very likely that Nepal is full of mineral wealth. I don't think Nepal has been very seriously surveyed yet. But once it is surveyed, it is going to be very rich at that point. Probably Canadian mining companies might demonstrate a big interest. We are quite good at agricultural processing too.
Nepal is advanced in video making and filming and the likes. It is also an area Canada is quite advanced. BPOs and call centers in India are beginning to move out because salaries have increased fast enough in India. And that will make place for lower salary scale like Nepal. So there is a great deal that can happen here.
Everything that happened in Bangladesh and India can happen here. But none of them can happen here without political stability. And also politicians need to take economy seriously. In Canada we have quite competitive politics but our politicians try not to do anything that would damage the economy. They don't call for street demonstrations; they use other ways that can make their unhappiness known.
So I hope the Nepali politicians will take the economy of Nepal to heart, accept that the lack of growth in this country is their responsibility and that they have to do better in the future. That is what the Nepalis deserve from them.