The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a household topic of discussion in Nepal these days. The current row between the ruling (and even among) and opposition political parties has made the agreement of MCC implementation even more challenging. Furthermore, the alleged Chinese ‘interest’ in the issue has made the MCC debate more complicated.
There have been various speculations about the MCC Nepal Compact across the diplomatic community, diaspora, academia, development community and the general population. There have been various media articles, television debates, ‘YouTube Lives’ covering the issue. One of the prominent issues associated with MCC is the national security and sovereignty angle. The opponents of the MCC’s Nepal Compact fear that the country will fall directly into the hands of ‘foreign military power.’ Apparently, they are not convinced by the clarification from the MCC headquarters that the Nepal Compact is not part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy and does not prevail over the Constitution of Nepal. This situation has laid a very good ‘playing ground’ for the ultra-nationalist, jingoist sentiments to rise, inciting violence, strikes and uncertainty in the name of national security and nationalism.
Media has been an effective tool in securitizing national security discourses in Nepal and elsewhere too. Securitization is the process of positioning through speech acts (usually by a political leader) of a particular issue as a threat to survival, which in turn (with the consent of the relevant constituency) enables emergency measures and the suspension of ‘normal politics’ in dealing with that issue (Gleditsch, 2005, p. 141). Vladimir Sulovic (2010) in his article, Meaning of Security and the Theory of Securitization, conceptualizes security as a process of the social construction of threats, which includes securitizing actors, who declare certain matters as urgent and as posing threat to the survival of the referent object, that, once accepted by the audience, legitimizes the use of extraordinary measures for neutralization of the threat.
Security threat narrative on MCC Compact has created a ‘playing ground’ for the ultra-nationalist, jingoist sentiments to rise, inciting violence, strikes and uncertainty in the name of national security and nationalism.
From this perspective, the notion of securitization set here in the case of MCC considers MCC Compact as an ‘existential threat’ to national security. This threat building is done through the process of speech act and leads to significant impact when it comes from the top leadership and digital penetration by cyber cells and fake news outlets (backed by opposition parties) using online media and social media such as YouTube. If we randomly search MCC on YouTube and Facebook, we can find lots of videos with provocative titles using the language of threats such as ‘Nepalma MCC aye thulo yuddhako khatra’, ‘No MCC, desh bachaunu cha bhane sakdo share garau’, ‘America ra China ko yudhha maidan banyo Kathmandu’, among several others.
Media and social media, in this day and age, have a very important role to play when it comes to spreading knowledge and awareness. At the grassroots level, the information and awareness should be provided with the right channels. While there are fact-checking agencies active to delimit the volcanic spread of fake news, misinformation and disinformation, they are few and far between and they are mostly accessible to the more knowledgeable urban population.
Considering the sensationalism that securitization creates, there is an urgent need for de-securitization whereby foreign aid and grant-related issues are moved out of threat and defense sequence into the ‘ordinary public sphere’ where they can be dealt with in accordance with the (democratic) socio-political system.
Sudeep Uprety is a development communications professional based in Kathmandu. Views are personal. Twitter: @UpretySudeep