Editorial | Nepal’s position on Russia-Ukraine war is fair and just

India and China have either abstained or stood neutral on the Ukraine crisis. That does not have to influence Nepal's position on the unprecedented humanitarian crisis unfolding in that country.

People gather to catch a train and leave Ukraine for neighbouring countries at the railway station in Lviv,western Ukraine, Saturday. (Photo: AP/RSS)

NL Today

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Since Russia launched a war on Ukraine on February 24, Nepal has stood in favor of peace. On February 24, the day Russia started the invasion, the government of Nepal issued a statement calling on “all parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint not to escalate tension” reiterating its position as the member of the United Nations that “the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the UN Charter are sacrosanct and must be fully respected by all member states.”  

Nepal clearly opposed “use of force against a sovereign country” and called for “peaceful resolution of disputes through diplomacy and dialogue.” Ever since, Nepal has voiced its concerns and consistently stood up in favor of Ukraine. On March 1, Nepal voted in favor of Ukraine’s call at the United Nations Human Rights Council for urgent debate on gross violation of human rights in the country. Then on Monday Nepal voted in favor of a UN resolution to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

However, not all in Nepal seem to agree with the decision of the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government on the Ukraine crisis. There have been criticisms against Nepal’s move to stand against Russian aggression in the United Nations. There have been concerns that Nepal is moving away from its long-held non-aligned foreign policy.

It is indeed the time for societies and nations to stand together for justice, freedom and peace.  Let us all oppose any kind of war and stand for peace and humanity.

These allegations and concerns, in our view, are a bit exaggerated and fail to reflect the stark realities on the ground. Truth of the matter is that Ukraine is in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis following the unprovoked war launched by the Russian state. Ukraine did not start the confrontation, it was not aggressive towards Russia.  As such, it would be improper to read Nepal’s stand as an alignment against Russia. Nepal has actually stood for humanity, peace, and sovereignty of Ukraine. Let there be no mistake. Ukraine is a sovereign independent country. And the war was provoked not by Ukraine but by Russia, which is why there have been outpourings of anti-war protests across the world, including in Russian cities. Ordinary Russians are also suffering because of the war.

Some have tried to draw the parallels between the US war on Afghanistan and the one that is going on in Ukraine. This analogy is flawed. The US had launched a war against Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The terrorist outfit at the time was enjoying protection from the repressive Taliban regime of Afghanistan. Their activities had not only threatened peace and development but also humanity. 

Nepal’s position on the Ukraine crisis is just and valid also because Ukraine is a smaller and weaker state before the mighty Russian war machine. As a democratic state, Nepal is expected to speak in favor of another democratic state, especially when its existence is threatened by the big states.

It is deplorable that the government of Nepal has made no visible efforts to rescue Nepalis–supposed to be in hundreds in number–and bring them back home from that war-torn country. Nepal must take all measures to bring them back home. At the same time, Nepal should not appear to depart from its non-aligned principles. Our solidarity should be for peace, justice and humanity. 

Nepal has set an example by becoming one of the first South Asian countries to oppose Russian aggression and call for peace. It is true that only Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal have stood in favor of Ukraine from South Asia. It is also true that India and China—Nepal’s two largest neighbors with deep economic ties—have either abstained or stood neutral. But that, in our view, does not have to influence Nepal’s position on the unprecedented humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Ukraine and that is being exacerbated every single moment because of the Russian aggression.  India and China may have stood neutral because of their own strategic considerations. We don’t have to toe their position. 

Ukraine and its people are bearing extreme suffering, pains and hardships due to the aggressive invasion by Russia that started last week. In a week, over 10,000 people have been killed (many Russian troops have also lost their lives),   around one million Ukrainians and other nationals living in that country have been rendered helpless and they are fleeing the country to avoid deaths and destruction. They have been crying for help, appealing the world leaders and countries for support and solidarity. Brutal attacks by the Russian forces in Ukraine have saddened all Nepalis. 

It is worth recalling here that Nepal has stood in favor of peace, justice and rights at the crucial point of history. For example, Nepal was the first country in South Asia to recognize Israel–while other South Asian countries were still indecisive. Future will prove that Nepal stood on the right side of history by supporting Ukraine. In the 21st century, there is nothing that cannot be solved through dialogue and diplomacy. Russia and Ukraine can and should resolve all disputes and differences through peaceful dialogues. 

It is the time for societies and nations to stand together for justice, freedom and peace. Let us all oppose any kind of war and stand for peace and humanity. Let there be no orphans because of war. Let there be no widows because of war. Let there be no death and destruction, no suffering because of war. Let peace and justice prevail in the world. Let us all speak out for peace.