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Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and Nepal’s Free Media

These are not very good times for the relationship between the Nepali media industry and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. They are at loggerheads, most recently, over a statement issued by the embassy on 27th blaming “certain print and television media” reporting “against products manufactured by Indian Joint Ventures in Nepal.” Past allegations of this nature, said the embassy, have been found to be false after thorough investigation by Nepal Government agencies.

The most damning part of the press statement is in the second paragraph. “The Indian JVs have informed the embassy that they have been approached by such media houses for release of advertisements and are being threatened with negative publicity if those requests are not met.”

Then the embassy provided us some background info on Indo-Nepal relationship telling us how much importance the JVs have in that.

“These Indian Joint Ventures make a substantial contribution to the Nepalese economy, employment, revenue to the Government and exports from Nepal. They maintain the highest standards of quality, which is proved by the fact that exports of their products are accepted across the globe. These companies are the pride of Nepal and a symbol of close relations between India and Nepal.” Then the embassy adds: “The baseless adverse publicity against the products of such joint ventures will not only hit the Nepalese economy and exports but will also deter new foreign direct investments into Nepal.”

Last, but not least, the embassy says: “We hope that concerned authorities will take suitable action against such unethical practices.”

Anything wrong with the statement? Nothing, had that been issued by a commercial company with business interests in Nepal. But the fact that it was issued by the official representative of the Republic of India in the Democratic Federal Republic of Nepal is troubling. The Indian embassy, under the able leadership of Rakesh Sood, in Nepal is not the East Nepal Company. Therefore it shouldn’t behave in a way that reminds us the East India Company. [Nepalis didn’t experience that, by the way, as they were never colonized by the British.] The embassy should have told the complaining JVs something like this: “This seems purely a commercial issue. You guys, being multinational companies, should know how to sort this out.”

But the embassy didn’t say that. It acted like the publicity wing of Dabur Nepal, the Indian company in Nepal, whose product- Real juice- got bad publicity because worm was reportedly found in its tetra pack.

The funniest thing is the company in question, Dabur Nepal, didn’t send letters or rebuttals to the media outlets that reported about its product.

The embassy’s views are highly exaggerated when it says the Indian JVs “are the pride of Nepal.” NO, they are NOT. Are Toyota, Coca Cola and Blackberry the pride of India? But yes Dabur, Nepal Unilever and Asian Paints in Nepal symbolize business relations (not close ties though) between our two nations. Dabur or Unilever are not in Nepal because they wanted to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Profit is THE priority and that is paramount. We Nepalis do understand that and we are perfectly fine with that…as long as the companies abide by the rules, sell quality products and refrain from neglecting and compromising on quality. If Dabur goes, another company will soon come to sell us juice and hazmolas before we get thirsty and face problems with digestion. They are not distributing their products for free by bringing them from India. We also know that Nepal-India relationship is not based on such shaky foundations that rely on tetra-packs juices. We also know that if a company sells something substandard they are often reported in the free presses of the world. Nepal is no North Korea and no Myanmar (Burma) whose dictator General gets red carpet welcome in India. We have a free press, vibrant and very much functional, far more responsible than the Indian press DESPITE the fact that we are only two decades old. We are vibrant, responsible and functional especially when we are compared to some Indian papers that have more than 15 decades of history and experience. [The report of worm found in Real juice was first published by Naya Patrika, a daily tabloid. It was also carried by Sagarmatha TV, a news channel. Kantipur TV, not newspapers from Kantipur Publications, broadcasted a report on that on it’s late night news show, not regular and prime time news bulletins.] Continue reading Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and Nepal’s Free Media