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Myanmar and Nepal are two different countries and two different societies. First of all, Myanmar society is characterized by significant egalitarianism, while Nepalese society is characterized by a rather rigid caste structure. At the same time, there are a number of factors that bring them together. In particular, there are similarities when looking at Myanmar and Nepal through the lens of history, politics and culture. It is also difficult to overestimate the importance of the fact that a large community of Nepalese immigrants lives in Myanmar for relations between the two states.

Nepal and Myanmar do not share a common border, but the two countries are quite closely connected in religious, cultural and historical terms. For Myanmar Buddhists, the Himalayan Hindu kingdom is important as the birthplace of the Buddha. Religious contacts between the two countries are traditionally intense. Myanmar, which considers itself one of the main centers of world Buddhism, is actively involved in the development of Lumbini, the birthplace of the founder of Buddhism. In Lumbini, as well as in Kathmandu, there are Myanmar monasteries and meditation centers. Missionaries from Myanmar are working extensively to strengthen and spread the Buddha's teachings among Nepalis, especially in the Newar community. Nepalese Buddhists are trained and initiated in monasteries in Myanmar. There are several monasteries in Nepal that adhere to the Myanmar tradition of Theravada Buddhism, and Yangon supports them in every possible way. The Myanmar Government awards honorary titles to prominent abbots of monasteries in Nepal. In turn, the then King of Nepal Birendra in the early 1980s gave the Myanmar side Buddhist shrines, which were placed in the reliquary of the central pagoda Maha Vizaya (Great Victory), built to commemorate the unity of all Buddhist sects in Myanmar.

Nepal is home to peoples who, like the Burmese, speak the languages of the Tibeto-Burmese language group: Tamangs, Magars, Gurungs, Newars, etc. The Myanmar people have a special attitude to the Nevars, to which the Buddha is believed to have belonged. At least among the Nevars, the surname Shakya or Sakya is common, and it is from the Shakya clan that Prince Siddhartha Gautama comes. Some Myanmar authors believe that there is a close historical affinity between the Burmese and the Newar, and on this basis even claim that the Buddha is a Burmese .1

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Myanmar and Nepal are connected by one more thing. The fact is that during the colonial period in Myanmar there was an influential Nepalese community, which was based on Gurkha soldiers from Nepal who served in the British army. Currently, approximately 250-300 thousand people of Nepalese origin2 live in Myanmar (exact data are not available). The Burmese call them Gorakh. Many of them have relatives in Nepal. Some members of the Myanmar Nepalese community have returned to their historic homeland. In the Lumbini area, there is even an entire village inhabited by people from Myanmar. The outflow was especially significant in the 1960s, after the Revolutionary Council came to power in Burma, when the property of rich Nepalese was nationalized. In general, despite the losses caused by expropriation, Myanmar emigrants, as well as their descendants, who number more than 100 thousand, are friendly to their former homeland .3

Ethnically, the Nepalese community in Myanmar is very diverse. First of all, the nations that traditionally supply Gurkha soldiers are represented: Limbu, Rai, Gurung, Magar. There are also chhetri-kshatriyas and brahmans. All of them retain their own languages and customs to a certain extent. However, Nepalese people tend to identify themselves as Nepalese. They are united by the Nepali language, which acts, along with Burmese, as a means of interethnic communication within the Nepalese community.

Gorakh people are from mountainous Nepal, and in Myanmar they prefer to settle in mountainous areas. Numerous groups of them live in the Shan National Region, in the town of Meimye (Pyinulvin), located in a hilly area. In Meimya, there are famous Hindu temples of the Nepalese community dedicated to Shiva in the form of Pashupatinath-the protector of all living things, and the goddess Durga. Many ethnic Nepalis can be found in Yangon and in the former royal capital of Mandalay. Parts of Gorakh are settled along the Myanmar-India border.

As for the activities of Gorakhs, they are considered skilled entrepreneurs. Nepalese people have a strong position in the extraction and processing of precious stones, especially rubies and sapphires, primarily in the Shan Mogok. It is only natural that descendants of former Gurkha soldiers also serve in the Myanmar army; some are promoted to the rank of senior officers. In general, Gorakhs can be attributed to the middle, by Myanmar standards, strata of society, unlike people from other countries of Hindustan, among which the proportion of poor people engaged in low-paid, non-prestigious work (cleaners, laborers, farmhands, etc.) is high.

Currently, the Nepalese community is well integrated into Myanmar society, and its representatives play a significant role in the country's economic life. The Nepalese authorities are satisfied with the situation of ethnic Nepalese citizens in Myanmar. Kathmandu appreciates the fact that the Nepalese community in a friendly country is not subjected to any serious discrimination. For Nepalis, this is particularly important in light of the problems experienced by ethnic Nepalis in Bhutan.

It should be noted that the situations faced by the Indian and Nepalese communities in Myanmar differ dramatically due to historical, religious and socio-psychological reasons .4 Unlike the Indian Sepoys, the Gurkhas began serving in the British army after the conquest of Burma, and they do not have the "sin" of participating in the colonization of the country. Relations between Burmese Buddhists and Hindustani Muslims are not easy. The beliefs of the Gurkhas, who are mostly Hindus, are characterized by Hindu-Buddhist syncretism and religious tolerance. They fit well into the Burmese Buddhist environment.

Nepalese are also racially closer to Burmese, as in many cases they carry both Indo-European and Mongoloid traits. So on gorakh like

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As a rule, the term "kala" used by Burmese people in relation to people from Hindustan, which means "stranger", "not your own", does not apply. On the contrary, to emphasize the good attitude towards people from Nepal, sometimes they are called not" gorakh", but "gorachho" 5 : "kha "means" bitter", and" cho "means " sweet", "pleasant".

However, the life of people from Nepal in Myanmar can not be considered cloudless. The country's political and economic difficulties have a negative impact on them as well. There is a tendency for parts of Gorakh to migrate to areas adjacent to India, where there are more economic opportunities, and the language and religious environment is closer to Nepalis. However, here the Myanmar population begins to classify Gorakhs as Indians, calling them "kala" with all the negative consequences that follow from this.

In general, there is reason to speak about the existence of a kind of Gorakh ethnic community in Myanmar, which has been formed over the centuries. At the same time, the very fact of its formation testifies to the existence of a Nepalese identity, which allows a conglomerate of different nationalities to realize their unity in isolation from the country of origin.

The presence of a large Nepalese community in Myanmar is a factor that brings the two countries closer together, rather than a source of friction, as is often the case.

The Association of Nepalese-Myanmar Friendship and Culture is active in Nepal. It has a broad base and attracts many Nepalese people who are attracted to Myanmar for one reason or another. In Kathmandu, it is not uncommon to meet people who speak Burmese. For many of them, Myanmar is, if not the "promised land", then at least a kind of benchmark in terms of lifestyle and relationships between people.

In Kathmandu, the author interviewed Gurma Sakya, a Buddhist nun who has lived in Myanmar for many years, received a religious education there,and speaks excellent Burmese. She is a pronounced Burmanophile, like many other Nepalese associated with Myanmar. When I asked her how Nepalese and Myanmar societies differ, Gurma said:: "They are as different as the earth and sky."

The differences relate primarily to the status of women. Whereas in Myanmar women traditionally enjoy very many rights, in Nepal they are subjected to significant discrimination. Myanmar's society is much more egalitarian than Nepal's, where the caste system is strong, including among Buddhist non-Muslims. Gurma also noted the deep religiosity of Myanmar people, the knowledge of the basic tenets of Buddhism by ordinary believers, unlike Nepal, where more than half of the population is illiterate, most are content with observing rituals, and only a narrow layer of clergy has religious knowledge. This is especially true for non-Buddhist Newar Buddhists, who are characterized by Buddhist-Hindu syncretism.

The contrast between the two countries along the mountain-plain line is also noteworthy. Gourmet was born in the medieval quarter of Lalitpur city with narrow streets and small courtyards. In the mountainous Kathmandu Valley, the development is unusually dense in all localities. The capital of Myanmar, Yangon, is located on a wide plain. So when Gurma returned to her hometown after living in Yangon for several years, she experienced an emotional shock and could not get used to the enclosed mountainous space for a long time. It also notes the much greater focus of Burmese people on maintaining cleanliness.

As for the current political history of Myanmar and Nepal, there are both differences and similarities. Nepal was never a colony, while Myanmar was under British colonial rule. In Nepal, the monarchy has been preserved, while in Myanmar, this institution has lost its roots. At the same time, both go-

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The courts were looking for suitable political systems. In the early 1960s, after a military coup, Myanmar followed the model of "Burmese socialism" under the leadership of the ruling and only Party, the Burmese Socialist Program. The kingdom established a de facto absolute monarchy based on the so-called Panchayat system of government, and political parties were banned. It should be noted that the army plays a leading role in the political life of Myanmar. In Myanmar's poorly structured society, it is the most organized force. In Nepal, the situation is different. Nepalese society is based on a caste system, it is quite structured, there are deep-rooted socio-caste groups with expressed interests. It seems that these features were the reason why, since the early 1990s, the kingdom has established a political system of multi-party parliamentary democracy with the transformation of an absolute monarchy into a constitutional one. In Myanmar, a spontaneous movement against the one-party system for democracy was suppressed by the army, and a military regime came to power in the country. Despite this, Myanmar-Nepal relations remain friendly.

The scope of Nepal-Myanmar cooperation, especially in the trade and economic sphere, is small. However, the parties try to maintain contacts at various levels. Thus, in early January 1999, the Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, M. R. Sharma, visited Yangon for consultations. Kathmandu is trying not to be confined to South Asia, and is expanding its contacts with other regions and regional organizations, in particular with ASEAN. And in this case, Myanmar - an ASEAN member - acts as a kind of bridge connecting South and Southeast Asia, ASEAN and SAARC. In addition, Myanmar, along with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, forms BIMSTEC, a grouping created to expand economic cooperation. Yangon supported Kathmandu's request for the Kingdom's participation in BIMSTEC as an observer. Visiting Yangon in February 2001, Nepal's Foreign Minister, Ch. P. Bastola, stressed that the two countries are primarily united by Buddhism and the presence of an influential Nepalese community in Myanmar .6

Both States that adhere to the principles of non-alignment in their foreign policy have similar or similar positions on major international issues. They advocate deepening solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, respect for the foundations of international law, and strengthening the role of the UN in ensuring peace and security. Both Kathmandu and Yangon do not accept dictates and arbitrariness in international relations. For example, both countries condemned the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia and especially the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by the Americans.

There are similar points in the geopolitical situation of Nepal and Myanmar. Both countries, bordering Asian giants China and India, are forced to maneuver between them in order to ensure maximum possible independence. Identical external challenges contribute to a better understanding between Kathmandu and Yangon. The vulnerability of the geostrategic situation dictates that Myanmar and Nepal should adhere to a policy of neutrality and non-alignment in one interpretation or another. During the Cold War, Myanmar adopted a policy of self-isolation, and Nepal tried to secure the status of a "Zone of Peace"for the kingdom. It is worth emphasizing that Myanmar has more significant potential in foreign policy and has more room for maneuver, unlike Nepal, which is a cultural and religious extension of India and is heavily dependent on the latter for trade and economic development. In addition, the mountain kingdom has no access to the sea.

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For Myanmar's military regime, which is heavily criticized and sanctioned by the West for violating human rights and democratic norms, friendly relations with Nepal, which has a reputation in the international arena as a democratic State that guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, are very important. In general, the official Kathmandu sees no reason to limit contacts with the Myanmar military administration, considering what is happening in this country to be its internal affair. However, opponents of the Myanmar generals are also trying to fight against them on Nepalese territory, considering the kingdom, where democratic freedoms are rooted, as a "weak link" in the chain of states neighboring Myanmar. For example, in December 1999, Burmese parliamentarian Tin Swe, who was elected to Parliament in 1990, visited Kathmandu. He is also a member of the opposition national committee representing the "people's Parliament". The Committee was established by the opposition in September 1998 in response to the refusal of Myanmar's military-led State Council to convene a Parliament elected in May 1990.

Tin Swe is in exile in India, where up to 1,000 Burmese people who left their homeland for political reasons have settled, and is trying to get the leaders of SAARC member countries to support the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. In Nepal, Tin Swe met with leaders of the ruling Nepalese Congress (NC) party, who expressed their solidarity with the Myanmar democracy Movement7 . By the way, representatives of the NK declare their sympathies for the leader of the Myanmar democratic movement, Do Aung San Suu Kyi, and at international forums, in particular at the Social International congresses.

In January 2000, the international conference "Democracy for Burma" was held in Kathmandu, organized by international, Nepalese and Burmese organizations, including the International Conference of Free Trade Unions, the ILO, the Congress of Nepalese Trade Unions, the Union of Free Trade Unions of Burma, etc. The conference was attended by more than 60 delegates from 25 countries who adopted the "Kathmandu Declaration" - a call to the world community to increase political and economic pressure on the military regime of Myanmar, to express solidarity with Do Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nepalese Trade Union Congress has submitted a petition to the Myanmar Embassy demanding the restoration of democracy in Myanmar .8

Official Yangon reacted sharply to the fact that an international conference was convened in Nepal, especially since the organizers were refused to hold it in India and Thailand. Myanmar residents were particularly outraged by the participation of dissident trade unionist Mauna Mauna in the event. The Myanmar Embassy sent a note to the Nepalese Foreign Ministry accusing the latter of involvement in terrorism. The Myanmar mission also issued a press release condemning the conference as damaging the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries. In addition, oral presentations were made to the then Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Bhattarai and NC Chairman G. P. Koirala, who actively participated in the trade union forum. Nepalese leaders, in a response statement, argued that a distinction should be made between the official position of the Government and the point of view of the public. They assured the Myanmar Ambassador that the Nepalese authorities value their friendship with Myanmar and expressed the hope that the international conference in Kathmandu would not negatively affect the Nepalese-Myanmar cooperation.

It should be noted that the Embassy of Myanmar in Nepal is actively engaged in awareness-raising activities. Press releases and newsletters are regularly published, and materials are sent to the local press. The Embassy maintains close contacts with members of the Nepal-Myanmar Friendship and Culture Association, which contributes significantly to creating a positive image of Myanmar in Nepal-

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Russian society. The latter is particularly important because local media outlets publish quite a lot of reports from Western news agencies about the situation in Myanmar, focusing on human rights violations and the persecution of the opposition by the military authorities. The Association's leaders regularly refute these publications. Curiously, they find Myanmar's authoritarian regime much more appealing than Nepal's multi-party parliamentary democracy. As an argument, the thesis is put forward that the former provides order and stability, while the latter balances on the edge of chaos. Nepalese people with ties to Myanmar also point out that the economic development results of the two countries over the past decade are also not in Nepal's favor.

The Chinese Xinhua news agency provides great information support to Burmese people. Its materials provide positive coverage of the domestic and foreign policies of the Myanmar military regime. The emphasis is placed on Yangon's unwillingness to yield to Western pressure, and its rejection of interference in internal affairs under the humanitarian pretext. The Chinese welcome the statements of Myanmar's leaders against the danger of domination in the world by individual powers, especially the United States, which seeks to impose its will on other participants in international relations. When developing relations with Myanmar, official Kathmandu takes into account the special nature of ties with Yangon, its great neighbor.

There are certain prospects for establishing trade and economic cooperation between Nepal and Myanmar, which has now almost come to naught. It is also possible to involve both the Nepalese community in Myanmar and Nepalis who have returned to the Kingdom from Myanmar. The issue of resuming direct air service between Kathmandu and Yangon is being discussed, which would make a positive contribution to the development of the tourism industry in both countries. Recently, Nepal-Myanmar contacts in the field of information and culture have been reviving. Thus, a delegation of Nepalese journalists visited Myanmar, and then Myanmar journalists visited Nepal.

There is every reason to believe that the friendly nature of relations between Nepal and Myanmar will continue, which is greatly facilitated by the presence of a significant Nepalese community in the latter. At the same time, it is quite likely that they will occasionally become rough due to the use of Nepal's territory by critics of the Myanmar military regime for various campaigns.

notes

U Hla Tein Thu. 1 Boudadi mnma lumye (the Myanmar Buddha). Yangon, 1997. pp. 117, 125.

2 Look Nepal. Tourism, Culture and Environment Magazine. Kathmandu. Vol. 4. N 10. 2000. Jan/Feb. P. 10; The Rising Nepal. Kathmandu. 21.01.1999.

3 Look Nepal. The Rising Nepal. Kathmandu. 21.01.1999.

4 For more information on the situation of the Indian community in Myanmar, see Listopadov I. A. Indytsy i kitaytsy v Burma: sotsiopsychologiya i politika // East (Oriens). 1997. N 5. pp. 45-54.

5 The Rising Nepal. 04.01.2001.

6 The Rising Nepal. 18.02.2001.

7 The Kathmandu Post. 25.12.1999.

8 The Kathmandu Post. 21.01.2000.


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