The MIREST, Media Initiative for Rights, Equity and Social Transformation, organized a seminar, July 1st 2011, entitled “National Security Dynamics of Nepal’s Foreign Policy in the New Constitution.
The seminar was well attended by noted scholars, former diplomats and media men of the country. I was also among the crowd of the participants.
Professor Hiranya Lal Shrestha, my senior colleague, presented his working paper on the said topic.
Below I produce the observations made by Mr. Shrestha in his paper which was later commented by the following high flying panelists. These panelists could be seen at each and every Kathmandu seminar. The program was chaired by the Chairman of the MIREST, Mr. Suresh Acharya. It is exactly what they said. Nothing has been added here from my side so that the readers could judge the diplomatic depth of the panelists.
Mr. Suresh Acharya, MIREST:
Nepal definitely now needs a national security policy. When Mrs. Bidya Devi Bhandari was the defense minister, she is reported to have sketched some paragraphs for national security policy for the country, August 2010. I was told that this sketch was a 37 page document. The new policy was for the institutionalization of the current republican order. I don’t know where that special document is at the moment.
Prof. Hiranya Lal Shrestha:
The primary job today is to protect the sovereignty of the nation. We have to take a holistic approach keeping the people at the center and reorient the policies as per the people’s aspirations and later incorporate it in the new constitution.
We have been listening that Criminal-Politics nexus is increasing of late. This unwarranted combination has deteriorated the security situation in the country more. Very freshly the Home Minister said, “we have to nab some 100 dons, 100 politicians and an equal number of those who have been protecting the criminals”. This example very much speaks of the security situation in the country.
In addition, some 100 armed groups, Hill and Terai included, are in existence which fortunately has come down to 26 only.
A good neighbor never pricks the under belly of the next door neighbor. Very freshly Prime Minister has also said that Nepal’s neighbors will feel secured if Nepal itself remains in a secured state. This has some meaning. However, Nepal should also not undermine the legitimate security interests of its immediate neighbors. Understandably, security responsibilities of the State have expanded. Both the countries in Nepal’s North and South have begun suspecting our credentials. So let’s first secure ourselves and then assure the neighbors. Let’s enhance our capabilities.
National Army has a glorious history which has also timely accepted the changed order thus we must keep this institution politically a neutral one. NA’s professionalism must be encouraged but the NA must embrace inclusiveness.
Let the Maoists militias be integrated in an honorable manner. Those who oppose such integration prefer perhaps to weaken National security.
The open border must be regulated which will in many more ways than one assist the neighbors itself ultimately.
I propose one year training to the Nepali youths for a variety of reasons. Mind it, Israel is a democratic country but yet she trains her youths.
A national consensus among all the political parties should be forged while formulating a national security policy. We certainly need a new security doctrine for the country. Earlier the better.
Pushkarman Singh Rajbhandari, Former diplomat:
Let’s admit that we have border problems. Yet I would observe that we have so far failed in locating our own problems. We have problems in some 21 districts adjoining the Indian border. Some are related with human encroachment and others were due to the change of the river course. Open border issue deserves due attention. The open border should have eased the problems but it is just the otherwise. It is due to the lack of locating the problems.
Leaders often talk of the abrogation of the 1950 treaty with India. It was PM Man Mohan Adhikari who pushed this matter to the Indian PM. Later, this issue was dumped. While Kamal Thapa was the foreign minister, he forwarded a five point non-paper as regards the 1950 treaty review which appears now to have vanished. Nobody talks of the 1950 treaty any more.
We need to tackle such issues with astute diplomacy associated with strategic approach. Unfortunately, neither we have diplomacy nor a strategy.
Nepali diplomacy has already become the victim of existing dirty politics. It should not have been like that. But it is so. The Tri-Junction, where Nepal, India meet China too remains yet to be demarcated. It may create problems of higher dimension if not tackled on time.
We are surrounded by Nuclear powers in South Asia but nobody in Nepal talks of the radiation hazardous effect that may have been in our sky. We need to talk as regards this issue with the International Atomic Energy Commission and if possible Nepal too must have an Atomic Energy Unit to monitor the radiation impact on Nepal from the neighboring countries. The fresh case in Japan must be considered.
Ranadhoj Limbu, Brigadier general, Nepal Army ( Retd):
Nepal should have a national security policy for the people, by the people and of the people. In my opinion, security system has many variables.
Security for what? Security from what? And the likes. We should first determine the threats to our national security. Let’s define first the internal nitty-gritty of national security policy. We need security along the border. We need security to ensure our territorial integrity. While charting out a national security policy, we must also name the instruments and the tools that we have in our possession. We need to enhance our own security capabilities and preparedness.
The security must be for the nation. Its national purpose should also be made clear to all. In addition, we must find out as to which were our vital national interests? This demands a clear cut foreign policy. While talking of security, we must not undermine the poverty and the ecological factor that are associated with the national security. The cropping up of ethnic grievances and the issues related with Madhesh and of the federal order were also related with national security. Citizenship issue too is linked with nation’s security. I would suggest constituting a National Security Council whose primary functions and chain of command must be clearly stipulated.
Similarly, the national security formulation also should provide its attention as regards the Nepal Army. How to mobilize the Nepal Army and who should they obey for such a mobilization, as and when demanded, also need to be clearly stipulated in the new constitution. For example, while declaring a state of emergency in the nation, its modus operandi too demands clear prerequisites which should be spelt out in advance.
Dr. Bekh Bahadur Thapa, Former Ambassador:
I think all who are present here were anxious enough looking at the sorry state of the country. Security is demanded in all sectors of life; above all the ordinary citizens need security. We all need a secured life. Our citizens, our national resources and national borders demand security.
The fact is that to have a national security policy, the political parties must forge a national consensus. Unfortunately, when there is the absence of unity in a particular party, how can we expect a national unity for the formulation of a national security policy?
The irony is that with one King gone, we have several Kings now in the political spectrum. We the Nepalese are clearly a divided lot.
I would suggest that we must stress on the need of the prevalence of good governance in the country.
Look when King Birendra and his family members lost their precious lives, I could receive the very sad news of my own country through the kind courtesy of the then Indian President and the Prime Minister. Formally, they informed me of my King’s brutal murder. This speaks of our communications system.
Dr. Ram Saran Mahat, NC leader:
Security threats to Nepal originate from within our own borders. We need security in food, energy, preservation of our ecology and the likes. We are sandwiched between two giant neighbors and have problems. But with good homework, these issues could be sorted out. The tragedy with us is that the quality of our own governance is poor.
In my opinion, the more prosperous we become economically, the more secured we will be. The issues raised on ethno-nationalism must be well addressed.
I suggest opening the borders for the inflow of foreign capital. Provide adequate emphasis on economic agenda. We should also enhance our own capabilities. Since we are in a divided state, naturally foreign forces not only penetrate into our internal domain but also insult us quite often.
Governance quality must be improved and care should be taken that our Human Resources are effectively utilized. Human Resource is the best resource. But I will not subscribe to Mr. Shrestha’s opinion that the Nepali youths be provided a sort of military training.
Padma Lal Bishwakarma, Maoists party CA member, Nepal:
Ambassador Shyam saran landed in Nepal some years back as a Viceroy. He made contradicting claims as regards the Nepali land encroachment from the Indian side. India wants to control Nepal. I have heard that several border demarcation pillars have either been uprooted or at best shifted deep inside Nepali territory along the border. Treaties or agreements are being signed ignoring the mandatory two thirds majority votes from the parliament. Nepal’s national sovereignty is at stake. For providing security, the youths must be trained. We never became a colony of other forces in our entire history. I think all the political forces must converge at one point. We need no dictation from others. We can invite others if we need their help. The integration of the Militias must be as per the commitments made in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
We need a national security policy even for securing the Indian interests.
PS: From the floor several questions were raised. Thus ended the MIREST seminar.