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Nepalese Foreign Policy in the changed context
Dr. Gopal Pokharel, Professor of Political Science, TU
Foreign Policy is an important key to the rational explanation of International behavior. We find a number of experts or scholars trying to hold universally acceptable definition of foreign policy. One of such definitions could be- "Foreign Policy is the course of action under taken by a sovereign state in pursuit of its national interest beyond its jurisdiction". In reference to this, Foreign policy and Diplomacy, are the wheels with which the process of International Politics operates. All states, big or small, powerful or weak developed or developing have to adopt some kind of foreign policy and diplomacy to promote its national interest. While formulating and executing the policy, every state tries to minimize the adverse effects and maximize the favorable ones of the actions of other states. In other words, it is the adjustment of the action of states in favor of one's own state, which George Modelski, calls the purpose of foreign policy.
While studying foreign policy, one has to bear in mind, the essential components related to it.
The essential components include-
(a) Policy makers,
(b) Interests and objectives,
(c) Principles of foreign policy,
(d) Means of foreign policy.
As a matter of fact, when we analyze the dynamics of foreign policy, we should take into account both the aspects—theoretical as well as practical. Concomitantly, the making of foreign policy demands careful scrutiny while understanding its determining factors. A foreign policy can be defined as a course of action for achieving objectives in foreign relation, as dictated by the ideology of national interest. One of the significant means of the execution of foreign policy goals is Diplomacy. Diplomacy in the popular sense means "the employment of tact, shrewdness, and the skill in any negotiation or transactions and in the special sense (Quency Wright), it means the art of negotiation in order to achieve the maximum of group objectives with a minimum of costs, within a system of politics in which war is a possibility."
Nepal's foreign policy revisited:
Towards the end of 18th century, late king Prithvi Narayan Shah, from the house of Gorkha, brought about the unification of modern Nepal. In the initial stage after unification, foreign policy of Nepal was conducted directly under the leadership of the Shah rulers and they were the ones solely responsible for making and conducting the foreign policy of the nation. Nepalese foreign policy followed a pattern as dictated by the prevailing circumstances and national aspiration until Nepalese had a direct encounter with the British colonial power in the sub-continent and were forced to enter into a humiliating treaty of Sugauli, in 1816 AD causing a loss of one third of its territory. Late king Prithvi Narayan Shah, had a thorough vision in terms of its geo-political situation of Nepal and accordingly, he propounded the "two-bolder' theory vis-à-vis its immediate neighbors and cautioned his successors to be very vigilant and adopt a cautious approach while dealing with these powers in the prevailing circumstances.
Nepal 's history enters into yet another vicious circle when, Jang Bahadur Kunwar, an ambitious soldier, master minded a bloody Kot Massacre Episode in 1846 AD while grabbing all state power for himself and his family, dragging the nation in an era of autocratic familial rule, which lasted for over a century. The autocratic familial rule took a U-turn in matter of foreign policy and adopted an appeasement policy towards British colonial rule in India.
During and after the second world war, a wave of national resurgence and democratization swept across different continents in general and South Asia in particular whose reverberations were felt in Nepal as well. India succeeded in achieving independence from British Raj in 1947 AD and like wise, on the north, China accomplished its October Revolution in 1949. The wave of nationalism and resurgence movement had a salutary effects on the democratization movement of Nepal as well .The Nepalese were able and exerted a decisive fatal blow to the old rotten autocratic familial rule which collapsed as a house of cards, is considered an epoch-making episode for entering Nepal to the modern era of its national history.
Nepalese Foreign Policy under the Democratic Dispensation:
Nepal joined the comity of Nations after a long isolationism with jubilation and high spirit in the early fifties. The foreign policy of Nepal in the initial stage was excessively influenced and marked by a clear proclivity towards India. It was only in 1955 an attempt was made to diversify its external relations by establishing diplomatic ties with other countries across different continents. In August 1955, Nepal established diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China. In the same year, Nepal obtained the membership of the United Nations. Besides, Nepal's bi-lateral relations went on expanding with many of the countries of the world across different continents.
As a land-locked and one of the least developing countries of the world, Nepal, from the very beginning, adopted a cautious approach and refrained it self from being dragged in either of the super powers rivalry, which were diametrically opposed to each other in terms of political ideology and were engaged in spreading their sphere of influence. Nepal along with many of other developing countries succeeded in exploring a suitable strategy of "Panch-sheel", the five principles of peaceful co-existence, which, later on paved the way for launching the Non-Aligned Movement, considered to be most appropriate vehicle for the conduction of foreign policy, for a country like Nepal.
Nepal does strongly believe the lofty ideals of the UN and considers it to be a sentinel for a small country like Nepal.
On the whole, the main features of Nepal's foreign policy can be listed as here under:
- Unflinching belief and support to the UN charter,
- Peaceful settlement of all disputes,
- Complete disarmament,
- Peaceful Co-existence and belief in Non-Aligned Movement,
- Opposition to all kinds of discriminations- Racial, Apartheid etc,
- Consistent advocacy to the rights of land-locked countries,
- Strong plea for South-South Cooperation
- Opposition to all sorts of hegemon-ism, expansionism, colonialism and imperialism, and
- Advocacy for a zone of peace
In fact, Nepal embarked upon the road to modernization after 1950 AD, trying to diversify its foreign policy maneuverability, taking into consideration its vital national interest and during the reign of late King Mahendra, it recorded considerable success in establishing diplomatic ties with all the major powers of the world, along with the admission to the United Nation.
Late King Mahendra, in his capacity as ahead of the state and late B.P. Koirala, in his capacity as first ever elected Premier attended General Assembly sessions of the United Nations personally, and showed their commitment and importance that they attached to the world body. This trend was followed successfully by the elected Prime Ministers even after the restoration of parliamentary democracy after 1990 AD.
Although, a hectic debate took place regarding the Royal take over in 1960, when King Mahendra, took the reign of politics directly in his own hands, establishing system based on the peremptory command, a modest beginning seems to have been made in diversifying the foreign policy of Nepal and success achieved to a considerable extent. During Panchayat era, under the direct rule of the shah rulers, Nepal succeeded in obtaining the non-permanent seat to the UN Security Council for two times which helped Nepal to enhance its International image considerably. The Shah Rulers, did understand the geo-political limitations and vulnerability of Nepal, while conducting foreign policy, but they miserably failed to honour the democratic sentiments of the Nepalese people. Gradually, the regime interest under the Shah rulers was interpreted and identified as national interest which was erroneous and counter productive which led to a serious contradiction between the king and the people and eventually culminated to the total collapse of the king's direct rule though the "jana andolan 1", of 1990 AD.
Nepal once again entered the phase of parliamentary democracy by legitimizing the operation of political parties' in the soil without any hindrance. A constitution was drafted and was put to effect. The constitution of the kingdom of Nepal 1990 AD was apparently, considered to be a progressive one in which most of the provisions of democratic system were incorporated, but the irony of the situation was that most of the political actors belonging to different political parties, turned arrogant, and were involved in displaying their stubborn character making a mockery of democracy. During a period of more than a decade, political opportunism reached to its zenith where as democratic sentiment to its lowest ebb. Corruption, Nepotism, Favoritism, and Adhocism badly eroded the socio-economic and cultural fabrics of the Nepalese society to an alarming proportion Transparency, Accountability, Rule of Law Social Justice, Fare and Equitable Distribution were the words confined to rhetoric only. Instead of fare politics, Politicking was the order of the day. Under such a situation, it was but natural, an insurgency, led by CPN Maoist waged an armed struggle threatening the abolition of feudal order led by two and a half century old Monarchy in Nepalese soil.
Currently Nepal is at across road of its destiny. Nepalese people after centuries of isolationism and feudalism have for the first, taken their destiny in their own hands through the "Historic Jana Andolan-2, 2006 AD.
We, at this current juncture are passing through a great transition. The daring decision of the Nepali people have forced all the main stream political parties to forge an alliance to work together for holding the constituency polls, slated for November 22, 2007. The need of the hour before the politicians, therefore, is to get rid of parochial perception, do away with status quoits approach and display their acumen ship to work for New Nepal, Prosperous Nepal, Federal Nepal, Democratic Nepal with a fare share to every section of the population ensuring inclusion and equitable justice.
To achieve the stated goals, we need to pursue a pro-active foreign policy to take our friends into confidence. Here lies the necessity of pro active role of our missions located in different capitals across the countries of the globe.
In the recent past, the Nepali foreign policy has passed through stages of euphoria and frustration both. Nepalese foreign policy has successfully engaged inquest of identity and preservation of over all national interest. In the contemporary world scenario, it needs to add further impetus, in conformity with the new challenges confronting the society.
Apart from caring our core national objectives and interests, the machinery of Foreign Policy operation requires revamping and re-structuring in the light of new challenges and existing realities of Nepal, no longer can afford to be apathetic to a highly globalized context, where spectacular changes are taking place with every passing days. Nepal must be prepared to cope with the emerging eventualities so as to minimize the adverse impact and reap the benefits by trying to explore the avenues of comparative advantage in shortest possible time-frame.
To achieve the clearly spelled out objectives of Nepal's foreign policy, we need to chalk out suitable modus operandi to optimize our goals. Preventive and pragmatic Diplomacy could be a suitable tool to achieve the objectives of our foreign policy.
As of now, Nepal has had diplomatic relations with 129 countries and also is signatories of a number of different International conventions. Concomitantly, over the past one and a half decade, Nepal's foreign policy has accorded a high priority in the agenda of economic diplomacy. After the onslaught of globalization, each of the actors within the comity of nations, feel hard pressed to adjust the policies as dictated by the emerging world order, primarily in the domain of privatization and liberalization. In other words, under the Trans-national corporations and Multi national companies, the International rule of the game has undergone a drastic change and has been relatively tougher as far as Aid-regime is concerned. After the end of bi-polarity in terms of ideology and military rivalry, Aid- regime is being replaced by Trade–regime. The revolutionary innovations, registered in the fields of Information Technology calls for adequate preparation and capability to catch up the pace of rapidly moving world. Therefore, a stupendous task lies ahead of Nepal to undergo necessary preparations to reap the benefits required for expediting the reform measures, at least for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, without further loss of time.
To meet the challenges created by the contemporary world order, Nepal needs to adopt suitable measures and correct strategies, by conducting pro-active foreign policy which might propel the course of Economic Diplomacy. It is to be noted here is that the term economic diplomacy is not merely a buzz word, demands many of the components as prerequisites to make it meaningful and result-oriented. Making economic diplomacy a meaningful and productive exercise the Government of Nepal in general and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular, ought to revamp administrative machinery as per the needs and aspirations of the Nepalese people. The Ministry must identify the areas and challenges where it can focus its attention and work accordingly to achieve the desired goals. For doing so, it has to adopt two-pronged strategy—one, short term and the other is long term. Some of the areas, that could propel the course of economic diplomacy, may well explore the avenues where we can seek comparative advantage. Besides, Economic Diplomacy should take into account some of the core components as its operational guide lines.
The areas where we need to focus could be listed as here under:
1. Public-Private Partnership,
2. Development Assistance (receiving from friendly countries),
3. International Trade,
5. Employment Generation, and
6. Regional Cooperation.
To meet the stated objectives along with the Millennium Development Goals (UN), timely reform measures are immediately to be initiated by all the sectoral ministries in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry.
Now, the personnel involved in the discharge of responsibility in the respective stations (missions) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be given adequate opportunity for the enhancement of their career so as to cater to the needs and services pertaining to economic diplomacy effectively and efficiently. If a culture of sincere work is encouraged, it would promote Professionalism and which eventually would strengthen the leadership quality of our MoFA officials to their allotted assignments. Concomitantly, the structure of the Foreign Ministry should initiate necessary structural changes befitting the responsibilities entrusted to it as per the calls of the time.
There was a time when Foreign Policy-Making was regarded as a usual phenomenon and monopoly of a few hands (palace and few officials in the Foreign Ministry), but in the contemporary world, it demands a composite frame work where the interest of all the stakeholders is clearly reflected. In other words, it needs to have pro-people proclivity in its orientation ensuring all the necessary ingredients of a pluralistic democratic political order.
So far, Nepalese leaders and politicians spent a good deal of time in conducting experiments and were engaged in political gimmick. We, no longer can afford to spend precious time and energy in futile exercise engaging ourselves in accusation and recrimination to each others. We have to learn from hind sight and rededicate ourselves to the socio-economic transformation .of Nepali society. This calls for a paradigm shift in terms of our out look and approach .so that a yawning gap between policy and implementation is bridged forthwith...Ideological obsession should not be allowed to impede the process of building New Nepal. Managing the constitutional or political processes should be carried on along with economic agenda, simultaneously or in close sequence, ensuring the basic services to the people. In spite of the rhetorical claims made by the politicians, nothing as yet has changed the material reality of the Nepalese people in terms of livelihood and basic services. Therefore, the entire national attention be focused on mitigating the sufferings of the masses who are deprived of the basic needs for centuries.,
Against this backdrop, in the domestic front, we have to manage aptly the revolution of Rising Expectations of our different sections of the population for which the political leadership must have clear vision, political acumen ship, commitment and determination with all sincerity to accomplish the historic mission of holding the constituent assembly polls slated for 22 November .Like wise we need meaningful co-operation and active support from all our friends which is of paramount importance for us at this stage of great transition. There lies the essence of successful foreign policy and the rationale of Economic Diplomacy.
Dr. Pokharel is the director of institute of foreign affairs, Kathmandu