International Relations expert, Vienna University
It has been quite a while that the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, however, it seems highly unlikely that a consensus on the contested issues be achieved by any time soon. Mutual recrimination and further polarization has dominated the discourse. Political parties are blaming each other for backtracking from earlier commitments on the controversial issue of federalism, inter alia. The news and the views regarding the current limbo generally hold responsible the inconsistent stances of all concerned parties, supposedly calculative moves by the Maoists, status-quoists tendencies of Nepali Congress and UML, questionable policies of foreign partners and many more. There have been some serious allegations of malicious intention on major foreign partners for supposedly making the matter worse, regarding in particular, the identity-based federalism. But amidst all this, before making allegations and drawing conclusions unflinchingly from the predominant political analyses, it is extremely important to scrutinize those views under different perspectives.
It is worth noting that most views and analyses in the political discourse in Nepal are dominated by the structural theory that the actors’ decision making process is solely based on their interests -material interests, power, logic of consequences etc. (theory of realism and rationalism). My argument is that the logic of appropriateness (March and Olsen, 2006) or norms also affects the behavior or policy choices of actors (theory of interpretivism or constructivism). The following paragraphs of this column will be an attempt to look at the decision makings of external stakeholders in Nepalese conflict and peace process in retrospective under the lens of constructivism. First, I will shortly elucidate the theories I have introduced for this analysis supported by some important empirical evidences.
Theories of constructivism look at the social world as intersubjective understanding between the social members. Therefore, the theory builds on the premise of ideas, norms, institutions etc. By contrast, the established tradition of realism and neorealism, regime theory sees the social world through the material interests, physical capabilities and so on. The former does not take the social actors as given unit unlike the latter, but assumes that the actors co-evolve with norms, values, ideas etc. It does not completely deny the material or power factor, but argues that interests and identities are created with ideas. Thus, the actors’ decision makings not necessarily hinge on their interests, but also on their values and reputation. The legitimate behavior, what ought to be done, or what is appropriate affects the identity, interest and behavior of the actors. Furthermore, what differentiate the regime theory and rationalism from constructivism is that the former two theories assume that norms are imposed by the powerful actors and the norms are respected when they are useful, respectively, but for constructivists, norms mean the right or legitimate thing to do. (Fearon and Wendt,2010)
The South African case of apartheid and its domestic and international opposition based on the institutionalized norms of racial equality provides an ideal empirical evidence how actors have changed their behavior (Audie, 1995). Audie goes on explaining that ‘the United States of America, though it had strong strategic and economic relationships with South Africa, ended up sanctioning it. Though Reagan administration had vetoed the UN resolutions for sanctioning SA, eventually the US endorsed the established norm of racial equality lest possible isolated identity in the international community. Similarly, Britain’s strong ties with SA, and Thatcher’s adamant policy against any tough measures against SA, though it took a bit longer, had to alter owing to the norms of racial equality. The changes of the policy of these countries occurred owing to, in major part, the successful advocacy of the norms of racial equality and anti-apartheid campaign within and outside SA. Incidentally, British objections could not hold back the Commonwealth sanctions on SA anyway.’ It supports the fact that the multilateral institutions like the UN or the Commonwealth can make their commitments and decisions without the consent of big powers, which also contradicts the structural theories. Though speculations pervaded on the engagement of the UN in Nepal’s conflict within the ‘sphere of dominance’ of India (perhaps China also), UNMIN happened, "made its mark", and left. The ONUSAL (United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador) accomplished a daunting mission of negotiated settlement between warring factions at the courtyard of the US in El Salvador.
Thus, it is safe to hypothesize that the “controversial” policies of foreign countries in Nepal towards the identity-based federalism or the journey from monarchy to republicanism and parliament to constituent assembly signals to the similar mechanism of transnational advocacy discussed above. I will also hypothesize that when different actors, national and international, take decisions on the basis of appropriateness or norms, and since some norms become more salient than others, and some actors accept some norms and reject others, the national politics can end up being a mess as we are witnessing at present in Nepal.
The globally institutionalized norms of sovereignty, democracy, human rights, equality etc. have guided the behavior of actors since the beginning of the end of Rana regime in Nepal, though the democracy in its trajectory took different characters on different occasions. At the beginning, the US economic and military aid that proved crucial to strengthen Panchayat regime and to propagate its democratic values (Muni, 1973:148). US collaborated with the erstwhile monarchy ideologically and militarily to defeat the CPN-Maoists owing to the facts of ‘expansion of communism, fear of terrorism, strategic interests’ (Upreti, 2010:227). The then US ambassador Moriarty had tried to prevent the 12-point agreement in Delhi (Ibid.: 226), however, the US ended up endorsing the historic political changes in Nepal, and at present is in terms with new roles of political parties and the republic. Why did the US not oppose or reject the 12-point understanding after it was inked? Bringing the rebels (Maoists) into mainstream politics and power sharing followed the international practice established since the end of cold war (Hartzell, 1999). Opposing the established norms would not arguably be a legitimate behavior for US. On the basis of theoretical assumptions above, actors’ behavior should not be understood as unchangeable. The then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in his visit to Kathmandu in 2002 ‘enlisted King Gyanendra’s support to the global war on terror and to reinforce US support to a coercive approach on the Maoists and now after 9 years, US strikes the Maoists off the terrorist list’. Though we understand that the communist forces are the arch enemies of the US, increasingly softer stance towards the Maoists speaks otherwise. The actors construct their social reality by interacting between them.
During the Jana Andolan II (Peoples’ Movement) in 2006, following the King’s first speech (21st April), the envoys of US, UK, Sweden, Finland, Germany and France rushed to Girija Prasad Koirala’s residence in favor of the king’s move, and they were of the view that the declaration could provide a common ground. The foreign envoys’ soft corner towards the king fuelled the already heated-up issue of “foreign interventionism or imperialism”. However, when the king was compelled to pronounce the second speech (22 April) owing to the opposition from the political parties (allegedly the engagement of India’s envoy behind the scene helped bring down the royal regime), subsequently the foreign partners did endorse the whole new political development in Nepal’s history. It is interesting enough, if not paradox, the international communities who apparently had maintained the policy of backing the constitutional monarchy now face the charges of fuelling ethnic mobilization in objectionable ways, given the fact that Nepal’s ethnic movement discourse has invariably convicted the erstwhile Hindu Monarchy as its archenemy. The structural theories of strategy and interest fail short of explaining the behavioral pattern of the foreigners.
The most plausible explanation would be that the outstanding character of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and Maoists Alliance, and consequently the overwhelmingly successful people’s movement made the foreigners accept the straightaway ousting of the monarchy. This supports the logic of legitimate behavior because any other policies in that case would have been considered against popular wish and thus, illegitimate. Similarly, it is equally reasonable to contend that the successful national and transnational mobilization of ethnic politics advocacy gained salience to that extent that the identity based restructuring has made up an essential component of democratic norms, and subsequently has won the support from the international communities. The growing scholarly contribution of the Nepalese scholars to global ethnic discourse and global to national; perhaps the domination of anthropological arguments over the diffusion of norms rather than civic or economic arguments (as generally heard in the press), dynamics of the relations between the Maoists and the ethnic fronts, and many more motives have added up to the salience of the issue, so much so that the foreign partners could not but act in the favor of the ethnic movement; which is not hard to comprehend because as the constructivist theory assumes, the globally institutionalized norms constitute 'actors interest'. As discussed above in SA case, the strong transnational advocacy of anti-apartheid campaign achieved prominence in the national discourse of the US, so much so that eventually the congress supported the sanctions on SA against the wishes of President Regan.
The labeling of international communities’ actions as ‘intervention’ is faulty. History has shown that the sovereignty changed over time (Hurd, 2008); it means for instance when it comes to gross human rights violation, after the Second World War the interventions are legally justified (ibid.). In the same way, democratic norms go beyond the physical border of a state and become international responsibility. The autonomy of national rulers debilitates whereas the “external interveners” invigorates (ibid.).
Finally, now "as a result " of the continuous interactions between the Nepali Congress, Maoists, UML, Madhesis, external partners and many more, Nepali politics has internalized and institutionalized the norms of republicanism and federalism that best suits the popular wishes. Now these foregoing stakeholders themselves are influenced by and obliged to act on the basis of these norms. But, as some have accepted some norms and rejected others, the political impasse has not found the way out.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com. Thanks the author: Ed.