Foreign Policy With Clear Guidelines Needed : Rebanta Bahadur K.C.
Foreign policy comes into action through the diplomats who demonstrate their diplomatic skills, caliber, art and proficiency to attain the broader national interests outside the domestic jurisdiction. Effective execution of national foreign policy requires an effective institutional mechanism, able leadership and competent diplomats. It’s also necessary to have a new pro-active, broad-based and fundamental long-term foreign policy with specific guidelines and clear national priorities so that a change at the helm of the government does not affect foreign policy execution and national diplomatic dealings.
Since Nepal’s diplomatic journey began in 1816 with the establishment of relations with Great Britain, it has made significant progress in developing, expanding and diversifying its international relations. As of now, it has tied diplomatic relations with 139 countries and maintains 36 diplomatic missions in different parts of the world. Nepal is an active member of the UN and specialised agencies, such as NAM, SAARC, BIMSTEC, WTO, IMF, World Bank and other international institutions. However, its diversified and expanded international relations have not been able to contribute notably in its socio-economic spheres for lack of specific foreign policy guidelines and clear national priorities.
National economic interest
This situation has not changed even after the landmark achievement recorded in the national political landscape. Nepal’s bilateral, regional and multilateral engagements have been primarily concentrated on defending its national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national independence; garnering bilateral, regional and multilateral assistance to carry out its development activities; seeking international legitimacy for the government of the day; and updating Nepal’s ongoing peace and constitution-writing process. The agenda of promoting and enhancing national economic interest has always remained a low profile in Nepal’s multiple external engagements.
Nepal has the potential to revive its national economy by exploiting its abundant national resources, such as hydropower, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, biodiversity, minerals and mines, and the economically active manpower. However, the national economy is suffering from a capital crunch, low economic growth, massive unemployment, yawning trade deficit, huge foreign debt, and energy and food crisis. The role played by the head of the government, ministers, diplomats and other national representatives at different international forums would have significant impact on enhancing national dignity, promoting and strengthening national economic interests, building further cordial relations and ensuring more international support for its socio-economic development if the government had a specific policy with clear guidelines and objectives.
Due to lack of specific police guidelines and policy priorities, our diplomats and national representatives who are in a position to implement the policy are in a dilemma. Political turmoil, an unstable government and inconsistent policy only make it further difficult to carry out a coherent and unified foreign policy approach, which is ultimately eroding our national diplomatic dealings.
Our national diplomatic efficacy and maneuvering within the comity of nations have further deteriorated by the existing practice of appointing national representatives based on nepotism, favouritism and political affiliation rather than professionalism, academic excellence, diplomatic acumen, negotiation and communication skills.
The Civil Service Act, which administers and governs Nepal’s public administration to ensure effective implementation of the government’s policies and programmes, envisions Nepal’s Foreign Service as a separate administration group, considering the specific nature of the job, professionalism, importance and gravity for overall national well-being. However, the practice of administering, governing, managing and conducting Nepal’s external affairs has not changed with the times. Moreover, the Public Service Commission has been holding a separate Foreign Service examination to select and recruit the required manpower to administer, govern and conduct Nepal’s foreign affairs.
After the restoration of democracy in the country, all the previous governments of the day seemed to have given importance in revitalising and reinvigorating national diplomacy, reflected by the number of high-level foreign policy task forces and committees they formed with the mandate of submitting pertinent, proactive and workable policy recommendations. However, a new specific, pragmatic, prudent and broader foreign policy has been elusive.
Foreign policy is administered and conducted in a dynamic external environment. It demands specific knowledge, academic excellence, intellectual depth, analytical capability, negotiation art and skills to serve the broader national interests. Diplomats work as the government’s extended arms and ears, and the formal communication channel, constantly keeping their eyes open on the ongoing developments in the host countries and making available the latest information and intelligence collected from various formal and informal sources to facilitate the government into tuning its policies, programmes and strategies accordingly.
In the above light, Nepal is now in the process of writing a new democratic constitution in the country. Along with this historic document, a new specific foreign policy with clear guidelines and national priorities should be formulated to make our expanded and diversified external engagements more productive and meaningful. All the political parties, diplomats and foreign policy experts should take the initiative to frame a more pragmatic and future-oriented policy by focussing on national economic interest.
Last but not least, the professional sanctity of Nepal Foreign Service should be maintained at all times so as to further strengthen our foreign policy execution and sound diplomatic dealings, which is also essential for Nepal to graduate from the group of LDCs by 2022.