Enkindling Foreign Policy Of Nepal
Nepal is still under the cloud of frequent political changes even after the big political overhaul effected a decade ago. The conduct of foreign policy and its concomitant diplomatic activities calls for a uniform approach based on national consensus, which has, until now, remained elusive, signaling not so easy to arrive at. Meanwhile, the world also seems groping in an aimless situation.
The contemporary world with its currently evolving trend is indeed complex and laden with numerous crises. Problems and issues in the regional and global arenas are myriad waiting for solutions to come by. Contradictions and contradictory stances are not only hard to understand, but even to make efforts to understand them is challenging and difficult.
This is the world we are living in, from which the uni-polar world led by the lone super power- the United States is no more in a position to tackle global problems and issues facing now. In fact, the early decades of the 21st century have been witnessing apparent erosion of the super power status, giving space to newly emerging powers and sub-powers around the globe. The trend today is moving towards the multi-polar world much characterised by multi-alignment. No power on earth appears to lead the world, which is much divided by conflicting and contradicting national interests of various nations.
Meanwhile, the ethnic aggrandizement and fundamentalist aggression seem on the apparent rise. The global organisation like the United Nations could hardly come up with ideas to do something substantive that would be helpful to ensure the much desired global peace and stability, and to give assurance to the global population.
The emerging multi-polar world is, willy-nilly, giving in to the forces of division and contradiction with no nation or group of nations or the international organisation coming to lead toward the global stability. This means an intractable situation is arising in the world with no glimmer of hope and feel for optimism.
The year 2016 saw the rise of nationalism with protectionism and self-interest as their priority in the western world, in particular in the United Kingdom with the stunning victory of the Brexit campaign, and in the United States with victorious election of Donald Trump as President with his apex priority slogan of “America First.’ Along in those two leading powers of the world, the rise of nationalist forces embodied in the anti-internationalism and anti-globalism is apparently making the day. Even in South Asia, the nationalist force has been gaining ground steadily. However, the steady growth of nationalist forces at this time does not look like the one that swept the day in the pre-Second World War, when the rabid nationalism representing Nazism and Fascism had made a great sway in Europe.
However, the current world scenario is substantially different from the pre-Second World War situation. The rashness and ruthlessness of destructive forces then taught a lesson that is never-to-be forgotten. Its accruing repercussions helped shape the world for many decades to come, following the reconstruction of Europe and Japan in the ensuing decades soon after the Second World War, and also learnt the value and significance of cooperative world that the concept of World Order.2 has taken a positive shape. Statesmen and diplomats then did realise that the outright sovereign rights of nation-states would not and could not ensure the peace and harmony in various regions and in the world at large. Sovereign obligations and duties towards the international community embodied in the World Order Two could make the genuine world order peaceful and stable for the sake of humanity and socio-economic well-being. This realisation and working to achieve those purposes have continued for seven decades, albeit bitter divides between the US-led western capitalist world and the erstwhile Soviet- led socialist camp during the Cold War days. In the meantime, regional integration and globalisation have been paying dividends to the cause of global stabilisation.
But not surprisingly, the world did see the re-emergence of nationalist forces in the developed world, especially in the western hemisphere creating a sense of threat to the international system so diplomatically and synergistically established by great statesmen and diplomats with realistic vision and pragmatic action. However, the most recent trend of the re-emergence of narrow-nationalism now looks transient and ephemeral, because the victories of political forces of anti-extreme spectrum particularly in France in May 2017 and the successes of similar rational forces in the central and western Europe in the recent past have given some hope for optimism to maintain status quo with some positive variations that respects globally accepted norms and values of peace and cooperative activities.
Under the logic and reality of the current circumstances existing near and far-away from Nepal, the formulators of foreign policy need to set their minds and eyes on the rationality and viability of their formulation. No doubt, the primary objectives of the marshalling of foreign policy are to protect the sovereign independence and territorial integrity of the country and to shoulder up sacrosanct duty of providing security and safety for citizens. But all these are normal functions to be carried on. The prevailing situations demand more proactive and affirmative activities that have to be effective to stand up to numerous challenges facing the country and society. Even to routinely uphold the integrity and security of the country, more contributive actions have to be formulated and implemented simultaneously; otherwise no country could be able to stand as a responsible member of the international community. To substantially contribute towards the active and positive foreign policy of Nepal, policies and actions of economic and strategic domain must be added up to the diplomatic activities. Nepal must be able to maintain and carry positive foreign policy activities. Positive foreign policy means extending hands of cooperation to the greater number of neighbouring countries and friendly countries far beyond our region, with which Nepal’s friendly relations exist and deserve our attention and friendly contacts and interactions.
Democratisation and build-up of democratic institutions are primary elements that back-up the conduct of foreign policy in an efficient and effective way. But the democratic process itself is never sufficient to substantially help to strengthen the pillars of diplomatic functions. True democratic and transparent process paves the way for getting support of public opinion to carry on the diplomatic businesses and activities in a people-friendly manner. The desires and wishes of the people need to be taken as an important component to undertake the diplomatic initiatives. Such functioning system naturally becomes an integral part of public diplomatic services that would be perceptibly felt and seen by the people at large. A regularly functioning mechanism at the official level must be put up to measure the pulse and nerve of the people who are fairly informed and genuinely take interest in the diplomatic functioning and activities of the country. Democratic dispensation and conducting of public diplomacy need to be juxtaposed in a harmonious coordination. This will, for sure, strengthen the hands of political parties in power. Their image before the eyes of the people becomes good, and political leaderships would be appreciated as people-friendly and society-serving.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Framework Agreement on China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative between Nepal and China on May 12, 2017 in Kathmandu has been understood and appreciated by the media and the people alike. Hardly dissent voice could be heard about the memorandum concluded between the two neighbours.
But the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) concluded between the governments of Nepal and India in October 2011 attracted much criticism and protest from the media and people concerned with various aspects of the agreement as not benefiting to the country and society.
The memorandum on OBOR is appreciated as it will facilitate more opening with China on the matters of trade, transportation, supply of essential commodities and business activities between two neighbours and beyond, whereas the agreement with India about the investment promotion and protection is looked with suspicion and disapproval by the media and the people.
The two events of agreement amply demonstrate how the government of the day should deal with the neighbouring countries with eyes towards the people’s aspirations. This is the impelling reason that the diplomatic activities and diplomats involved need to clearly note the voice of the people as part of activities of public diplomacy, which are favoured as beneficial to the country. No going back from such significant process if any government indeed wants to gain popularity and stand as the guardian of the people.
The two events equally signal that any government that braces for taking any diplomatic undertaking must be sensible and sensitive when they decide to jump start on any big deals related with security sensitivities, natural resources, water resources, trade concerns and any other terrains that closely relate to the people’s life and their immediate interests. If they are aberrant, success would not be coming forth. Therefore, think they must, before they act.