Dealing With Neighbours
Geopolitics closely connected with borders matters both persistently and prominently for any independent state. This inextricable connectivity brings unavoidable impact on various activities of any state and its people indelibly for the infinite times to come. As it has been natural, the movement and migration to and from across the borders have created an environment of social affinity, cultural linkage and economic interaction. Consequently, the existence of any independent state hinges on how the political authorities behave and act in a way that can safeguard and promote its sovereign status.
Let us look at the geopolitical status of Nepal. Its borders are closely abutted on its two big neighbours India and China. Nepal is bordered with its southern neighbour India in the east, west and south. The three directions in the borders extend 1,880-km long. With China in north, Nepal’s borders run 1,439.18-km from the east to the west. These border connections clearly give us the true picture of the societal situations in the bordering areas of Nepal with India and China. In the southern border districts of Nepal, about 18 per cent of the people with socio-economic connection with the Indian states live and work. Similarly, around 7 per cent of the people with similar cultural and economic life style with close interaction with the Tibetan way of life inhabit in the bordering districts with China.
All these physical and geographical connectivity as well as people’s relations with the neighbouring parts of both India and China have overtly and covertly influenced the bordering peoples with its imprint not only on the internal concerns and domestic policies but also the foreign policies of Nepal. These policies and actions need to be well gauged and finely tuned for their proper handling. If not, the implications might create embarrassing situations both within and outside the country. Delicate weighing of any domestic and external actions comes as the foremost priority before the policy framers and executors of the country. Stability and certainty at the higher political level can ensure predictability for any socio-economic outcome to emerge for the progress of the country. There is also great need to have for all sorts of policy makers assisted by the people with well- trusted and practical- oriented experts. They can shape policies that can be implemented as planned. Additionally, the bureaucrats must be well disciplined to veritably to do what are asked to do.
If the internal situations demand finer minds, the external factors ask for higher minds with crucial knowledge and tested expertise. When we talk of Nepal’s external relations, the two immediate big neighbours immediately appear on the scene. Their socio-economic progress and their policies towards Nepal demand from the politicians and policy practitioners their un-interrupted attention.
For the past 2half decades, Nepal’s foreign policy has been highly engaged with the two big neighbours. However, it has appeared that the Nepali foreign policy makers have not much paid attention towards their strategic policy concerns with Nepal. Doubtless, Nepal looks towards the southern neighbour more frequently because of the close socio-political interaction and encounter at the level of the people and politicians alike. Compared to the south, Nepal’s contacts with the north is visibly less. This has been happening since long. Geographic distance and cultural difference with the north have worked as some sort of barrier to having closer contact. But in the last few years, the shifting trend has become apparent that it will likely move towards increased dealings with the north as well, because politicians and bureaucrats are now realising the enhancing significance of establishing productive dealings with the north.
Experts often point out that Nepal’s foreign policy dealings have been marked with only responsive tendency. They did not much see the forward looking approach with dynamism. As a consequence, they note how China’s outreach has been expanding globally with its growing trade, economic and technical abilities. If China’s outreach is soaring at the pace of its rapid development, there is no question why China’s bilateral relations with its immediate southern neighbour Nepal will not grow. Its non-meddling policy in the internal matters together with its increased cooperation has ensured the steady development of neighborly relations. However, the relations with India, albeit very close geographically and culturally, have not progressed as should have been, because of the frequent interference in the domestic concerns and highly objectionable economic blockades imposed on Nepal. The Nepali populace earnestly desire to have cordial relations, but the things have been happening the other way around. A pragmatic process to diagnose problems must be politically discovered to put Nepal’s relations with India at an even keel.
People hope that the just concluded parliamentary and provincial elections would produce a promising result, which could put in place a stable and trusted government in Nepal to ensure good and people-friendly governance. Nepal urgently needs a strong positive political force that could guarantee to frame good policies for both domestic development and external relations particularly with the two neighbors. If a government firmly settled at the federal level, it could be in a position to make a long-term foreign policy trajectory with timely implementable programmes to maintain and enhance relations with both neighbours. In fact, such a stable government can earn highly desirable trust from both neighbours.
Balance of interests
Politicians and diplomats frequently talk about maintaining balanced relations with both. However, they never explain how the balanced relations come by. Unless the foreign policy decision makers give serious thought to what the renowned experts call “balance of interests”. This means arriving at the definite conclusion of Nepal’s own core national interest and subsidiary interest related with the interests of both neighbors. There must be meticulous analysis done to make neighbourly relations based on the balance of interests, not any other thing else
The balancing of respective interests will bring us to a position of making decisions as to how Nepal should approach with both neighbours in the areas of security sensitivities and socio-economic domains and myriad of other concerns. To make eclectic decisions require a keener eye and an incisive mind firmly premised on patience and devotion of those policy framers who are committed to serving Nepal with steadfastness. Touch and go would reward no one else.