The Reason Of State
Dev Raj Dahal
The reason of state is rooted in the political sovereignty of public authority within defined space, autonomous of internal interest groups and external powers. It grants the right of sovereign to decide national interests aiming to gain, protect and enlarge its outreach in society and deliver public goods. The reason of state is a sine qua non for order and stability of Nepal at a time of decay of global order. It balances sub-national and external forces, executes international commitments and takes a lead of the market and solidarity-based forces on national initiatives to resolve problems. Fundamentalism of all sorts -- ethnic, religious, class, market and region - subverts the rationality of Nepali state in the same way as multi-functional interest groups, anti-state forces and geopolitically-oriented groups. The state intervenes when constitutional law does not function and the society faces painful vices - crippling infrastructures, corruption, violence, anomie, lawlessness and external penetration.
The reason of state arises despite certain limits it imposes on citizens’ rights or their moral codes for the protection of society. Proponents of this view are great men of action -Machiavelli, Hobbes, Burke, Bismarck, Henry Kissinger, etc. Human beings, by their very nature, seek higher authority to avoid the perils of anarchy of free will to engage in creative pursuits. In no way democracy is a paradise of the masses. In all regimes, elites rule by the gift of leadership and defend their action in the name of patriotism, public interest, justice, stability, prosperity, etc. Elections only circulate them in the polity across generations and legitimise their authority and political action. The constitution of Nepal defines the rule on the basis of the rights, opinions and aspirations of the multitude the polity. But, as the centres of gravity are political parties, governed by partial frame, not Nepali state, this continues to devalue the neutrality of statecraft. The reason of Nepali state is not a partisan issue. It stands above private sector, political parties, government and polity to represent all citizens.
Nepal’s long history of sovereignty has fortified its resilience. The innovation of legal tradition of politics has put an end to the ruler’s sovereignty and reconciled the state sovereignty with popular sovereignty. But the ethos of human rights and democracy have constrained leadership from the amorality of political action and set loose multiple impulses of Nepali political forces - rebellion, disobedience, divisive tendencies and corruption of power. Nepali constitution has adduced scores of strategies for national cohesion: multiculturalism, social inclusion, proportional representation, affirmative action, positive discrimination and federalism. Building bridges across these strategies and policies are vital to improve state-citizen ties, end lingering political transition, stabilise the reasons of state in society and plan autonomous development process.
Ironically, the same constitution has fostered parallel societies by granting Nepalis group rights, considering them equal but different identities in line with the credo of consociationalism which contradicts constitutionalism, secularism and republicanism. It marks a sign of infirmity in statecraft, failure to adapt to shifting geopolitics and gain national capacity to solve the problems of security, democracy, development and peace. Undue reliance on outside on these areas reduces the reasons of Nepali state and lures interest groups to global poles of power.
The historical triumph of reason of Nepali state, declaration of state of emergency and use of doctrine of necessity are couched in anti-moralist and anti-legalist view of politics contrary to natural law tradition of good life within the state and moral duty to humankind. Primacy of amoral politics over rule of law has constrained the fulfilment of citizens’ rights. The state of nature is a condition of perpetual conflict, insecurity and absence of positive peace. In this context, the Nepali state’s action must bear publicly avowable nature.
Maintenance of political order is vital for the defense of security, liberty, property and peace. Historically, Nepal constructed Spartan culture to support its fierce strategy for survival. Many enduring monuments of heroes and builders who defended the reasons of state are living memories. Where should the Nepali state find an alliance now when most of civic and constitutional bodies are partisan, not state-bearing except Nepal Army and ordinary citizens? How can the new dispensation of secular, federal, democratic republic identity of Nepal enable cultural and intellectual defence of the nation when the transformative project of external powers and their proxies inside are challenging the legitimacy of its tradition, values and culture? In such a condition, can Nepal sustain transnational linguistic, cultural and religious links for enriching national unity and forging pan-Nepali identity?
There is a need to build constitutional patriotism of citizens and leaders seeking single public identity compatible with Nepali state’s imperative. The Westphalian sovereignty claims the reasons of state for the pacification of internal power centres, national self-determination and national independence in international relations. But the reality of Nepal’s dependence on knowledge, power, legitimacy and policy sets limits on these reasons. The post-Wesphalian notion exalts the “reason of society” for freedom so that the state-society ties stand in a dynamic balance in an “embedded” state for the attainment of national goals. The alliance of the Nepali state and citizens mediated by the constitution demands certain conformity and uniformity in laws, education, cultural industries and the basic values. The resurgence of constitutional state lays the ground for citizens’ rights as a basis of political authority and renewal of its legitimacy by periodic elections and performance. They put the ground for law, mutual obligations and reciprocity that underline the social contract. To realize all rights of Nepalis, the state must overcome its defective monopoly on power, keep ample tax base, loyalty of citizens and global recognition. It demands a rightful condition of Nepali state in the changing geopolitical milieu, remove the pitfalls of determinism and avert multiple risks.
Nepal’s classical wisdom has laid stress on individual freedom. The central intellectual tradition of Nepal set scholars above statespersons and the former reminded their jobs and judgements. P.N. Shah has created a unified state for national identity by abolishing the eternal rivalries of micro states in favour of unity. His raison d’ etre of Nepali state is the prosperity of citizens. Classical treaties laid the principles of politics. Politics is not an end in itself; it has public welfare purpose and service to the state. Hence, Nepali leaders have learned the art of politics and played by its rule. Mahavarata, Geeta, Arthashastra of Kautilya, The Law of Manu and Dibya Upadesh of Prithvi Narayan Shah articulated autonomous values of the state, defined not by private interest of rulers or abstract universalistic principles, but by the raison d’ etat as the state represents collective will of all citizens.
The Dibya Upadesh is more a compass than only a policy brief for right course of action. It has defined national strategy as a sense of whole and linked critical elements such as active defence, economic mercantilism, cultural and linguistic nationalism, livelihood and international relations to it. Prithvi Narayan Shah knew that degradation of these elements can spoil the reasons of state without spurring the free will of society. Nepal’s diplomacy and strategy were derived from dharma, in defense of motherland, which balanced political realism and morality espousing higher law above leaders’ self-will. He knew the enemy and sought to adopt a complex geopolitical lens to link strategy to statecraft.
The emergence of Jung Bahadur Rana, a man of genus, clearly turned his foes against each other and offered a semblance of order and stability. Unlike Rome, his Muluki Ain, did not impose uniformity on social and cultural particularities of the nation. His official visit to the UK reveals that he was conscious of the reasons of Nepali state and its sovereign status in Asia, defended it by sheer courage and composure, avoided unpredictable risks to national security, restored certain lost territory and demarcated border. For Nepali state, perusal of a policy based on national interests is vital to stop instability, address the scarcity of public goods and secure order and peace without which citizens would revert to pre-modern life. He defended territorial integrity, national culture, way of life, institutions and resources and averted external threat to its core values.
The ancien regime founded on security, discipline, administration, tax and basic needs expanded the size and scope of Nepali state while democratisation sought a balance between the reasons of state and society. The lessons of Dibya Upadesh thus pivoted for centuries until 2005 and maintained rough proportionality in aligning ends with means of statecraft. The assertion of secular, federal democratic republic and cancellation of National Day, however, subverted the historical reasons of state with puny will to execute radical reforms, implement the constitution, set geopolitical balance and invent fresh reasons of democratic state no longer burdened by fear and fetters to life.
The Nepali state needs to coordinate historical trajectories of its diverse citizens with much identification to carry memories and experience for a shared political life. Leaders operating under selective images of history distort the insight of reality and find poor guide to escape collective memory of failures. A progress in the domain of rational action can combat the source of threats on its cohesive glues stemming from anarchic international order. Its effects are: deculturation which, like postmodernism, is rushing the atomisation of Nepali family, community and society, blocking the socialisation based on national culture and hitting system-integrating forces. As a result, non-sovereigns of Nepali society are more assertive than a sovereign which is cutting leaders’ ability to mediate between the reasons of state and the reasons of society which is so essential for national consolidation. The reasons of state remain unfinished as long as the task of achieving order, freedom, justice and peace is not completed.