Constitution And Foreign Policy

Madhavji Shrestha


Three years have passed since Nepal promulgated the Constitution of Nepal on September 20, 2015.To date, major provisions of the Constitution have been implemented barring some other provisions that are yet to be entered into force. As is general everywhere in the world, the provisions of the constitution touch upon the concerns and interests of the political, economic and social life of the nation. Foreign policy is hardly touched upon under the various provisions of the constitution. While perusing through various parts and provisions of the Constitution of Nepal, our nation is no exception to the general practices pursued as elsewhere.

Nepal as a small country, placed between two giants of Asia, India and China, has strived hard to keep its image as an independent and sovereign nation with indomitable courage and determination handed down since its unification some 250 years ago, and is still continuing to do so for its future journey in the global community. The world today is passing through a chaotic and transformative period, if not yet disruptive. The Constituent Assembly then with its prudence and foresight considering the past and future of the nation had indeed wisely enumerated various components of the national interest of Nepal under the specific provision of the Constitution. Article 5 (1) of the Constitution states, “safeguarding of the freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, independence and dignity of Nepal, the rights of the Nepalese people, border security, economic wellbeing and prosperity shall be the basic elements of the national interest of Nepal”.
Additionally to get the national interest of Nepal duly respected and observed, Clause 2 of the same Article 5 says “any conduct and act contrary to the national interest shall be punishable by the Federal Law. To further put the position of national interest at its apex, Article 48 (a) of the Constitution prescribes as the fundamental duty of every Nepali citizen “to safeguard the nationality, sovereignty and integrity of Nepal, while being loyal to the nation”. All those provisions assume paramount importance which reminds all politicians and citizens with essential awareness and unbounded faith required to protect and promote national interest of Nepal with sincerity and fealty for the sake of their freedom and devotion to the nation.
All that taken note of, experts attribute that the national interest is the linchpin that spearheads foreign policy of any nation and where stand the fundamental principles and purposes of its successful conduct for its dealing with and behaviour towards its neighbours and influential and powerful countries of the world at large. There will be no denying to this attribution from which no country can deviate from the pathway adopted.
Furthermore, the Constitution in its Directive Principles, Policies and Obligations of the State under Part 4, Article 51(m) (1) entails the government of Nepal “to conduct an independent foreign policy based on the Charter of the United Nations, non-alignment, principles of Panchsheel, international law and norms of world peace, taking into consideration of the overall interest of the nation”. Of course, these are the only guidelines meant to conduct foreign policy and international relations of Nepal. While navigating foreign policy and diplomacy of Nepal, authorities concerned should take cognizance of those guidelines which are in fact not mandatory, because Article 55 makes it clear : “No question shall be raised in any court as to whether any matter contained in this Part has been implemented or not”. These guidelines look like the tenets of any region, very good if followed, if not, god will not intervene.
Providing basic elements of the national interest under the Constitution itself is an appreciable act that can serve as beacon to show the trajectory to walk through. However, in the absence of the proper details and concomitant interests of the national interest, political and bureaucratic authorities would likely grope in the dark. The government alone could not and should not give all its necessary details encompassing each area concerned with the national interest itself. The government of the day, if insightful and farsighted, would elaborate all sorts of national interests to the extent possible and in minutia in close cooperation and consultation with the people’s representatives representing various hues and spectrums of politics of the nation. That would certainly reflect views and ideas of broader arena of national interest spreading over all layers and shades of the nation. That should be the way to adopt democratised process in harbouring democratic norm in spirit and deed as had been exhibited while promulgating the Constitution.
Authorities in Nepal have not yet shown any inclination to move ahead with the planning and strategies charted for foreign policy to take forward as reflected and inspired in the basic elements of national interest and strict adherence to them. The significant work of the policy planning and strategies must be carried out by the higher political authorities of wider knowledge and expertise. They would naturally be appropriate persons with foresight to take the vector and dimension of foreign policy to the traction the country needs to walk through. Of course, experienced bureaucrats with diplomatic skills can help them.
Today, the time and situation is such that foreign policy and its implementing tool diplomacy cannot and should not be conducted in isolation as had been carried through since decades. Information and knowledge have spread widely to various layers of national society. Executing authorities of foreign policy and diplomacy are now invariably required to keep in touch with the people and their respective groups and associations to share their views and internalise them to materialise foreign policy goals and objectives. That process would substantially reinforce the materialisation of what the government of the day is intent upon with the popular support of the interested individuals and groups. To realise this, there is indeed a need of installing a mechanism within the government itself and political parties themselves to really make the foreign policy of the nation people-centric and people- inspired. People’s sentiment and support is the spine that empowers and enables the government to act efficaciously.

To ensure the national interest of Nepal to its hilt and to achieve the objectives of foreign policy, a well-crafted planning with its strategies, and embracing the public sentiment need to be put in place to marshal the foreign policy of Nepal as intended by the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Nepal.

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