Prithvi Narayan’s foreign policy relevant even today

By Ritu Raj Subedi

Kathmandu, Jan. 12: The birth anniversary of Nepal’s founding father, Prithvi Narayan Shah, was marked across the country with renewed interest and enthusiasm on Friday.
It was natural for Nepalis to pay homage to the man who not only created a beautiful nation but also laid a strong foundation for its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Prithvi Narayan Shah took up the task of unification of small principalities at a time when the British Empire was swallowing one Indian state after another. He wanted to establish Asli Hindustan (true Hindustan), meaning that our indigenous values, ethics and justice were not destroyed by the foreign aggressors.
Prithvi Narayan Shah rose and shone in the 18th century that predates the birth of great ideas that ruled the roost in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. But surprisingly, his Dibya Updesh (divine counsel) has been the mine of modern concepts defining the governance system, social character and cultural ethos. Prithvi Narayan Shah was a pioneer in propounding the idea of multiculturalism and pluralism, the key tenets of Nepal’s new constitution promulgated in 2015. The statute reflected well his notion that Nepal is a garden of four castes and 36 colours.
Upon conquering the small states, Prithvi Narayan Shah recognised and protected the local cultures, traditions and property.
He officially recognised Newari and Kirat cultures and Maithili language, with safeguard measures to protect the rights of the farmers and local people.
The 18th century socio-political system was described as feudal one but one can trace the strands of inclusive democracy, patriotic economy and ethnic harmony at the time of the great king.
His far-sighted foreign policy vision has been corroborated by the subsequent geopolitical movements. He observed ‘Nepal is a yam between the two boulders.’ This means Nepal is located in sensitive geography and preserving its independence and national interest require utmost caution, greater diplomatic dexterity and prudence.
Today Nepal has attracted the interest of global and regional powers. India and China are cajoling it to enhance their ‘sphere of influence’ here through public diplomacy, investment and political and cultural exchanges.
Of late, the US and Japan have sought Nepal’s role in Indo-Pacific region, a fact that reminds Nepali’s geopolitical importance.
This is both challenge and opportunity for the present leadership that will be able to safeguard the national interest only if it embraces some ounce of shrewdness, wisdom, guts and moral elements of Nepal’s founding father.
His statements and guidelines need to be interpreted based on contextual reality, consciousness and knowledge of time when they were made. The so-called postmodernist lens can hardly enable one to grasp the essence of Prithvi Narayan Shah’s thoughts, military strategy and foreign policy.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has rightly said that Prithvi Narayan Shah was a national hero of the nation’s unification. PM Oli said: “Had Prithvi Narayan Shah not led the unification campaign, none could have imagined Nepal in this form.”
Nonetheless, the government failed to announce Prithvi Jayanti on Paush 27 as public holiday. It would have been icing on the cake if it had decided to mark the Prithvi Jayanti as the national unity day, a common tradition the nations across the world observe.

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