Working on Nepal's national security as a "whole concept" is vital for prioritising security issues to create a triage in protecting the country from both external and internal threats. Establishing a discrete national security committee in the Parliament, or a subcommittee within the committees on international relations or state affairs, is both relevant and urgent
As strategic competition intensifies globally, implications for international peace and security are widespread. The current era has been identified as one that will see great power competition between the United States and China.
This has already occurred with a surge in new developments in international politics and the economy.
On March 18, American and Chinese diplomats met in the US city of Anchorage.
They were expected to share plans for mitigating the differences on prevalent human rights practices, fair international trade and effective global governance.
Instead they sparred, with not much hope for another meeting soon, although ostensibly agreeing to act on issues of climate change. Both countries' stance at the meeting seemed to target their domestic audiences to consolidate nationalistic politics, an emerging but sectarian political strategy.
Additionally, the meeting produced cascading effects that brought Russia and China closer to each other in seeking a mutual strategic plan to thwart the USled global order.
Around the same time last month, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a security alliance of 30 European countries led by the US, came up with the NATO 2030 Initiative to make the alliance even stronger.
Further, the US, Japan, Australia and India concluded a second meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), a US-controlled regional alliance platform for the Asia-Pacific, to which China is opposed, as it sees it as a strategic threat. Europe's economic dependency on Russia, Russian involvement in the Syrian war and escalating Russia-Ukraine tensions suggest the emergence of a third competitor.
With such alliances becoming prominent, Nepal must focus on the following three changes in the governance structure and policies to lessen the impact of international forces on the country.
Strengthening informational and diplomatic capability.
Before creating the right policies at home, foreknowledge about the other countries' apparent and underlying policy objectives is essential.
Without understanding their core national interests, Nepal cannot decide on an informed and independent foreign policy. In this respect, Nepal must strengthen its intelligence mechanism and diplomacy to compete with dynamic and diversifying strategies globally.
Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has only two departments: the Department of Passports and the Department of Consular Services. Adding another department in the MoFA at home and branching it out in the missions overseas focusing on collection and analysis of economic, political, social and strategic intelligence management will help understand foreign nations' strategic priorities, operations and ends.
The jurisdiction of the National Intelligence Department (NID) at present is restricted within the national boundaries.Choosing selective alliancing.
Along with enhancing diplomatic and informational capabilities, a smart approach in alliancing is an important way of strengthening Nepal's security.
However, alliancing is not absolute or static.
Through impact analysis of participating in a joint military exercise, agreeing on a trade exchange, joining an international organisation or signing treaties that characterise alliancing, Nepal can decide on which activity to engage in and filter out the risky ones.
Alliancing could be tricky if a country lacks the intelligence capability to understand the strategic objectives of other countries. Hasty foreign policy decisions may push Nepal into a dilemma.
Whether it is about endorsing China's Belt and Road Initiate (BRI), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)compact of the US, or abstaining from the United Nations (UN)-initiated probe proposal to investigate war crimes during the 1983- 2009 civil war in Sri Lanka, an analysis of the longterm impact of Nepal's foreign policy decisions is important.
Any such decision will have geopolitical, security and economic implications for Nepal. Therefore, selective alliancing is imperative.
Creating a national security legal framework and adjusting a security organisation.
Working on Nepal's national security as a "whole concept" is vital for prioritising security issues to create a triage in protecting the country from both external and internal threats.
Establishing a discrete national security committee in the Parliament, or a subcommittee within the committees on international relations or state affairs, is both relevant and urgent.
Moreover, creating a new structure (e.g., Office for National Security Policy) within the Prime Minister's Office or the National Security Council, reporting directly to the prime minister seems logical.
Nepal's security forces and intelligence department are still separated in terms of reporting to the prime minister on intelligence estimates.
Therefore, it seems vital to cr1eate a post of a national security advisor to begin centralised briefings to the executive head of the country on pressing political, security, economic and social issues daily.
The creation of the national security committee will help identify political, economic, informational and military threats to Nepal at a time when the global strategic landscape is changing rapidly.
The national security advisor in coordination with all the security forces and administrative services will also be responsible for identifying the state as well as non-state actors trying to destabilise Nepal and phenomenological issues such as extremism, radicalisation and transnational crimes affecting the country's peaceful existence.
Bhatt was formerly a police officer and holds an MA in National Security from Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security, Washington, DC
A version of this article appears in the print on April 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.