Foreign policy - Indications of Nepal’s growing isolation

Because of the current authoritarian rule in Nepal, the conduct of Nepal’s foreign policy is constrained from moving toward its usual trajectory. Consequently, Nepal’s external activities have become highly limited in scope. The international community and the international civil society are decisively discontent with the political developments in Nepal. The promise to hold municipal polls and the announcement to co-nduct parliamentary polls went unheeded in the international arena, as the situation prevalent now would not allow doing so.

The international community has viewed the incumbent government as lacking legitimacy, the pedestal of which is the mandate received from a majority of people to administer the country as desired by them. Under the circumstances where such a mandate is not possible, the primary needs of peace and well being have to be met to get moral support for the policies and actions of the government. Unfortunately, during the past few months neither any signal for peace process nor any act for the well being of the people has been undertaken by the government to give solace to the suffering people. It has not even shown its reconciling attitude to the legitimate parties either. Naturally, legitimacy remains elusive for the government.

The past few months have seen the handling of Nepal’s foreign policy devoid of any new ideas to face up to the external circumstances arising out of the domestic political turmoil. It seems that no prior thought was given to keeping foreign policy afloat. This indicates a greater lack of intellect and experience of the government to convincingly deal with the complex external situation resulting in its exclusion from the comity of democratic nations. Misgivings and wrong calculations seem to have led the current government along the thorny road to a deeper complexity from which its exit appears improbable. Shallow in strategic thinking but apt to grab state power, those in power have pushed the country to a dangerous precipice.

Nepal’s foreign policy is now squeezed and shrunk. It would take years to put Nepal’s otherwise successful foreign policy back on track, even if previously embraced stance is allowed to restore soon. Evidently, the result is the marginalisation of Nepal from the international community from both diplomatic and political purview. Most recently, the government’s continued efforts through the highest and officials’ visits to broaden bilateral ties with countries not making any fuss for democracy in Nepal appear to resemble an attempt to compensate for the loss suffered from the brighter side of the democratic proponents. However, the geographic position of Nepal is such that these efforts would hardly be sufficient to meet the impending needs at this moment.

Nepal could hardly play any appropriate role in the international arena commensurate with its size and population. The historic summit of the UN that concluded in September this year witnessed no perceptible, not even slightly noticeable, contributing role played by Nepal in any important forum. As a member fully committed to the ideology and actions of the UN, Nepal occupies a good position in making greater contributions toward the peace-keeping efforts of the UN. But Nepal, at this juncture, is made to look more inert and passive.

Similarly, observers believe Nepal will not be in a position to display any perceptible diplomatic strength to contribute in the upcoming SAARC summit. Certainly, the interstate relations among the leading members of SAARC would not be favourable to Nepal. Diplomatic indications forewarn of a pessimistic note. By extension of the conspicuous side effects of the authoritarian hold of state power, Nepal now remains secluded in regional forum too. The present government has to swallow bitter pills never experienced by any Nepali government in the past five decades.

This seclusion has produced far more damaging effects in the economic life of the people and has hampered economic growth. Foreign contributions are visibly declining; foreign trade is definitely on the wane and foreign investments remain stagnant. The most noticeable deficiency is that Nepal lacks any easily exploitable natural resources to keep its economy going. Under such circumstances, the country is certain to undergo untold sufferings.

It is now clear that the current leadership had never visualised such a bleak outcome that its abrupt action would bring about. Prominent democratic countries have jettisoned the current Nepali government from the mainstream of international relations to the side-stream, which has thrown it into this bruising situation. In reality, the incumbent government remains outside the parameter of globally accepted political civilisation of democratisation process. Unless the fast track of democratisation is accepted in reality and practiced in behaviour, Nepali society will lag far behind the main current of global political development.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official