Drafting a national security policy and protecting national unity, territorial integrity and people’s sovereignty have come into limelight as the prominent issues in the changed political context. Following the submission of a policy document to the Committee on Protection of National Interests of the Constituent Assembly by Nepal Army (NA) CoAS Rookmangud Katwal, the issue of national security policy has become a serious national agenda for the first time. Nepal does not have a comprehensive national security policy as of now. Analysing comprehensively the internal and external threats to national security and defining national interests, Katwal has outlined national unity, territorial integrity, people’s sovereignty, multiparty democracy, economic prosperity and security of the people as the fundamental principles of national security for Nepal. Accepting multiparty democracy, economic prosperity and security of the people as fundamental principles of national security, the NA has taken a significant step towards institutionalisation of democracy and civilian supremacy.

Given its geopolitical sensitivity and geo-strategic balance, the issue of national security is the most sensitive issue for Nepal, which is located between two giant and rising global powers — China and India. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Defense Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa have been opining in favour of a new national security policy for safeguarding national unity and territorial integrity for a couple of months. But what are the challenges to national security? The government must first analyse the challenges and draft an appropriate security policy. The situation is getting more vulnerable day by day. Nepal has not fought any war against an outside force since the 1816 Sugauli Agreement. Nepal, however, is not an external threats-free country. Still, more than 14,000 people have lost their lives, tens of thousands have been injured and displaced.

Even now, internal conflicts continue. The internal dynamics of security, the genesis of the decade-long armed conflict, and the culture of violence that has prevailed indicate that internal ethnic and regional conflict will pose the greatest challenge in the days to come. So far the peace process is moving in a positive direction. The situation, however, remains volatile. Some violent groups have raised arms against the state in the Tarai. They burnt the national flag and have been demanding an autonomous state with the right to self-determination. Some regional groups are also demanding independent states with a right to secession.

On the one hand, the ethnic and regional groups are raising the issue of autonomous state with right to self-determination; on the other, Nepal has been declared a federal democratic republic. How will Nepal address the controversial and sensitive issues of federalism, restructuring of the state and right to self-determination that will be the determining factor for national security. The state must address the issues of various ethnic and regional groups through the restructuring of the state for the sake of territorial integrity and people’s security. However, in doing so, the state should not fail to tackle law and order issues through existing security mechanisms. During the decade-long conflict and the recent Madhesi movement, public security emerged as a serious problem. These movements were political in nature, and have now been resolved through peaceful political process. If Nepal had an appropriate security policy, so much life and property would not have been lost.

Nepal has transformed into a multiparty democracy as well as multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, federal, inclusive and secular state. Nepal has transformed into a democratic and plural society from a feudal and unitary one. Hence, internal dynamics and perceptions of politics and security have changed significantly. The definition of national security has become wider and people oriented. It, therefore, is the right time to redefine the security policy considering changed political landscape and geopolitical sensitivity. Promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights, ensuring plural and inclusive state and establishing political stability should be the basic principles of national security.

An individual and institution cannot be a symbol of national unity. Therefore, plurality, democracy and people’s supremacy will be the basic guidelines for safeguarding national unity, territorial integrity and people’s sovereignty. The National Security Council should take the initiative to draft the much-needed policy following the comprehensive consultations with the various stakeholders of society and the Constituent Assembly should adopt a new policy safeguarding its national values and identity based on national consensus. Otherwise, Nepal will face more challenging internal as well as external problems in the days to come.

Wagle is a security analyst