Nepal-German relations : Nepali perspectives and lessons

Nepal and Germany enjoy a unique relationship even in the face of some visible differences between the two countries. Nepal is tottering toward an acceptable form of democracy starting with the Constituent Assembly polls, whereas Germany is already a mature democracy enjoying a spectacular level of socio-economic development and an iconic status as a driving force of the European Union. Nepal should appreciate the rapid rise of Germany after the second World War as a sign of great achievement.

This prosperity, in turn, has enabled Germany to extend its hands of cooperation and assistance not only to Nepal but also to dozens of developing countries on every corner of the globe. As a result of a lenient assistance policy and moderate foreign policy, Germany today stands as one of the mostrespected member of the world community.

The first week of April marked 50 years of the establishment of German-Nepal diplomatic relations. During the period, Germany had emerged as a generous country that has helped Nepal lift itself out of the morass of poverty. Germany was Nepal’s largest donor in the latter half of 1980s and still is one of its biggest contributors. Yet despite the best efforts of donors like Germany, Nepal remains among the poorest countries, even in Asia, because of its abysmal domestic politics which continues to strangle poor Nepalis. In the prevailing scenario, Nepali society needs more cooperation and aid from international community to alleviate underdevelopment and deprivation and create an atmosphere that is congenial to democracy.

Needless to say, Germany’s economic and technical assistance remains in high demand in Nepal which needs all help it can get to strengthen the ongoing peace , democratisation and development processes. Furthermore, Nepal has so much to learn from the invaluable experiences that Germany has undergone in the last few decades. Germany has played a crucial role in transforming many erstwhile communist and authoritarian regimes into self-regulating democracies, and helped their integration into the Europen Union. We thus can extract valuable lessons from German experience in these countries for the progress of the ongoing democratic process in Nepal.

Tellingly, heretofore centrally-run Nepal is inching toward a federal set-up in the not too distant future. At this crucial juncture, we could glean important insights from the German constitution which was drafted on genuine federal policies. In the constitution of Germany, there are many constructive provisions deserving in-depth study. A pertinent point is that Nepal’s interim constitution has already embraced mixed voting system as practiced in Germany to satisfy political demands of various parties and the various ethnic and language groups. In this light, extensive enquiries on many other useful provisions of the German constitution would be highly desirable.

Despite half-a-century-long cordial relationship between Nepal and Germany, Nepal’s diplomatic reach in Germany has been limited to the bureaucratic level. The fast-changing political scene in Nepal demands greater diplomatic moves at the political level to keep prominent German leaders and political parties well informed about the political process in Nepal. If properly orchestrated, such diplomatic moves would be immensely advantageous. In democracies, political leaders and their parties, not bureaucrats and their subordinates, play decisive roles in strengthening bilateral relations. Towards this end, diplomatic acumen and political wherewithal are crucial to buttressing the ties.

Nepali envoys must exhibit their diplomatic skills in understanding Germany’s position vis-a-vis Nepal and the kind of role the West European behemoth intends to play in the region as an economic powerhouse today and in the foreseeable future. Public diplomacy aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the German people and transformational diplomacy fine-tuned to address our democratisation process and governance system should be the focus of our diplomats in Germany. Mutual benefits govern and guides diplomatic attitude and behaviour. This is more so in this age of complex interdependence, increasing trade and rapid improvement in communication channels.

In order to improve Nepal-Germany ties, Nepal needs to chart out a fresh course. A consistent policy crafted on the basis of systematic programmes and rightly prioritised plans so as to avoid non-essential activities is the need of the hour. Well-planned diplomatic moves, be they in the field of political diplomacy, economic diplomacy or technical cooperation, would enhance understanding and connectivity between the two countries appreciably. This way the bilateral relationship between Nepal and Germany could grow further in the decades to come.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official