Nepal’s standing - Regaining international confidence

The six-point agreement between the seven party alliance (SPA) and the Maoists will become a towering political achievement only if it is implemented in its letter and spirit. The conclusion of the agreement has raised new hopes.

The agreement has attracted international attention and won appreciation from the leading capitals of the world. However, Nepal has been suffering from the trust deficit of the world community during the past decade. This is evident in the disgraceful defeat of Nepal in the election to the non-permanent Asian seat of the Security Council held at the UN recently. There is no doubt that surface judgement and impromptu campaign coupled with inarticulate diplomacy of Nepal were responsible for Nepal’s defeat at the UN, indicating that its standing in the comity of nations is at its lowest. Wiser would have been those top Nepali diplomats had they imagined well before the campaign started how Nepal, still struggling hard to establish peace at home with the UN help, could be trusted to play a role in the management of conflicts abroad, establishing international peace and stability.

Sadly, foresight did not prevail and the outcome came as an utter failure. Observers believe the genuine implementation of the six-point agreement would, for sure, have helped Nepal restore its dignity. Merely exuding confidence in the agreement would not do anything substantial. Appropriate actions are highly warranted to remove this trust deficit. Some statements and few meetings would hardly be enough to regain the international community’s confidence. There needs to be more effort to remove the hazy clouds hovering over Nepal for the last few years for a clearer picture to emerge before the world.

Nepali society is obsessed with too much politics sidelining other important aspects of national life that resulted in less importance being attached to foreign relations. The much-needed attention should have been paid to the real assessment of foreign governments and international organisations. However, surprisingly, this was not done and even a convincing vision statement concerning foreign relations of the changed Nepal did not emerge, leave alone concrete actions.

It is crucial now that once the interim government, including the Maoists, is formed in a few weeks, the government must issue a very reassuring policy statement with a well charted course of action with regard to Nepal’s foreign policy to win international trust. In case the government fails, greater roadblocks may appear, frustrating Nepal’s diplomatic efforts in the international arena. The international community, in particular, western democracies, will remain well aware of the inclusion of the previously arms-wielding insurgents into the interim government. Their statements issued following the conclusion of the agreement amply indicate their sensitivity and concern.

Nepal’s foreign policy has never been conducted in a planned way incorporating necessary strategies and sub-strategies. It is high time Nepal started operating its external policy on a planned priority basis with friendly countries and democracies. We must start with zeal and strict adherence because good governance demands it. If not, we are certain to lag far behind even after a far-reaching political transformation taking place in the country with democracy and peace as its end targets. The SPA and the Maoists fought for democracy and for people’s empowerment. The interim government with all those political forces included and also remaining at the helm of state power must be well set to formulate foreign policy and its related options on the basis of national consensus on Nepal’s short-term and long-term interests and involvement with the outside world. This could be realised in the emerging context of multi-partisan and democratic interests developing positively. Now is the opportune moment to create an ambience for consensus on important national interests.

Today the world is passing through a state of complex interdependence. Nepal is sailing in the tumultuous high sea of political transition from semi-feudal socio-political condition to a yet-to-be modern democracy. To Nepali society the world is still a jumbled one. In such a complexity, Nepal’s decision-makers must exhibit their determination to create a highly specialised branch of government service to deal with the challenging tasks of broadening and deepening relations with the external world.

Given seriousness, planning and purpose, foreign service could be conducted skilfully to respond to the recently emerging regional and world scenarios to promote Nepal’s national interests, including its development aspirations. Certainly, this will bring in the much needed diplomatic capital — the resourcefulness and spirit of diplomacy to deal with the developing complexity of regional and international situations. Undoubtedly, this is both the demand and the need of the hour.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official