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From reactionaries to reckoning Nepalese foreign policy

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Kathmandu, April 6, 2016: Kathmandu never argues about her foreign policy. She has always been ‘Super busy’ in promoting her ‘antiquity’ status among her ‘overseas’ fan—–where she has pre-mindset objective to generate economy. In the spring of 1816, she was almost ‘taken away’ by East India Company —-this was the day, when she was for the first time in history was ‘squeezed’ to her present size (Remember! dude, ‘Kathmandu’ itself carries the connotation of complete ‘Nepal’—Now and then. Kathmandu is ‘de-facto’ Nepal).  As a result, about one-third territory of Nepal was ‘gifted’ to East India Company (As per treaty).  Thus, it made, ‘Kathmandu’ like ‘protectorate state’ of British Empire. Then onwards till 1947, Nepal’s foreign administration was in East India Company’s ‘pocket’.

This tiny ‘Kathmandu’ who struggled or around 26 years (during Prithivi Narayan Shah’s time) and for about 25 years (during Bahadur Shah’s time) for uniting small principalities of West, East and South—-got ‘rampant’; making, East India Company to ‘counter’ Nepalese territory.

If she even survived, from the then Nepalese ‘Governing model’ she may not have been weighty in integrating these territories. ‘Kathmandu’ was too far to dictate far south-east like Sikkim, southern state like Mithila, South-western state like Nainital and western territory like Kumaon, Gadhwal. Next, there may have also—— ‘cultural difference’ among these states —-so, as to tie them under Kathmandu influence forever.

Geography plays decisive factor in building history and politics of any country. Likewise Russia, who is leaner to Eastward, Orthodoxy, huge and her black sea fleet is vibrant and always in tend towards westward expansion. Ottoman Empire’s, Turkey—- Her Afro-Asia and European transit point made her uniquely adopt foreign policy, that suit Istanbul & Ankara to more European Union propensity, business friendly, liberal and negotiations ground for middle eastern volatile situation.

Kathmandu struggled for survival from the beginning ——possibilities of raids from the North and South neighbors of Nepal made her to look at these two giants in a suspicious way–North & South ‘raiding’ hangover has preeminent syndrome on her foreign policy. Kathmandu though remained ‘unconquered’. There exists lots of fallacy, of our exceptionally so called foreign policy. Upper and mid hills to high Himalayas of Kathmandu was never so-economically vivacious, making barbarians to raid her. Thanks to her ‘bizarre’ geography, this made unable for anyone to take risk. Sugauli treaty of spring 1816, gave some insights——the territory which was taken away by Company Government—-was in a sense fairly remote, economically active and had possibility to expand transportation. The matter of fact, economically robust region has always attributed people in crisis or desire to meet their needs. Russian Siberian region (constitutes 77% of Russia’s total territory) is ‘unconquered’ in the history due to its yearlong freezing temperature, creating null possibilities of economic boom.

Likewise the Norsemen (Scandinavian tribe) raided Great Britain’s monastery at Lindisfarne during 793 A.D, followed the start of Viking migration from Scandinavia to Great Britain. Viking migration from their origin is said to be the over populated in Scandinavia as well as old trade routes became unprofitable.  Whatever the reasons, it is obvious that, population tends to migrate to the places, which is economically vibrant and where ‘opportunities’ can be easily trapped. Similar was the case, when Irish potato famine (1845-1852) forced Irish population to migrate towards United States (New world).

After 1950’s to 1990 ‘Kathmandu’ diplomacy was at the Darbar’s (a palace in Nepali) ‘Bucket’ —–where some portions of the game was even allowed to Nepalese political leaders. Darbar apprehensively looked at political leader’s activities and often termed them as ‘Benarasi Gunda’ (Goon from Benaras, a place in India)——because most of the Nepalese political leaders primarily started their careers in India(due to Ranas’ encroachment policy towards political activities in Nepal).

Post-1990 is the ‘testing’ phase of ‘Kathmandu’ diplomacy where mishaps are normal. The bottom-line of Post-1990 ‘Kathmandu’ diplomacy is more about ‘reactionaries’—-lacking of own determination and national priorities.  Recent #BackoffIndia campaign and 10th downing street, London  protest by UK based Nepalese during Indian Prime Minister Modi’s three days state visit to UK in November, 2015 are the prominent examples of our ‘reactionaries’ diplomacy —–this was done for ‘protest’ to do ‘protest’.  But, it has penetrated a ‘new wave’ of alertness among Nepalese youth to think rather in an alternative way for the purpose to ‘sideline’ our traditional diplomacy. How can we ?

What about citizen-led diplomacy in Kathmandu, youth are practicing? Model United Nations (MUN), as one of the few conferences which have recently started to organize in Kathmandu from time to time, gives milieu of what’s going up with these youngsters.  Here, young change makers take a role, from power countries to world’s leading NGOs like Oxfam, and CARE, as well as oil giants like Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Gasprom, British Petroleum and so on. The bottom line is to make the world a better place to live via diplomacy. Such events had enabled young Nepalese to take a leap toward diplomacy.  The craze for an international thinking has been growing in Kathmandu, —–probably after booming Asiatic age and Indian influence in the region. To know, how things are taking shape—I have an opportunity to take part in one of those programs. GARJAN-Nepal, a non-profit organization based in Kavre, has orgnanized MUN. In a closed program, young change makers seemed eager to counter contemporary foreign policy of Nepal. Young change makers were dealing by taking roles—–Nepalese high level delegation talking with Indian High level delegation on issues of water management & hydroelectricity.  Nepalese delegation dealt with Indian delegation——Nepal will guarantee flow of water from Nepal, unless India supplies 12,000 MW electricity through India’s assisted hydroelectricity project. If the rules were violated, Nepal will immediately re-route the water. For instance, India will ensure, Euro-1 standard of exported automobiles to Nepal. And, Nepal will levy free charge to every trekking routes of Nepal for Indian tourists. Such shift of MUN was even mentioned in Mr. Parag Khanna’s vivid book, ‘How to run the world’. Such interests are still a handful and in need of institutional backing.  Likewise, ‘Hippie ‘culture of 70’s was amulet of Kathmandu, parallel to it ‘Internationalism’ will be tomorrow’s ‘new amulet’ of Kathmandu.

In the age of IT, diplomacy is not just something only writing cables to capital—–and waiting for response, command and instructions. Various missions have started building ‘policies’ via consultation in their mission countries, so as to avoid any possible infringement of their policies. In a current time, everyone comments and gives feedback about any specific country’s policies.  In every space of time, Government is judged for her foreign and internal policies. It is a ‘volatile’ time for any policies to ‘continue’ but more than that, it is a ‘fertile’ time for any policies to get correction.  ‘Reactionaries’ foreign policies of Nepal should be converted to ‘reckoning’ foreign policies.  It is not the cold war world (of course some notions suggest that, we are entering into a new cold war, but it is still in opaque position).  Even the small and less powerful countries are using ‘diplomacy’ (especially economic diplomacy) as a soft power weapon to become counter- productive of powerful countries’ hegemony.  North Korea Kim Jung- il’s railroad diplomacy to balance Russia in the far east—–through connecting trans-Siberian railways, and then going to Khasan, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. Russia’s assistance in building power plant at Bureja along the Amur River will be supplied to North Korea. Pearl of String—-connecting from China’s mainland to Port of Sudan, is a powerful example of military and economic facilities. Mongolia’s role in hosting, Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asia security, in 2014, as an initiative to reach consensus among regional nations to eliminate territorial disputes, was appreciated.

Isn’t it now time to think our traditional foreign policy to adapt in a newly growing order? The world is watching us.

 

- Saurav Raj Pant,

The writer is a Kathmandu based foreign affairs blogger and campaigner