Toward the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, the world witnessed unparalleled transfiguration in global economy, health, social order, security, geopolitics and international relations. Meanwhile, the pandemic hit the whole world; religious radicalism influenced parts of it; tech bipolarity and digital cold war intensified between tech superpowers—the US and China; one-directional Russian invasion of Ukraine compelled the western world, including the US and EU to be feverishly engaged in Ukraine; the rising Asian giants—China and India—made considerable headway in economy, technology and geopolitics; North Korea threatened the west, including the US, by ramping-up nuke and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests. Amid all this, Nepal has been witnessing colossal political mayhem under shrewd domestic power-game followed by international diplomatic gimmicks.
The “War on Westphalian Sovereignty”, “Peace of Westphalia”, the World War-I to the “Treaty of Versailles” (that ended WW-I) and the “League of Nations” (the first global intergovernmental organization), WW-II to the formation of the United Nations, inducing of Cold War-I to the US supremacy in world politics followed by disintegration of Soviet Union and the fall of Berlin Wall, waning of American credibility followed by the 9/11 attacks and corresponding debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan to the splendid rise of China following the emergence of President Xi Jinping, Donald Trump’s fluke presidency to the appealing of Cold War-II, and relentless domestic political power-struggle to the antagonistic manipulations of international powers in Nepal, we find that the politics of emotions or “emotional displays” have played a ‘vexing role’ in pervading every practice of domestic and international relations.
The entire world has witnessed watersheds like the “War on Westphalian Sovereignty”, “Peace of Westphalia”, the World War-I, “Treaty of Versailles”, the “League of Nations” (the first global intergovernmental organization), WW-II, the formation of the United Nations, the US supremacy in world politics after the disintegration of Soviet Union and the fall of Berlin Wall, waning of American credibility after the 9/11 attacks, a splendid rise of China and Cold War 2.0. On the domestic front, relentless domestic political power-struggle to the antagonistic manipulations of international powers suggests that the politics of emotions or “emotional displays” have played a ‘vexing role’ in pervading every practice of domestic and international relations.
The world is now under multiple international threats such as threats to humanity, digital and cyber space, maritime security, sovereignty (physical, tech and digital), and AI and nuke threats, whereas two emotions—“fear” and “hate”—are dominating policy discourse, resources, cooperation, and public diplomacy. The intensifying conflict in Ukraine and corresponding international inducements are perhaps the result of “over-rationalized emotions”, rather than a solemn act of balancing between soft and hard power.
The power, resources, thought, feelings, ideas or ideologies are the crucial aspects that the political actors usually fight for, while there is a modest connection between “political functioning of history” and “politics of emotions”—that is shaping the political and diplomatic perceptions, argue IR scholars.
In Nepal, a number of envoys of different foreign diplomatic missions have been recurrently visiting heads of staff of almost all agencies, leaders, ministers and chief ministers of main political parties. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal inappropriately undermined the essence of diplomacy by asking the then Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Poudyal, who stepped down later, not to attend the pre-scheduled UNHRC meeting in Geneva at the last minute. The PM also canceled his own visit to Doha for participation in the Fifth Conference of the LDCs, which shows a poor diplomatic vision. This is, however, high time for Nepal to contribute to the international community– both technically and logically–and leverage from every transnational opportunity, but the shameful domestic power game is dogging down Nepal’s diplomacy.
Also, PM Dahal reportedly stepped in for halting the Nepal visit of William Joseph Burn, the director of CIA, scheduled for February 15. Why was the CIA director planning to visit Nepal, and then why was his visit not approved later? This is a crucial concern. This decision could possibly bring indignation in US-Nepal relations. It’s a sheer right of every Nepali citizen to know about political and diplomatic developments in a country situated at a very sensitive geostrategic location.
The Dahal-led government has, apparently, stopped a proposal from the Ministry of Agriculture to test Indian vegetables for pesticides, citing that such tests could ‘harm’ Nepal’s relations with India.
How can the executive head of a nation opt for “emotional politics” on such sensitive issues in the name of “emotional deference” or making others’ “comfortable”, instead of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of citizens?
This is, perhaps, nothing but a thundered emotion by the psyche of “India Factor” or a “bug diplomacy” incited by hangover of fear-psychosis of “Big Brother Syndrome”, instead of believing in ‘friendship’, ‘trust’, ‘truth’ and ‘respect’ as the pillars of Nepal-India relations. Meanwhile, some foreign commercial and political predators would like to dominate Nepali products, market, economy and diplomacy at a time when Nepal’s economy is heading toward a pathetic condition, argue the economists.
In 2019, Dahal, one of the co-chairs of the then ruling party—NCP—came into shame-light by issuing an undiplomatic statement in the Venezuelan crisis, which hit US-Nepal relations. Ensuing this issue, the US ambassador, reportedly, showed his reluctance to participate in a briefing called by the then government in Kathmandu, while Nepal’s ambassador in Washington was also grilled.
Following the unexpected result of 2022 general elections, the senior leaders of CPN-Maoist and CPN-UML, whose party (the CPN) disintegrated in 2021 due to the ‘clash of emotions’ despite having nearly a two-third majority in the parliament, again joined hands to form a government under the leadership of Dahal, while it could not last more than two months and the alliance collapsed yet again due to Dahal’s ill will. Dahal often deploys emotional stunts to (re)shape the perception of others in domestic politics, and sometimes executes emotional diplomacy, blaming the critics.
The parties started lambasting each other by using uncivil words all over again. Once they get a little closer, they make atypical attachment. When they become slightly different, they start cursing each other. Whenever they encounter a crisis within the party, they try rejuvenating the relations. But magic does not work in the socialization process.
The “over-rationalized emotions” of Nepali political leaders are likely to prove costlier not only for themselves, but also for their respective parties and the nation. Emotions such as “anger”, “fear” and “happiness” can correspondingly affect the socialization process as they are passed down from generations to generations, which takes place not only because we propagate our genes but because brain of subsequent generations are wired by those genes, writes Lisa Feldman Barrett in “How Emotions are Made- The Secret Life of the Brain”.
The incivility and disgracing behavior against others not only replicates one’s own pity sense of emotional intelligence, but also fosters a huge gap in human to human connection that largely disrupts affection, enthusiasm, and affects the brain; which subsequently challenges the ‘present vitality’, ‘mutual trust’ and ‘future prosperity’ of society, writes Christine Porath in “Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace”.
Seemingly, numerous political leaders in Nepal are typically groomed with “destructive emotions” whereby anger, fear, pride, sympathy, guilt or shame are rooted deep inside their mind, while they hardly exude “constructive emotions” such as empathy (compassion), praise and passion. The main reason behind this kind of “emotional inequality” is, perhaps, the lack of “emotional stability”, which affects their personal and political life as “inequality begets negative moral emotions”.
Emotions, however, themselves are not constructive or destructive, while their nature depends upon the response of the particular individual who interprets that specific situation, argue psychologists. Accordingly, the realists usually make ‘risky and unusual’ decisions that are based on two emotions- fear and hate, while constructivists more likely make rational decisions based on empathy and passion. They are mostly governed by disruptive emotions such as anger and fear that are linked with security concerns, while empathy is associated with mutual cooperation, harmony and peacefulness in diplomacy and international relations, writes Yohan Ariffi in “Assessing the Role of Emotives in International Relations”.
The general public, however, have high expectations on the political side of a society as they believe that the political leaders are icons of the guild, whereby their every role should depict a sense of integration, social harmony, stability (political, economic and societal), innovation and nation building. Yet the reality is that the government or leaders come and go, while the nation and institutions remain. Thus, every responsible politician must enhance the nation’s sovereign dignity, irrespective of one’s politics or emotions. Essentially, politics should be a form of civilization, whereas all of its stakeholders could work for the greater wellbeing of the people, society, nation, the planet and humankind, for which the leaders need to be self-informed with immense sense of patriotism, morality and pragmatism along with a “finely tuned” sense of political and emotive intelligence.
The author has studied MSc (CS), MSc (Stats), MA (IR&D), and MPhil (Mgmt). He is pursuing research on Tech Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Thought