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Insecure on security

Insecure on security

The government’s reluctance to release the new National Security Policy (2019), endorsed by the cabinet on March 18, is both intriguing and troubling. The policy, consid­ered the country’s ‘second constitution’, is by nature a consensual document, prepared after extensive consultations with multiple stakeholders. But only a select few drafted the policy under the leadership of Defense Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, and without consul­tations with other important stakeholders, including the main opposition Nepali Congress. What does the government have to hide?


We can make a few educated guesses. Reported­ly, the document is rather political: the ruling party’s slogan of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis’ finds repeated mention in it. Mixing partisan politics with national security is never wise. Second, the new policy apparently gives the Nepal Army a predominant role in national security, while undercutting the roles of other security organs. (Recently, the Oli government had also amended the National Security Act to give the prime minister the power to deploy the army under ‘special circumstances’.) The two police forces feel left out.


Third, the new policy reportedly mentions “block­ade” as a major security threat to Nepal, in reference to the 2015-16 Indian blockade. It is to be avoided at all cost, including perhaps by enhancing connectiv­ity with China. The fear is that India may not be too pleased with this mention. But these are lame excus­es for not consulting vital stakeholders and preparing such an important document on the sly.


The underhand manner in which the whole affair has unfolded does not befit a government with an overwhelming public mandate. The centralization of powers in the PMO and the army will be inimical to the health of the nascent federal republic. Such centraliza­tion will make provincial governments uneasy, and lend credence to the voices of those who believe the Oli government is on the path of authoritarianism. Its recent crackdown on press freedom and curtailment of civil liberties have been hardly assuring. To allay doubts about its intent, the government should imme­diately make the policy public and take it to the nation­al parliament for further discussions. The National Security Policy is not just the government’s policy but also a guiding charter that affects every section of the society. Nepalis deserve to know what is in it.