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Nepal needs a truly national foreign policy

Nepal needs a truly national foreign policy

Foreign policy is a set of goals, policies and strategies aimed at promoting national interest through effective conduct of external relations. Most importantly, it has permanent and changeable features. According to Frederick H Hartmann, it is a ‘Systematic statement of deliberately selected national policies’. George Modelski defines foreign policy as the system of activities evolved by communities for changing the behavior of other states and for adjusting their own activities to the international environment. Hence, it is generally designed to protect and promote a country’s national interest, security, economic prosperity and independent international image.

Nepal aims to protect its core national interest and secure these interests through its foreign policy (Foreign Policy 2077). The policy, an attempt at clarifying Nepal’s policy to the internal and external audiences, highlights the country’s constitutional provisions, including directive principles, and tries to incorporate its fundamental objectives. Apart from guiding internal affairs of Nepal, the policy also helps development partners, neighboring countries, academicians, foreign policy experts, researchers and others get a clear picture of its objectives and goals.

Nepal’s foreign policy is characterized by continuity and change because it is guided not only by constitutional provisions but also by ages-old principles of peaceful co-existence (Panchasheel), non-alignment, world peace and international law.

For the promotion and protection of national interest, a foreign policy has to adjust to the changing political and economic contexts as well as the unexpected exigencies relating to new emergencies issues of health, ecology and technology, among others, by keeping the above-mentioned characteristics at the core. Foreign policy 2077 emphasizes soft power, multidimensional connections with other countries, revision of bilateral treaties, Nepali diaspora, resolution of border disputes, labor diplomacy, public diplomacy, track II diplomacy and climate change issues, making it a bit different from previous foreign policies.

Given contemporary international politics and our geostrategic location, the policy demands widespread and multidimensional cooperation involving government-to-government, people-to-people and business-to-business engagements with the international community. 

Our foreign policy also emphasizes multidimensional connectivity networks in this globalized world, including transnational roadways, railways, waterways, airways, optical fibers and electricity transmission lines. Such international networks can play a crucial role in the transformation of least developed countries (LDCs) to developing ones.

Although foreign policy 2077 is much more detailed than previous foreign policies, challenges remain when it comes to getting desired results through this instrument. Nepal needs to identify new areas of collaboration driven by shared interests to get benefits from technology transfers and strengthen diplomatic missions further.

Our unique geostrategic location between two Asian giants India and China means we need to maintain cordial, balanced, friendly and cooperative relations with both the neighbors to achieve the desired and set goals of foreign policy. 

We also need to know that conduct of foreign policy is not the exclusive domain of Foreign Ministry as the private sector, civil society, non-government organizations, professionals and state as well as non-state actors all have important roles to play. 

Most of the time, our foreign policy is punctuated by hyper-populism and often not dictated by principles due to political influence. This calls for an effective mechanism for the execution of foreign policy. Our political parties often pick individuals lacking even minimum standards and knowledge of diplomacy as ‘diplomats’, so the focus should be on improving professional skills and efficiencies of diplomats and officials working in Nepali missions abroad.

Nepal has struggled with many ups and downs and undergone various political translations. Time has come for the country to use economic diplomacy as a major aspect of foreign policy to achieve national prosperity and make every Nepali happy.

Formulation of a national consensus-based foreign policy and its full implementation is a must to realize this goal.