The end of the Cold War has reshuffled the cards on the international scene. The American hegemony has been challenged by the rise of emerging economic powers which yearn to bolster their growing political influence. In this multipolar world, rivalries have been shaped by vivacious diplomatic initiatives to protect and promote national interests. In this changing context, states must define a precise diplomatic agenda in order to ensure their political independence and economic development. Nepal’s lack of a consistent foreign policy through last decades can be observed as one of explanatory grounds of slow domestic development. To resolve this problem, political and academic experts have gathered at the Nepal Foreign Policy Conference to define the foreign policy outlines to be adopted by Nepal. Organized by the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA), this conference has proposed diverse thematic sessions to revisit Nepal’s foreign policy and discuss on the major geopolitical issues, from the international to the national scale. Inaugurated by three former ministers of Nepal Mr Ramesh Nath Pandey, Prof. Madhukar SJB Rana and Mr Surendra Pandey, the one-day event has brought together more than twenty-five plus distinguished speaker from inside and outside the country and more than 250 distinguished participants and invited guests.
Enacting a continuity in Foreign policy as opposed to political instability: emphasising on the necessity to include national interest as priority and guideline of a diplomatic conception. A clear foreign policy vision is inseparable from domestic issues consideration. National diplomacy should not be guided by political considerations as national interest remains independent from political changes. This imperative of national interest can be found in the necessity to preserve the country sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. Nevertheless, Dr. Khadga K.C. pointed out that, in a changing global context, developmental diplomacy should also represent a priority alongside country autonomy.Indeed, nation pursuit toward prosperity requires an economic nationalism that must be integrated with the country’s geo-economics policy design.Soft protectionism can represent another tool in the hands of Foreign Policymakers as demonstrated in the past by South Korea or China. The first was able to combine soft protectionism and a realistic but accurate public investment plan to become one of the most advanced economies in the world.On its part, China has been able to put aside its ideological orientations in favour of a realpolitik conception by finding in the United States an ally in their common struggle against the USSR. The country has therefore behaved according to its own interests, as evidenced by the accession to the position of permanent council member at the UN. Nepal should take inspiration from these examples by giving precedence in its agenda to its nation’s interest on ideological or historical considerations.
Establishing Nepal as a gateway-State while the world is moving eastwards with the shift of the world economic gravity centre towards Asia. This phenomenon, boosted by two great powers, China and India, represents a true opportunity for Nepal’s development. The country needs to clearly define its role as a buffer state and ensure to maintain balanced relations with its two giant neighbours. While it is urgent for the country to maintain relation with China in order to free itself from dependence on neighbouring India, Nepal must not threaten the security of its two neighbours but assert itself as a transit country or, as postulated by Dr. Yubaraj Sangraula, as a “bridge country”. For this purpose, connectivity projects and initiatives, as the creation of a trilateral economy corridor, should be encouraged.The idea of a China Nepal India Economic Corridor (CNIEC) could help to reinforce the cooperation between the two giant countries.
Enhancing country’s involvement on the international scene: Nepal’s lack of involvement in regional and international organizations handicaps the reach of development goals. This failure of Nepal’s diplomacy and the relative national isolation on the international scene can explain the lack of international support during the 2015 blockage. Experts partly attribute to this lethargic attitude, the SAARC’s failure, based in Kathmandu. The future of this regional organization has been questioned, as it regroups South Asian countries which present among the highest GDP growths in the world. This region, one of the least integrated in the world, misses out on strong economic and trade opportunities. Regional cooperation must be strengthened through this organization or through bilateral or trilateral initiatives.This lack of dynamism between neighbours’ countries is a strident example of Nepal’s under-involvement on the international sphere. Nepal should enhance its commitments in bilateral and multilateral relations by respecting Non-Alignments Movement’s precepts. These guiding principles are consistent with the country’s historical attitude towards every international issue.The essence of non-alignment is compatible with the Himalayan nation’s international relations that are based on merit and demerit.
Protecting Nepali migrant workers: Nepal’s Foreign relation vis-à-vis labour destination countries remain tense while the country stays dependent upon remittances. This financial flow, which represents around thirty percent of the annual GDP, is considered as the major financial source of country development. If these remittances are crucial for Nepal’s economic growth, government’s priority should be focused on Nepali migrant workers that still face insecurity, precariousness and deplorable livelihood conditions. Despite the existing legislation, Nepali migrants still suffer from abuses, exploitation and financial distresses. In the line of the Foreign Employment Policy 2012, governmental efforts should be concentrated on migrant worker’s rights implementation and ensuring. Nepal must also reinforce its diplomatic action by concluding bilateral labour agreements with the destination countries. Coupled with the International organizations’ involvement, the strengthening of diplomatic representatives capabilities should be able to save their dignity to the citizens abroad.
Nepal is definitely penalized for a lack of a clear and continuous foreign policy. The relevant exchanges throughout this conference have enabled to successfully provide the guiding principles of the country’s diplomacy, that should be shaped in favour of the national interest, regional cooperation and mutual confidence. – Maxence Castiello
(Maxence Castiello is an Intern at Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations (AIDIA). He has been graduated from Sciences Po Paris and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Economics and Public Policy from Sciences Po Paris. After an academic exchange in Bangkok, Thailand, he worked as an intern in a public policy consulting firm and as responsible for program coordination in a French economic think tank. He is mainly interested in Asian geopolitical and economic issues.)