Putting Foreign Policy In Array
Steering foreign policy activities is a discreet act, not a choice. Discernment is of utmost importance for delicate handling of foreign policy. A high degree of caution and intelligence combined with professional skills and expertise are essential to track the foreign policy properly and without deviation from the intended objectives. It is not the job of amateurs who just touch and go. It is a task that requires one to keep the nation above all other concerns. There must not be politicking in carrying out the activities of foreign policy, nor should it involve high sounding words with a little or no achievement. For a country like Nepal, foreign policy is highly sensitive external activity that can keep its lofty national identity high in the international community, with honour and dignity commensurate with its centuries-old independence.
Foreign policy is designed and executed primarily with an avowed purpose to keep the national flag ever fluttering. This calls for commitment and dedication from its handlers to protect and promote the core national interests like sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. Of course, alongside the core national interests come other important interests like mutual cooperation, expanding relations with neighbours and important powers and playing constructive roles in the regional and international organizations, etc.
Nepal has, as yet, never defined parameters and dimensions of national interests in appropriate detail except broader hints provided in Article 5 (1) of the Constitution of Nepal. To set the course of foreign policy of Nepal well, the legislative branch of the government needs to give well-defined and clearly thought out framework of what Nepal’s national interests are with regard to its relations with neighbours and other big powers as well as regional and international organizations. The legislative branch representing voices and concerns of all political spectrums of Nepal is an appropriate organ of government to give comprehensive definition of all national interests. As the highest executive authority, the Prime Minister’s Office is primarily tasked to take the responsibility of defending and promoting national interests. The office is also given the responsibility to make the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shoulder the sacrosanct function and duty of not only protecting and promoting national interests vis-à-vis Nepal’s external relations but also enhancing the dignity of the country abroad. This is how modern democracies work for the well orchestrated system of giving impetus to the promotional activities for national interests abroad. People are cognizant of the fact that Nepal has not yet followed this widely accepted system. Nepal’s government has not yet been sensitive enough for necessary improvement in this regard.
Another missing point is that Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet well planned foreign relations programmes in order to expand and enhance Nepal’s cooperation and interaction with foreign entities. The global scenario today is apparently confusing. If not properly led by the responsible big powers, the global situation may result in a chaotic situation. Hence, to conduct external relations in a systematic manner is a matter of urgent importance to tackle entangled situations with better thought-out plans and programmes. South Asia where Nepal is situated is not free from regional troubles. Therefore, advanced thinking coupled with a pragmatic approach in devising plan is essential to go ahead for promoting not only diplomatic activities but also increasing Nepal’s presence in the international arena in a systematic way. It would be desirable to prepare a plan for foreign policy activities for four or five years with each year’s programme chalked out by envisioning better future for Nepal’s external trajectory. Of course, strategies for implementing plans and programmes are required as well for any sort of success. Forget the foreign policy mandarins as the planning without adequate knowledge and expertise would not be fruitful. For well-conceived plans and programmes accompanied by well-founded strategies, there must be skilled professionals and experienced personalities who are behaviorally and individually well-acquainted with regional and international activities and concomitant businesses.
During the past decade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has doubled its divisions and departments from half a dozen to dozen along with its personnel. A number of diplomatic missions have been added and diplomatic staff deployed there. But the Ministry does not appear to have emphasized on advancing the diplomatic skills and professional acumen of its staff. Increase in the number of diplomatic staff and availability of financial resources alone do not guarantee the efficacy of foreign service to promote the national interests of the country abroad. This is where the designers and handlers of foreign policy need to concentrate.
We must take note that institution and its management needs to match with the dynamics and speed of change. Unless there is capacity to cope with change, the institution cannot achieve what it is supposed to. Keeping pace with change is necessary.
Today the world is experiencing the second “informating” revolution in which the IT (Internet of Things) is very much in popular use. Henry Kissinger has called IT “Internet of Everything” because it can intrude every sphere of human thinking and activity. This second revolution has also brought about rapid changes in the interstate interaction and diplomatic behaviour. Most of the developed world and even our immediate neighbours have already adopted what is known as e-diplomacy as part of the foreign policy tool because it is quick, efficient and easily accessible through Internet without human touch and personal contact. There is no escape for Nepal from this much-hyped practice now. Nepal’s efforts should also be directed towards the current trend - setting practice of diplomacy of the 21st century. If undertaken, the attempts should be expedited to catch up with other international practitioners. Most recently and also very visibly, the world is moving on with what Philip N. Howard has called Pax Technica as successor to previously much talked about Pax Britannica and Pax Americana. The influence and efficiency of e-diplomacy is gaining speed with greater impact on every aspect and dimension of human lives and activities. Therefore, practitioners of diplomacy of Nepal must not lag behind. Nepali diplomats are neither inferior to any others, nor inefficient in their job. Go ahead they must for the sake of Nepal’s image to keep its diplomatic apparatus and process updated for putting its foreign policy in desired order.
Nepal is holding the fourth Summit of BIMSTEC next week. The regional body is expected to discuss various issues pertaining to connectivity, investment,...