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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Utilizing Nepal’s geo-strategic strength



Yuba Nath Lamsal
It is increasingly being felt that Nepal’s unique geo-strategic location and its strength have not been duly utilized to promote and enhance our national interest and image in the regional and international arena. But this geo-strategic strength has been dubbed as Nepal’s weakness and vulnerability. Even the interlocutors of formulation and conduct of our foreign policy seem to have subscribed to this view.
Nepal is located in strategically vital position as it is between China and India. China is already a global power. India is a regional power, which has the potential to grow further to become a global power. Despite some history’s baggages of conflict like border disputes, China and India are not in the confrontational mood. Given the magnitude of growth, development and rise of China, Beijing does not view India as its competitor, whereas New Delhi, too, seems to have acknowledged this fact. These two countries are in the mood of enlarging the area and level of cooperation in all levels.
In China, President Xi Xinping rose to power last year and his focus primarily is to keep house in order through delivering clean governance and raising the life standard of Chinese people through more reforms in five key sectors (economic, political, social, cultural and administrative) and establish China’s image as a strong and important soft power in the international arena. President Xi has already taken some measures to realize this dream and vision. To accomplish this goal, President Xi has proposed the Chinese Dream to revive China’s old glory and make the Chinese national stronger through better income of its people. In the international front, President Xi seems to have started from the neighborhood as China may be trying to create a cozy Asian community through mutual cooperation and sharing and exchanging knowledge and expertise for development. Chinese Dream is the vision for national development but Beijing seems to be enlarging the Chinese Dream as the boarder Asian Dream incorporating the values that oriental societies practice and promote.  This makes China to cooperate with the neighbors of Asia rather than compete with them. Given the recent developments between China and India, both the countries seem to be desirous to build a meaningful partnership between these two countries, leaving aside their old animosities and disputes especially on border issue.
The developments unfolding in India, too, hint this possibility. Now, BJP is expected to rise to power with its leader Narendra Modi being the prime minister of India. Despite Modi’s communal and fundamentalist image, there is positive side as well in Modi.  He has the image of transforming Gujarat into economically better province under his leadership as provincial chief minister. Modi was quite successful in brining good foreign and domestic investment in Gujarat. He also visited China and sought Chinese investment in Gujarat. If Narendra Modi becomes India’s next Prime Minister, there are better possibilities for stronger economic and trade ties between China and India.
Some extra continental powers, too, may be watching and viewing Nepal’s developments with more interest and seriousness because of growing bonhomie between China and India. This makes Nepal’s position more vital from which Nepal can benefit a lot if these two Asian powers are handled carefully in a more balanced way.
The world has changed tremendously due to technological innovation and advancement.  What used to be impossible in a few years or a decade ago has now become a reality. The revolution in the information technology has reduced the world into a small global. Accordingly the old concepts in all areas of knowledge and other activities have also taken a paradigm shift and new concepts have evolved. Similar case is with the foreign policy and concept of national interest as well as international security. However, Nepal’s style of conducting its diplomacy and foreign policy is based on the medieval concept of keeping aloof from the world or following the diktats of regional and international powers without taking into account our own national interest. We still do not seem to have come out of this outdated style of functioning and thinking especially when it comes to the formulation and conduct of our foreign policy.
Foreign policy, as it is said, is an extension of domestic policy. A sea change has taken place in the sphere of our domestic policy and politics. But our foreign policy and its conduct are guided by the concepts and conditions of the early 20th century. We have seen systemic changes in our domestic policy and governance with every political change. In terms of policy, too, Nepal has undergone a big change and transformation. During this period, we have overthrown the oligarchic system of Ranas and brought about a new era of liberal democracy for the first time in 1951. When the multi-party system was trampled with the brutal boots of the king, Nepal came under king’s absolute and authoritarian  regime for three decades denying the basic political and civil rights of the people. The sustained struggle of the Nepalese people not only put the absolute regime of the king to an end but also finally abolished monarchy thereby declaring Nepal as a federal democratic republic. These changes are epoch-making and phenomenal, which have huge impact not only on Nepal’s internal political life but also have regional influence and impact.
However, these changes have hardly been reflected in our foreign policy. Foreign policy is something that should not remain rigid and the priorities and conduct of foreign policy need change based on the changes in both national and international situation. Continuity and change are the basic features of foreign policy of any country including Nepal which we must realize. In the name of continuity, we should never remain rigid and give continuity to the old concepts that are no longer relevant and valid in the present changed context. We have to adapt change to serve our national interest. Similarly, change should not mean change and compromise in our fundamental interest and strategies. There are certain permanent features in the conduct of foreign policy, which should be given continuity.
So far as relations and policy with our two immediate neighbors are concerned, we are neither pro-Indian nor pro-Chinese. Neither do we have any ill-will against India nor with China. We want our national interest to be strictly protected and promoted. Being patriotic does not mean that one has to be against any other country. We are against only those countries and elements that harm our national interest. This is and should be the bottom line of our foreign policy. But this has not been the case with us and our rulers often compromise our national interests under pressure from certain country or countries even antagonizing other friend. This is unbalanced foreign policy, from which we must depart and begin afresh for a more balanced, pragmatic and proactive foreign policy.  This is necessary to cope with the newer challenges of the 21st century. We are not in the era of Rana oligarchic rule nor do we are under monarchy. This is the republican era—the people’s ere— in which people’s views are duly addressed. The demand of the people is to break from its old style in the conduct of foreign policy. We need more change than continuity in the conduct of our foreign policy in order to protect Nepal’s national interest in the present era of globalization, modernization and democratization. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marked discrepancy in parties’ principles and practice



Yuba Nath Lamsal
It has been widely believed that Nepal’s political parties are fast losing credibility among the people because of their deviation from the ideology and political values they cherished. Most of Nepal’s existing political parties seem to have clearly devoid of the ideology and principle on which they were founded. As political parties and their leaders have already departed from the path of their ideological orientation and values and have adopted market politics marked by the taste of new hip-pop generation, Nepal’s politics is heading towards a game and gamble for power and position.
None of the political parties practice what they preach. This inconsistency in principle and practice, and rhetoric and action has made it hard to predict what course of action the parties and leaders will take. When principle, ideology and moral authority cease to exist and fail to guide the parties and leaders, anything is possible, and that makes the parties and leaders unreliable and unpredictable. This is the problem of Nepal’s contemporary politics. The present crisis in Nepal’s politics and other sectors can be attributed to this tendency of the parties and their leaders.
Existential politics is what has made the parties opportunistic, narrow-sighted, unreliable and unpredictable. The parties, instead of standing firmly for the cause and ideals they fought for, take decisions that serve the immediate interests of particular leaders and their coteries. The present state of Nepal’s politics can be defined as the phase of market politics, which guides the politics, not based on certain principles and values, but based on the demand of the market, like, as in the market economy, get quick and immediate gains.
Let us take a look at the individual political parties. Let’s begin first with the largest party in the Constituent Assembly—the Nepali Congress. The Nepali Congress is Nepal’s one of the oldest parties that, in principle, champions democratic values and social justice. In other words, the official version of its political doctrine is ‘Democratic socialism. But it has long ago departed from its doctrine of ‘Democratic Socialism’ introduced in the party by its founder BP Koirala long ago in early 50s. But the Nepali Congress, after it went to power following the political change in 1990, was quick to shift to ultra capitalism, in which the concept and characters of socialism have no place. However, the Nepali Congress has not removed democratic socialism as its principal political doctrine from its official document. Thus, this discrepancy and inconsistency in principle and practice has eroded public faith as it has slowly losing popular support which is well manifested in the elections over the last 24 years since 1990 political change. The Nepal Congress has not yet been able to regain its old glory and popular support due mainly to its ideological deviation.
As far as the CPN-UML is concerned, it, too, has markedly deviated from the ideology it cherished. The ideological ground upon which the party was built is Marxism-Leninism- Mao Zedong Thought.  But it has long ago abandoned this ideological base. In course of time, the UML abandoned Mao’s thoughts and retained Marxism-Leninism as its guiding principle. The ‘People’s Multi-Party Democracy’ is now the guiding political doctrine of the CPN-UML. But, in the name of the ‘ People’s Multi-Party Democracy’  adopted in its fifth national congress in 1991, the UML has given up many of the cardinal principles of Marxism and Leninism, too. The CPN-UML has, in the name of ‘People’s Multi-Party Democracy’, totally abandoned the revolutionary path and, instead, chosen the reformist parliamentary approach to go to power, which is quite opposite of what this party had preached in the past. Marx and Lenin never supported parliamentary method. They described the parliament as a forum to deceive the people. Although CPN-UML still claims to be a communist party, it no longer remains so in practice.

If we look at the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, or UCPN-Maoist, this, too, has been deviating from its original political line and principle. This party was founded long ago, but its activities became more visible only after it launched an armed insurgency. The decade-long armed insurgency, which the party calls the ‘people’s war’, established it as the principal political force of Nepal.
The party was founded on the principle of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. This principle propagates the continued revolution through which a communist state is established. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism does not believe in peaceful and competitive politics but wants to capture power through an armed revolution. Guided by this principle, the armed insurgency was launched in which they partially succeeded. The 238-year-old feudal institution of the monarchy was abolished, and the UCPN-Maoist proved its supremacy even in electoral politics. In the elections held to form a Constituent Assembly in 2008, the UCPN-M emerged as the largest party in Nepal but was reduced to the status of poor third in the election held in 2013. This dwindling popular support of the UCPN-M is partly attributed to its ideological vacillation. Viewed from the ideological perspective, the party seems to have clearly deviated from its cherished principle of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. Marx, Lenin and Mao never advocated peaceful and competitive politics to go to power. An electoral process is bourgeoisie democracy, in which a true communist does not believe.
The Maoist party is currently in a dilemma as to whether it should continue with the course of politics it has adopted right after it joined the peace process or go back to the earlier approach of an armed revolution. Although some party leaders still claim that its ultimate goal is to capture power through a revolution, the issue concerning peace and constitution are just the tactical policies to achieve its strategic goal. However, it is now hard to believe that the party would again go back to the old era of protracted ‘ people’s war’.  The seventh national congress of the party held last year in Hetauda of Makwanpur has clearly adopted the political line of peaceful revolution to prepare a ground for socialism. The party claims that capitalist revolution has been partially successful and the remaining task of completing the revolution will be accomplished through peaceful means or through the revolution of national production. The Hetauda Congress is the clear departure of the UCPN-Maoist from its revolutionary path and it has adopted the peaceful path, which, in other words, is parliamentary road. Some describe the political line of the UCPN-Maoist as akin to that of CPN-UML’s ‘ People’s Multi-Party Democracy’ introduced by late Madan Bhandari. However, the political line of UCPN-Maoist or the ‘ capitalist democratic revolution’ is fundamentally different from that of the CPN-UML. The CPN-UML has completely abandoned Marxism and adopted the western capitalist democracy, the UCPN-Maoist still believes and champions some radical and revolutionary approaches, though peaceful, to achieve the goal of socialism. But this, too, is a sharp ideological U-turn.
 Similar is the case with other existing parties - big or small. The marked inconsistency in rhetoric and action of the parties is the root cause of the present political crisis in the country. As a result, the parties seem to have behaved as though they are bigger than the country, politicians tend to think that they are more important than the people. Similarly, power and position are of more importance for the parties and leaders than the interest of the country. Here lies the fundamental flaw which must be rectified by the parties if the country is to move ahead towards the path of peace, prosperity and stability.