Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Foreign policy reorientation

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Nepal saw a systemic political transformation in 1951 having a huge impact on all aspects and sectors of the country. A popular movement overthrew the Rana's family oligarchy and established a multi-party political system in Nepal in 1951. The political change heralded a new chapter in Nepal's foreign policy and diplomatic arena, as well. Although efforts for diversification of Nepal's foreign policy and diplomacy started during the Rana rule, not much progress had been achieved due to lack of political and democratic legitimacy. Nepal had diplomatic relations with a single country—the United Kingdom—for almost 130 years until 1947. Rana rulers were happy and safe as long as they continued to get British support and they did not feel necessary to develop relations with other countries. When the British withdrew from India, Rana regime started felt insecure and hastened to establish relations with other countries. In the later part of the Rana rule, Nepal's diplomatic relations were established with the United States, France and independent India besides the United Kingdom. Although some efforts had also been made to establish diplomatic relations with China but had yielded no results.
Even after the establishment of multi-party pluralist system, the initial years did not made any significant progress in the foreign policy front as the new government was heavily preoccupied with domestic affairs and could not pay much attention to foreign policy and relations with other countries. Foreign policy was the issue of the least priority for the new government as it lacked experience as well as interest in dealing with international affairs.  In the interregnum between 1951 and 1959, Nepal saw a height of instability and confusion in political and other sectors. This is the period which also witnessed the record change of governments. As the foreign policy is the extension of the domestic policy, the state of confusion and uncertainty in political front also had negative impact on Nepal's foreign policy and diplomacy.
The first three years between 1951 and 1954 were absolutely pessimistic in terms of foreign policy and diplomatic dealings. India, due to its role in the 1951 political change in Nepal, had its heavy influence in Nepal's political and foreign policy affairs.
King Tribhuvan was too grateful to India because he was under impression that he got his laurels back only with India's support, which was true, to a large extent. Although popular movement was the primary factor and the external support was only the secondary one for the 1951 political change, King Tribhuvan was more indebted to India than the Nepalese people. King Tribhuvan's remarks as having said that Nepal's democracy was a gift from India is self evident of how grateful he was to India. King Tribhuvan was unwilling to take any independent decision on foreign policy front. However, things started to change in 1955. King Tribhuvan died in 1955 and his son Mahendra took over power of Nepal.  King Mahendra was not as grateful to India as his father was. King Mahendra had a different perspective on foreign policy orientation and he practically departed from his father's policy. Thus, the year 1955 can be taken as a point of departure in the foreign policy of modern Nepal. Immediately after King Mahendra ascended to throne, Tanaka Prasad Acharya became the Prime Minister. Acharya, too, had different foreign policy vision, who took some bold steps in Nepal's foreign policy issues including the once concerning the decision to remove the Indian check posts in northern Nepal bordering with China and establish formal diplomatic relations with China. King Mahendra together with Prime Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya, therefore, can be taken as the principal architects of modern Nepal's foreign policy and diplomatic diversification.
The new found open political system had contributed to the rise of intellectual renaissance in Nepal. A section of intellectuals and political activists had already started criticizing the government's foreign policy and demanded that relations be established immediately with the next door Neighbor China. Public resentment on Nepalese foreign policy had already been there right after the Indian military mission arrived in Kathmandu in 1952. The Koshi agreement between Nepal and India in 1954 was yet another issue of public debate and dispute as the opposition parties and activists criticized the Koshi project as being against the interest of Nepal. The Nepali Congress, the dominant political force of that time, was also not happy with the government's foreign policy handling and it officially passed a resolution demanding the establishment of diplomatic relations with China. These developments had served as a pressure on the government of that time to change foreign policy orientation. Although King Tribhuvan had India-centric foreign policy perception, newer developments and public sentiments in the domestic front had, to a large extent, forced the king to change his foreign policy orientation in the later part of his life. King Tribhuvan in 1954 expressed his desire to change his foreign policy orientation stating that 20th century's Nepal could no longer remain isolated from the rest of the world.
China also had undergone a huge political transformation. In 1949, Chinese revolution succeeded in establishing the People's Republic of China (PRC) under the leadership of Mao Zedong.  The PRC had also shown interest in establishing contact and relations with Nepal. Nepalese government of that time was a little apprehensive of extending friendly relations with China as it was not confident of India's reaction. However, that was the 'Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai' (India-China brothers) era and India and China had a kind of bonhomie in their bilateral relations.  Although India may have been desirous to keep Nepal under its domain of influence in terms of foreign policy and security matters as India considered the 'Himalayas as its security frontier', New Delhi refrained from obstructing Nepal's move to establish diplomatic relations with China. The then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had suggested Nepal to go slow and be cautious in diplomatic dealings with China. But Nehru did not advise or coerce in any form on Nepal not to establish diplomatic relations with China. Indian President Dr Rajendra Prasad, sometimes after the establishment Nepal-China diplomatic relations, paid a state visit to Nepal. During the visit Dr Prasad said in public that 'Nepal and India had common friends' indicating that India did not at all take the establishment of Nepal-China diplomatic relations in a negative manner. These developments had encouraged Nepal to diversify Nepal's foreign policy even with other countries. Moreover, King Mahendra and Prime Minister Acharya were clear and determined on their foreign policy mission and goal, which helped, to a large extent, brought Nepal's foreign policy out of Indian influence.

With the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, the number of countries having diplomatic relations with Nepal reached five—the United Kingdom, the United States, France, India and China. In other words, Nepal was able to establish diplomatic relations with four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. One year after or in 1956, Nepal formally established diplomatic relations also with Russia establishing diplomatic relations with all permanent members of the UN Security Council, while Nepal and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1957. Thus, the era of genuine diplomatic diversification started for Nepal and this process picked momentum in the years to come. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Foreign Policy Vacillation Under Rana Regime

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Geopolitical compulsion has been a key determinant in foreign policy formulation right from the time when the concept of a nation state started emerging in Nepal.  Soon after the unification, Nepalese rulers tried to adopt independent foreign policy based on Nepal's need and demand, but the internal political brickbats and intrigue constrained the desire to reach out to the world. Although Jung Bahadur Rana came to power with British support, he had subtly tried to come out from the British-centric policy once he consolidated his hold onto power. Jung Bahadur's efforts to reach out to Europe and even Africa and maintain a balance with the northern neighbour was partly his desire to adopt independent foreign policy and partly out of his dissatisfaction with the British. Jung Bahadur's dissatisfaction with the British brewed after Nepal helped the East India Company to curb Sepoy mutiny in India. After successfully controlling the Sepoy mutiny, Jung Bahadur had expected the return of territories taken by the British from Nepal during the Anglo-Nepal war. But the British returned only a part of the western Terai.
Secret circular
Jung Bahadur expressed his displeasure with the British in different ways. After the Sepoy mutiny, British wanted more Gurkha soldiers in their army. Although it had been agreed in the Sugauli Treaty, the Gurkha recruitment had not been practically implemented in a formal way. Some Nepalese had joined the British army, but that was only on individual basis and it was not in a formal and legal way. The British wanted to set up a permanent Gurkha recruitment camp in Nepal, but Jung Bahadur refused it. Instead Jung Bahadur issued a secret circular to all concerned government agencies to discourage the recruitment in the British army. In the circular, Jung Bahadur stated that if anyone joined the British army, his property would be confiscated.
Jung Bahadur died in 1877 and his brother Ranodip Singh Rana became new prime minister. Ranodip gave continuity to Jung Bahadur's foreign policy, but his tenure was short-lived. After Jung Bahadur's death, conspiracy and ugly power struggle among different groups within the Rana clan started and intensified. Prime Minister Ranodip Singh Rana was assassinated by his own nephews in 1885 following which Bir Sumsher Rana took over power. As he came to power by killing his own uncle, Bir Sumsher felt threat more from within the Rana family members than from outsiders. Bir Sumsher, thus, became even more apologetic to the British and made every effort to seek British support for the security of his regime. Bir Sumsher, then, formally and practically implemented the Gurkha recruitment in 1885 to gratify the British more Other Rana rulers followed Bir Sumsher's footprints in foreign policy.
Prime Minister Chandra Sumsher Rana went even one step forward to appease the British. He helped the British mission to Tibet led by colonel Younghusband in 1903. In addition, Chandra Sumsher sent Nepalese troops in support of Britain during the World War I. In response to Nepal's support in the war, British provided Nepal some monetary support. Similarly, Nepal and Britain signed a new treaty in 1923 replacing the Sugauli Treaty.
Most of the provisions of the 1923 treaty were repetition of the Sugauli Treaty. But it was better than the old treaty because the Sugauli Treaty was virtually imposed by the British, while the new treaty was concluded between the two independent countries. Under the new treaty, the diplomatic level between Nepal and Britain was raised as the British representative in Nepal was elevated from the Resident to the Envoy. Similarly, Nepal established a legation in England and a Consul General in New Delhi.
India attained independence from the British rule in 1947. Inspired by India's independence, pro-democracy uprising was slowly brewing in Nepal. The Rana rulers, who had felt safe under British protection, suddenly felt insecure after British left India. The Ranas also became suspicious that independent India may depart from British policy on Nepal. The new Indian dispensation was definitely more sympathetic towards the anti-Rana forces. In a bid to get continued support to his regime, Rana Prime Minister Mohan Sumsher on the one hand tried to appease independent India to get continued support from New Delhi even after the withdrawal of the British, and he, at the same time, tried to reach out to other countries in the world instead of solely relying on India. It is against this background Nepal and the United States of America signed an Agreement of Friendship and established diplomatic relations on April 25, 1947.
Prime Minister Mohan Sumsher, in a key policy statement on foreign policy of Nepal, in May 1948 tried to give a message to India that Nepal was not departing from its long-held policy towards India and, at the same time, made it clear that Nepal would start diversifying its diplomatic relations. In the statement, according to Leo Rose in his book ' Nepal Strategy for Survival', Mohan Sumsher said: "Our relations with India, a big country which has emerged through independence, should be neighbourly and will be like between two sisters. Such a pure and friendly relationship had existed, and it will always be our effort to strengthen it and make it happy".
 Also expressing the desire for diversification of Nepal's foreign policy and diplomacy, Mohan Sumsher said, "In the present times, it is neither possible nor desirable for any state to keep itself in isolation from the world affairs. It shall be our policy therefore to enter into diplomatic relations with all such countries that seek our friendship. It is evident that we shall require much help and cooperation from abroad in our nation-building project. We hope we shall obtain such needful assistance and cooperation from our neighbouring and friendly countries". Mohan Sumsher's statement is evident of Nepal's effort to diversify its diplomatic relations during the later period of the Rana rule.
Nepal established diplomatic relations with France in 1949, which is yet another step towards the diversification of diplomatic relations. Similarly, a mission was sent to Beijing to bring the relations back to normal and establish formal diplomatic relations with China. However, the Chinese government was preoccupied with its own internal problems and did not respond promptly and positively.
1950 Treaty
When Nepal was slowly trying to come out of diplomatic isolation, Indian establishment proposed a new treaty in 1950 with Rana government. Rana Prime Minister Mohan Sumsher, too, accepted the Indian proposal because he wanted to ensure longevity of his regime with Indian support. Thus, Nepal quickly accepted India's proposal. Nepal and India signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship on 31 July 1950. This is a new treaty between Nepal and independent India, but in essence it is the continuation of the Sugauli Treaty and the 1923 treaty.
Rana Prime Minister Mohan Sumsher signed the 1950 treaty in the hope of getting Indian support for his regime. However, it did not happen because democratic India sided with the democratic forces rather than supporting the Rana's oligarchy. Thus, Rana regime collapsed in 1951.  But it was strange why independent India hastened to sign the treaty with the regime that was on the verge of collapse as pro-democracy movement was picking up momentum. India could have waited till the formation of a democratic government in Nepal.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Power, Foreign Policy And Diplomacy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Big powers always try to make sure that their presence and influence in the neighbourhood and international arena remain strong and their interests are better served. Anything done for this purpose by any country is called power projection. Power projection is a part of international politics and the act of power projection can be pursued in both hard and soft forms. Hard power is military machine whereas soft power comes out of other means of persuasion to make one's presence felt; influence maintained and its national interest served.
Three Cs
In the game of international power politics, the letter 'C' has a special meaning and significance. Big powers rely on and apply three 'Cs' for power projection, and have their interest served abroad or in other countries. The three 'Cs' mainly refer to the words: 'convince, confuse and confront'.
The first two are mainly to do with the use of soft power while the third one refers to the use of hard power. Countries apply soft powers and persuasive methods to bring others into their fold through the method of convincing.  In the process of convincing diplomacy and media machine come handy. If this approach does not work, the second 'C' is applied, which means to confuse the adversaries. It is said that confused enemy is not harmful although it may not be helpful as well. If one is able to confuse the adversaries, it is as good as convincing them. In the process of confusing the enemies, diplomatic acumen and media mobilisation are considered the best tools. It is through these tools, powers accomplish their mission in the international arena without using military force.
When both persuasive methods fail, the other 'C' or the confrontational tool is applied to accomplish the mission. Use of soft power is often persuasive but not always. Soft power also has both persuasive and coercive methods. The coercive method is something that seeks to weaken the enemy through the means other than war. Some coercive methods include economic sanctions and propaganda machines.
The confrontational method is the use of hard power or military. In most cases, the confrontational methods are often avoided because it involves human, financial and other costs. Hard power is applied only when diplomacy and persuasive approaches fail. In the military war, none wins, but all involved in war become the losers. Ordinary and innocent people will be the ones who suffer more from the war than the soldiers. History is a witness that more innocent citizens have been killed in wars than the soldiers involved in the warfare. The military war and the use of hard power is something that must be avoided as far as possible and practicable.
Diplomacy is the best option which can achieve a win-win solution for all sides involved in the conflict. In diplomacy, no side loses but both win. Moreover, when disputes are settled through the use of diplomacy or negotiations, human casualties and loss of collateral damages are prevented. Diplomacy saves civilisations from being ruined. Thus, diplomacy must be given a chance in all kinds of conflicts in the international issues and disputes. The lasting and sustainable solution and peace can be achieved only through diplomacy. Solution through the use of hard power or war is just temporary and conflict may erupt again. Even when war ends, diplomacy will be required to settle and manage the post-war solution. There is, thus, no alternative to diplomacy if we are to seek a sustainable solution to any conflict in the international arena. 
It is, perhaps, this reason why former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill defined diplomacy as a war fought without fatal weapons. According to him, there is only victory and nothing else in diplomacy. But in the military war, the chances of victory and defeat are equal. Similarly, Sun Tzu, a famous military strategist of ancient China, has said in his widely read book 'The Art Of War' that diplomacy is the supreme art of war to subdue the enemy without fighting. According to American professor Isaac Goldberg, diplomacy is an art of doing or saying even the 'nastiest things in the nicest manner'.
The practice of diplomacy is not a new phenomenon but has a long history. History of diplomacy is longer in South Asia. Prior to the Mahabharat war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, diplomacy was used to prevent the war. Lord Shree Krishna went to the palace of Dhritarastra or Kauravas as a peace envoy of the Pandavas seeking to prevent the possible war through the use of diplomacy.
In Europe, history of diplomacy goes back to the renaissance era. Greece and Byzantine were powerful empires of that time which occasionally used diplomacy to deal with other powers in Asia and Europe in the ancient time. The Treaty of Westphalia, which was signed in 1648 seeking an end to the long-running war in Europe, was the first documented history of diplomatic practice in Europe. However, the Congress of Vienna convened from November, 1814 to June, 1815 was the first formal and practical initiative in modern diplomacy. The Congress of Vienna not only established a new balance of power in Europe, but also set rules, norms and standard of diplomacy, including definition of ambassadors, ambassadors extra ordinary and plenipotentiary and charge de affairs. The Vienna Convention is the basis of modern diplomacy, which clearly defined the framework of diplomatic relations between the countries and also the roles, rights, duties, privileges and amenities of diplomatic missions and diplomats. 
Now diplomacy has a wider role and a bigger responsibility for peace and just world order. Diplomacy plays a key role in preventing wars and establishing peace, but its scope extends quite more than that. Apart from maintaining and institutionalising peace and creating a just world order, the scope of modern diplomacy even covers some very pertinent issues that have direct bearing on human survival like democracy, development, human rights, environmental, climate issues, economic and trade issues, labour and migration and alike. In the modern diplomacy, a diplomat has to play multiple roles and has to be well versed in wide-ranging issues. Thus, a diplomat has to be a generalist having general knowledge of almost everything. Diplomacy is more important for smaller and weaker countries like Nepal as they may not have other factors to influence.
As far as Nepal is concerned, it does not have hard power and other resources to influence the international community. Diplomacy and the use of soft power are the only means for Nepal to build its positive image abroad and serve its interest better in the international arena. Now Panchaseela or the Five Principles of Co-existence are the fundamental basis of international relations and cooperation among countries. Panchaseelas are the teachings of Lord Buddha, who was born in Nepal, and this is Nepal's important soft power.
Diplomacy is a tool to implement the foreign policy while the foreign policy is the extension of domestic policy. The objective of foreign policy or diplomacy is to serve the national interest abroad. Nepal's national interests have been clearly defined by the Constitution of Nepal in its Article 5, which includes protection of Nepal's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, people’s rights, border security and economic prosperity. Similarly, Nepal’s foreign policy guidelines are its faith in the United Nations Charter and principle of non-alignment. Based on these clear principles and guidelines, Nepal's foreign policy and diplomacy are conducted.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Let Us Trust The People

Yuba Nath Lamsal
It seems as though a new kind of political polarisation is in the offing. This is mainly after the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) withdrew its support to the government and decided to launch fresh protests demanding that its concerns and agenda be addressed through constitution amendment.  Going one step forward, the UDMF declared that it would not participate in the local election scheduled for May 14. Instead, it says it would try to foil it if the election were held without addressing their demands.
Amendment bill
The government has already registered the constitution amendment bill in the parliament. The bill is now property of the Legislature-Parliament, to which the UDMF is also a part. The onus now lies on the parliament in general and the political parties in particular to decide on the bill— whether to pass in its original and modified form or reject it. As the Madhesi Front is a key stakeholder, it, too, is required to play a constructive and cooperative role in getting the bill adopted by the parliament instead of just bargaining with the ruling parties. The constitutional provision requires a two-thirds majority to endorse the constitution amendment bill, which the ruling parties do not have. Support from the opposition parties especially the CPN-UML is crucial to pass the bill. The leaders of the Madhesi Front, too, know it well, but they are only blaming the government for not pushing for the passage of the amendment bill.
The decision of the Madhesi Front to withdraw their support to the government has only complicated the situation as if it was not settled in time amicably and may polarise the political parties for and against the local election. The CPN-UML and some fringe parties have declared in public that they in no way will let the constitution amendment bill pass. Similarly, one of the constituents of the ruling coalition, too, is not in favour of passing the amendment bill in its present form.  Even the Madhesi Front wants modification in the bill. This clearly shows that the bill may not be passed if it was put for voting in its present form. Thus, the Madhesi Front has to either take initiative to convince the UML and other parties to support the bill or go to the local poll putting aside the constitution amendment bill.
Now date of the local election has already been announced. The Election Commission is making preparations on war footing to hold the election on the scheduled date in a free, fair and impartial manner. It is also the duty of all the political parties and general people to cooperate with the government and the Election Commission in holding the local election successfully and peacefully.
Election is the lifeblood of democracy.  Local bodies are democratic institutions at the grassroots level. They are foundation of democracy. Local election is a must to let the people choose their representatives at the local level. Again the local bodies do not have elected representatives almost for 15 years for varied reasons. The declaration of the local election has indeed instilled a new and fresh enthusiasm and optimism among the people. This is because the people will enjoy and exercise their democratic right to choose their representative for running the local government.
However, the Madhesi Front is opposing the local election putting forth a demand that the constitution should be amended before holding any election. But given the constitutional provision, equation in the parliament and position of the parties on the amendment of the constitution, it is less likely that the constitution amendment bill would be passed in the parliament. In such a situation, all should make a compromise in order to create atmosphere conducive for the election. The government and the ruling parties have hinted that they are prepared to push for the constitution amendment except the issue on re-delineation of the federal provinces due to constitutional provision. They have floated the idea of constituting a high-level commission with the mandate to redraw the boundary of the provinces. This seems to be a common ground for all the forces and groups to come together and join the local election. The redrawing of the provincial boundaries and local election may go simultaneously. Once the provincial boundaries are finalised, election for provincial legislature will be held, which will pave the ground for holding the all three levels of election by January 2018.
In a democracy, the decision of majority must be respected while voice of minority, too, has to be accommodated as far as possible. But the political and electoral processes should by no means be obstructed under any pretext. People are the ultimate arbiter and they should be allowed to decide who is right and who is wrong. In a democratic system of governance, different ideologies and interest groups compete. In the course of competition, conflicts may occur among the competing forces, but such conflicts should not be allowed to turn into confrontation. Obstinacy only leads to confrontation that may land the conflicting parties into the point of no return. Flexibility and compromise are the best way to resolve conflict and establish an amicable situation for a healthy political competition.
Nepal has already suffered a lot due to conflict and prolonged transition. We witnessed a decade-long armed conflict from 1996 to 2006 in which almost 17,000 people were killed and several others injured and disabled. Development activities came to a virtual standstill due to the conflict. However, it has been more than a decade since the peace process started back in 2006. But sustainable peace has so far not been established in the country. The promulgation of the new constitution in 2015 had been expected to end the transition and herald a new era of peace and prosperity. However, the conflict was not resolved completely as a section of people have expressed their disgruntlement and reservation about the certain provisions of the new constitution.
 The Madhes-based parties launched street protests against the constitution and even blocked the Nepal-India border for five months. The blockade ended after the political parties then agreed to find an amicable way out on the demands raised by the Madhesi groups through the constitution amendment. The ruling parties have lived up to their promise and registered the constitution amendment bill in the parliament, but they alone cannot guarantee the passage of the bill. Now all the political parties are expected to sit together and find the best way to resolve this issue. Since the constitution amendment bill is the property of the parliament, the parliament has to give its decision on the bill at the earliest. The Legislature-Parliament is the sovereign body of the people's elected representatives, and its decision must be honoured by all in whatever form it is.
In a democracy, we all have the right to dissent, but the decision of majority must be honoured. If we do not honour the majority’s decision, the essence of democracy will no longer exist. Election is the best way to put forth the agenda and ideas among the people. Thus, let us trust the people and let us give the final arbiters decide the issue through their ballots.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Diplomacy As A Public Domain

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Many of us tend to believe that foreign policy is primarily an elitist domain.  This is a general belief not only in Nepal but also in the world as a whole. Foreign policy is the domain of the government, and the ordinary people are not directly involved in foreign policy formulation and its execution. But in the present and modern world wherein democracy has become a common global lingua franca, foreign policy, too, is becoming the subject of public scrutiny.

Foreign policy is said to be the extension of domestic policy. Foreign policy formulation and execution is, therefore, not an independent entity, but a part of overall governance. Since a democratic government consists of elected representatives, the people, too, have an indirect participation in foreign policy formulation and execution. The foreign ministry appears to be the core agency in executing foreign policy, but it is the legislative and executive which are responsible for foreign policy formulation.

Political tool

Our parliament has international relations and a labour committee to look into the issues concerning foreign policy and international relations. The parliament a few years ago prepared a document specifying Nepal's national interest, foreign policy priorities and issues concerning the guidelines for the conduct of Nepal’s foreign policy. However, this document seems to be still gathering dust somewhere in the shelves of the parliament building.
The fundamental basis of foreign policy of any country is, beyond any shade of doubt, national interest. Similarly, foreign policy is also the extension of domestic policy. Thus, foreign policy is just a political tool to pursue and protect the national interest defined by the state. While foreign policy is a tool to protect its national interest abroad, diplomacy is a tactical procedure to ensure that the foreign policy goals are achieved.
The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic Nepal has clearly defined Nepal's national interests. The Article 5 of the Constitution states: "Safeguarding of freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, independence, and dignity of Nepal, the rights of the Nepalese people, border security, economic wellbeing and prosperity shall be the basic elements of the national interest of Nepal". Thus, our foreign policy seeks to and will be guided to protect and promote these elements of national interests.
Similarly, the Article 51 (M) under the State Policies specifies the policies relating to international relations as being directed to conducting an independent foreign policy based on the Charter of the United Nations, non-alignment, principles of Panchsheel ( five principles of peaceful co-existence), international law and the norms of world peace, taking into consideration overall interest of the nation, while remaining active in safeguarding Nepal’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and national interest. It also states that review of treaties concluded in the past, and concluding new treaties and agreements based on equality and national interest have been the other component of the state policy. 
According to thinkers and philosophers like Niccolo Machiavelli and Kautilya, foreign policy is international power politics whereas diplomacy is an  art of war to be fought without weapons but with words. It, therefore, requires astute diplomacy and skilled diplomats to successfully implement foreign policy and achieve the goals set forth. The foreign ministry is the core institution to implement foreign policy and handle diplomacy with a number of countries and international as well as regional organisations sometimes directly and most of the time through Nepal's missions stationed in different countries abroad.
The foreign ministry is headed by a politician or a foreign minister, who is representative of the people. Since the ministry is handled by people's representative, it, in principle, means that the people have a say in and control over the foreign policy handling and conducting diplomacy. However, the minister only provides policy guidelines, but it is the bureaucrats in the ministry and diplomats, including both careerists as well as political appointees, who handle the foreign policy and diplomacy both at home and abroad. This is the reason why the foreign policy and its handling are often dubbed as an elitist vocation. It is not necessarily implied that the foreign policy should be kept away from the public domain. It is also the parliament that designs or approves the policy of the government including the foreign policy, which is a self-evident of the control and a say of the people's representatives in the foreign policy formulation.

In a democracy, transparency and accountability are the key features that make the government or those who are in the helms of affairs, including the ones handling the foreign policy and conducting diplomacy responsible to the people. The practice of parliamentary hearing for ambassadors is meant to make the diplomats responsible to the people-elected institution and to the people. It is this reason why the Constitution of Nepal has incorporated the provision of parliamentary hearing for the key political appointees, including the ambassadors. This is how the people's control over the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy is maintained. It is deemed necessary because the foreign policy is a part of the governance and political process, and there must be an active and meaningful participation of the people in the debate, discourse and decision-making process more particularly in the formulation and conduct of the foreign policy.

According to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, diplomacy is the war without fatal weapons in which there is only victory. In the similar vein, Sun Tzu, a famous war strategist in ancient China, says diplomacy is the supreme art of war to subdue the enemy without fighting. It is widely said that war begins only when diplomacy fails. War cannot solve the problem, and it is the diplomacy that is required to settle the disputes even after the war. In the military war,   none wins and both sides lose. But in diplomacy, all sides win as disputes and conflicts are managed and resolved in mutually acceptable terms.
Nepal is a small economy with limited resources having little at hand to influence in the international community. Only effective and vibrant diplomacy can protect our national interest abroad and build our positive image in the international community. But foreign policy and diplomacy seem to have drawn a little attention of the politicians and the policy makers, which has made our foreign policy not as effective and strong as it should have been. Diplomacy has multi-layers through which all institutions are mobilised to make diplomacy more vibrant and effective to cope with the newer and more complicated challenges. However, it seems to be glaringly lacking when it comes to practical handling of our foreign policy and diplomacy. The government and its diplomatic missions are primarily responsible for the conduct of diplomacy. However, in the present era of globalisation marked by technological revolution, other tracts or public diplomacy plays equally important role in reaching out to the world and building Nepal's image abroad. Civil society groups, business chambers and professional bodies, too, need to be fully utilised and mobilised in close coordination with the foreign ministry and our missions abroad in order to make our diplomacy effective.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Jung Bahadur's Foreign Policy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The infamous massacre known as the Kot Parva took place on the night of September 14, 1846, in which most of the senior officials and military commanders were killed on the premises of the royal place of Nepal, giving rise to Jung Bahadur Rana to power. Soon after the Kot massacre, the powerful Queen Laxmi Devi appointed Jung Bahadur as the new prime minister of Nepal. Jung’s rise to power made a big impact on Nepal's political and diplomatic arena. In politics, it started the clan rule of Ranas rendering the Shah kings into mere rubber stamps whereas the Rana Prime Minister became all powerful, which came to an end only in 1951 following a popular uprising. 
Policy shift
Jung's rise to power resulted in a major redefinition of Nepal's foreign policy, more particularly viz-a-viz China and British India. According to Leo Rose, a practical politician like Jung Bahadur was aware of the decline of Chinese power and it was not in a position or willing to challenge the British power in the Himalayan area. The Kot massacre was solely planned and executed by Jung with perhaps full knowledge of Indian Resident (ambassador) in Kathmandu.
 Historian Baburam Acharya says that when king Rajendra, on the night of the Kot massacre, went to the British Embassy probably seeking help for his personal security, the officiating British ambassador Captain Ottley refused to meet the king. Had the British resident not known the plan of Kot massacre, he would not have denied entry to Nepal's head of the state, who was desperately seeking help for his personal safety. The foreign policy Jung Bahadur adopted later is also evident of the British support for the rise of Jung Bahadur to power. Jung Bahadur was indebted to the British and he adopted British-centric foreign policy, which continued throughout the Rana rule.
As a result, Nepal remained in isolation for many years as far as the foreign policy is concerned. Jung Bahadur adopted the policy of appeasing the British India to ensure security to his regime.  At that time, China was not much interested in Nepal's affairs as it was more occupied with its own internal problems. Moreover, Beijing did not want to antagonise the British. China was satisfied as long as its Tibet's border with Nepal was secure. Moreover, China always felt  a threat in Tibet not from British but from Nepal because of previous wars between Tibet and Nepal. China's only interest and intention of that time was to contain Nepal and keep British far from the Himalayas, for which Beijing wanted Nepal to remain a weak buffer between China and British-India so that there might not be any chance of direct confrontation with the British.
Jung Bahadur chose not to confront with the British, but secured their support for the longevity of his rule. Earlier rulers of Nepal used to tilt towards China and seek Chinese support to counter the British, but this tactics yielded little fruit. Bhimsen Thapa had tried this tactics but failed.  Beijing never came to Nepal's defence even when Nepal made repeated pleas for support in the war against the East India Company. Jung Bahadur knew it well and, thus, did not want to make the same mistake again but to reconcile and collaborate with the British even at the expense of its relations with its northern neighbour. Jung Bahadur thought that friendly relationship with the British was necessary to safeguard Nepal's independence. 
According to Leo Rose, the reorientation of Nepalese foreign policy was given additional emphasis with Jung Bahadur's visit to England as the visit strengthened his view that British rule in India was not going to be easily overthrown and that the confrontation with the British would be something like playing with fire. Moreover, for Jung Bahadur, British-India was Nepal's next door neighbour while Beijing is far away power. During that time, British power was rising whereas Beijing's power was declining. As a part of the move to appease the British and keep Beijing out of Nepal's foreign policy radars, Jung Bahadur cancelled the long-held tradition of sending quinquennial mission to Beijing. This was a move taken to get more British support for stabilising Jung Bahadur's power. But, five years later, once Jung Bahadur's power was consolidated, Nepal again revived the tradition of sending quinquennial mission to Beijing, to which British also did not object. This decision was purely to neutralise China from the affairs between Nepal and Tibet as Jung Bahadur again wanted to restore once lucrative Nepal-Tibet trade.
Trade with Tibet and supply of coins were the most profitable and lucrative income for Nepal. The Nepal-Tibet trade discontinued after the 1792 agreement due to which Nepal lost considerable income from trade. Thus, Jung Bahadur decided to revive the trade with Tibet especially the coin supply. Jung Bahadur also saw the possibility of war as Tibet might not agree to revive trade through peaceful means. In such an eventuality, he wanted to keep China away from Nepal-Tibet confrontation. This was one of the principal objectives of reviving the quinquinnial mission. Jung Bahadur also wanted to restore friendly relations with China to pacify growing dissent within the country on his pro-British policy.  Jung Bahadur, therefore, decided to come out of his British centric foreign policy and maintain a balanced relationship with both its neighbours. Jung Bahadur, then, sent a mission headed by Gambhir Singh to Peking in 1852, which was received in Beijing with mere formality, but suffered mistreatment in Tibetan territories while returning. The mission chief and his deputy died of disease on the way, which was viewed by Nepal with suspicion. Nepal took this incident as an excuse to declare war on Tibet.
 Vijaya Kumar Manandhar  is of the view that from the mid-nineteenth century, the pattern of Nepal's relations with China started changing  mainly due to two key factors -- one is its friendlier and cooperative relationship with the British and secondly China's declining power after the Opium War. But Jung Bahadur wanted to make sure that China would not come in Tibet's defence in the Nepal-Tibet war. Jung Bahadur used the tactics of appeasing Beijing for which he offered military support to quell the T'aiping rebellion. But the Chinese emperor refused Nepal's offer saying that China had no tradition of accepting military assistance from other countries.
Jung Bahadur had been thinking of declaring war against Tibet for some time after he consolidated power apparently for two key reasons. One was to revive Nepal's lucrative trade with Tibet, which had discontinued after the 1792 treaty; the other one was to engage his army. Nepalese army had remained idle for a long time after the Anglo-Nepal war.  Jung Bahadur knew well that an idle army might be threat to his regime, and he invaded Tibet to keep his army engaged in war.
Restoration of trade
The Nepal-Tibet war ended with the signing of the Thapathali Treaty on March 24, 1956. The treaty not only restored the traditional trade between Nepal and Tibet but also raised the status of Nepal's diplomatic presence in Tibet. The Article 5 of the Thapathali Treaty states, "Gorkha (Nepal) is permitted to station a Bhardar (envoy) in Tibet instead of a Nayak that had been stationed there previously".
Similarly, Jung Bahadur skillfully kept China away from Nepal-Tibet dispute, which was his major diplomatic success. By restoring close and friendlier relations with China, Jung Bahadur also corrected his overtly British-centric foreign policy and maintained a balance in the relationship with both northern and southern neighbours.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

For Free And Fair Local Election

Yuba Nath Lamsal
With the announcement of the local election, political uncertainty has come to an end.  Given the complications in the national political landscape for varied reasons, uncertainty over early local election had loomed large in the Nepalese political landscape. Now the uncertainty is cleared and unless some foreseeable circumstances take place, the much-waited local election will be held simultaneously throughout the country on May 14, 2017.
There has not been election for the local bodies for almost two decades. The last local election in Nepal had been held in 1997. In the absence of the elected people's representatives, civil servants have been manning and running the local bodies. The local bodies are the foundation of democratic structure and democracy cannot be institutionalised without practicing it in all levels. In such a case, good governance is out of question and the concept of local self-governance has remained only in papers.
Fundamental spirit
Holding parliamentary elections alone does not guarantee the democratic exercise. In the absence of local elections, people's rights to choose their representatives has been denied, which is against the fundamental spirit of democracy. Local election is a must and there should not be any attempt from any quarters to delay or disrupt the rights of people to choose their representatives.
Now election for the local bodies has been announced. The Election Commission is working on war footing to conduct the election in a free, fair, peaceful and credible manner. The Election Commission had earlier sought at least 120 days for the preparation, but the EC got only 82 days for the job of holding the election. Still, the EC is prepared to hold the election within this short available time, and accordingly is making all preparatory works on war a footing.
Periodic elections are the basic prerequisite and tenets of democratic polity. But election for the sake of holding election is not sufficient. The election should be free, fair and impartial through which the people exercise their franchise without any kind of fear, pressure and influence. However, not all elections are democratic and free. Democratic elections must maintain certain universally accepted standards and norms. If these international standards and norms are not met, the entire purpose of holding election will be defeated. Even some authoritarian regimes hold elections, but such elections are only to deceive their own people as well as the international community. These elections are held in such a way that the candidates and parties do not win the election, but they are declared winner. Such elections are engineered, rigged and manipulated in which the outcome is predetermined. The election in Iraq during Saddam Hussein regime can be taken as examples how dictators often hoodwink the international community in the name holding election. In the elections, Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party used to be declared winner with more than 95 per cent votes. This was nothing, but farce in the name of election.
We have a long tradition of holding elections. We have independent and competent Election Commission with the sole responsibility of holding different elections. The Election Commission existed even during the Panchayat era and it conducted several elections during the Panchayat era, but the Panchayat era elections used to be held on individual basis. Multi-party democracy was restored in 1990, and the practice of holding democratic elections started.
Since the multi-party democracy was restored in 1990 three parliamentary elections, two local elections and two Constituent Assembly elections were held on multi-party basis. Until 2008, only the 'first past the post' (FPP) or majoritarian electoral system was in practice in Nepal. Partial proportionate representation (PR) electoral system was introduced in Nepal only after the country entered into republican era.  Now we have mixed electoral system consisting of both FPP and PR systems.
The election for the local bodies is being held first time after the promulgation of the new constitution. This is also the first election to be held in the new structure. The earlier elections were held in the old structures created more than a half century ago. The Constitution has transformed Nepal from a unitary state to the federal one. The country was, accordingly, federated into seven provinces.  As per the provision of the new constitution, a high-level and powerful panel was mandated to redraw the local bodies, which has already submitted its report recommending the government to create 719 local bodies including village councils, municipalities, sub-metropolitan cities and a metropolitan city. But it is not yet finalised as the government is still studying the report as some Madhes-based parties are opposed to the propositions of the report.
The Madhes-based parties are opposed to the local election. They are demanding amendment to the constitution before holding the local election.  Citizens and the political parties definitely have rights to express their reservation, disgruntlement and dissent over political and other issues. The constitution has given them the right to dissent in a peaceful and democratic manner. But attempts to block the constitutional and democratic practice under any pretext may not be justified. Election is a democratic process, which by no means should be blocked and disrupted.
If the political parties have reservation on certain provision of the constitution or on any other political issues, they can put forth clearly with the people, who are the ultimate arbiter of any dispute and issue. If their issues are genuine and justified, people will definitely vote for them and with popular vote they can pursue for the change in the constitution or enact laws to address their concerns and demands. Election is the best opportunity to reach out to the people and get popular support for the cause, policies and programmes of the parties, from which none should refrain.
 In a way, the local election is a part of enforcing and enriching the constitution as well as institutionalising democracy at the grassroots level. In the election, people will elect more than 35,000 representatives, who are expected to man and run the local bodies in an accountable and responsible manner. Election makes the political system representative, accountable and responsible. If there are any issues and disputes on any subjects, they can be resolved in a democratic and constitutional manner, for which all the political parties must act in a responsible manner.
Responsibility of parties
So far as the demands and concerns of the Madhesi parties are concerned, attempts should be made to address them as far as practicable. The ruling parties have already demonstrated their willingness to address the demands of Madhesi parties, for which a bill for the amendment in the constitution has already been tabled in the parliament. Now the opposition CPN-UML and Madhesi parties are expected to exhibit reciprocity and flexibility to create atmosphere conducive for election. It is the responsibility of all to ensure free, fair and peaceful election. What is to be taken into serious note is the fact that in the absence of positive role and cooperation from all stakeholders,  effort of the government and the Election Commission alone will not be sufficient.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Political Bone Of Contention

Yuba Nath Lamsal
The protracted power tussle between the ruling and opposition parties and their calculated divergence on multiple issues is nothing other than their lack of confidence on their organisational strength and popular base. Viewed from their track records of at least for the last one decade, if not more, none of the political parties seems to have lived up to general expectations of the people.
Key forces
In the political spectrum of Nepal, four forces hold the key role. These key forces are the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Center and Madhesis. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) has recently emerged as another force to reckon with especially after the merger of the two factions of the RPP. An extreme leftist force is also trying to emerge, but its presence has not been felt significantly visible in Nepal's political landscape so far.
In the Constituent Assembly election held in 2013, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML emerged as the largest and the second largest party, while the CPN-Maoist Center emerged as the distant third. The Madhesi parties also fared poorly in the election in their own constituency—Madhes, despite their crusade for the rights and the interest of the Madhesis.
Although the CPN-Maoist and the Madhes-based parties fared poorly in the election, Nepal's current politics still continues to be revolving around agendas of the CPN-Maoist Center or the Madhesis. The Constituent Assembly, republican set-up, inclusive democracy, proportionate electoral system and federalism are definitely the Maoists’ agendas. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML in the beginning opposed these issues, but accepted with hesitation after the king took over power and tried to marginalise the political parties. Under compulsion, the seven parliamentary parties agreed to join hands with the Maoists against the king. Similarly, the Maoist accepted multi-party democracy under compulsion as they were not in a position to achieve their goal through their own strength. Finally, both the parliamentary parties and the insurgent Maoists joined hands against the king. It worked as the movement not only restored democracy, but ultimately abolished monarchy.
The Nepal Congress (NC), right from its inception, stood for constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. But the NC was forced to go for republican set-up as the monarchy betrayed time and again and tried to trample democratic system. When multi-party democracy was established in 1951, the NC trusted the monarchy, but the king later betrayed by disbanding the elected government and sending the leaders of the NC behind bar. Despite this, Nepali Congress did not learn a lesson, but continued to support the monarchy. However, the communists had always been demanding a republic. The NC realised in 2005 that as long as monarchy remains, democracy in Nepal will not be safe and stable. Thus, monarchy was finally abolished after the success of the April Uprising of 2006. Similarly, several other issues were forcefully established after this movement.
The Constituent Assembly was yet another key agenda of the political movement of 2006.  The Constituent Assembly had been demanded right from 1951. Even the king of that time had declared that the constitution will be written by the people's elected representatives. But the king did not honour his own words and scuttled this process. This issue came to the fore more forcefully once again, the credit of which goes to the Maoists.  As far the federalism is concerned, both Maoists and Madhesis should be given credit. The Maoists had first raised the issue of federalism, but it was the Madhes movement that established federal demand more strongly.
Now federalism has been the principal bone of contention as the entire political quarrel is revolving around federalism and issues associated with it. This is because federalism in the first place was introduced without homework. Federalism in itself is not a bad idea. But debate should be held if a tiny country like Nepal really needed federalism or genuine decentralisation could have been better. Federalism was viewed as the prescription of all problems.
Federalism is something that empowers local people and decentralises authority of the center to the local level. Based on this principles and needs of the country, federal provinces are determined and the state is restructured from unitary state to a federal system. But it has not been the case in Nepal at present. The way federalism is being defined and federal provinces are being crafted, it gives the impression that small unitary states are being created out of one bigger unitary state. In federalism, it is not only the federal provinces, but all local units, too, are supposed to be autonomous. But there are demands from certain quarters that local units be kept under the provinces, which may not be in true spirit of federalism. Thus, this is one of fundamental flaws in the understanding of federalism in Nepal.
Second, there has never been a debate whether Nepal needs federalism or not. Third, if Nepal really needed federalism then what kind of federal model or how many federal provinces would be appropriate for Nepal.  The way federal provinces are being crafted, or the way some groups are demanding, it seems as though they were not going for genuine federalism, but demanding federalism just for their own political gains. Federalism unites and empowers people; and ensures better delivery of services at people's doorsteps. In our case, issue of federalism has created more rifts among the people and parties. Whatever is the case and cause, we have already declared Nepal as a federal democratic republic from which we cannot go back. We now need to take into account the fact that federalism is for development of the country and the people. So federalism should be made manageable and federal provinces should be crafted in a way it serves the broader interest of the country and it unites the people. It should by no means create conflicts.

Federalism debate
As dispute on demarcation of federal provinces continues to drag on, anti-federalist elements are slowly gaining ground. The second Constituent Assembly election of 2013 too produced a parliament in which genuine federalists were in minority, but the ones who accepted federalism under compulsion are in majority. This is because the federalists, who were in majority in the first Constituent Assembly miserably failed to deliver the constitution and institutionalise their agenda. The poor showing of the pro-federal forces and strong presence of anti-federalist forces should not be construed as being the anti-federalism vote. But one thing we must realise that it is the message of the people that they are not happy with the way the federalism issue is being handled. Similarly, the people are slowly getting frustrated as the federalism issue is polarising politics and prolonging political transition in Nepal. 
The prolonged transition has had a cost in our development and stability. The federalism issue is primarily responsible for the protracted transition as our parties have not been able to handle it and resolve the disputes arising from the issues associated with federalism. Now Nepal cannot afford more transition under any pretext. Political parties are, thus, expected to make a compromise to resolve this issue once and for all so that the current transition will come to an end, and the country enters into a new era of stability.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Local Polls For Grassroots Democracy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Election for local bodies appears to be round the corner. If all goes well, the local election will be held in next three months. The constitution  requires all three elections should be held in the next eleven months. The three elections are for local bodies (municipalities and village councils); provincial legislature and federal legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly. But uncertainties still prevail.
Limited time
Given the climatic condition and cultural tradition of Nepal, we have limited months for holding the elections. Elections in Nepal are not possible in all 12 months of the year. The period between mid-June and mid-September is rainy season during which our farmers are occupied in agricultural activities. During the monsoon season, the country often suffers from floods and landslides, which may pose difficulty even for the movement of people.
Soon after the rainy season is over festival season begins. Great festivals of Hindus and Muslims fall during this time between September and November like Dashain, Tihar or Dipawali, Chhath and Eid. Similarly, winter is harsh especially in the Himalayan region and elections are not possible there from mid-December to mid-March. Elections therefore have to be conducted either between March and July or in November and December.
The Election Commission requires at least three months for preparations. That means elections cannot be held before June this year. The government has already written a formal letter to the Election Commission asking it to make necessary preparations for holding the elections at the earliest. Accordingly, the Election Commission, too, is making its regular preparations for holding all three levels of election within the stipulated timeframe. But election dates have so far not been announced.
The government is willing to hold all three elections at the earliest and the Election Commission is ready to hold the elections in June or July provided all necessary tools are given to it. But elections are not possible only with the government's willing and the Election Commission's readiness. There are several factors responsible for the successful holding of any election.
The first thing we need to do is to create a political atmosphere conducive for election. The political atmosphere means the understanding and consensus among the existing political forces to hold the election, without which elections cannot be held. Another important factor is the legal tools to hold the elections. The government needs to get the necessary election related laws enacted from the parliament to facilitate the election. The Election Commission cannot hold the election without necessary laws. Some laws have already been enacted, but some more are still waiting for their endorsement from the parliament.The third one is the logistic side including necessary budget for the Election Commission.  After this, the government is required to announce the election dates. If the local election is to be held before the rainy season, election dates must be announced within a week. Otherwise elections may not be possible before the monsoon season, and we will have to wait until November. Once these issues are settled, the Election Commission can expedite all the preparatory works.
As far as the political atmosphere is concerned, it is still not positive. The political forces are divided even over election and other issues that have direct bearing on election. The Madhes-based parties are demanding amendment to the constitution to address their concerns before election is held. The government, responding positively to the demands of the Madhesi parties, has registered a bill in the parliament seeking amendment to the present constitution. The issue concerning the constitution amendment bill needs to be settled for the polls. We must create an atmosphere for all political forces to participate in the election. But this issue is currently getting more complicated. Although the bill has been registered in the parliament to address the concerns and demands of the Madhesis, the  Madhes-based parties have not taken its ownership. There lies their political dishonesty. The CPN-UML has vehemently opposed it and has vowed to fail the bill. As the opposition party, the stance of CPN-UML on the amendment bill is understandable.
But in parliamentary democracy opposition party is called the loyal opposition, which in certain sense is a part of the government.  It is also the responsibility of the opposition party to contribute and help the government in finding solution to the key national issues and problems. The constitution and election are the national issues and it is the duty of all political parties—ruling and opposition—to work together and find an appropriate solution for the larger interest of the country.  The CPN-UML is, therefore, expected to play a more moderate role to facilitate the election.
There can be debate whether or not the demands of the Madhes-based parties are justified. But the Madhesis have become a force to reckon with especially after they have virtually kept the country's political process in hostage. In a democracy individuals and political parties have rights to express their disgruntlements and grievances in a peaceful manner. In this sense, we have nothing to say against the Madhes-based parties as their protests are peaceful in nature. But one thing that needs to be debated as to why the Madhesis are not taking the ownership of the constitution that was written with the participation of more than 90 per cent people's elected representatives in the Constituent Assembly and endorsed by two-thirds majority. If we believe in democracy, we must accept its rules although we may have our own disgruntlements.
The Madhes-based parties look determined not to let the constitution be implemented, which is something not understandable. But the constitution is fully at work and we are only in the process of enriching it.  Under this constitution two prime ministers were elected in which the Madhes-based parties also participated. So this is not the question of implementation of the constitution, but the question is how to enrich and further consolidate it. The Madhes-based parties have expressed reservation on certain provisions of the constitution. They have the right to dissent because the constitution itself has given them this right. It is also the duty of the Madhesi parties to defend this constitution instead of condemning it because it has institutionalised the achievements of several people's movements including the Madhes movement.
Sooner the better
There can be no excuse to hold the election. The local election has not been held for almost two decades. In the absence of local election and people's representatives, junior officials are running the local bodies. It has had negative impact on the development activities and service delivery in the local level. If the constitution amendment is the obstacle, all the political parties, including the opposition, need to find an amicable solution to create an election-friendly environment. If federalism and the issues related to federalism are the bone of contention, the local election can be held on the basis of the old structure. Election alone strengthens grassroots democracy. If local election is not held in June or July, it may not be held in 2017 because election for federal parliament will have to be held in November- December. Now we are running short of time. Political parties are, therefore, expected to settle the disputes and differences to facilitate early election. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Understanding Of History

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Most people often tend to define as well as believe that history is the documentation of the past events. It may be true, to a large extent, as history contains and compiles every incident and every bit of information that takes place in the past. However, history is not merely a record of the past. A real and genuine history is the objective analysis and interpretation of the incidents taken place in the past from which lessons are leant to cope with the present situation and chalk out the future course.
History deals with both documentation as well as its interpretation of the past events. The proper study and analysis of past is a must to exactly understand and ascertain the present situation. In the absence of understanding the past and objective analysis of the present, the forward journey often becomes difficult and the vision for the future gets blurred. Ignorance or distortion of history leads to failure in achieving the goal set forth. Study of history and its objective interpretation is, therefore, a key to success in every sector, including the political life of a person, party or a nation.   A successful or visionary leader first studies history and makes correct analysis of the present state from which he/she embarks on the forward march. We, therefore, must study history to exactly ascertain the present situation and, accordingly, plan the course of action for the future.
Nepal's history is checkered with full of twists and at the same time plenty of absurdities and contradictions. Many interesting yet intriguing incidents have taken place in our history that roughly dates back to around two thousand years. But tradition of record-keeping and history writing has been a recent phenomenon not only in Nepal, but in entire South Asia. Our history, mostly ancient history, is based more on mythology, assumption and speculations rather than based on facts. Lack of factual data and authentic information vis-à-vis our ancient history writing has often led to rival interpretations on some our historical events. Although some stone scriptures of the Lichchhivi period give some idea about our ancient history, they are not sufficient. Our authentic history begins only after the rise of Malla dynasty in Nepal during which the tradition of lineage writing and record keeping, although on personal basis, started. But this, too, was not scientific and these records were not safely preserved. Foreigners, especially the British, were the first ones to write Nepalese history, and other historians, including the Nepalese still base their research and history writing on the works of the British.
It is also said that history is written by the victors. In the case of Nepal, it is also true. The Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16 was a watershed in our history in which Nepal lost almost a one-third of its territory to the British. A clause of the Sugauli Treaty signed between Nepal and British-India in 1816 after the war had a provision that had allowed the British to establish residency (embassy) in Kathmandu. 
Some British expatriates who arrived in Kathmandu after the establishment of the British residency wrote Nepal's history based more on the lineage stories and oral accounts than the scientific researches. The history books written by the British and foreigners give only rough idea of Nepal's ancient history. They do not reflect the real picture of the society of ancient Nepal. The Nepalese ancient history is, therefore, incomplete and inaccurate. After the Anglo-Nepal war and Sugauli Treaty, British boasted as being the victors and they wrote the history often trying to demonise the Nepalese and distort Nepalese history. Later some Nepalese wrote history books, but their works, too, were heavily based on the works of the same British historians rather than conducting scientific and objective research. As a result, different historians have different versions of our historical incidents and historical personalities.
Baburam Acharya is one of the noted Nepalese historians who has made some comprehensive researches on Nepalese history and his works give a better and more authentic picture of Nepalese history. Acharya's works, too, have some drawbacks as he tends more to eulogise the rulers or the kings of that time. In the absence of uniformed version in the analysis of history, disputes occur even on the role of some of our historical personalities. The polemics on Prithvi Narayan Shah and his role can be taken as an example. He is, no doubt, a great historical personality, who laid the foundation of a unified and modern Nepal, which was historical necessity. But some people tend to underestimate his historical role and try to demonise him as cruel feudal tyrant.
Prithvi Narayan Shah was, no doubt, a feudal ruler. But what we must take into account is the fact that the period was feudal. The British were imperialists and their cruelty had been even harsher. Moreover, Nepal of that time was like a military state and was virtually at war completely focusing on the unification of several scattered principalities. During the war, some cruel incidents might have occurred, but they should not be generalised just to demonise someone who has played a historic role for unifying Nepal. There are also some diverse views even in the understanding of Nepal's unification. But Nepal's unification was historical necessity, and it was done at the initiative of Prithvi Narayan Shah.
Nepal is a diverse country with diverse cultures and ethnic groups. But it does not mean that there should be diverse and conflicting understanding of history. History should by no means be distorted or misinterpreted to suit the personal interest or the interest of a particular group or section, which only creates division in the society and country. While some outside  scholars or researchers  have come up with their own version of our history, we simply tend to believe them and stir unnecessary debates even on some non-issues. We have hardly made our own efforts to conduct scientific research and accordingly write our authentic history.
Nepal has been in perpetual transition right after the Sugauli Treaty. This perpetual transition is partly due to our lack of uniformed understanding of Nepal's history and partly due to external elements.
Systemic change
Regime changes have been frequent in Nepal, but systemic changes are a few. We cannot expect visible changes when regime change takes place except the change of players in the power game. Systemic changes are supposed to bring about drastic change in the power structure as well as in the governance. In Nepal's case, even systemic changes did not bring about significant change in the overall governance. In the modern history of Nepal, three major systemic changes have taken place.
One was the political change of 1951 when Rana's family rule was overthrown and democracy was established under constitutional monarchy. In the absence of effecting some sweeping changes in the governance, Nepal again reverted to king's authoritarian regime within a decade. It took 30 more years to overthrow the king's absolute regime.  A popular movement of 1990 forced the king to remain as a constitutional head of the state and restore multi-party democracy. It was the second systemic change. However, the king again took over power and tried to impose authoritarian rule. The third systemic change took place when the monarchy was abolished and Nepal was declared a republic in 2008. Even the systemic changes have not brought about significant change in the overall governance as well in the life of people. As a result, transition in Nepal has been perpetual phenomenon, which is partly to do with the lack of understanding in history and partly changes in governance.