Diplomatic Intelligence in Foreign Relations


By GP Acharya (KATHMANDU, 6 March 2019) – Intelligence is only one component that modulates human actions. Another strong modulator is tendency. Tendencies make us behave in ways that are proven to work well, and usually reflect a good degree of intelligence. And, Emotional Intelligence is the core of leadership in decision making whereas a nation’s intelligence capability is a critical instrument for implementing its national security strategy.

With the assessment of the diplomatic and intelligence failures, Nepal has to realize the need of systemic reform to curtail diplomatic crisis management in the future. Nepal has to create diplomatic processes with clear institutional roles and responsibilities. For this, top-level political leaders, diplomatic and foreign ministry team and security apparatus must be insightful in diplomatic processes and decision making.

A comprehensive intelligence capability is a must now to provide warning of threats to Nepal’s national security and to give analytical support to the policy communities and identify opportunities for advancing our national interests. Diplomatic intelligence, an aptitude in dealing foreign affairs in a skillful and sensitive manner, has to enable bridge mutual understanding, cooperation, harmony and consensus and help other nations live together productively. More importantly, diplomatic intelligence has to be the core of promoting national interest and decision making in foreign policy.

Assessment of Intelligence

Because of being deficient in political and diplomatic intelligence, internal weaknesses, power conflict and hindrances in various junctures, Nepal couldn’t conquer in Anglo-Nepal War despite of Bhimsen Thapa’s gallantry role. Consequently, Nepal lost its large territories and was compelled to sign hubbub ‘Treaty of Sugauli’ in 1815.  Subsequently, Jung Bahadur, the first Rana regime, tried to please British pretending to be strong within; whereas Mohan Samsher, the last Rana regime, tried to please India hoping to get support to prolong their rule and signed unfriendly ‘Peace and Friendship Treaty’ in 1950. But, unpredictably, Rana regimes collapsed.

Even so, Nepal has ever remained strong in defending its sovereignty, despite of losing large territories, and has been surviving throughout the most difficult junctures in the history. Yet, Nepal’s geo-strategic position has been steadily transformed from ‘safe zone’ to ‘buffer zone’ to ‘competition zone’ to ‘clout of attraction’ in the region, today. While, the incumbent Prime Minister Oli neither has to please any regimes nor has to face vote of confidence within. He has to just espouse perceptive domestic and foreign policy.

Sense of Intelligence

Careful calibration of words matter most in diplomacy and foreign policy. Foreign Policy, today, may not work in ‘Madman Theory’ approach as like Nixon-Kissinger adopted in the past or in ‘Ignorance Hypothesis’ approach that Nepal executes at times. It is often said: “While speaking, speaking nothing is diplomacy”. However, diplomacy is all about relationship building, mutual co-operation, security, privacy, confidentiality and sense of intelligence where as diplomatic intelligence is the pragmatic approach in contemporary diplomacy.

When we lose sense of diplomatic intelligence while making decision in foreign policy that might create ample ground for accidents and consequently nation has to suffer. There are so many instances around us where one leader’s unpredictable decision has leaded the nation into imperiling. Diplomatic intelligence of leaders and diplomats can leave profound impact in promoting national interests. For instance, Prof. Yadu Nath Khanal’s diplomatic intelligence while dealing with China, India and the US has remained highly commendable. May be, Mt. Everest would not have been our pride today whether the then leaders and diplomats had not been so diplomatic and intelligent while dealing with China.

Nepal is being often assumed to be a cockpit of virtual playground where some major powers are projecting Nepal as their strategic partner for specific containment to one over another. For instance, projection of Nepal in the front line leadership on Indo-Pacific Strategic Partnership, or inclusion as a partner in BIMSTEC military drill, or soft partnership in BRI project show Nepal’s possible exploitation for their respective containment strategy. Yet, BIMSTEC military drill out shows the inept Foreign Policy. This wavering may be perceived as Nepal’s immature Foreign Policy. (Even though, the decision of participating in BIMSTEC military exercise itself was against the BIMSTEC spirit). Instead, Nepal has to equally leverage from all the powers by maintaining its relations through strategic-hedging and balancing as Nepal is in a system affecting position right now. Still, Nepal is not in a position to compel any nations to back down their strategy or push any chips into the international political pan.

Reasonably, Nepal should maintain its neutral, trustworthy and acquiescent values as always and has to play very safe and smart whether this land could be pushed into real battleground or a clout of attraction. The most recent statement in Venezuelan crisis, the subsequent reluctance of US ambassador to participate in the briefing called by the government in Kathmandu and the grilling of Nepal’s Ambassador in Washington shows an escalating diplomatic crisis between US-Nepal relations. However, US-Nepal relation is momentous and carries significant values, and it should not be derailed by any diminutive issues.

Strands of Intelligence

It’s high time to identify strands of intelligence problems- intelligence collection, bureaucratic coordination and intelligence analysis, and develop intelligence apparatus and processes now. With the processes of intelligence, assessment and communication, we’ve to handle crisis in our bilateral relations with other nations. Since effective intelligence leads to effective crisis management, we’ve to espouse our effectual intelligence to maintain a relationship of trust and confidence with all the major powers including immediate neighbors.

Since, Nepal does not possess any significant intelligence, counter intelligence or strategic intelligence mechanisms and has not been equipped with any defense technology yet; our presence in regional and global politics should not create ample ground for others to cause trouble to us. Nepal should not apply the version of Newton’s third law of motion in international political or diplomatic sphere at least for the moment.

May be, Nepal has only two options to adopt in: maintain compliant neutral values and aim for economic prosperity, or be inclined to one political bloc, acquire nuclear strengths and become self reliant in the basic needs…! But, we have to think several steps ahead and reckon for better intelligence in advance by anticipating the possible peril. Otherwise, diplomatic business of any initiative of any political strategy may go costlier and run down the country to foster a sense of decline (Wish not!).

Culture of Intelligence

PM Oli and Chairman Dahal, both of them being life time Marxists, have to have several idea of handling the economy, society and politics and have to well-marshal the power and intelligence to devise strategy and better handle politics and diplomacy. But, sporadically, they are misguided or wrong-advised or apply a lesser amount of diplomatic intelligence and hindered in various political junctures.

However, Oli and Dahal must use their conviction, knowledge and intelligence while making decision in sensitive issues, have to think beyond the box and espouse perceptive policy. They have to listen equally their fellow citizens, foreign policy experts around, their comrades in the bash and the opposition in dash. They need to bring the major political parties into confidence to develop a consensus on significant domestic and foreign policy issues. Moreover, they have to develop a comprehensive diplomatic intelligence culture and project a stately foreign policy to advance the national interest and heighten Nepal’s gradually enlivening stature around the globe.

Acharya is a researcher and analyst who holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Statistics, MPhil in Management (Studied) and M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy (Research Progress).

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