By GP Acharya (KATHMANDU, 21 July 2020) – Nepal has witnessed numerous threats on its national security, and struggled hard to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity since the establishment. Nepal fought Anglo-Nepal war, Tibet-Nepal war, India imposed economic war and several other political and diplomatic conflicts. Nepal has been mostly stressed by psychological and political warfare, influenced by the geo-political meddling and faced several domestic challenges cum threats in various stages of history.
The Nepali rulers defended nation’s territory with extra-ordinary brave in the 18th and early 19th century, while their successors mostly used energy in securing the position in domestic politics in the late 19th, 20th and early 21st century. The Nepali politics even today is largely revolving around a narrow periphery of power-politics or power-crunch. The struggle for power still has been the main functional agenda for the political elites.
Seems, our national security is more endangered due to domestic threats than the fear-psychoses of external threats. The two-third majority ruling party has been witnessing biggest threat from within, and there has been frequent conflict over power-sharing. The entire nation has been traumatized, witnessing biggest threat to human security, due to Coronavirus Pandemic. The nation is frequently witnessing threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, while the struggle for power is still the main objective of the political elites in the midst of biggest threat to national security.
What/whom we are going to conquer by toppling the two-third majority government or creating obstacles from within in the most difficult juncture of history? Is the existing national crisis an opportunity to create dispute within and showcase a drama or take advantage of the national trauma in the name of power-sharing?
The crisis of political culture in Nepal is more tantalizing than the economic or development crisis. How well we can sustain our social, economic and political life in the domestic sphere will determine the status of our national security.
Imagine what miracle would have been achieved if there were XYZ instead of Oli? The nation is in very critical juncture of history, today. There are so many crucial issues to be addressed simultaneously such as the issue of border crisis, sovereignty and territorial integrity, political and economic coercion, human security, socio-politico-economic stability among others.
Every creative individual has to analyze the things through both the lenses- retrospective and futuristic. The blaming, criticizing and only seeing the failure is something similar to the hypothesis “If I were a bird, I would fly all over the world”. Neither we could be a bird nor can fly throughout the world. What we can do is just cooperate in the national crisis, stand cohesive by minimizing the friction and march ahead united for national prosperity and integrity. Domestic integration is a constituent of national power, which will enhance national security.
National Security, however, has to be observed through a comprehensive lens of strategic and non-strategic views. Securing border and territory, of course, is the ‘Vital National Interest’. Protecting and promoting interest, passion, knowledge and well-being of nationals is equally important in ensuring national security.
To ensure national security, we need to reduce foreign aid dependency, enhance political culture, maintain socio-politico-economic stability, and become self-reliant on the basic needs. Digital technology, biotechnology innovations, green technology, water technology, and Human Resource Management (re)engineering could help develop our economy more efficiently and sustainably. Technology can be a key instrument for a country like Nepal which can help attain economic and security success.
We must accept that the socio-politico-economic situation at home is pathetic. Even though Nepal has significantly scaled-up in Human Development Index (HDI), many people still are suffering from some forms of human deprivation, claims the HDI report. The report has shown that the poor countries like Nepal have rapid population growth and heavy child population both of which are the driving forces in lowering the per capita income. Certainly, our poverty, low literacy, unemployment, weak economy, poor living conditions and lack of socio-emotional or socio-cultural cohesion among others are fueling for such deprivation.
To address those concerns, we have to concretely trace the line between economic and national security, which will minimize the possible threats to our overall national security. For now, let’s (re)visit our economic and foreign policy. Has our economic policy been set to achieve the goal of national security? How balance is our budget? How effectively we are cutting down our deficits and borrowings? Is foreign aid a substitute for our economic decision? How well we are espousing our economic diplomacy with a political sense of reciprocity? How much we are giving to the international community with respect our taking and taking culture, only taking culture? Are the existing economic policies sound enough to ensure our economic future? How well and effectively we are grasping the regional and global opportunities to ensure our economic future? How balance and independent international relations we are maintaining?
Meanwhile, why is there intra-party conflict, within the ruling party, regarding the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grants? Why the MCC is being enforced to be ratified through parliament, while it can be endorsed or rejected by the cabinet meeting? Is the MCC truly a threat to our national security? Are the powerful nations openly undermining our economy and nakedly posing threats to our national security?
The honest and patriotic answers to the questions mentioned above obviously matter in securing nation. It is, however, high time to devise pragmatic policies such that nation would not be pushed under the burden of foreign debts and economic coercion anytime in the future.
Learning from the ‘War on Oil’ in the Middle-East, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait and Venezuela; we must preserve and best utilize our resources particularly- waters, rivers, lakes, Himalayas, forests, herbs, precious stones, mines, strategic minerals, energy, and genetic bio-diversity. Nepal possess one of the richest genetic bio-diversities in the world, which need to be preserved through bio-dynamics. Nepal has significant amount of resources of gold, valuable stones, copper, iron ore, mica, lime stones among others. Around one-third of the land of Nepal is covered by forests, while Nepal reserves nearly three percent of world’s total natural resources. We’ve to be able enough to harness those natural resources for our economic development. The survey and research findings on natural resources has claimed that the upper Mustang and surrounding region contains huge quantity of Uranium. Uranium is used as fuel to enrich nuclear energy, while we can supply Uranium to the nuclear powers. Uranium, gold, precious stones and rare Himalayan herbs- which are fungible forms of power- could be equivalent to hard currency reserve to enhance our national power capability.
On the other hand, realizing the vulnerability of pandemics, natural disasters, possible wars, and the severity of the financial crisis; we need to ensure ‘Food Security’ such that we can well-fed and nourish the citizens, which can make the notion of national security more meaningful in the long run. Even though, ‘Food Security’ has been recognized in the constitution, we need to be practical enough with respect to the implementation of various dimensions such as availability, accesses, utilization and stability.
The healthy, energetic, intelligent, dynamic and fertile population is an element of national power, which can add dynamism to the momentum of nation’s economic growth as well as can share energy and vitality in national economy. Similarly, the healthy soil or fertile land, which strengthens biodiversity and increases agricultural productions, is the strategic assets of nation. The research on population and demography has shown that there is a significant connection between fertility (growth of population) and economic growth. The higher the fertility in young population, the more dynamism and growth can be achieved.
We can enhance our national security focusing particularly on soft security issues such as issues related to population- birth rate, population growth, population of young and energetic youth, gender parity and income equality; controlling environmental degradation, cyber and organized crime, human and drug trafficking; and preserving endangered species, cultural heritage and diversity, social values, civilization and internal values- democracy, good governance, human rights, political stability, political culture, dynamic neutrality, emphasis on regional order and global peace, harmony and cooperation.
Yet, some of our foreign policy goals can be achieved through cultural attraction. Through culture and internal values, we can win the hearts, minds and spirits of tens of millions of people around the globe.
We need to, further, invest rationally on intelligence and develop a sound intelligence culture as part of soft strategy. Advanced and updated technology need to be used to gather information from the political sphere around the world. Technically, an advanced intelligence unit need to be set up such that it could provide time-sensitive data on Real-Time basis.
Yet, Nepal’s national security is vulnerable due to climatic and geological hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, flooding, global warming, glacier melting, acid rain and ecological imbalance. All those threats can make catastrophic impact on our national security if not managed adequately. Our craving desire of meeting the goal of energy, roads, transportation, infrastructure, industrialization and urbanization is posing threats to ecological balance. For instance, the massive use of dozer for the haphazard construction of roads, land plotting and urbanization in the recent past is aggravating for soil erosion, floods, landslides and ecological imbalance.
Since, Nepal shares 60 rivers, streams, rivulets and brooks as border rivers, and 1880 kilometers (of which 1233 kilometers land and 647 kilometers the riverine) boundary with India; and eight of the highest peaks (above 8000 meters) including the Mt. Everest and 34 main mountain passes, and 1439.18 kilometers boundary land with China; it will pose serious security problems for us in the future if those crucial and sensitive issues of shared resources and borders are not resolved permanently. Resolving the conflicting issues regarding the shared resources and borders, with equal spirits from either sides, will minimize the possibility of frictions in the future course of our relations with both the close cum friendly neighbors.
The strategic value of water as most essential resource is rising with the rise in global population. The world population is growing 75 million each year- 200,000 additional people per day, and it is projected to be 8 billion by 2030, nearly 9 billion by 2050 and more than 10 billion by 2100; of that increase, 96 percent will be in the global south, claims UNFPA data on World Population Report. Meanwhile, one-fifth of the global population- one in six people worldwide- have no access to safe drinking water. In the global south, nearly one in five children have no safe drinking water, mentioned UNCEF. Meanwhile, more than 80 countries are suffering from water shortages, now. Singapore imports drinking water from Malaysia, while all the South Asian countries have challenges of fresh water provisions. By 2050, nearly 2.5 billion people in South Asia will be suffering from water stress and water scarcity, predicted the South Asian Regional Study on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation.
With the rapid growth in global population, the demand for safe drinking water is also growing rapidly. In addition to that, with the rise in global temperature, following the rising impact of climate change, the frequency of natural disasters such as tsunami, hurricane, landslides, flooding along with earthquakes and wars are repeatedly striking- which could cause huge loss of safe drinking water to tens of millions of people worldwide.
Thankfully, Nepal has enormous resources of pure Himalayan water which can quench the thirst of entire population in South Asia and Arab World if it is processed and promoted well. The rivers from Nepal contribute 46 percent of the average flows of the Ganges River and nearly 71 percent of the dry season flows, while agriculture sector in India consumes more than 85 percent of the total consumption of water for irrigation.
The powerful nation yet, may attempt for “fishing” in Nepal for political gains, or induce psychological and political warfare, or influence Nepal, or push for unprecedented war to acquire our resources, rivers, lakes, water wells, glacier lakes and icy Himalayas. Many wars were fought over the strategic value of oil or water as resources, reveals the history. For instance, India-Pakistan first war of 1948, reportedly, was because of Indian concern of water. The Pacific War of 1941-45, the Iraq-Iran war of 1980- one of which purpose was to control the Shatt-al-Arab waterway (an access to Persian Gulf) because of the commercial and strategic value of that water access, the Gulf War of 1991- which was more of the interest of obtaining cheap oil from the Middle-East than a response to aggression against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and the Iraq War of 2003- which was more a strategic interest of acquiring oil than promoting democracy. The Spartly Islands in the South China Sea is under dispute where China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei are claiming for it in part or full because of its potential oil reserve. And, the most recent conflict induced in Iran, or a little earlier in Venezuela- both were the strategic ideas of controlling and acquiring oil wells.
Capitalize on Values
By realizing the instances, facts and figures mentioned above, we have to be smart enough to preserve our huge resources of water and minimize the possibility of ‘Water War’ in the future. Our precious resources, which are the fungible element of power, need to be converted into another forms of power. At the same time, the geo-politics itself is one of the elements of power, where we have to be able enough to capitalize on our location.
After all, the vision, policies, deployment of capabilities, quality of state’s bureaucracy, sound political culture, rely on self-help, national will, patriotism, state’s rationality, intelligence mechanisms, educated and healthy population, diplomatic skills and potential to influence powerful nations significantly matter in ensuring the national security.
GP Acharya, who holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Statistics, completed M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy and studied MPhil in Management, is a researcher and analyst. He can be reached at: [email protected]