By Saurav Raj Pant (KATHMANDU,20 March 2019) – Nepal’s foreign policy in the time of the K.P Oli premiership is taking an unusual turn. It is blissfully failing after 3 pivotal foreign policy events i.e. Nepal’s alleged entrance to Indo-Pacific strategy after Nepal-US bilateral meeting, Nepali PM’s attendance at World Economic Forum(WEF) without ‘homework’ and statement on Venezuela by Nepal Communist Party(NCP) comrades Prachanda. We are living in hyper inter-connected world where one event eventually triggers other and affects it’s nearby immediately. These three actions related to foreign policy of Nepal has put us entire International Relations enthusiast to carefully analyze—where the current NCP led government’s foreign policy is heading and tactics to derail its progress if it is on the wrong turn.
Foreign Minister (FM)Pradip Kumar Gyawali went to the US to hold bilateral meeting with the US; which has been carried after 12 years. Well, this was definitely a good ‘breakthrough’ for Nepal-US relationship. But, no one knew that this Washington meeting will bring a foreign policy ‘Tsunami’ in Nepal. Nepal-US bilateral meeting’s press statement ends up with deep confusion and mysteries. US Embassy in Kathmandu noted that, “Nepal’s central role in a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific; and global issues, including North Korea” whereas Nepali foreign ministry remains muted on Indo-Pacific strategy by strongly denying Nepal’s ambition towards any such coalition. But, Nepali authorities stressed such coalition is only for Indo-pacific region. This puts Nepali public in deep confusion about whom to trust—-Whether the statement of the US or Nepal? The US—– which has around 800 military bases around the world definitely has a strong ability to differentiate between ‘Indo-pacific region’ & ‘Indo-Pacific strategy”. Addition to this, the US Embassy in Kathmandu also had mentioned about North Korea and Nepal’s central role to resolve it issues. In diplomacy, one should read between the lines and this reading is not in the Nepal’s favor as it has a risk of Nepal going to side-taking of strategic conflict.
Many Foreign policy pundits in Nepal predicted after this incident about Nepal’s slow inclination towards Western strategy great game countering century long Nepal’s tradition of balancing neighbors and respecting non-alignment policy. This ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ is designed in such a way to build enormous influence of the US upon China in the Indian and Pacific Ocean region as a objective of balancing and countering act against Chinese roar in the form of geo-strategy as well as BRI. Underlining the vested interest of this strategy, Nepal’s knowingly or unknowingly falling under a trap should be a bit concern for all Nepali.
Attendance at WEF
PM Oli attendance in the WEF, Davous as a first Nepali PM was indeed a good initiation to bring FDI in Nepal. But, PM Oli’s quality of interaction during two session wasn’t effective. For example: PM Oli’s panel discussion on ‘Strategic Outlook on South Asia’ at WEF is a zigzag, grammar error, de-coherence with null technicalities of International Political Economy. It should be understood that Davous forum is not ‘making’ promises as Nepali leaders have a ‘habit’ in Nepal. It’s about analyzing what has already achieved in terms of economic stimulation and what’s the concrete plan ahead. In one sentence, PM had mentioned that we had ‘developed connectivity with China/India’ and in other sentence he mentioned that, we had ‘agreements’ with China/India for connectivity and these are in practice. Are these two sentences coherent? The ‘developed connectivity’ and ‘agreements made’ are two different things. Interestingly, Mr. PM Oli on what ‘parameter’ had shared the, “Right now, I don’t want to forecast that we will be fastest growing country within a few years”—- was a fact less comments made in the panel discussion. Statement made by such high level delegation should have concrete facts and evidence to back his/her comments. Amusingly, former RBI Governor of India Raghuram Rajan looks at PM’s face interestingly during the session after Nepali PM statement on Nepal’s possible rise within few years—–The man who was in-charge of Central Bank of India and knew the ‘nerve’ of India-pegged Nepali economy and in situation to hear that sentence from the Nepali PM itself was shocking not only to him but huge bizarre to us also.
Notably, at the same WEF George Soros; the multi-billionaire threatens China as the enemy for the open society; which puts further suspicion of Nepali authorities for China. Several incidents proving that, Nepali internal social media and intellectual community deeply talks about the sovereignty and interest of Nepal, which should be respected and Nepali priorities should be addressed by our both neighbors but we always fail to listen their priorities and need —which shall have to be fulfilled by Nepal. For the diplomacy to best function—-2 way priorities and need should have to be respected and addressed.
Nepali authorities should have ‘intelligence’ surveillance before attending any conference whether the proposed conference would or will be affecting the neighborhood sensitivity or not. Unfortunately, in this WEF attendance we lacked this ability and ‘frustrated’ our neighbor. So, re-gain trust with China; assuring that Nepal wasn’t the part of such statement made by Soros—–it needs reckoning diplomatic exercise. Unfortunately, our mission in Beijing has a capacity deficient on this matter.
Statement made on Venezuela crisis
On January 25th, 2019 NCP co-chairman Prachanda’s press statement on denouncing the US support for Venezuela’s opposition leader Mr. Juan Guaidó and showed support for the elected president Mr. Nicolás Maduro , supporting the will of the Venezuelan people is a box canyon strategy at a time when Nepal criticized for alleged participation in Indo-Pacific strategy (in US camp) and this party who is also leading government taking anti-US side (in Russia-China bloc) on this issue had became tricky. On January 29, 2019 in align with this statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement about Venezuela mentioning that it has been closely following the recent political developments in Venezuela and stressing the internal political problems of the country should be solved within its constitutional parameter in a democratic manner free from external interferences. MOFA indirectly supported the Prachanda statement about people’s power to take decision on the country situation based on the constitutional parameter and avoiding external interferes.
After Prachanda’s statement, Nepali Ambassador in the US was summoned asking for clarification about the statement—whether it is the statement of the Nepal Government or party itself? Afterwards, MOFA was forced to release the statement. Following these series of the events on Feb 2, 2019 the US had downplayed its support for the March, 2019 Investment Summit in Nepal quoting “real, bold and tangible reforms both at laws and practice are necessary to instill confidence among potential investors”. At a time when Nepali FDI is decreasing based on several economic data. There is an absolute necessity to magnify FDI in Nepal where the US is one of the major sources of FDI in the world——-frustrated after Nepal’s childish diplomatic act is truly bizarre to us. It has been perceived that, Nepali foreign affairs policy always remains the fantasy and childish games of the leaders, who think and provoke global politics in a such a way thinking it works like deceiving the Nepali public in their public speech rally with their election promises. This is damaging to the country.
New developments in geopolitics
Israel is lobbying Nepal to shift her embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem via closed diplomatic door, Nepal-France had a political consultation meeting in Kathmandu to discuss about regional and multilateral issues, Japan’s FM was in Kathmandu to provide (carrot) air route and Nepal’s possible participation in Japan work visa program as a part of the larger Indo-Pacific Strategy, Indo-Pacific Commander met with Nepali Army Chief including Prime Minister—-all these events are on a power play to detain Chinese rise as a part of wider Indo-pacific strategy. At the midst of all these developments, Nepal is coming to critical juncture to protect her vested interest and addressing the concern of its two immediate neighbors.
All these events are slowly pushing Nepal in to the trap of the great game and urging Nepal to take a side. Since, Nepal is not in position to take side because of its geopolitical sensitivity and also with underlining Nepal’s century’s long traditions of balancing act of neighbors. But in this unpredictable and inter-connected world, our leader’s personal interest is driving Nepal in to the roads of complexity. All above events from Indo-Pacific strategy, WEF and ongoing geopolitical events in the region and world raised a question—-whether are we able to identify, observe and analyze geopolitical changes and if possibly take action to protect our vested interest on a timely manner? No, we are losing in many frontiers. Underling all these scenarios, there is an urgent need of geopolitical division inside MOFA to research, analyze and take necessary action. Currently, MOFA only has division dealing with the affairs based on the geography and International/regional organizations such as (South Asia, North East Asia, South East and the pacific, Europe/America, Central Asia, West Asia & Africa, UN, Int’l organization & Int’l Law). Division based on thematic areas i.e. on geopolitics becomes utter necessity in a time when leaders feel that, foreign policy can be carried out through babyish game tactics without any standard act, process and procedure.