KATHMANDU- After Puspa Kamal Dahal Prachand became PM, Indian PM Modi was the first Head of Government to congratulate which shows the high importance of Nepal- India relations. Bharatiya Janata Party( BJP) President JP Nadda had recently invited him to visit India. Priorities should be on areas like trade, energy and security and he mentioned that even though there was a border dispute during PM Oli period later both sides are ready to come together to resolve it.
Nepal occupies an important geopolitical and geostrategic position in South Asia. It has a border of 1,414 km with China in the north and 1,850 km with India in the east, west and south.
The leaders of both nations know the historical value of Nepal in this region for India’s overall strategic interests. Five Indian states Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand share borders with Nepal. Nepal benefits from India’s sea access and imports large essential products.
During Prachanda’s visit to India last July he stressed that some issues of the Nepal-India Peace Treaty of 1950, the basis of special relationship, border disputes and the eminent persons group( EPG) report should be properly evaluated and addressed diplomatically. PM Prachanda and the Minister of Foreign Affairs should study the report and request India to solve the issues soon. Both countries should pay attention to the centuries old special “Roti Beti” connection. Nepal When UML President KP Oli was PM his government issued a new political map including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek and it was endorsed by Nepali parliament. Then India was outraged, calling it a “unilateral act” and threatening to reject any “artificial expansion” of territorial claims. UML’s leader KP Oli has a nationalist stand against India on border disputes and blockades. He has positioned himself strong as a true nationalist leader
Whatever government comes to power in Kathmandu, bilateral relations should remain cordial. It is necessary to emphasize on the Indian government to expand the construction of more rail networks along the Nepal-India open borders. The borders are still unmanaged and uncontrolled. For the greater national interest, development, peace and security of both countries, it is necessary for both governments to work together to regulate and manage the border crossings. Especially for Nepalese, these borders should be more useful and fruitful in terms of economic development, trade, commerce, education, health, agriculture, employment, tourism, religion, etc. The Siliguri Corridor, which was signed by Indian PM Modi and his counterpart PM Oli after allowing access to its southern neighbor Bangladesh and the Indian port of Visakhapatnam, is a 50 km stretch of Indian territories between Nepal and Bangladesh through the Indian state of West Bengal.
Construction of historical museum, modern library and study center
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should build a modern and organized library, study center and historical museum with modern digital technologies. Political and diplomatic visits of heads of states and governments, high-ranking foreign diplomats, party leaders, eminent foreign persons, meeting and mutual cooperation, pictures, achievements, important documents, collections, treaties, agreements, all will be very beneficial for detail studies and developments.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry and Related Institutes
Nepal’s new Foreign Minister should be an educated, experienced in international relations, diplomacy, and foreign policy and in national and economic interests. The Minister should be a respected and distinguished person at the national and international level. Minister need to be a person who can have clear relations and communicate with other countries like India, China USA, UK and other major countries. The government should take help for the economic investment and development of Nepal through organizations like the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, SAARC, BIMSTEC. The main responsibilities of the Foreign Minister as one of the senior members of the cabinet is to represent Nepal and the government in the international community and also plays an important role in monitoring, evaluation and implementation of Foreign policies. Minister should present national and economic interests clearly and strongly Performances should not be carried for personal and party interests but for collective and public interests. Parliament should be made a common platform for discussion and solution of such important issues.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also needs to be reorganized, restructured and modernized with new scientific and digital technologies. The Ministry should appoint experts and competent researchers and study teams from South Asia, India, China, USA, Britain, other European countries, South Korea, Arab countries etc. Also, the ministry should coordinate and get support from the departments related to the Home Office, Labor, Home Affairs, Tourism, Finance and Immigration, and Security Agencies. Nepal Foreign Affairs Institute and similar government institutes should be reorganized and restructured as high-level think tanks. Since foreign policy and diplomacy are very sensitive and important topics, the Minister should be very careful about the confidentiality and privacy of information and works.
If there is a political stability and peace, and a clear action policy of the government, there will be a lot of financial investment and cooperation from abroad. The economy of the state will also be strong. Parliament should formulate a corruption control bill to reduce and prevent corruption and financial misuses. The government should focus on transparency and accountability
New Ambassadors and Diplomatic Appointments Criteria and Dignity
There should be strict criteria and formality for the selection of ambassadors and diplomatic posts. This new government should appoint qualified young ambassadors, diplomats, advisers and assistants who are capable, educated and good in technologies. Youth should be provided chance at the higher policies, leaderships and decision-making levels. Also inclusiveness and proportional selections should be made more practical Educated and capable Women, Janjajatis, from marginalized, deprived and remote areas should also be equally considered. As in the past, top political leaders should not make political appointments only on basis of parties and personal interests. When high foreign delegates and diplomats visit Nepal then political leaders and government officers need to have diplomatic practices, etiquettes and traditions. English language and other foreign languages, customs, dress, culture, warm welcome and hospitality for cordial and pleasant stays are very important. When Nepali delegates make official travels abroad, it is good to inform the relevant agencies. Unnecessary travel expenses and allowances should not be provided.
Ambassadors or high diplomats should not be met for personal interests. Kathmandu and the heads of local bodies in other major cities should also maintain special relations with the mayors of other countries. Also, the TU has been teaching International Relations and Diplomacy at the post-graduate level. Such courses, trainings and practices should be started in other educational institutions as well.
India, China, USA’s and Nepal’s Foreign Policy and Economic Diplomacy
What is our foreign policy? In other countries, no matter which party forms the government, they have the same foreign policy, and no matter which government comes, they have the same views on Nepal. But our policy is different after the arrival of a new minister of another party. The current government should have a clear common policy. After the power change and government officials who are close to political parties should not change the system, policies and rules for self, political or party interests. . There should be stability among the government, and party leaders in the main issues. It should maintain an equal balance without having close or distant relations with powerful countries. If the government and internal politics are stable and strong, foreign policy, relations and diplomacy will also be strong and mature. Unity, reconciliation and cooperation should be the way forward. Since Buddha was born in Nepal the people should live a peaceful life and spread the message of peace, unity, harmony and cooperation to the world.
A strong country should not be a playground or battlefield in Nepal for the political, military and strategic interests of India, China, USA UK, etc. Being a landlocked country, due to its geopolitical position, it should maintain a balanced relationship with all the major powers of the world. In the future, economic development, stability, peace and progress must be engaged in high diplomacy, economic multilateral cooperation, healthy and peaceful competition and cooperation. Not any powerful country should interfere in Nepal’s internal politics and engage in forced diplomacy.
Nepal needs to save its national economy by importing essential commodities like daily food items, low cost fuel, petroleum with China and other South Asian countries like Bangladesh. The maximum budget of Nepal’s economy is invested to India in petroleum and cooking gas, which costs billions of economic losses of the government. Therefore, by developing and expanding electricity, we should go to electric energy and depend more on electric vehicles and equipments National budget can also be saved by connecting the roads and transports to the Chinese borders. Likewise, the economy will improve if foods, clothing, garments, carpets, cements, cultural/ traditional Nepali products are made and exported. By developing tourism as an industry, a large number of tourists will come and spend, young people will get jobs, and the economy will be strong.
In Nepal, Saptakoshi, Saptagandaki, Karnali, Mahakali and Southern rivers together have the capacity to produce more than 42 thousand megawatts of powerful electricity. This huge potential will be sufficient for Nepal’s electricity needs and exports to other countries. India has invested in many large hydropower projects in Nepal. As Nepal accepted BRI MoU with China it has made China strong than India and USA. China and the US both have identified Nepal’s hydropower potential and are committed to investing heavily under BRI and MCC. Many hydropower plans are located in Nepal- India border in Tarai areas which are big concerns for India’s security
While China is working effective to unite the various factions of the Communist Party in the region, India is also watching the developments closely. Kathmandu is aware of the fact that Sri Lanka has suffered due to the Chinese loan. New Chinese ambassador Chen Song has arrived in Kathmandu. Recently China has been working very hard to increase its influence in Nepal
Not any country should interfere in other country’s internal national and political affairs, threats, involve in forceful diplomacy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Amid the India-China rivalry, the US has given a development grant of 500 million US dollars to Nepal under its foreign aid agency (MCC). The MCC agreement was approved by the Nepal’s parliament few months back. The approval soon ran into debate as it is considered as part of the US-led Indo-Pacific strategy aimed to counter China.
Especially considering the impact of Covid-19 on its economy and the impact on the tourism sectors, Nepal is in large need of development supports and has approved the MCC as an important step for its economic prosperity it way approved by Nepali parliament after a 12-point explanatory declaration addressing all confusions and clarifications regarding the grant
The US seeks to partner with countries around the world to promote access, democracy, enhance military capabilities, and promote the principles of responsible governance.
Since the US has not fully rejected the Indo-Pacific element in the SPP, the latter is a violation of Nepal’s independent foreign policy, security strategy and adherence to non-alignment as enshrined in Nepal’s constitution. US-China competition In the last few months, the US and Chinese delegations have tried to create a friendly space based on self-interest in Nepal. The U.S. has adopted a strategy to include more democratic means of assistance to mitigate the growing Chinese influence in the Himalayan region.
Although Nepal has endorsed the “One China” policy in all formal relations between China and Nepal, Nepal has made clear its stance that it will not join the Indo-Pacific including the SPP. However, China has been criticizing US moves on such issues. During political protests, two high-level Chinese delegations visited Nepal, including the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the head of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party in With the approval of MCC, it is seen that there will be direct struggle between China and USA
The BRI MoU with Nepal has strengthened China compared to India and USA the global accusations of a debt trap. Nepali political and government officials have also spoken of their preference for “soft loans” and “aid” for Nepal instead of high-interest loans. On the other hand, it is a completely grant-in-aid program.
Both agreements, are highly debatable. However, the US has repeatedly clarified that its objectives are clear. The Chinese interest is still involving projects such as the Trans-Himalayan Multi Connectivity Networks, which would build railways and roads across the mighty high Himalayan ranges.
Although India has become Nepal’s top development partner, the global competition between USA and China in trade, security, cyberspace, technology and other issues has reached a new height
China and US have recognized Nepal’s hydropower potential and are committed to making huge investments Unlike Chinese projects, US development assistance under the MCC aims to provide electricity for local needs and help Nepal generate revenue by providing surplus energy to Indian markets. Experts say that there is an element of unity between USA, Nepal and India. Chinese investment in Terai is very important for the security of India and Nepal itself as China has not given any economic clarity in this regard.
The superpower competition between the US and China in Nepal is focused on building a strong strategic position, addressing its insecurity in the Himalayas, and finding business opportunities that are also strategic.
India and China have border disputes for long time but China and USA have global competition in almost all areas. It is well known that the US-India cooperation for development works under Indo-Pacific region and their broader strategic partnership is a strong objective of the growing opposition to Chinese influence.
On the other hand, while maintaining its non-aligned foreign policy, Nepal is redirecting its foreign policy priorities while ignoring any mistakes that may hinder its national interests. Even though Nepal has raised the same objection about MCC, it has decided to resolve it through negotiations with the US and to resolve it by looking at economic benefits.
Also, while Nepal may not be open about its intentions to partner with world powers, its neighbors make it inevitable in the near future and a democratic alliance led by India and the US may be in Nepal’s interest. At the same time, Nepal must balance China’s interests, especially in relation to Tibet and Tibetans living in Nepal. From the early days until now, USA’s policy towards Nepal has been to build a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society, while China’s Nepal policy has been characterized on principles, emphasizing the ‘One China’ policy.
As the global geostrategic environment becomes increasingly Asia-centric, US-China strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific region is increasing mostly in the South Asian subcontinent, of which India has traditionally been a dominant and main power The geographically distant US has sought to expand its position against China by gaining Indian support for its Indo-Pacific strategy and working towards a common goal of promoting a free, fair, democratic, open and inclusive society.
-Writer Nishesh Dhungana is Lawyer/Advocate/ Scholar of Law, Foreign Policy, International Relations and Diplomacy. Email: [email protected]