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Changing strategic landscapes: Nepals external engagement

KATHMANDU: SAWTEE-Centre for Sustainable Development (SAWTEE-CSD) organized an interaction program titled Changing Strategic Landscapes: Nepals External Engagements, on 5 February 2019, to discuss the ways Nepal can use external engagements to promote our interests and aspirations in the changing global dynamics.

Foreign policy experts and stakeholders, who participated in the program agreed that Nepal, as a country, needed to frame a pragmatic foreign policy defined by and addressing to the countrys long-term national interests. The common view was having a fickle foreign policy has proven to be counterproductive for Nepal and its foreign relations.

Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Chair, SAWTEE-CSD, initiated the discussion providing historical context to Nepals foreign policy and how Nepal had tried to maneuver the nascent foreign policy of a fledgling state with both its neighbors, Tibet/China on the one hand and British India on the other.

 Mr. Acharya called it the first stage of Nepals foreign relations and the second phase was during the 1950s and 1960s after we opened to the world and joined the just established new global order. At that time, we established diplomatic relations with about 25 countries including all the veto wielding members of United Nations and other major powers at that time including Japan and Germany and even Israel, becoming the first country in South Asia to do so, elaborated Mr. Acharya, who has also served as Under-Secretary General at the UN.

 At present, when established global and regional world order is in flux, and world is not going to be the same as we have today, Nepal has to hedge its bets and there is no alternate to being pro-active in foreign policy and diplomacy, pointed out Mr. Achayra, adding that maintaining independent foreign policy while engaging meaningfully with all the major powers is the main challenge for Nepal.

 He pointed out that Nepal had six angles to our relations: India; China; US and the developed countries, countries with whom Nepal has labour relations; rest of the countries of the world and the UN and multilateral institutions.

 Nepal faces delicate geostrategic competition for influence and maintaining trust with all sides who seems to have also competing demands while promoting its own longer term national interests, he cautioned.

 Explaining that national interests should refer first to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, then to our way of life, democracy and rule of law for peace and stability and third to the consolidation of our economic and social progress to sustain peace and stability, he pointed out that regional and global engagements should not be considered as mutually exclusive as they could be made mutually supportive with prudent diplomacy.

 

Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE also stressed the need to review and formulate foreign and trade policy with special regard for its soft power through maintaining international law, international cooperation, and multilateralism, against the backdrop of drastically changing global scenario.

 The event saw participation from former ambassadors Mr. Suresh Acharya and Mr. Vijay Karna; former Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat; Ms. Pabitra Niroula (Kharel), Chairperson, Parliamentary Committee on International Affairs; Ms. Sarala Yadav, MP; Mr. Siddhartha Thapa, CEO Mienhardt Nepal and leader, Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Democratic; Retd. Major General Dr. Purna Silwal; Joint Secretary Mr. Mani P Bhattarai; senior journalists Mr. Dhruba Hari Adhikari, Mr. Narayan Wagle and Keshab Poudel; and reporters covering foreign affairs beat.

 The participants urged that foreign policy should also be mindful of how the relationships among nations were evolving, as countries could have differing interests in some issues but have common interests in other. Thus, if we take sides without understanding the nuances of their interactions, we could be in trouble, they said. 

 The participants also cautioned that policymakers, politicians and diplomats had to assure, that their conducts would not make Nepal a playground for malpractices against neighbouring countries. They also pointed out that Nepal needed to have a fully informed debate, widest ownership and multi-stakeholder partnerships in foreign policy debate.

 This is the first edition of Roundtable Dialogue Series initiated be SAWTEE-CSD to bring forth national and international issues affecting Nepals socio-economic development with participation of wide section of experts and stakeholders to come up with prudent policy prescriptions.

 

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