The November 20 election was not only about electing a new leader, but also about selecting a daring leader who can pragmatically handle all the issues - economic, social, developmental, diplomatic, foreign policy, national dignity and security - coherently balance Nepal’s relations with immediate and other powers, and drive the nation with spirited leadership, rational intelligence and sense of economic patriotism.
As the final results of the November 20 elections come in, various speculations are being made about the potential structure of the government not only in the domestic sphere, but also in international political spectrums. Some international powers are equally anxious and conscious whether the new government would be flexible enough to implement their interest and policies as well as the agreements and understandings reached with them.
As the bigger economies are largely dominating politics, economy and diplomacy of Nepal in the name of aid or development, Nepal today finds itself at a crucial juncture of history due to both international and domestic power-game. The domestic politics is largely revolving around a narrow periphery of power-struggle followed by an ill-intention of politically finishing the detractors within and in opposition, while struggle for power has been a main functional agenda of the political elites. On the other hand, some foreign political predators do not want Nepal to be politically stable, nationally sovereign and socio-economically progressive, while they want to inject pits of chaos, misery, instability, weakness, and impotency in Nepal. They want Nepal to be a failed state conditionally run under the canopy of their economic, diplomatic and security policies, which would never let sovereign Nepal thrive. This is why Nepal has not been able to make much progress in terms of development, economy, diplomacy, foreign policy and national security for a long time.
Nepal, however, should trace a concrete line between economic and national security such that it can passionately focus on development and diplomacy. This could also help grasp the regional and global opportunities to ensure Nepal’s economic future. As Nepal’s economic policies are not sound enough to ensure its economic future, it should espouse economic diplomacy with a ‘political sense of reciprocity’ that can help minimize the possible threats to Nepal’s overall security. Since, foreign aid is not a substitute for Nepal’s economic decision, the budget needs to be prepared and balanced such that it can cut down its deficits and borrowings. Yet, for the moment, Nepal should maintain fair economic and diplomatic relations with all the powers and maximize its power and minimize their influence.
Nepal can achieve a plethora of opportunities when it gets practically engaged with the regional and international world. The new government to be formed now should “reopen channels of communications”, maintain a trust, pave a path for constructive relations, and then sensibly ‘hit the nail’ at the right time by putting the most serious and outstanding issues along with potential areas of cooperation with the immediate neighbors- China and India. To enhance Nepal’s relations, Nepal needs to closely understand them- politically, diplomatically, technologically, economically, and personally. For instance, Nepal can establish person-to-person, organization-to-organization, business-to-business, city-to-city, university-to-university, party-to-party, and government-to-government relations with them such that it would help strengthen Nepal’s relations and take advantage of every opportunity.
The twentieth congress of the CPC emphasized that China continues to exhibit “strategic patience”, while it says “we will never promise to renounce the use of force”. This signifies that China is ready to espouse both ‘proactive’ and ‘assertive’ foreign policy. Beijing, reportedly, has set an objective to “increase China’s international standing and influence and enable China to play a greater role in global governance”, which indicates that China is highly sensitive regarding national security. China is most likely to be aggressive to safeguard its territorial integrity and expand its influence globally by strategic means, while Nepal would be the first neighbor to witness the blow of China’s strategic influence.
According to sources, China and India are likely to “put their border issue in a proper position in bilateral relations” for which the “two rational major developing countries” have “agreed to strengthen communication for further ties”. This shows that both the giant economies are gradually managing their relations, and so can they do with Nepal too. Meanwhile, China has emphasized the “timely implementation of the agreements and understandings reached between the two countries…”, which implies that China is most likely to pressurize Nepal on BRI and other agreements like the US did on MCC, but more strategically. Thus far, Nepal has no option other than an analogous ratification of both BRI and MCC (as MCC has been already ratified) and balancing between the two powerful rivals- China and the US.
Besides political and traditional issues, there are several emerging issues that are affecting Nepal’s economy, diplomacy, development and national security - which all need to be addressed with a political sense of urgency.
Nepal’s geo-digital situation is equally challenging as the geo-political situation is, which is due to the growing geo-digital competition and clashes between the powerful countries, which has increased the possibility of Nepal becoming a battlefield- both geopolitical and geo-digital. For instance, China, India and the US are, reportedly, preparing to conquer the ‘techno-economic’ competition, which is a crucial tool to shape the future. China is aiming to be a ‘global technological leader’, while it is most likely to initiate the concept of “sovereign” internet, where “China possibly controls key technology supporting critical infrastructure in countries around the world” (VoA news). There is also a higher possibility of cyber and tech-battle between the populous and giant economic rivals- India and China. So, Nepal needs to get better and stronger tech sovereignty and cyber intelligence preparedness in advance such that it could help mitigate the potential threats in cyberspace as well as overcome the security challenges- both digital and physical- in the border.
Amidst Nepal’s existing geo-strategic location, ‘intractable relations between rival states’- India, China and the US - geo-politics of technology followed by geo-tech interest of tech powers, and potential threat to Nepal’s tech sovereignty (cyber, digital and data sovereignty), Nepal cannot achieve some of its foreign policy goals publicly. So it has to practice “secret diplomacy”, for which a lot of ‘internal workings’ need to be accomplished based on ‘concepts’, ‘contexts’, ‘cases’ and ‘conditions’ of it. For security and sovereignty issues- both tech and territorial- secret diplomacy, perhaps, would work better. Similarly, intelligence operations- both diplomatic and cyber- are essential in safeguarding and advancing national interest.
Learning from the past failures on political, diplomatic and security intelligence as well as domestic flaws, power conflict and hindrances at various junctures of history, Nepal should take pragmatic steps in upgrading its intelligence mechanisms. A comprehensive political culture is essential to ensure domestic political stability, while a sound intelligence culture is required to ensure national security and territorial sovereignty, both of which are possible through broader national consciousness and cohesive will of the people.
Nepal’s national security largely depends upon the diversity of national power capability and prominence of soft potentials, which must be viewed through a ‘strategic-soft lense’. The narratives on Nepal’s foreign policy now need to be advanced on preparing ‘Greater Human Being’, ‘Compassionate Future Generations’, and ‘World Class Citizens’. The health, well-being, state of mind, pursuit of happiness, psychological security, and sense of integrity of every citizen are now of paramount importance for Nepal, which directly reflect the national wellbeing. For now, Nepal’s “national psyche” is to attain national wellbeing, while national wellbeing replicates national dignity. The cultured, humanistic, civilized, compassionate, intelligent, educated and dynamic population is an ‘element of national power’ that can uphold and promote Nepal’s national interests. Through humanism, civility, culture and internal values, Nepal can win the hearts, minds and spirits of tens of millions of people around the globe that can help achieve some of Nepal’s foreign policy goals, which all help enhance Nepal’s sovereign dignity.
The November 20 election was not only about electing a new leader, but also about selecting a daring leader who can pragmatically handle all the issues - economic, social, developmental, diplomatic, foreign policy, national dignity and security - coherently balance Nepal’s relations with immediate and other powers, and drive the nation with spirited leadership, rational intelligence and sense of economic patriotism. Nepalis’ expectations for responsible political leaders are soaring up, while the Nepali people have a new hope, new energy, new mission, new thirst and new thinking to make a novel Nepal. Accordingly, the Nepali people are anticipating a stable government not only for achieving political stability and economic prosperity, but also for configuring an opulent nation, conserving territorial sovereignty, and patronizing the sovereign dignity of Nepal.