Foreign policy in disarray
Throughout its history, Nepal has always been cautious when it comes to dealing with both its neighbors—India and China. Though Nepal restored diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1955—five years after it established modern-day relationship with India in 1950— Nepal and China have had historical cultural and trade relations which go as far back as to the sixth century. This relation got official recognition after 1955 when China and Nepal exchanged resident ambassadors. Nepal recognized Tibet as a part of China in 1956 and adopted One-China policy. Ever since, the successive governments in Nepal—from the days of monarchy to the republic—have expressed unwavering commitment to this policy. In fact, Nepal’s commitment to One-China policy has remained a defining characteristic of its foreign policy with our northern neighbor. The two countries have enjoyed relatively smooth relations, though our myopic foreign policy never imagined ways to benefit from China’s rapidly growing economy.
Some of the recent moves taken by the government have made China cast doubts on our long-held view of One-China policy.
Former Prime Minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s meetings in Goa, India have raised eyebrows among foreign policy experts in Nepal. Sharing a stage with Tibet’s government-in-exile leaders and with Taiwanese leaders does not serve our national interest. Reportedly, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu has taken this development really seriously and even questioned our commitment to One-China policy.
When the most important party of the current coalition government and a prospective prime minister shares stage with parties that are seen as anti-Chinese elements, the Chinese have valid reason to raise the question. Such an immature move might impede Nepal’s effort to maintain excellent relations with two neighbors. The Chinese government’s sensitivity on Tibetan and Taiwanese issue has to be dealt with maturity and the seriousness that they deserve. We are in no position to argue and advocate on behalf of a particular group at the cost of our very relations with China. Be it China or India, Nepal cannot and should not embark on adventures that ultimately comes to haunt us, both in the long and short terms.
As we have maintained in this space before, Nepal’s economic prosperity is only possible with close cooperation with the two neighbors. This is why it is all important for Nepal to craft a policy that addresses vital concerns of both neighbors. But this does not seem to be happening at the moment. Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s government hasn’t been able to clearly spell out Nepal’s foreign policy priorities. It does not seem to have done any homework to implement the historic trade and transit deal Nepal signed with China during the premiership of K P Oli—one reason that China is learned to be dissatisfied with the current government. China is still waiting for Nepal to work out the details to begin implementing the treaty. Leaders in Nepal never tire of recommitting to One-China policy and cordial ties with southern neighbor. Now is the time for them to work on building sustained relations with both the neighbors based on trust, mutual understanding and cooperation. We have to constantly push for economic cooperation so our economy can benefit from the two of world’s fastest growing economies. Only a prosperous and confident Nepal can then begin dialogues with its neighbors on a relatively equal footing.
We cannot behave in a way that makes rising world power question our commitment to One-China—our signature foreign policy.