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Nepal’s stagnant foreign policy and the challenges it brings

Nepal’s constitution was promulgated in 2015. According to the constitution, Nepal can conduct an independent foreign policy guided by the principles outlined in the United Nations Charter, non-alignment, the Panchsheel principles, international law, and the norms of global peace.

An article in the constitution requires the review of previously concluded treaties and the establishment of new treaties and agreements based on principles of equality and mutual interest. These provisions, consistent with past constitutions of Nepal, suggest that the country’s foreign policy lacks innovation and has remained unchanged for an extended period.

Reasons for stagnation

Nepal encounters both external and internal challenges in its foreign policy and diplomacy, affecting the overall effectiveness of its approach.

Nepal grapples with external challenges including shifts in the global power balance, considerations of immediate neighbours, and conflicting interests involving China, India, and Western nations. Internally, the effectiveness of Nepal’s foreign policy is impeded by various challenges such as political, administrative, and economic issues.

Since the restoration of democracy, Nepal has lacked well-defined drafts of foreign policy, leading to a situation of ambiguity. This ambiguity at the policy level poses a challenge, causing confusion in adopting concrete policies. When a state grapples with ambiguity, the challenges it faces can impact national interests.

In Nepal’s political landscape, there is often a lack of consensus among politicians on national agendas. This disagreement extends to the transformation of ideologies, resulting in political conflicts. Additionally, Nepali leaders tend to prioritise a cadre-oriented mindset over the concerns of the general population, hindering the effectiveness of Nepal’s foreign policy.

The challenges

 

Nepal’s inability to implement the existing policies too is hindering the effectiveness of Nepal’s foreign policy, creating an economic challenge. The absence of development models for various provinces in evolving contexts further complicates matters

Additionally, the lack of well-thought-out plans for both domestic and external connectivity adds to the difficulties. The sluggish progress in reconstructing infrastructure damaged by the earthquake, coupled with a deficiency in policies and actions to revitalise major industries, highlights the economic challenges impeding the development of Nepal’s foreign policy.

What has not helped is the absence of institutions and preparedness for the socialist economic model outlined in the constitution. This has led to further economic challenges. As the country follows a federal government model, Nepal faces challenges in the execution of economic diplomacy by provincial governments and their relations with other countries. This complexity arises within the federal and foreign systems, particularly since the country’s foreign affairs are centralised under the control of the federal government.

There is noticeable excessive polarisation among governmental institutions, ranging from the local to the central level. This polarisation results in confusion and contradictory situations between federal and provincial institutions. Moreover, there exists a struggle between process-oriented and result-oriented approaches, along with procedural complexity, posing administrative challenges.

Excessive polarisation is evident among governmental institutions from the local to the central level. This leads to confusion and contradictory situations between federal and provincial institutions. Additionally, there is a struggle between process-oriented and result-oriented approaches, coupled with procedural complexity, which are administrative challenges.

There is a noticeable lack of research-based attitude of civil servants, many of whom seem to work solely for the sake of it. These factors collectively result in a dominance of spending characteristics over actions driven by tangible results.

Unreliable appointments and security matters

Along with all the above-mentioned challenges, the hindrance to the effectiveness of foreign policy in the constitution is the lack of sound criteria for appointing diplomats as political appointees.

Moreover, those who are appointed as diplomats and political appointees, lack training. Without proper training institutions and an environment of diplomatic knowledge production, there would not be uniformity in diplomatic practices in all receiving states. This might create problems in diplomatic relations.

Besides, Nepal also faces security challenges for youths working abroad, natural resources and more.

Likewise, foreign policy cannot be formulated and implemented unilaterally. Integration of other ministries and institutions is quite essential. But in Nepal, such type of initiation is never brought out into practice and Nepal has weak inter-ministerial cooperation.

Therefore, Nepal should rethink and revise foreign policy comprehensively in changing geopolitical scenarios for its effectiveness.

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