National Interest & Responsibility: Determinants of International Relations

|  K.P Sharma Oli  |

International relation holds much significance today. Since the emergence of states, there were relations between and among them. Strategic and economic dimensions of foreign policy have remained important since long. Ever since mediaeval times, we have gained a lot of experiences in diplomacy. When Bhrikuti, the daughter of the then King Angshu Verma, had tied a nuptial knot with Tibetan Prince Shranchan Gampo, it had helped in consolidating relations between Nepal and Tibet.

In a feudal rule or autocracy, foreign policy is geared towards propping up anti-people regime. This does not mean that other positive dimensions of foreign policy do not exist. But the major objective is to support the regime.

A country’s foreign policy changes with the passage of time. A country’s foreign policy is also determined by the type of political system the country has adopted. The objective of today’s foreign policy is different from that of the past. However, foreign policy is mainly guided by the dimension of national interest. Another equally important aspect of foreign policy is to carry out international responsibilities.

Every country has the responsibilities of protecting the environment, preservation of glaciers and the whole ecosystems, promotion of world peace and contribution to human rights and the development of mankind. As we talk of aims and goals of foreign policy, we need to be aware of our duties and responsibilities. The entire world has now to fight various epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and natural calamities. At present, many countries have been making concerted efforts to protect the world from several forms of natural disasters and contagious diseases.

Thus, both national interests and international responsibilities must be taken in light of achieving the objectives of foreign policy.

Policies are formulated for achieving some goals. For the implementation of policies, ways and means are essential. There are two types of means. The government, th4 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our diplomatic missions abroad, foreign diplomatic missions located in the country, and non-governmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations fall under the category of direct means. Private sector and business organizations and many other institutions fall under the category of indirect means of promoting foreign policy. Goals of foreign policy can be achieved through implementing policies and mobilizing such means. Time, topography language, culture, social system, strategic capability and the like determine the effectiveness of conducting foreign policy. Geography holds a lot of importance in respect to foreign policy.

Nepal has paid special attention to the conduct of foreign policy and this significance has enhanced itself for the time being. Some people say that Nepal does not have a foreign policy. But this argument is untrue. There could be weaknesses or inadequacies, but no country can exist in the absence of a foreign policy. Nepal is a member of the United Nations (UN). We feel proud of being a founder member of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). There are several lasting elements  in  our foreign policy. There are factors beyond our means that have affected our policy. For example,
the end of the Cold War brought about changes in the way we conducted the foreign policy. The stable part of our foreign policy is that it is based on a reality of the two immediate neighbors. This is because of geography. Both the neighbors are different in their socio-economic systems. This is another reality which forces us to find new points of balance of power when changes occur in each of them. So, external factors easily affect a country’s foreign policy.

Non-alignment is not a new policy that we adopted with the inception of the NAM. It was only acquired an added dimension in our case.

We have played seminal roles in the SAARC, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and similar other international and regional organizations. Nepal is signatory to different international conventions on world peace, democracy, human rights, disarmament, co-existence and the like. These have added new dimensions to our foreign policy that has remained more or less stable. Such international commitments have helped in standardizing our foreign policy as well.

In the present context, the international community has positive view regarding Nepal. But at the same time, it holds doubts. With the rise of the violent incidents, doubts have started to occupy the people’s minds. However, the peace process has transformed the doubts into positive attitudes once again. The world is watchful to see whether the peace process will end well. We need to work hard to remove their doubts on this issue. We should not be careless or complacent.

Economic diplomacy will have no meaning if we do not resolve our peace initiatives. If the foreign relations are an extension of our international policy, we should give adequate attention to the domestic front as well.

We need to abandon the unrealistic or pseudo-nationalism and blind nationalism and our fear to speak. Such a fear is not diplomacy.

There has been a tendency among some political parties to talk of scrapping the treaties while being in the opposition. When we are in power, we talk of reviewing such treaties. We are not ready to discuss the issue with the concerned party. We try to avoid the issue. If you are a true nationalist, you must do things while in power.

Anti-India, anti-China or playing with one against another will not do us good. It never did us good even in the past and will not do so in the future. We are not able to demand for scrapping all the unequal treaties. But I have been demanding it all the time. National interest should not be determined by partisan or personal interest.

Today, we are full of problems. We have border disputes, transit and refugee issues, and trade concerns. Even the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) has not been able to resolve our unique issues. The refugee problem is not ours. But it has come to be forced upon us. We also have problem of seeking foreign aid and investment. These are the areas that our foreign relations must pay off in. The biggest of them all is to prove that we can manage our transition by giving it the right direction within the given timeframe and bring it to a logical conclusion. In other words, Nepal can move ahead regarding the peace process and democracy.

We can attract a lot of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) only when we establish peace and stability, equitable and inclusive society and ensure rule of law in the country. We will fail to bring in foreign investors if we are unable to create an investment-friendly atmosphere in the country.
Yesterday, foreign policy had the objective of preserving the feudal regime of yesterday. Today, it is oriented to preserve democracy and wellbeing of the people. We must be able to take the international community in confidence by erasing all their doubts and confusions.