By Dr Upendra Gautam
To say the least, it has not been easier for Nepal to reassert a balance in its ties with the immediate neighbors as the Nepalese ruling leadership, usually the one mostly trapped in the colonial politics and diplomacy, allow the imbalance to continue.
Throughout the post-RoI period (1947), the RoI’s operational policy towards Nepal has been for a weakened and increasingly unstable Nepal. Throughout this period, the RoI has remained as the major actor with a decisive say in Nepalese political and economic policy decisions. The RoI has perceived much benefit from a weakened and increasingly unstable Nepal. Reduced to such a status, Nepal would be more dependent on the RoI and would follow its advice regularly and obediently, and thus fit very well into its forward Himalayan security policy. On the other hand, in the post-PRC period (1949-), PRC’s policy towards Nepal has been for a strong and stable Nepal. The incentives for China having such a Nepal was that a strong and stable Nepal was more independent and able to guard its national interest consequently helping China’s own security and territorial integrity. Though China has yet to be successful in its comprehensive security policy so that a framework of long term strategic relations is duly adapted to suit ties with Nepal and proactively put the policy into practice, the RoI’s weakened and increasingly unstable Nepal policy has led the latter (the RoI) to remain too interfering in the Nepalese politics. In the RoI consideration, perhaps, a weakened and increasingly unstable Nepal can perpetually leave Nepal as a center for soldiers recruitment because reportedly the RoI’s “main interest in Nepal is to recruit the Nepalese in the Indian army, which provides the basis for Indian assistance to Nepal.
On the face, Nepal is currently engaged in the making of a new constitution. The New constitution has to be promulgated by 28 May 2010. The need for a new constitution arose after i) the conclusion of a peace deal between the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPNM) and parliament-oriented political parties; and ii) the establishment of a republican order in April, 2006. In the last sixty years plus of constitutional development, Nepal has undergone phases of adopting four constitutions. Each time common people sincerely welcomed the constitutional change as they hoped something good for the people and the country would happen. But each time they were disappointed as political changes did not bring any benefit and structural reforms in Nepal’s internal and external politics. Instead, the benefits and reforms were mostly externalized.
Prediction is made about the possible scenarios which will emerge if the constitution is not promulgated on the stipulated date. These scenarios are: i) extension of the timeline for the making/promulgation of the new constitution, ii) introduction of a brief constitution with the provision that contentious issues will be incorporated in the constitution after consensus or acquiring necessary votes, iii) imposition of emergency rule of the president for six months under the existing government and extension of the time frame for the making/promulgation of the new constitution, and iv) as the legitimacy of the existing constituent assembly ends, imposition of presidential rule with the support of the international community and Nepal Army for some time to prepare for a compact all-party election government to hold election for a new constituent assembly/parliament for making/promulgation of the new constitution; and v) the CPNM will create anarchy in the country to forcibly capture the state power.
Whatever the possible political development scenario, the biggest concern of the overwhelming majority of the people in Nepal now is whether Nepal through new constitution making/promulgation exercises is able to end the colonial power-play and emerge as a liberated country with its protected and regulated borders or these exercises are again turned into façade to make Nepal a full scale reservoir for the recruitment of soldiers who are stateless and have no independent national identity. This concern can initially be managed in Nepal’s interest by appropriately reforming and strengthening the political monitoring mandate of the existing UN Mission in Nepal, a long time member of the UN and a contributor to UN peace missions around the world. The UN Security Council has a serious responsibility to shoulder. China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and as the great neighbor who eloquently promises “not to beggar its neighbor,” can effectively play the role of a facilitator in the process.
The June 1998 joint U.S.-China declaration to cooperate on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons in South Asia did recognize China’s international stature in solving regional security issues. Since then, both the countries have continuously been in consultation on South Asian issues.
By this time, however it is a foregone conclusion that due to the differences among major political parties regarding decision-making on integration of CPNM combatants with the state security forces and consensual representation in the government, and the incumbent government’s unilateral efforts at the term extension of the existing constituent assembly, the new constitution of Nepal would not be formulated by the agreed date (28 May 2010). The RoI seems to have lent support to the continuity of the present majority government even in the post-28 May period,while China is for all-party cooperation to achieve political stability. The US on its part has asked all stake holders not to upset the balance and voiced it desire to see stability in the Himalayan nation.
China’s even more assertive statusis consistent with its policy of peace and development in building comprehensive security in a geo-politically strategic part of Asia. It needs to take the initiative, overdue and urgent for reasons of lost national identity and threat to national independence in the Himalayan Asia in the last sixty years, will help national independence and peace along with stability and development in the region at large. The initiative in the first decade of the 21st century may be formalized in the form of an extended Shanghai Cooperation Organization or a separate Lumbini Cooperation Association-leading to the credible development of a comprehensive security assurance mechanism including the member states in the Himalayan Asia. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “One who serves his neighbor, serves the world.”
The geo-political situation for the Himalayan Asia in general, and PRC and Nepal in particular might have been distinctively different from what it is today if China and Nepal would had abided by their treaty commitment of helping each other in the face of foreign invasion. Nepal, now a weakened state, played the role of an indigenous and self-made Trans-Himalayan power by preventing the invading forces of the alien (British) empire from marching forward towards the interior south-western parts of China. History is a witness to the fact that whenever China and Nepal fragmentally defined their shared national security interest, each suffered from the machinations of external force. Though of late, Chinese representatives have started publicly recognizing this cardinal historical fact, it is hoped that China, a responsible great power, will proactively seize the opportunity in its south-western neighborhood to become a factor of national independence, peaceful co-existence, and help usher in a cooperative mechanism for assuring international security on a longer term basis. Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
(Concluding part of the excerpts of the paper presented by the author at the Asia Cooperation and Development Conference Materials, organised by Asia Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Institute of World Economics and Politics, Journal of World Economics and Politics, Beijing. The first part of the paper was published in last week’s edition of the People’s Review. By mistake, the source was mentioned “FPRC Journal publishing from New Delhi”. We regret for the error-Ed.)