Right from the time when Homo sapiens moved from African jungles to Asian and European landmass forming dots of civilizations, the concept of nationhood evolved. Since the first state evolved in Sumeria, (Tigris and Euphrates river basin in present Iraq), several states were born and disappeared from the map of the world. The process of birth and disappearance of states continues even now albeit in a slower pace.
Human history is chequered. Humans have changed so is the world. But the basic nature of human beings remains unchanged — that is to live in a group and seek collective security. The fundamental human nature of living together in a group in a particular territory and in a collective manner is the foundation of the modern statehood.
The world is interconnected and inter-dependent. The advancement of science and technology has reduced the world into a small global village. In this interconnected world, no single country is fully self-sufficient on all counts. All countries, big or small, powerful or weak and developed or developing, are intertwined together requiring cooperation and coordination among them. This is the defining feature of globalisation from which an individual, a society and a nation cannot escape.
Nepal Faces New Geopolitical Reality The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of the States has defined the features of a state. It says: the state as a person of international law should possess permanent population, a defined territory, government and capacity to enter into relations with other states. Territory, population, government and a set of rules or constitution are the key attributes of a state. However, these features alone do not make a de jure state. International recognition is a must to become a sovereign state or de jure state. International relation is, thus, a key component in the formation and development of modern states. It is only after international recognition as a de jure state, a country acquires the right to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, be a member of the United Nations and enter into treaties with other countries and international organisations under the international laws.
This is how the concept of foreign policy evolved as a dominant feature of the statehood. In other words, the concept of foreign policy was born along with the drawing of boundaries of countries. Foreign policy, as observed by Christopher Hill, is “the sum of official external relations conducted by an independent actor (usually a state) in international relations”. The domestic policy influences and, to a large extent, determines foreign policy of a country. Domestic policies and priorities may change but foreign policy goals remain permanent as national interest is the principal guide and drive of foreign policy of a country. Former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston has aptly stated how national interest dictates country’s foreign policy saying “there is no permanent enemy and permanent friend in international relations but there is only permanent interest”.
National interest is determined by geography and other geopolitical considerations. The constitution has clearly defined Nepal’s national interest. The Constitution, in Article 5 (1), has defined national interests as: “Safeguarding freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, independence and dignity of Nepal, rights of the people, border security, economic wellbeing and prosperity”. The core objectives and goals of Nepal’s foreign policy are, thus, protection of above mentioned national interests. The national charter has also stated the fundamental objective of Nepal’s foreign policy that includes enhancing national dignity by safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and promoting economic wellbeing and prosperity. It also seeks to contribute to global peace, harmony and security.
The Directive Principles of the Constitution says: The State shall direct its international relations towards enhancing dignity of the nation in the world community by maintaining international relations on the basis of sovereign equality, while safeguarding freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and national interest of Nepal. Similarly, the Constitution in the State Policy defines priorities of foreign policy as: to conduct an independent foreign policy based on the Charter of the United Nations, non-alignment, principles of Panchsheel, international law and the norms of world peace, taking into consideration of the overall interest of the nation, while remaining active in safeguarding the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and national interest of Nepal, review treaties concluded in the past, and make treaties, agreements based on equality and mutual interest.
Based on the constitutional provisions, Nepal’s foreign policy is to be guided by following basic principles, which are: mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, respect for mutual equality, non-aggression and peaceful settlement of disputes, cooperation for mutual benefit, abiding faith in the Charter of the United Nations; and value of world peace.
Dynamic Vacation Foreign policy is a dynamic vocation, which requires both continuity and change depending upon national political dynamics and international context. A country adopts its foreign policy priorities as a whole or in part while dealing with a particular country or with a particular international event taking into account its national interest. The national interests of a country may enlarge and its priorities may change due to geopolitical considerations and international dynamics. Thus, the dynamics of foreign policy priorities also change. Sometimes rigid foreign policy may handicap a country in a particular situation to maximise national interests. In such a scenario, foreign policy of a country requires to take a paradigm shift especially at a time when international diplomacy is in disarray.
Nepal’s foreign policy is also marked by both continuity and change. Nepal’s geopolitical reality has been the permanent feature, which guides our foreign policy conduct. Nepal’s location between world’s two giant nations — India and China -- has posed challenges as well as provided opportunities. According to a recent research report of McKinsey & Company, the US-based worldwide renowned consulting company, China has already emerged as the world’s wealthiest country surpassing the United States for the top position.
In terms of military might and technological innovation, too, China is capable of challenging the world’s sole superpower the United States. India, too, is the world’s fifth largest economy. These two countries have rising clout in the international arena. Both of our two neighbours are important players in the international politics. Thus, Nepal needs to direct its foreign policy conduct to maximise its national interest in the newer geopolitical reality winning confidence of both our two neighbours.