Grand strategyNepal needs a century-long vision to secure its future
A dramatic turn of events since the promulgation of the long-awaited constitution in September has taken everyone by surprise. And not surprisingly, the natural tendency to panic and get excited during such times has added to the shocks of the April earthquake which took over 9,000 lives. Now, to strengthen the nation while changing the way the world views Nepal, the people and the government need to quickly implement a grand strategy based on the experiences of 2015.
In this article, a grand strategy implies a century-long vision for development to address national concerns. The concept consists of three main components which have to be changed according to changing times and circumstances. For now, the three major issues that need to be highlighted amid the ongoing controversy surrounding foreign intervention in Nepal’s political matters and its geopolitics are: national emphasis on a self-sustainable future; popular national unity; effective resource diplomacy and intellectual capacity building.
India’s intervention in Nepal only follows a common global phenomenon which Nepal needs to capitalise on through parliamentary unity instead of panicking about it. Superpower intervention in regional and international politics has become quite common these days. Further, in Nepal’s case it is important to understand how to sensibly address varying interventionist methods. Popular imposition strategies mostly include trade and diplomatic blockade. However, strategists also point out other forms of intervention such as disruption of national unity, stability and recognition through Parliament, popular movement and even the use of interventionist’s national origins in foreign political positions. These methods could have greater and lasting consequences.
Without a doubt, Nepal will continue to face many interventions in its internal political matters in the future. They will come in many forms and not only from India, but also from other countries, regional associations, INGOs, multinationals and so on. Nepal will need to maintain popular national unity of the kind seen time and again in 2015. The post-earthquake management and the current unofficial trade and diplomatic blockade have one thing in common: they have highlighted Nepal’s deepening dependency on foreign countries which has severe political and economic disadvantages. It is almost like Nepal will not be able to survive without grants, aid and imports of even basic goods.
Therefore, by incorporating self-sustainability as a primary national agenda at all levels of the government and society, the status quo and further dependency will eventually have to be overturned in this century. Self-sustainable development is a popular theory in modern development studies. In addition to the significance of the impact of climate change and the basic economic problem, sustainability has received even more attention as a mechanism to reduce dependency and increase the global capacity to meet global demand. After the April earthquake, Nepalis across the country have learnt many important lessons. With respect to post-disaster management, experts have suggested that assistance from outside would be more significant if it helped Nepal to be self-sufficient.
An unpopular economic blockade which came at the heels of the earthquake has further raised questions about Nepal’s unsustainable way of life. We need to decide whether we want to find temporary solutions or permanent ones. One way forward could be to aim to make the agricultural sector self-sufficient once again. Nepal is spending a huge sum of money to import food only from India every year. Reducing food imports could help direct the money spent to other development sectors. This is possible as Nepal was a net exporter of food even in recent history.
Effective water diplomacy and emphasis on intellectual capacity building will reposition Nepal in the region and the world. Though many people in Nepal blame India for unfair water treaties and its dominance in resource management, others agree that a history of unprofessional politics on Nepal’s part is also to blame for the inefficient management of its most valuable resource. Similarly, Nepal’s challenges as a least developed landlocked country (LLDC) is also perceived to be a burden rather than an opportunity. A grand strategy could address these issues.
First, a rise in the value of fresh water resources has raised Nepal’s geopolitical importance among its riparian neighbours, especially India. Almost 70 percent of the Gangetic belt, which hosts one of the largest populations in the world by area, feeds off the three main water channels flowing down from Nepal’s Himalaya. This makes effective water diplomacy between the neighbours all the more significant and unavoidable. Here, if Nepal is not able to use proper methods to address the demands of the Gangetic belt while sending benefits back home, India will be left with few choices but to intervene in Nepal’s internal matters to meet its requirements. The related Nepali agencies could work towards effective water diplomacy by using international water laws. This will not only help Nepal to be more specific during water negotiations with riparian states but also update previous treaties to match the changing circumstances.
Second, Nepal’s LLDC recognition needs to be seen as an opportunity and not an obstacle. Here, within the concept of equal treatment, exemplary trade methods need to be established with the two giant neighbours. At the same time, Nepal needs to bounce back from poverty using incentives and innovation through education and intellectual capacity building by working with governmental and non-governmental organisations, national and regional associations, international organisations and multinational companies.
Here, educational and intellectual capacity building needs to be given priority, and teachers and professors should be treated like doctors and engineers, if not better.
Basnyat hold a Master’s in Diplomacy and International Studies and is currently affiliated with the Saarc Secretariat