Nepal's Nationality & Foreign and
A national seminar organized by BP
Chintan Pratisthan in Lalitpur on 18 July 2013
By Ritu Raj Subedi
Associate Editor, The Rising Nepal
The issue of nationalism or nationality has been a hot topic for
the political parties ever since Nepal moved on the path of modernization
following the 1950 change. Like the leaders of first generation
of democratic movement, the leaders, who championed the republican
system, are also emphatically raising the issue of nationalism.
There is no dearth of people to argue that the nationality is
in jeopardy as a result of the collective failure of the parties
in writing constitution and their obsequiousness towards the foreign
power centers. Like nationality, the matters of foreign and economy
policies have been also contested because of the growing deficit-trust
among the major forces. These topics are actually complementary
each other. Without a dynamic foreign policy boosted by strong
economy, nationality simply turns out a hollow slogan only to
be exploited by demagogues to lead the masses into a populist
In principle, all agree that national interest should be the central
plank for the formulation and execution of foreign policies. However,
it requires a minimum consensus among the key domestic players.
A divided society cannot frame and implement independent foreign
policy effectively. In the era of inter-dependent world, the foreign
policy should be a catalytic factor to spur economic growth by
activating economic diplomacy and attracting investment to the
country. Only with a vibrant economy, the country can perform
in the international forums with considerable aplomb.
At the same time, consideration of the security concerns of the
neighbours is another important aspect of any foreign policy because
this will enhance mutual confidence to respect each others
sovereignty. Against this backdrop, BP Chintan Pratisthan and
FES jointly organized a one-day seminar 'Nepal's nationality,
and foreign and economic policy' on July 18 with the objective
of brainstorming as many ideas as possible on the given topic.
A motley of people, including politicians, intellectuals, professionals,
students and cadres of different political parties, shared their
views in the seminar.
National interests must guide foreign policies
As a chief guest of the program, Nepali Congress senior leader
and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said that the national
interest should guide the country's foreign policy.
"The foreign policy should not be swayed by anti-Indian
or anti-Chinese rhetoric. We should develop cordial ties with
India, China and the western countries," said Deuba.
He noted that Nepal should be sensitive about the security concerns
of the neghbouring countries.
He claimed that the NC government formed after 1990 introduced
programmes and policies in line with BPs thoughts. Accordingly,
it gave priority to education, health and irrigation.
The high ratio of literacy and expansion of drinking water
facilities are due to the policy of NC, he said.
Deuba also said that the trend of going abroad for higher study
had declined as the schools and colleges here started to impart
Deuba admitted that education became expensive for the poor,
so, the government should pay attention to enhance the access
of all to the quality education.
Touching his recent India visit, he said that India was ready
to provide soft loans to Nepal to set up industries that would,
in turn, help reduce trade deficit of the country.
Stressing on foreign investment for economic growth, he took
a swipe at those who blow up the issue of nationality.
No matter how much they make a big talk about nationalism,
the country could not reduce its trade deficit, he added.
He said that BP stressed value-based democracy and we should
all follow it.
Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum Nepal chairman Upendra Yadav said
that geopolitical reality should be taken into account while
devising and executing its foreign policy.
Nepal should assure its neghbours that its land would not be
used against any neighbour.
"The political players should prove their mettle in managing
the domestic problems at the micro level," he said. He
admitted that the nation's foreign policy became weak following
the establishment of republican system.
Touching on BP Koirala thoughts and philosophy, Yadav said that
democratic socialism, propounded by BP, emphasized on social
security, welfare state and social justice.
Stating that BP followed the value-based politics, he said that
the parties should also emulate his ideals to implement social
When we talk about equality and prosperity, we often tend
to forget social equality. This is why our party accentuated
the issues of social exclusion, Dalit emancipation, and uplift
of marginalized communities. These people are illiterate, highly
exploited and living in penury. How to ensure social justice
for them is the challenge to all.
Yadav said that the parties always talked about political equality
but there was the urgency to ensure equal opportunity to disadvantaged
The unitary system promoted social exclusion and class
disparity while federalism will bring an end to such structural
injustices, he said and put emphasis on the balanced development
to guarantee social rights of the marginalized.
He noted that there lacked policies based on multiculturalism,
giving rise to opportunistic characteristics.
CPN-ML general secretary CP Mainali said that except for UCPN-M
chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda all had admitted that
the countrys nationality had been in the weakest position
in its history.
Mainali said that the autocratic system compounded the internal
problems associated with castes and ethnicities in the past.
A commission on inclusion should be formed to address
the man-made discriminations and social exclusions, he
Stating that the problem of exclusion should be dealt with through
constitutional and legal measures, he said that CPN-UML and
NC lacked their clear vision on this matter while the UCPN-M
On the other, regional and ethnic leaders sought a vulgar solution
to it. The slogan of one madhes one province is the result
of such approach. It is in the interest of India, not of Nepal.
The Madhesi leaders failed to see this politically. They see
it only through regional aspect.
Mainali said that the ethnic states were not in the national
interests, which will only give birth to conflicts and tensions.
Nepali nationalism was now in serious crisis as the domestic
players capitulated to the design of the foreigners and carried
the agenda of foreigners. "They will be also the matter
of security concerns for the neighbouring countries," he
Former minister Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani said that there were
two types of nationality- ruler-centric nationality and inclusion-centric
The nationality based on the participation of all people is
strong; he said and added that the parties should promote citizen-centric
nationalism that should be nourished by basic democratic values
Describing the three elements of foreign policy, namely, political,
economy and security, Dr. Lohani suggested that Nepal should
protect its national interest by considering the concerns of
He urged the parties to rise above the partisan interest while
pursuing a balance foreign policy. We are economically
dependent on other countries that must be reversed.
The leaders should seek blessings from the Nepalese people,
not from foreigners, he said and stressed on trade specialization.
CPN-UML leader Ghanshyam Bhusal noted that the country could
not witness economic prosperity until the national sovereignty
was well protected.
"Our relations with India are characterized by the elements
of cooperation, conflict and competition. However, the competitive
dimensions became weak owing to the unequal relations with India,"
he said, adding that the relations with India should be improved.
He said that it was the state, not any individual that should
take initiatives to balance the ties with the neighbours.
Bhusal said that owing to the instability the internal unity
Offering his political insights, he said that the state should
guarantee work to the working people. Panchayat system
collapsed because it failed to give work to the working people.
So, the successive governments face problems as they falter
in managing this group of people.
On the national unity, Bhusal suggested that the parties should
explore common grounds and common agenda to come together on
the matter of internal politics and nationality.
FES, Programme officer CD Bhatta said that foreign policy should
be devised in a way that defended the national interests. It
should also aim at boosting the countrys economy.
Our foreign policy experts failed to take the heed of
the common peoples concerns. The country survives only
when its culture and language were well preserved, he
"Nepal is one of the oldest nations in the world but it
is today coping the ideas of foreign nations in almost every
domain," he said and added that the country's national
sovereignty was really in jeopardy because the leaders forgot
the judicious foreign policy guidelines suggested by the unifier
of Nepal Prithvi Narayan Shah.
There is a wide gap between the peoples expectations
and the leaders perceptions, he said and called
for bridging this chasm.
Going back to 1990s economic moves, Bhatta rued that the
countrys public domains were virtually destroyed, giving
rise to the creation of two classes of the people. Todays
economy that has been left at the mercy of market forces is
largely symbolic. In consequence of which, the people are facing
Underlining the need of linking democracy to the life of the
people, Bhatta called for reviving the peoples faith in
politics and checking the erosion of legitimacy.
He noted that the country could regain democracy but not nationality
once it was lost.
Although the characteristics of Nepali villages resemble what
BP described in his works decades ago, there is the need of
contextualizing his thoughts in the changed context, he said.
BP Chintan Pratisthan chairman Haribol Bhattrai pointed out
the need to formulate the pro-poor and pro-peasant policies
to develop the country.
We have to create indigenous economy by mobilizing the
local resources, he said and added that the people wanted
a system that would live up to their aspirations.
There is no need to be apprehended by federalism as it aims
at overcoming the structural inequalities, he said.
Narayan Koirala of BP Chintan Pratistha said that nationalism
was facing a grave crisis as the parties failed to abide by
the value-based politics.
Paper presentation session
Contrary to the existing practice, experts had presented their
working paper before the leaders delivered their speech. The
attending leaders listened to Dr Jaya Raj Acharya and Dr Ram
Prasad Gyawalis papers - Nepals nationality
and foreign policy' and 'Democratic Socialism and Its Relevance-
The gist of Dr Acharyas paper:
We need right leadership, right idea: Acharya
There is only one goal of Nepals foreign policy that
is to protect and promote our nationality. The foreign policy
operates at two levels- strategic and political. Our relations
with India and China are at strategic level. A small mistake
on our part could imperil the countrys existence. Since
we are very small and weak compared to our neighbours, handling
the foreign relations is a very sensitive matter for us. The
term strategy is related to war or military action.
We could not imagine the use of military force in our foreign
policy or diplomacy. The intention to use the word strategy
here is that whatever steps we take to execute foreign policies,
they will amount to a strategy adopted in the war.
It is a matter of satisfaction that India and China have respected
Nepals independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
However, Nepal should achieve political stability and economic
prosperity to attain independence and sovereignty in the real
sense. Otherwise, our independence and sovereignty will merely
be confined to papers or slogans. We should also assure our
neighbours about their security concerns.
China has never demonstrated its superiority complex
despite being a big country. It treats all neghbours - big or
small- on equal terms. It behaves with the neighbours as per
its own national interests, not based on any political ideology.
Nepal and Indian share open borders; some of them are in disputes,
creating occasional hiccups. Closing borders is not the solution.
We have to manage them. It is in the benefit of two sides to
resolve the border disputes based on the mutual understanding.
A benign cooperation from India is widely expected to solve
the border disputes because this issue has brewed anti-Indian
sentiments here that will hurt both the nations in the long
run. India has played its role in the political movements of
modern Nepal. But, following the Janaandolan II, a hard reality
came to the fore- whether India likes it or not - Chinas
influence on the Nepalese politics has increased with the rise
of UCPN-M. This is like a windfall for China and it is interesting
to see how India will react to this development.
As one US scholar put it, Nepals foreign policy has been
guided by a strategy for survival since centuries. Our ancestors
fought throughout history to keep Nepals dignity intact.
This is a reason why the country has remained independence till
the day. The strategy for survival helped to protect the nation.
Now we have to shift from survival strategy to development strategy.
Without development, our survival has become almost impossible.
Therefore, peace, unity and socio-economic development should
be the cornerstone of the countrys foreign policy. We
should focus on following three facts:
- There are many countries in the world that are smaller than
Nepal. But, they are more independent, self-reliant and enjoy
more self-dignity than Nepal. For example, Switzerland is
three times smaller in geography and five times smaller in
population than Nepal. But, it exercises more freedom than
Nepal because it is very rich. Nepal also possesses big potential
in terms of natural and human resources. What we lack is the
right leadership, right idea, right policy and programs to
achieve the development goals.
- The issue of federalism, particularly ethnic federalism,
has been flared up because of the lack of balanced socio-economic
development. Ethnic federalism will push the country towards
disintegration. What we need first development or ethnic
identity? Had the Nepalese lost their ethnic or linguistic
identity? The small country like Nepal houses 103 ethnic groups
and 93 languages. Development will not happen overnight if
the federal states are carved out on the basis of castes.
Lets make our development process proportionate and
inclusive, and introduce reservation for the backward people.
Lets promote the works that enhance meritocracy but
do not recommend incompetent persons in the name of inclusion.
- If we continue to blame each other for the failure of social-economic
systems, if we always keep the country in the state of instability,
this will naturally be a matter of concerns for our neighbours.
The situation may lead them to intervene in Nepal. It is difficult
to gauge the nature of the intervention. But, the interference
seems to be inevitable. In order to avoid their interference
and maintain our independence, the strategic dimension of
our foreign policy would be the development of the country.
Viewing from the point of comparative advantage and pace of
the economic development taking place in India and China,
we have to develop water resources, agriculture, health and
education into the industry at full throttle.
The gist of Gyawalis paper
Liberalization & socialism can go side
by side: Gyawali
Democratic socialism is a middle path between
capitalism and communism. It adopts economic equality as advocated
by communism and political equality as espoused by capitalism.
Unlike Marxs Das Capital, BP didnt have any book
that expounds his ideas on democratic socialism (DS). His thoughts
on DS have been drawn from his speeches delivered in different
periods and interviews published in different newspapers. BP
said that the society is not a divine-made structure. It is
purely a material arrangement and can be restructured to the
welfare of all the humans living in the society, and it operates
through rules and regulations formulated by the people.
Political equality can be attained once the political revolution
completes but economic equality is a long process. It depends
on the growth of production that requires capital saving and
reinvestment. The economic equality does not mean the distribution
of poverty. BPs economic concept was influenced by the
economic growth model proposed by economists Harrod, Domar and
Solow. He was inspired by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, Jaya
Prakash Narayan and Schumaker, the writer Small is beautiful.
BP used to say that the village should be self-reliant and would
not seek support from outside for its existence. He wants to
promote indigenous technology to enhance the agriculture products
and reduce the dependency on foreign technology. BP thought
that foreign aids would give rise to a nouveau riche class that
has nothing to do with the economic conditions of the country.
Rather, it breeds corruption.
Nepal adopted privatization and liberalization policies under
the aegis of IMF and World Banks in 1985. Launched in the guise
of Structural Adjustment Policy in initial phase, these policies
led to the imposition of the several conditions, including the
removal of price control and subsidies and the guarantee of
the right of foreign investment in the state economy. Many public
enterprises were privatized, which helped reduce the budget
deficit. However, the prices of public services and goods reached
stratosphere. The education and health sectors were hit hard.
Education and health services went beyond the reach of the common
people. Those with the fat purse could become doctor but the
talent students coming from the poor family were deprived of
Nonetheless, the privatization brought about a revolution in
the communications field. It drastically helped cut the prices
of communications items and enhanced access of a large chunk
of population to the means of communications. In the absence
of capital, the country had to seek financial support from international
institutions and multinational companies. The nation economy
fell into the hands of foreign institutions. We lost out bargaining
capacity resulting in the loss of national independence.
Some planners and former finance ministers claim that BPs
socialist philosophy has lost its relevance in the era of economic
liberalization. But, I do not agree on this conclusion. The
NC should unveil its official views on the matter. Socialism
does not die even though there is the wave of liberalization.
The tools to implement socialist prograrms in the controlled
economy differ from that of liberal economy. The neighbouring
China is its glaring example. Swayed by the idea that socialism
is in crisis, Nepal adopted neo-liberal economic policy but
China accepted these challenges on its own terms. It allowed
the multinational companies working inside the country but it
did not lose its grip on the banking sector. All lands have
been nationalized. The governments build houses and lease them
to the people for a period of 70 years. Chinas economy
is close to socialism although its politics is devoid of democratic
The socialist ideas can be practiced even in the liberal economy.
Sweden is another instance. It amply shows that a socialist
society can be created in the age of economic liberalization
and international competition. It developed new economic model
characterized by periodic election, competitive and open policy
and the need-based control on the market economy.
The discussion session was chaired by former NC leader Sudish
Lal Das. Sambhu Ram Simkhada commented on Acharyas paper
while Tika Prasad Pokharel on Gyawalis paper. A sizable
number of the participants put forth their views.
The countrys politics since 1950 has been revolving around
BPs thoughts. We are now facing a crisis of confidence
as justified by the parade of former prime ministers to meet
an Indian minister in Dwarika Hotel where he was staying. The
country is waiting for radical and fundamental changes. Our
condition is reeling under the cycle of fusion, confusion and
diffusion. India and China are concerned about the political
developments happening here because any political changes in
the Himalayan nation will have bearing on their security. Domestic
economy needs to be consolidated for the political stability.
We will continue to be weak until we become dependent in the
field of economic development. Todays world is economically
globalized and politically fragmented. We cant move ahead
by indulging in the nostalgia. The political parties should
forge a minimum consensus on foreign policy.
Tika Prasad Pokharels comment: Gyawalis paper
employs simple language to elucidate BPs democratic socialism
imprecise manner. For the capitalist economy to function smoothly,
it requires certain elements privatization, liberalization,
mature and pragmatic policies and laws, their effective implementation
and finally honesty in the political leadership. If capitalistic
system is not well managed, it increases exploitation, corruption
and gaps between the poor and the rich. BP envisioned building
a society based on democratic socialism sans the ills of capitalism.
Although BP favoured the concept of small is beautiful, he was
not against the opening up of the big industries. He did not
at all reject capitalism. He primarily focused on the justifiable
distribution of resources and means to ensure social justice.
Participants from the floor
Kamal Koirala: We have many leaders who fought for democracy
throughout their life. Democracy is panacea for the solution
of all political crises. So, the poll is the key to returning
to the functional democracy. The day when the NC and UML come
on track, democracy also gets on track.
Purnakant Adhikary: China recently invited Prachanda
to alert him about the chaotic domestic politics. We have to
establish cordial ties with India, China and the West. Democratic
socialism is peoples centric political system. Government-centric
socialism is of authoritarian nature. BP wanted to create a
political system that would fit for the working class people.
Dr Birendra Mishra: Nationalism should be reflected on
ideology and an alternative view should be entertained.
Umeshjung Rayamajhi: BP always emphasized on balance
and strong state. It is wrong to label BP as a monarchist. When
BP said that kings and his necks are conjoined, he meant
to say that if the monarchy negated the NC, the NC would also
negate the kingship. The NC took the republican line because
the monarchy constantly went against it.
Dr. Kapil Shrestha: BP had magnetic power to pull the
people towards him. This is a reason why we switched to him
when we were young. The working paper of Jaya Raj Acharya is
status quoist and based on out-dated model. Nepal did not get
its sovereignty at the mercy of India and China. Diplomacy is
a powerful tool to get rid the country of its landlocked position.
The social democracy models of 40s, 50s, and 60s have become
Phanindra Nepal: Acharyas paper is incomplete as
it failed to address the national interests. Nepal loses much
owing to the open borders with India. We have to review 1950
Nepal-India treaty. There persists Indian phobia among the intelligentsias.
We need to redefine nationalism and our outlook towards India.
A woman participant: The republican system was established
based on BP thought. This is a matter of pride. We need to devise
self-dependent foreign policy.
Naresh Rimal: We should focus on reflection and context.
We should reflect on agrarian society but the working papers
fail to reflect on this context. Ethnic diversity is also an
Charan Prasai: We need to make soul-searching where the
BPs thoughts are now. Are we pursuing the value-based
politics as followed by BP? The external influences on the internal
politics remain high. The external forces dominated the Nepalese
politics following the April movement. Which power centre put
Lokman Singh on the driving seat of CIAA?
Dinbandhu Aryal: BPs thoughts are still relevant.
They should be contextualized to bolster democracy. The NC should
vigorously pursue democratic socialism.
- Safeguarding the national interest should be the primary
goal of foreign policy
- Nepal needs to be sensitive towards the security concerns
of its neighbours
- The countrys foreign policy lost its compass because
we disregarded far-sighted foreign policy guidelines of the
countrys unifier Prithvi Narayan Shah,
- Todays world is economically globalized and politically
fragmented. The political parties should forge a minimum consensus
on foreign policy,
- Now we have to shift from survival strategy to development
strategy to carve out an independent image of the country,
- The nationality is in grave crisis owing to the collective
failure of the political parties,
- Political stability, internal unity and economic prosperity
is the key to the execution of independent foreign policy,
- We need right leadership and right policy to tap abundant
water resources, and the potentials of tourism and agriculture
- BP Koiralas ideas are still relevant and democratic
socialism should be applied to transform the Nepalese villages,
- Follow value-based politics that BP used to accord high
- Liberalization & socialism can go side by side,
- No to ethnic federalism but ethnic diversity is also an
- The issue of social exclusions must be addressed to ensure
social justice and security