For many years the so called architects of the domestic as well as foreign policy used to reiterate the saying Nepal is sandwiched between the two big giants and through this they used to conclude that because of this natural liability Nepal cannot be a prosperous country or full-fledged sovereign and fully independent country. They shifted the burden to the god or nature for this unfortunate state of being located between the two giant neighbors which caused Nepal to become a semi-feudal, semi-colonial and under developed state.
This is a misleading and stupid formulation. It is not the god or the nature to be blamed for the wretched condition of Nepal, but the reactionary system and foreign oppression and that prevailed in Nepal for centuries are mainly responsible for this situation. These are the man made causes. One of the main factors related to it is the wrong domestic and foreign policies.
It is true that our country is situated between the two giants not only of Asia, but of the world as well. To be situated in between the two large countries is neither bad nor good in itself. It all depends on how we behave and deal with them. If we are capable of behaving or treating our two big neighbors, China and India to serve the best interest of the people and state of Nepal, our location will be proved to be more useful than others. We have enough opportunities that we can extract from our natural location. To be situated in between the two big neighbors is not a liability in itself, it is the conscious effort that has to be taken to turn this location to our assets. It should be one of the guiding factors of our foreign policy.
Policy of Equi-proximity:
The bilateral relation between India and China has been moving through twists and turns. During the 50s the relation between these two giant states seemed to be very warm, based on the slogan of India China bhaibhai (India and China are two brothers). This fraternity turned into hostility during 60s when ostensibly the border issue engaged them in a bloody war which naturally turned them to be the foes. Thereafter the relation between them was too sour, which took about three decades to arrive at normalcy.
In this circumstance it was little difficult for Nepal to adopt a balanced foreign policy with both the neighbors. Our southern neighbor has been able to utilize the 1,800 km. open border and system of free border crossing in its favor to exert its influence in Nepal. Mainly the 1950 treaty, which is considered as an unequal, has been used as a legitimate means to further the influence. The Northern neighbor does not have this advantage, having inaccessible 1, 000 km closed border.
There is broad consensus in Nepal at the question of equi-proximity relation between India and China. In fact this policy only can serve the interest of Nepal by maintaining balance in the relation of the two neighbors and taking benefit from the economic development of them. But in reality this policy has never been implemented. There is a real problem in implementing this policy, because our Southern neighbor is reluctant to this policy.
When one talks about equi-proximity policy, one has to face many difficulties and pressure. When the late Prime Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya tried to develop the bilateral relation with China, about 50 years ago, he was accused as pro- Chinese until he survived. Everybody knows that the elderly politician was not a Moist or communist, rather he was truly a patriot. 1-lowever, he was blamed as pro-Chinese only because he tried to think independently in foreign relation and for which he thought that developing relation with China was significant for the national interest of Nepal.
In the past, none of the governments were able to implement this equi- proximity policy, because, people who were holding the power were either pro-South or they were intimidated. Part of the foreign policy is economic diplomacy. There are many possibilities that can be explored with China. For instance, tourism is our most important sector for the economic development. We have already opened routes from India for the tourists, but we have become completely unable to open doors for the tourists en route to China. Quite a few years back, Beijing has linked Lhasa through the railways in which it is said almost 30 million tourists arrive in Lhasa every year.
Most of them are Buddhist. If we can extend the railways up to Lumbini the birth place of Buddha, and will be able to attract one third of it, it can be a great contribution in the development of tourism of Nepal. Instead of feeding the people of Humla by Indian rice transported by helicopter from Nepalganj, why we should not open road to the nearby market of Tibet of China and facilitate the local trade with Tibet, in which the local people become able to buy food grains by selling their own products. Looking through different points of view, the equi-proximity policy is properly justified.
Question of special relation:
There is always a point of debate in the area of foreign policy regarding the question of special relation with India. It is true that Nepal and India has long standing relation, both at the level of the people of the two countries and that of the two governments. There is also open border of 1,800 kms between the two. Both Nepal and India are secular countries having predominantly Hindu population. There is a big question: whether these are the compelling conditions to declare that Nepal and India have a special relation? In a general sense one can say clearly No.
What does it mean by special relation in perspective of foreign policy? It is difficult question to answer. Because Nepal and India do not have special bloc, they do not have special alliance for or against, they do not have anything special that signifies the relation between the two countries as special relation.
There are agreements between the two countries which were signed in different period in different issues. Many of them are transparent but few of them are said to be still unknown to the public. Some of the treaties are widely known to be unequal. One of the most controversial accords is Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950, which is popularly known as 1950 Treaty.
In the wake of big controversy of unequal treaties being signed between the two countries, the issue of special relation has caused a serious doubt in the area of politics and in the minds of patriotic people of Nepal. The terminology of friendly relation, good relation, excellent relation are generally in use in expressing the relation between the two independent countries. If there is something that signifies the special relation should be opened clearly for discussion. If it is only for the appeasement, the question of special relation should be discarded without any hesitance/hesitation. But till the date, nobody has become able to give convincing answer to this question.
Five principles of peaceful co-existence:
Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence (FPPC) seems to be a good basis of foreign policy, through which we can establish, maintain and develop bilateral relation with any friendly country irrespective of its size, economic or military strength or political system. What political system is necessary and suitable for individual country is internal matter and the people of that country should decide about it without exception. External interference in the internal affair is completely and totally unacceptable. This objective can be largely achieved if all the states abide by the FPPC. Though no state in the world has challenged this principle openly, but the imperialist and expansionist states practice some principles which are quite opposite to the FPPC.
Nepal is an under developed, one of the poorest country of the third world. It is situated in between two giant neighbors. Based on various aspects the suitable basis of foreign policy for Nepal is FPPC. It is said that the basis of foreign policy of Nepal for many years has been FPPC. But in many cases Nepal was not able to maintain its independent character and stand by the FPPC. We should make the FPPC as basis of foreign policy for strongly safe guarding our national interest, not for its sacrifice. There are many instances that prove that Nepal has become unable to safeguard and promote its national interest. This situation should have to be completely changed.
Foreign policy should be developed:
Foreign policy is not something isolated and separate from the domestic policy. It is rather the reflection and complementary of the domestic policy. There is no any scope of doubt that Nepal is undergoing through a process of political transformation and change. But the foreign policy is almost same as before. It is quite obvious that it should correspond to the transformation of Nepalese society and change in the domestic policy, otherwise there is a danger that the foreign policy will drag the domestic policy backward, which will obviously be a retrogressive step. Therefore Nepal needs the foreign policy to be developed which should correspond to the new political transformation, changes and development.
Nepal is one of the poorest third world country situated between the two giant neighbors. It is not correct to say that it is sandwiched in between the two huge states. We should not work with the sandwiched mentality. We can work and struggle as an independent country, which can formulate and implement correct foreign policy which can safeguard its national interest in best way. The general basis of foreign policy should be Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. Significant part of our foreign policy is to formulate correct policy in dealing with our two huge neighbors, for the benefit of our country, for which policy of equi-proximity with the two neighbors seems to be correct.
The other component of our foreign policy is to do away with all the unequal treaties signed in the past. But it is not a simple and an easy subject, because our southern neighbor will not be happy with this decision. The government should be bold enough to achieve this objective. The foreign policy is not something isolated or separate from the domestic situation and policy, rather it is reflection of it. It is fairly obvious that Nepal is undergoing through a process of transformation and change. This should be reflected in the foreign policy, which still remains the same. Therefore we should have to develop a new foreign policy that corresponds to the new political development of Nepal.
(Excerpts only: The paper was formally submitted at the Institute of Foreign Affairs-FES (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Germany) Seminar in Kathmandu, December 23, 2008, wherein the author remained absent).
Gajurel, former Nepal Communist Party Maoist leader