Speech at function of Nepal Council of World Affairs
President of Nepal Council of World Affairs
Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers
Members of the Constituent Assembly
Executive Members of the Board of the Council
Academics and Intellectuals
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be invited to speak at a program organized to mark the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of Nepal Council of World Affairs this evening. I also recall my participation and fruitful interaction during the anniversary function last year. The fact that the Council has had a fairly long existence as a public forum for undertaking and promoting debates, discussions and interactions on topical issues of national and global interests in the realm of foreign affairs deserves recognition and appreciation. Men of letters, thinkers and policy makers have been associated with this organization in its formative years and beyond. I have no doubt that informed debates and discussions of all kind on various aspects of our external relations and foreign policy issues would provide valuable inputs to the Government in formulating pragmatic policies and in conducting external relations and diplomacy more efficiently and with optimum results. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued engagement and contributions in this important field.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal lays down the broad parameters within which we conduct our foreign relations. And these include the principles of the United Nations Charter, nonalignment, the principles of Panchsheel, international law, and the norms of world peace. 'Friendship with all; enmity towards none', and 'live and let live' are two fundamental perspectives which provide us a sustained basis for conducting a harmonious and mutually cooperative relationship with all.
Foreign policy of any country truly represents its core national interest and is rightly taken as a judicious mix of continuity and change. As a country with a long and unbroken history of political independence and national sovereignty, Nepal's foreign policy largely reflects continuum and encompasses a fine blend of principle and pragmatism with a view to protecting and promoting our national interest in the changed political context in an increasingly competitive and globalizing world of the twenty-first century.
The international milieu in which we encounter the rest of the world at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels in conducting our foreign relations has changed much in the recent decades. And we all know that globalization has further accelerated this process. Interdependence has been the hallmark of today's international relations. Unilateralism has no takers as a pragmatic policy. States continue to be the prime actors but not the sole determinants of the course and direction of international relations today. Irreversible as the process of globalization is, we have to keep adapting ourselves to this new global reality and make all efforts to make globalization beneficial to countries like ours. In an intertwining world of 'sovereign' states, we can neither conceive of a state of complete anarchy nor can we afford to live in a mythical state of 'splendid isolation'. Interdependence is, indeed, the key word. It is the true spirit of international cooperation which tightens the bond of interdependence among States and makes it a distinguishing feature of international relations in the early twenty-first century.
Nepal has come a long way since shaking off its isolationist policy six decades ago. We joined the United Nations as early as 1955 and started contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security through participation in the UN peacekeeping operations almost immediately after that. We are one of the 25 founding members of the Non-aligned movement which now brings into its fold 118 countries and 17 observers from across the world. We are in the WTO, a global institution dedicated to the promotion of a fair, non-discriminatory, and rule-based system of international trade. We have expanded our bilateral relations by establishing diplomatic ties with more and more countries around the world. As a result, we now have diplomatic relations established with 131 countries from all continents. And, the process continues. We are equally concerned about global issues with overarching implications for all such as climate change, environmental degradation, food security, energy crisis, HIV/AIDS, transnational crimes, human rights, etc.
Now let me briefly touch upon the three levels of our external relations that, as I have mentioned above, set the international milieu for us.
i. Bilateral level: Our bilateral relations have been developing and expanding gradually over the years. At the forefront of our relationship are our immediate neighbours – India and China – with whom we have very close and cordial relationship based on mutual respect, goodwill, and cooperation. Last year, I had the opportunity to pay official visits to both countries and hold fruitful interactions on our bilateral relations that are based on high degrees of mutual co-operation. With all other countries in the neighbourhood and beyond, Nepal maintains very friendly and cooperative relationships. We also have close ties with our bilateral donors and development partners.
ii. Regional level: Next to our bilateral-level relations comes our commitment to regional cooperation the most salient expression of which is found in our hosting the headquarters of SAARC in Kathmandu and our continued engagement with all SAARC programs and activities in a constructive and cooperative spirit. As a regional forum at the highest political level, SAARC having organised sixteen Summits in its quarter of a century long existence, plays a significant role in promoting mutual trust and confidence amongst the leaders of South Asia leading ultimately towards an atmosphere conducive to more substantive cooperation and economic integration of the South Asian region. We are also a member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which has identified more than a dozen areas of cooperation in various fields of common interest ranging from agriculture to climate change and the like. We are also keenly interested in the activities of several other regional groupings, such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
iii. Multilateral level: At the multilateral level, the United Nations is the most important international organization dedicated to the cause of global peace, security and development. The Charter of the United Nations embodies certain universal values and principles governing international relations in modern times. While giving cognizance to sovereign equality of all Member States and non-interference as cardinal principles of international relations, the UN Charter outlaws the use of force and lays stress on the peaceful settlement of all disputes. Nepal has an abiding faith in the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and continues to actively engage in the activities of the United Nations. Our long and continued participation in the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions around the world has helped to build a very positive image of Nepal in the UN and the international community. Today, we are the fifth largest troop contributing country and the role played by our soldiers in various UN peacekeeping missions around the world has earned a wide acclaim.
As one of the founder members of the Non-aligned Movement, Nepal continues to believe in the contemporary relevance of the Movement even in the post-Cold War international environment. Its growing membership clearly suggests that the Movement is active and it can serve the interests of its members.
We are now carrying the onerous responsibility of LDC Chairmanship as well, both in the UN and outside. The forthcoming fourth LDC Conference, which is scheduled for the first half of 2011 in Turkey, will be held under Nepal's Chairmanship. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for Nepal to project and promote its international image in a positive light and draw the attention of the international community to the problems and challenges faced by the LDCs.
In recent years, the scope of international relations has widened significantly as it also includes the issues of climate change, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, transnational crimes, poverty, protection and promotion of human rights, etc. The issue of climate change has certainly topped the international agenda today, but the concerns of the least developed and developing countries like Nepal have yet to find proper recognition and concomitant international commitment to make available adequate resources and technological knowhow to enable them to better adapt themselves to the new situation accordingly.
The issue of global warming poses a serious threat to our fragile national ecosystem and the livelihoods of our people. We have highlighted this in the international forums including in the UN Climate Conference held in Copenhagen last year. By holding one of our Cabinet meetings at the Everest Base Camp in Kalapatthar (5,542m) and issuing the Sagaramatha Declaration on Climate Change just before the Copenhagen Summit in December 2009, we have sensitized this issue both nationally and internationally. We are also planning to host a ministerial-level conference of mountainous developing countries in Kathmandu in September this year with a view to assessing the impacts of global warming and identifying the ways and means to deal with them in an urgent and effective manner.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
If these are some of the challenges that lie ahead of us, it is the quality and competence of our diplomatic machinery that needs to be properly motivated, strengthened and geared towards the goal of meeting these challenges.
In recent years, we have felt the need for expanding our diplomatic presence in countries and continents where Nepali expatriate communities are growing and where prospects for mutually beneficial relations and cooperation are clearly discernible. Protecting the interests and welfare of Nepalese workers abroad and providing all kinds of consular services to them have emerged as a new and very important dimension of our diplomatic mission's work today. Given the increasing inflow of remittance and its crucial role in fighting poverty and uplifting the general well-being of the common people of Nepal, we have to do all our best to facilitate this process. Manpower agencies which are in the business of supplying Nepalese workers abroad need to be equally scrupulous and accountable in handling them and ensuring contractual obligations. This, I am sure, would certainly help to significantly reduce the plights of the Nepalese workers abroad. We have recognized the important role the NRNs can play in Nepal's socio-economic development through partnerships and investment. An act has already been enacted to this effect and the issuance of ID cards through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our diplomatic missions abroad has also begun.
Economic diplomacy has been at the forefront of our Mission's activities abroad. Promoting trade and tourism and inviting foreign investments and technology transfer are our main priorities. Since the last few years the Government has started allocating some budgetary resources to the Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad for undertaking promotional activities related to economic diplomacy.
It is important that our diplomatic missions are made more resourceful and better equipped to undertake these responsibilities more effectively. With the instrumental needs identified and put in place, we also need to create a conducive political and policy framework to enable the institutions to start delivering results.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Foreign policy is rightly considered to be an extension of the domestic policy of a State in our contemporary world. Therefore, when domestic policy falters, foreign policy and diplomacy naturally get affected by it. The link between the two is so close that it is almost impossible to segregate and keep them apart. In our case, unfortunately, the failure to carry forward the peace process to a positive conclusion largely because of the intransigence and lack of political will on the part of a section of our political forces has led to unnecessary prolongation of the peace process, and has delayed the drafting of the new constitution. In our view, this is a betrayal of the people's mandate at home, and also a cause of disappointment to our development partners and well-wishers abroad.
As I said before, the people of Nepal charted a new political course in 1951 by ending the century-old Rana autocracy. The democracy that followed the political change was, however, short-lived and we joined together to launch the people’s movement to restore parliamentary democracy in 1990. The same spirit of unison and cohesion on the part of the political parties marked the second people’s movement in 2006 that was historic in the sense that it inaugurated a radical systemic change with a republican political order making the people fully sovereign to decide their own destiny. This unique achievement along with Comprehensive Peace Accord, promulgation of the Interim Constitution and successful conclusion of the Constituent Assembly elections have been watershed events in Nepal’s political history. While such solid political accomplishments of our people have truly enhanced the prestige of our country in the international arena, they also eloquently reflect the extent of the success a country can achieve in the context of the unity of purpose and broad agreement on the part of political parties. We should never lose sight of the fact that the people of Nepal have aspired for a rapid social and economic transformation in an institutionalized political setting of pluralistic democratic framework. It is, therefore, essential that all political forces that have served as co-partners in the historic movement, should eschew petty partisan interests to work for the betterment of the country and end the prevailing state of political transition before long.
As Prime Minister, I have all along laid stress on political consensus in resolving all outstanding national issues in a democratic spirit of dialogue, understanding and accommodation. My entire political life is an open book and I believe in pragmatism and compromise for promoting enduring peace, unity and stability and for accelerating rapid national development. I have always tried to put the nation first, before everything else. I have also made it clear time and again that I will not stand in the way of a new government as soon as there is a consensus among the major political party leaders to ensure speedy positive conclusion of the peace process and timely drafting of the new democratic constitution of Nepal. Therefore, I call upon all the political leaders to be honest and accountable to the people and rise to the historic occasion of transforming our motherland into a modern, just, peaceful, and prosperous New Nepal.
We are proud inheritors of the legacy of independence and self-judgment even during the difficult periods of our history. Let us not allow history any chance to be unkind to us in the future; nor should we let our present to undermine our own competence and capabilities in resolving national problems by ourselves as responsible leaders of this great nation. Time is still on our side, and we can still make history!
With these concluding words, I would like to extend my best wishes to the Council for a bright and more productive future. I have every hope that it will transform into a leading and lively think-tank dedicated to the study and research of all topical issues and matters pertaining to our foreign policy and international relations.
I thank you all for your time and attention.
Remarks made by Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal at the 63rd Anniversary Program Organized by the Nepal Council of orld Affairs (NCWA) Kathmandu, June 28, 2010