Nepal shares 1700 km open border with India and 1400 km border with China. Napoleon reportedly said that “to know a nation's geography was to know its foreign policy”. Nepal's geographical positioning in between India and China remained as the dominant determinant of Nepal's foreign policy.
In the contemporary era, the global power is shifting to Asia primarily with the rise of India and China and also the remaking of the international order is taking place with the enormous reshuffling in the balance of power. There is the urgent need for Nepal to rightly analyze the changing paradigm shift in the regional and international power structure. Nepal's geographical positioning in between two largest civilizations, the economic giant and aspiring regional and global power brings the tremendous opportunities along with sensitivities. Balancing and receiving trust and confidence from north and south is the key to protecting and promoting national interests of Nepal- it's only possible with the precise scrutiny of their strategic rivalry and addressing their respective genuine concerns through pragmatic foreign policy approach.
To explore Nepal's relations beyond the immediate neighbours, Nepal is the founding member regional organizations like SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN, the member of the international organization like the UN, WTO, and multilateral financial institutions like ADB, WB, IMF, AIIB– analyzing her level of constructive engagement on those forums is pertinent. Similarly, rethinking about Nepal's third country relations and seriously scrutinizing the foreign policy of small states are other areas to explore.
In the economic front, Nepal had set the target for graduating from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to Developing Countries by 2022 and middle-income country by 2030. Though, the Least Developed Countries Report of 2016, projected Nepal's graduations from LDCs, only on the basis of two criteria - human asset index (HAI) and economic vulnerability index (EVI), the other one is the per-capita income– a threshold of $1,242 that country need to meet to graduate from LDCs status. While possessing the abundant resources at its disposal, for instance, feasible but untapped hydropower potential about 42,000 MW, Nepal is still trapped inside the fragile economic structure.
It's unfortunate that the more than quarter (29.6%) of Nepal's GDP is made by remittance in fiscal year 2014/2015, according to Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB). The report suggests the massive increase in the inflow of remittances, from NPR58.6 billion rupees (10.9% of GDP) in 2003/04 to NPR589.5 billion in 2014/15. On the other hand, there is the serious need for concerted action for ensuring the welfare and security of Nepali migrants in labour destination countries by enhancing the country's institutional capacity and by updating the policy as required. In the meantime, Nepal also needs to work for effectively channelizing the huge inflow of remittance in productive sectors for national development.
While becoming one of the famous tourist destinations for like trekking, expedition, pilgrimage– in average 700 thousand tourists visited Nepal from 2010-2014, with only 2.8% contribution to GDP in the fiscal year 2014/154. In the meantime, Nepal‟s economy is expected to grow only by 4.8% in FY 2017. According to World Bank‟s Doing Business report, Nepal stands in the second position, after Bhutan, in ease of doing business ranking in South Asia, with 66.41 DTF (Distance to Frontier) Score. With the fairly amicable environment for investment, there are ample of the area for FDI in Nepal including hydropower, industrial manufacturing, tourism services, construction, agriculture, minerals, and energy. The recent So, there is the pressing need for solid work to promote economic diplomacy of Nepal.
Lately, the discourse about turning Nepal from the buffer state to the bridge and trilateral security and economic cooperation (esp. India-Nepal-China) is taking momentum. In this context, Nepal seriously needs to explore the connectivity beyond the borders by effectively interlinking the internationally proposed connectivity proposal to Nepal. Particularly, China's railway proposal as part of “One Belt One Road” initiatives, proposed India Railway network, BBIN and SAARC-Motor Vehicle Agreement, other's bilateral agreement on rail and road transit route. Similarly, exploring and assessing the viability of existing (Haldia, Kolkata India) and proposed (Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh-India, and Guangzhou, China) seaport access to Nepal.
In a broader spectrum, the issue of connectivity or at large economic diplomacy, not merely comprises the economic dimension; it is greatly entangled in the geopolitical conundrum too. Great power politics, the notion of the sphere of influence, perceived or real threat of immediate neighbours plays an important role– country faces hurdles to achieve its economic prosperity without acknowledging these facets of the geopolitical and geostrategic conundrum.
Foreign policy experts, seasoned diplomats, and scholars are consistently pointing the need for foreign policy actors to reach the level of optimum possible domestic consensus - for pragmatically defining, promoting and achieving Nepal's national interests. The deeper realization is needed, that the greater the internal unity; the higher the stake in the international power politics, not merely in rhetoric. Inner dissection of Nepal may provide enormous room for international actors to play their geopolitical and geostrategic interests. Similarly, efficiency in institutional mechanism and caliber individuals is paramount to execute the foreign policy effectively– shortcomings in those areas must be addressed appropriately.
The Conference “Revisiting Nepal’s Foreign Policy in Contemporary Global Power Structure” to be hosted by AIDIA, with the objective of revisiting its foreign policy as necessary to address the reality of contemporary global power structure with substantive and productive discourse.
Through this conference, AIDIA is hoping to bring together foreign policy experts from all major political parties, academician, seasoned diplomats, international experts, foreign dignitaries and other scholars. And, to rationalize the holistic view of the Nepal foreign policy approach and contribute in the promotion of Nepal's national interests via rational-critical discourse.
At the meantime, Nepal government also recently announced to form an experts group for reviewing Nepal's foreign policy. In this critical-juncture, AIDIA firmly believes the conference will be truly paramount. The conference intended to bring diverse opinions from the national and international experts in a rational manner and to come up with a document which will put forward ideas, prescriptions, and feedback that will provide the exclusive policy framework to support Nepal's government to revisit its foreign policy in order to ensure its constructive engagement in bilateral and multilateral forum, in shifting regional and global power structure.