Four months after govt unveiled its first foreign policy document, disagreements remain

NL Today

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Kathmandu: The government of Nepal unveiled its Foreign Policy Document on December 6, 2020. But questions are still being raised that the vital document of the nation—that should ideally be the document of consensus—was prepared without extensive consultations among stakeholders.

Immediately after the document was made public, lawmakers and leaders of both ruling Nepal Communist Party (now CPN-UML and Maoist Center) as well as opposition parties Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party had criticized the document.

Deepak Prakash Bhatta, lawmaker of CPN-UML, said the government brought the foreign policy document all of a sudden, without consulting with authorities concerned and stakeholders.

Hitherto, Nepal’s policy ideals were codified in the constitution itself—from 1960’s to 2015. The 2015 constitution has stated that Nepal shall conduct “an independent foreign policy based on the Charter of the United Nations, non-alignment, principles of Panchsheel, international law and the norms of world peace, taking into consideration of the overall interest of the nation, while remaining active in safeguarding the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and national interest of Nepal.”

Though the foreign policy document is largely in line with the above-mentioned constitutional policy, the cabinet endorsed the document presented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Critics argue that the MoFA held discussions with only a few people close to the Ministry, instead of holding extensive deliberations.

Opposition leaders claim that the matter was not discussed even with the foreign policy experts and lawmakers of the International Relation Committee (IRC) of the Federal Parliament. Pushpa Bhusal, the whip of Nepali Congress and the member of IRC, claims that the document is incomplete.

“The Foreign Policy document is not an asset of a single party but of the whole country. Extensive discussion should have been carried out before bringing out such a crucial document,” said Bhusal.

Interestingly, most employees of the Foreign Minister came to know about the document only after its final approval.

Another member of IRC and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was of the view that former PMs, former foreign ministers, home ministers, and other experts should have been consulted before bringing out the document. “The IRC should form a sub-committee to study the document,” he said.

Interestingly, most employees of the Foreign Minister came to know about the document only after its final approval.

Lawmaker Ram Karki said the document does not have a clear foreign policy vision. “I urge the government to clarify and elaborate the document more,” he added.

However, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali does not agree. According to him, the document was prepared after a thorough analysis of political documents, including election manifestoes, of all the political parties. All the leaders and lawmakers had been invited for discussion, but they did not appear, he said.