Game Changer – Telegraph Nepal

Dev Raj Dahal
Senior Political Scientist, Nepal

Globalization has put all civilizations into a melting pot encouraging each to learn from others for peaceful coexistence and coordinate their policies to resolve problems of a region and global scale. It is also a powerful game-changer. Its unregulated processes often create winners and losers akin to a pernicious doctrine of social Darwinism. Winners are those with skills, resources competitive ability, no matter whether they are big or small state Losers are those who have faced negative geopolitical trends defined by the crisis of liberal order, crack in multilateralism, nationalism, protectionism, fundamentalism, non-negotiable identity claims unwanted migration, terrorism, conflict and wars.

The disciplinary social sciences developed under the penumbra of the state system are finding it difficult to adapt to the complex forces of globalization and its “differing conceptions” (Nisbetf, 2005: 198), knowledge and perspectives of interpretation by the Eastern and the Western schools Its processes are deconstructing disciplinary knowledge fixed various colleges and university departments, the economy-induced social division of labor and national constitution and institutions has renewed the need for the re-socialization and education of act to steer them to a coherent direction by improving and expanding constitutional outreach and enticing the attention of global audience its management. New geopolitical conditions and intellectual conu require inter -subjective understanding of foreign policy issues a critical grasping of broad linkages of economic, technological = communication actors that accelerate globalization. They have become essential both to conceptualize globalization, its profound effects small states like Nepal and find its durable solution.

In this context, Nepali leaders require systematic thinking on gift of geography, tradition of statecraft, the syncretic national culture of unity in diversity, tolerance to others and the indomitable patria spirit of its people without being prejudiced to global humanitarian norms, laws, values and institutions. Nepal’s imperative for security, survival, progress and identity in a larger world of globalization requires ramping up governance effectiveness and plotting a rational to it by which it can attain the national foreign policy goals underlined in the Directive Principles, Policies and Obligations of the State of the Constitution of Nepal. It says, “the state shall direct its international relations towards enhancing the dignity of the nation in the world community by maintaining international relations based on sovereign equality while safeguarding the freedom, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and national interest of Nepal.” The retention of these values requires the protection of its population, space, ecology, and social, cultural, economic and political policies in a multi polar world and search for a wider policy gaze. The normative values of Panchasheel, non-alignment, principles of the UN and international laws and policies provide it a cognitive map for international conduct, legislative oversight to maintain social control and requirement of parliamentary ratification of treaties on matters of vital and strategic significance to ease the evolution of national consensus.

These goals are attainable if Nepali leadership acquires transformational potential of being able to upscale the nation’s educational, economic, organizational and technological progress and achieve a modicum of political stability, social cohesion, administrative competency and flair to comfortably adapt to the globalization logic. Those devoid of these virtues inflict the breakdown of constitutional affinity and solidarity and leave scope only for muddling around without evolving any idea of reshaping a better future. Nepal’s foreign policy efficacy lies in clear perception of the world and realistic conception of its diplomatic roles in it. The nation, however, suffered from political instability, geopolitical tussle, denationalization of its youths and activism of irredentist forces that are fomenting centrifugal tendencies from the family breakdown, migration of youth, social fragmentation, job layoffs, poverty, political instability, ecocide to the erosion of national values and state institutions by excessive effects of free-riders, special interest groups and partisan politics. At a time when Nepali political economy is scaling up to global sphere it is necessary for leadership to manage these issues, not remain busy only in weakening each other.

The positive dimension of globalization for Nepal is that it has created more job opportunities for its over 5 million citizens abroad than the government although its enormous social, economic and political costs remain unmeasured and the spread of COVID 19 showed its limitation. In this context, Nepal, as a small state, should augment the institutional capacity of all of its globally interacting units and institutions, coordinate the policies of multi-level governance and enhance economic productivity by dynamizing all agricultural industrial and service sectors. Its economic and labor diplomacy abroad needs to be bolstered by strengthening the institutional capacity of Nepali Foreign Ministry, embassies and missions abroad and mobilizing labor-friendly international organizations so that the rights, social security, dignity and earning of Nepali workers are we protected. The remittance economy that once contributed to over 24-2 percent to the nation’s GDP and a major source of foreign currency remains on a downhill slope now due to the spread of the pandemic the Gulf region, East, Southeast and South Asia.

Globalization has shifted the balance of power in Nepal from the national state to financial and commercial capitalism spreading in ever sphere of national life which has made the real economy feeble and febrile. On the contrary, the symbolic economy grew disproportionately. This marked the beginning of the livelihood catastrophe in the otherwise food surplus and food-exporting Nepali nation. It has concentrated t distribution of state surplus at the upper level of society and weaken the promise of the liberal social contract for distributive justice. Nepal’s growing dependence on the international system has weakened strategic prudence of its leadership and its capacity to choose suitable public policies for the nation as most of its development policies spring from international financial institutions and the UN, not its political parties, parliament and National Planning Commission. The nation can learn how globalization has helped a small nation Singapore to grow into one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Finland, Norway Sweden’s social policies, economic resilience and adaptive foreign policy behavior helped them flourish and escape the crisis of class blind neo-liberalism. Their distributive welfare regimes have benefitted the citizens and strengthened social cohesion. The region’s small countries understood that openness was the key to rapid economic growth prosperity” (Stiglitz, 2017:3) where no one is left behind. Switzerland, Denmark and South Korea have prospered owing to their political stability, technological innovation, social discipline, saving culture, competitive spirit, industrial development, business diversification and improving collective wellbeing (Chang, 2012: 260). Nepali policy makers can learn from the success stories of these small states.

Nepali leaders and researchers have favored neither enduring native knowledge, experience and policy guidelines to manage ecology, economy and international relations nor adequately indigenized external policy prescriptions to fit national reality to reasonably improve the human condition. Its recent policy strategy of trilateral cooperation among Nepal, India and China is precisely aimed at cultivating business connectivity, overcoming the security dilemma of neighbors and seeking an option for a normative role in international affairs especially in the areas of the social dimension of globalization, sustainable development, justice and social peace. Global context encourages leaders and planners to think in a more systematic way, than just a linear, insular, partisan and disciplinary frame. The effect of the information revolution and social mobility has made local politics global and international relations have moved to multi-actor interaction of global relations. Therefore, effective foreign policy of Nepal requires the synergistic outcome on the definition of national interest and an adaptive skill of all actors-state, business, political parties, civil society and citizens and their society-wide accord where they can concert their cooperative action and become competitive and effective in global politics. Nepal’s foreign policy has become truly global as it has expanded diplomatic ties to 171 nations of the world so far. But, in concrete terms, it has benefitted less from this expansion and the costs of sustaining diplomatic ties soared. The leadership needs to learn the linkage of macro and micro variables and continuous shift of capital and labor-intensive to knowledge-intensive globalization (Tyson and Lund, 2017:3) which does not ensure only the survival of the fittest but also leaves opportunities for the mobility and wellbeing of people of small states in a larger scale.

For Nepal, the achievement of UN designed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is necessary for this context as it spurs integrated development processes, not the sectoral growth-driven one, but critics argue that the “UN sets goals but there is not much action” (Martin, 2007:25). Frequent government change, institutional weakness, inadequate resources, poor monitoring and evaluation mar their effective implementation. In this context, “Politics must keep pace with the globalization that it set in motion. In view of the systemic constraints of unregulated markets and the increasing functional interdependence of a more and more integrated world society, but also in view of the spectacular options we have created, for example, of a still un-mastered digital communication or of new procedures for optimizing the human organism-we must expand the spaces for possible democratic will formation, for political action, and for legal regulation beyond national borders” (Habermas, 2017:3).

The challenges of globalization for small, poor, landlocked an developing states like Nepal stem not from their capability deficits but from their leaders’ inability to marshal all resources to optimally balance the state and the market, manage adversarial relations national political parties, neighbors and great powers in the middle ground and control their potential to manipulate social cleavages strategic asset, bleed the economy through either economic sanction or blockade and destabilize the constellation of citizens, economy and the state in the national polity. Nepal can utilize its geostrategic leverage to attract resourceful nations to invest in priority sectors the economy and reap trading benefits from its locational advantage between the Asian powerhouses each seeking to extend its clout, watch and contain each other and conform their initiatives. Singapore and Qatar have benefitted from their strategic location at the center of vital commercial and transportation hubs while Iceland’s location, though has no armed forces, makes the nation lynchpin in transatlantic security (Carafano, 2018:1).

The globalization of Nepali politics has altered the meaning geographical scales and linked social forces such as workers, women Dalits, Janajatis, Aadibasis, Muslims and other micro minorities and their social movements to the transnational sphere legitimized human rights, justice, democracy and peace. Nepali leadership awareness of its nation’s social history has adopted social inclusion an enfranchisement of the weak by formulating policies on distributive justice. The creation of a social welfare state seeks to retire neo-liberal globalization and stresses its responsibility to deliver public goods. It helps to keep social cohesion, shore up historical resilience of cultural and spiritual syncretism and move ahead in the nation-building process of this conflict, quake and pandemic affected Nepali state.
Geopolitical thinkers believe that choices of ends and means small states’ foreign policies are largely conditioned by geographical variables such as size, location, border linkages, shape, circulation pattern, vital resources, leverage and exposure. They are the tangible elements of national power though shrinkage of time, space and distance by modern transportation and technology has escape geopolitics from the deterministic clutch. Still, geography is considered “the matrix of history, its nourishing mother and disciplining home” (Durant, 1998:16).

Other variables such as demography, economy, technology, institutions and leadership will and strategic planning are contingent upon it though they are no less salient in the conduction of economic policy and diplomacy in the global sphere. “The task of the smaller states is to find the means appropriate to preserving their independence and advancing their economic development through various combinations of bilateral and multilateral ties, coupled with policies that that mix self-interest and interdependence”( Scalapino, 1972: 116). Accordingly, the combination of hard power of economy, technology and security and soft power of nationalism expanding from Nepali elites to citizens’ level (Manandhar, 1973-74: 46) has motivated its masterful maneuver to balance opposing forces, affect change, navigate the dangers (Bleie, 2021: 2) and ensure the enduring resilience of the nation’s sovereign life.

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Text courtesy: Excerpts from the recently published book, (2022) “Small States in a Globalised World”, by Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal.
# The entire editorial board of the is highly indebted to the senior political scientist of Nepal, Professor Dev Raj Dahal and the Executive Director of the CNAS Dr. Mrigendra Bahadur Karki.

# published in the larger interest of the global audience: Chief Ed.

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