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Seminar on Emerging Trends of Diplomacy in Nepal: Issues of Soft Power

Organized by Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies (DCPDS), Tribhuwan University in Association with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal

14 November, Kathmandu


Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies, DCPDS in association with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organized a day seminar on Emerging Trends of Diplomacy in Nepal: Issues of Soft Power' on 14 November, 2014 at Hotel Indreni Himalaya, Kathmandu. The program was divided into five sessions: inaugural Session and other four technical sessions.

First Session

Inaugural session was chaired by the Prof. Dr. Hem Raj Subedi, coordinator at Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies. Inaugurating this program Prof. Dr. Hira Bahadur Maharjan, Vice Chancellor at Tribhuwan University said that the discourse of soft, hard and smart power is very useful and very timely to discuss in present context.

Delivering speech as special guest Prof. Gunanidhi Neupane, Rector at Tribhuwan University highlighted the role of power dynamics in global context and Nepal. Chandra Dev Bhatta, representative from FES Nepal, highlighted emergence of soft, hard and smart power in global politics and international relations.

He also emphasized the inherent values of religion and culture as a source of power, which should be prioritized in expansion of soft power. Showing great importance of culture, religion and values, which has been holding our nation unified for such a long period of time.

He emphasized three junctures and events:

a) Darwin's contribution in "Origin of Species"
b) Idea of the nations as propounded by Thomas Hobbes in Social Contract Theory
c) Marxist notion of the society with reference to the soft power.

Closing the inaugural session, Prof Subedi said some of the resources which Nepal can mobilize in form of soft power could be Nepali Diaspora, Nepali culture, arts and religion, tourism products, herbs and natural resources as well as sports.

Technical Session I

Technical session I was chaired by the Prof Dr. Soorya Lal Amatya, former rector at Tribhuwan University.Dr. Deepak Prakash Bhatt, a security expert and faculty at Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies (DCPDS) made presentation on "Changing Power Dynamics in Nepal: Soft Power". The paper was divided into five main parts; dynamics of power, wants, hard power, soft power and means of power. Through the presentation, Bhatta emphasized various means and techniques of accumulating soft power, hard power and smart power in the global discourse in general and providing with example of US, China, India and Nepal in specific.

Power and security relations are fundamental and complex in global politics and basic values of each society also called an integral part of source of power, Bhatta added. He emphasized that the means of soft power could be music, sports or influential individual but the source of soft power is ' economic perspective of the country. Economic engagement is an important aspect of power in national and global perspective. He argued that, smart power as the combination of hard power and soft power.

He said that the nation-state can't function in isolation. Providing examples such as: foundation of power for United States is its strategy of national cohesion, culture, ideology and international institution. In the case of China, education, culture, language, investment, good neighbor and trade are basic components. And in case of India, Translating its political and economic potential into reality is one of the main strategies of Indian soft power.

In changing global scenario, neither army nor economy is sufficient condition to make robust country, was the argument presented in Bhatta's paper. Furthermore, he stressed that security forces and Nepal Army are contributing in Peacekeeping as top five military contributing country, which is one of the best way to expand Nepalese soft power in globe.

Commenting on Dr. Bhatta's paper, Dr. Khadga K.C., coordinator at Master in International Relation and Diplomacy, Tribhuwan University discussed the role of soft power in the changing context. He complemented on Dr. Bhatta's argument of US strategy of using soft power in global influence. He said right from the beginning, United States has been utilizing soft and hard power as means of control. Soft power was not effective tool to diplomacy, still the strategy of United States is hard power, which is still reflecting through invasion and attacks in various countries.

He said that US has used its soft power only to content communism in the world. Soft power is a tool to American state and ideology- to expand and disseminate human rights, freedom and democracy. He said hard power as economic power where hard power had prevailed before the military discourse before the second world. Even though American developed military capacity, US got defeated in Vietnam War.

He highlighted the IMF as European establishment and European strategy to expansion of soft power and ADB and World Bank as tools of American. 13 Millions dollar was used in first Golf war.

He used an example of American soft power with education. For example, Nobel Prize, patent rights, Apple I Pad and tablets also as expansion of soft power to United Sates. Similarly, yoga and Hindi movies are popular as smart power of India. And Toyota, Sony, Menahga are Japanese soft power.

Budha's teaching is a soft power of Nepal. Similarly, Diasporas effort of pursuing national values in oversees, also the soft power.

K.C. said that the main challenge of Nepal is to develop national interest through diplomacy. These are the paradoxes that we are facing in modern days.

Chair Remarks- instead of talking on the paper presented by Dr. Bhatt, KC expanded the discourse of soft, hard and smart power.

During the floor Discussion, Mr. D. B. Rana raised his concern of how we suggest the Nepali diplomats to use soft power in the countries they serve. Bidhya Laxmi Shrestha asked that, it is believed that power comes from the barrel of the gun, how is it possible to use soft power in present context. Shyam Bandu Subedi made a remark that, soft power itself is not the means of diplomacy, to create the country image; soft power means are attraction tools. How we can reform diplomatic channel to attract foreigners and other people in Nepal. How we can corporate different types of diplomacy. Gobinda's Narayan, suggested his ideas as fighting Joseph Nye, 1990, end of the block- soft power is not a new emergence in global arena, saying we don't need to go back to US, he remembered 1950, when US president visited UK. He said export of soft power is not latest innovation, topic of change- not much relevant off-course, we has already moved 25 years.

Clarifying questions raised during the floor discussion, Bhatt said that hard power has been always dominating in human history to achieve something in the nation. Domination of hard power is not mentioned. Domination of policy - hard power is not sufficient, during war- hard power is in top priority, but in the rest of the time- soft power could be effective means to expansion the values of country.

In the response of Subedi's question Dr. Bhatt said that expanding soft power is not the responsibility of foreign ministry. Non Residential diplomacy is also an important aspect in soft power.
In response of Gobinda's question said that- whole of the energy of the nation is in promulgation of the constitution. Social power is heavier component in both hard and soft power, which is the source of legitimacy. Maoist came to the power, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, dominating self criticism. West US, always they are dominating and which continues next couple of decades. What India is offering is software, Bollyhood, yoga and music. When country becomes more effective with economy, then only state can think about the soft power diplomacy.

Responding the questions and queries, Dr. K.C. said the country can enhance diplomacy with Ten zing Norgay, Gurkhas, Buddha, Dr. Kumud Dhital, and Young Scientist in NASA. One of the best ways to enhance our diplomacy is to promulgate new constitution at the first. He cited that Modi has mentioned Nepal in UN and Delhi. And if we can establish best education institution, if you can attract student from the world- it can enhance the soft power of the country. Nepal has to transform in this way. These are the major instruments to enhance the soft power.

Chair's Remarks, Dr. Amatya said that the paper is very informative and comprehensive to understand the soft power discourse. The remarks made by Dr. KC became very substantive to complement the some of the gaps of paper. He emphasized that soft power concept came into use in early 1970s, when America failed to win Vietnam through hard power, the question of soft power got momentum in international arena.

He urged that Soviet Union, also faced same fate that US faced in Vietnam War. He also emphasized that religious and cultural components are very important. The main concern is how to understand the cultural and religious aspect of this country. Coming to Nepal, soft power is very important. But unfortunately, we don't have effective diplomacy in global arena. We cannot minimize our values. We should move forward expanding our national interest with political, cultural and religious aspects.

Technical Session II

Second session was chaired by Ananda Aaditya and paper was presented by Bishnu Hari Nepal, former ambassador to Japan.

Dr. Nepal's paper was divided into main nine sections; the himalayan world order, pre-war position of the new world order, cold war dilemma for new world order, Hard power status of strategic order, the soft power perspectives, The tug of war between USA and China to Maintain Economic World Order, the world order and the Sino-Indian Hard power and Soft Power Nexus to Nepal :

A summary and Recommendation of Five theories to Mitigate the decentralized effects of shift of world order impacts in Nepal.

Muma Ram Khanal, commentator of this session made his presentation with some reservation. He said, this is new area and he has no expertise in subject matter. Khanal emphasized that knowledge should be a matter of practice, if it is not so it is useless.

Explaining the context of World War I, World War II, and Cold war to explain the shifting world order from USA to Russia, he urged that even a small change has great significance in politics. Therefore, struggle of Hitler and Death of Rosa Luxemburg also important in the discussion of soft, hard and smart power. He talked about the global scenario of politics and world order since the First World War to current time. Rise of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and the main factor behind the rise of various countries is linked with Maoist movement.

National liberation struggle reached into the crisis. 1970- Failure of Maoist movement. Gorvachov and Mao Tsung- total foundation was constructed in the phase of Mao- the economic foundation is the basis of then times. The conflict between the capitalism and socialism is major theme from First World War to 1990. After 1990, some people argued world is in uni-polar, but he expressed his dissatisfaction in this idea. He linked the Nepal's context- Crimea's case and Russian stance also reflect the shift in the world order. Economic development without political order is almost impossible. Politics and economy shift go hand in hand. He supported presentators' argument for the solution of country with reservation. Politics doesn't work with fairy tale. In order to develop our country, we need to take own model. Self-development model is essential.

During the floor discussion, Dambar P. Thapa asked is the shifting of present world order is beneficial to Nepal. Do you believe it is important of stability of south Asia? Ravi asked that how small countries achieve national interest with soft power? Dibya Laxmi Bajarcharya asked that if china would come as a member of SAARC, what will be the name of the particular organization, should it be changed or not, and other countries nearby in China also wish to join into the SAARC what would be the best option.

Addressing the questions raised in the floor, Dr. Nepal replied that political transformation and system of governance are important for any country, if a country can maintain necessary political order, change is beneficial and if not which could have negative implication. On the question of Ravi, Dr.Nepal replied that small countries can preserve their national interest through cooperation of each other, for example Nepal and Sri Lanka can help each other to preserve their national interest. On the concern of China's interest in SAARC, he replied that China is not in the South Asia. China is emerging as economic power and India is in strategic importance after the Modi's leadership. China's interest in SAARC is a serious matter of discussion at political level.

Technical Session III

For the session of Jay Raj Aacharya's presentation, Dr. Ram Bahadur Chhetri served as chair Dr. Ram Thapaliya was commentator. The paper "Emerging Trends in Nepal's Foreign Policy: Use of soft Power Always" emphasized the Nepal's foreign policy and its characteristics in various stages including stage of national unification (formation of modern state by Prithivi Narayan Shah), stage of isolationism (Rana regime until 1947) and stage of non-isolationism (1947-1960), stage of balance and Non-alignment (1961-1971), stage of Zone of peace, Nepal Under the King Birendra's direct rule (1972-1990), Stage of Confusion- existing situation after 2006's conflict scenario of lack of clear vision and vigor and future priorities.

He emphasized that Nepal as a sovereign country needs to prioritize socio-economic development as a strategy of soft power. Furthermore, Acharya stated that balanced relations with immediate neighbors, greater role in the United Nations and United Nations Peace Keeping Operations, relations with global powers and donor countries for socio-economic development and effective role in the regional organizations SAARC, BIMSTEC for social development should be priorities of Nepal.

Dr. Thapaliya, commentator of this paper, congratulated Acharya for his exemplary effort to bring all these issues in foreign policy discussion. He said that foreign policy itself is a very effective tool of a nation. It should be able to incorporate the national sentiment, nationalist politics, national movement or national unity. Today, global power also realized that the most important part is unity. Foreign policy should be able to unite the country and its people. At this juncture, Nepal's priority is to develop and sustain democratic practice. This is the only way, our policy make it visible in international arena.

Thapaliya pointed out that Non Alignment movement is an important but sometimes alignment could be an important decision for the small countries like Nepal. He shared an example of Australia expressing how Australia maximized her benefits through the alignment. He said economy and culture as important component of Chinese soft power and Do No Harm as American soft power policy.

In floor discussion, Gobinda Narayan said this presentation is highly informative and he was fond of the idea of confusion. But, it will be great to hear that- where we are heading from the state of confusion. Barun Ghimire raised concern by saying that since Nepal has no option to use hard power and soft power, what are the elements of soft power and how country can overcome these challenges of soft power.

Dirgha Raj Sigdel posed a question to Dr. Thapaliya saying soft power is only used for survival of United States, not for the do no harm of others. What can we believe that US invasion in different places, attacks in Afghanistan and other countries as their policy of do no harm. Similarly, Krishna Belbase asked his concern on how to balance policy and principles in foreign policy.

Responding on the queries and questions, Dr. Acharya said good idea is not sufficient to influence in foreign policy and international relation, if diplomacy is bad, everything becomes counterproductive. Small countries like Nepal should utilized soft power through diplomatic channel. He highlighted the differences between policy and principles of a country in international relation. A country with good diplomacy can change the policy with regime and change in leadership , but principles should be same. Clarifying the question asked to him, Thapaliya said, the concept of do no harm is used by United States. But it is context specific and tricky one.

Closing the technical session, chair emphasized that culture itself as a source of soft power in Nepal.

Technical Session IV

Fourth Session was chaired by Krishna Belbase, former head of International Relations. Prof. Subedi made his presentation on "Regime Change and Political Construction of Soft Power in Nepal. Main emphasis of this paper was Lucian W. Pye's Concept on Power and Nepalese Context, Various regimes in Nepal with change in power dynamics, source of power/authority and influence in Nepali society shift of power in post 2006's scenario, soft power in Nepalese Context and challenges to consolidate soft power in Nepal with way forward and deliberation.

Through his presentation, Prof. Subedi argued that historical, political development of Nepal has a three tier interlinked of class, caste/ethnicity and gender with the unification campaign of several princely states in the 17th century. But post 2006's political situation has created a huge polarization in Nepali society along social, political and ethnic lines. This paper helped to initiate the discussion on how republic Nepal can consolidate hard power, soft power and smart power in current situation of Nepal.

Commenting on the paper "Regime Change and Political Construction of Soft Power in Nepal, Geja Sharma Wagle, said "soft power is a kind of buzz word, which has no universally accepted definition. Even Joseph Nye's definition is not satisfactory to explain the complexities on understanding the soft power. He said that soft power itself is not a policy. It is kind of a tool to extend identity, values and national interest for countries. He said that in the context of Nepal, political evolution, democratic transition, peace process and international context matter in the discussion of soft power.

He emphasized the strongest part of Nepali soft power as; religion, unique cultural and diverse identities, which exist among the Nepali people. Similarly, wide popularity of Mt. Everest, Annapurna trekking route, Gurkha, Non Alignment Movement, Nepal's unique peace process are also the tools of soft power. He emphasized that state should be able to capitalize soft power through global heroes.

During the floor discussion, Dirgh Raj Sigdel and Barun Ghimire raised their concerns on the paper and comments. Dirgh asked that the country is declared as secular and how Nepal can use particular religion to enhance our national interest as soft power? Barun Ghimire clarified the differences of political construct of soft power and politics soft power, which he realized as confusion in the title of Subedi's paper.

 
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