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Putting Robust National Security Policy In Place

One- day seminar jointly organised by Former Police Council Nepal, the Relief Trust, the Peace and Development Studies and FES Nepal Office

27 May 2016, Kathmandu

Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi

Despite having a transformative constitution, Nepal is not still immune to internal and external menaces. Rather it is beset with multiple threats that are emanating from the failure of domestic actors to stand united for broader national cause and the dangerous gambit of foreign power centres that are turning Nepal into a battle ground to meet their vested interests. This has gradually weakened the capacity of the Nepali state to enforce social order and peace. Sitting on the 'symbolic economy,' run by the comprador class, Nepal is also unable to meet the basic economic aspirations of the Nepalese. The daily departure of around 1,800 youths in search of laborious job in the Gulf and other countries testifies how vulnerable our economy is. When the citizens' are deprived of economic security, the nation finds it difficult to ensure other securities needed for a prosperous, dignified and sovereign nation state.

Immediately after the 1990 political change, the nation took a rightist turn on the economic front. The blind adoption of neo-liberal policy began to emasculate the country as it reduced the state to an ineffectual agency. It freed the country from its social and economic obligations towards the people, giving rise to visceral alienation among them. Six years after the restoration of multiparty democracy, the ruthless Maoist insurgency started with a goal to overthrow parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. It exploited the ethnic and cultural fault lines of Nepali society to foist its divisive and diabolic ideology on the fledging democratic state that was struggling find its feet. The violent campaign created dangerous societal cleavages by radicalising the ethnic differences in the garb of identity politics. The deleterious impact of ethnocentric politics found its ugly expression in the Terai agitation. While the Maoist movement had divided the people into mini identities, the Madhes movement created a territorial division, setting pernicious proposition that Nepal has two geographies and the people- Terai/Madhes and the hill. Then, the southern plains turned out to be a soft underbelly and a strategic card for the southern neighbour to roil and tame the Nepali state. The continued internal chaos promoted the foreign players to butt in the domestic affairs to the nauseating level.

Against his backdrop, framing a robust national security policy is a herculean task. It requires courage, caution and consensus. Having an effective security policy has been overdue and the nation has finally got it. The government has recently approved the national security policy following arduous deliberations and brainstorming sessions on it. To highlight its importance and contribute to its effective implementation, the Former Police Council Nepal, the Relief Trust, the Peace and Development Studies and FES, Office Nepal organised a national seminar on 'Implementation of National Security Policy in Nepal' with the participation of concerned stakeholders. Home Minister Shakti Bahadur Basnet and FES, Nepal office head Dev Raj Dahal offered their insightful remarks on the various dimension of national security and its significance at the seminar that also featured four working papers on the security policy. The excerpts of the meeting are as follows:

Shakti Basnet, Minister for Home

Nepal is on the cusp of bigger changes. It witnessed many political changes but they were not backed by the corresponding social and economic transformations, which was the reason for the cyclic political upheavals. Challenges and opportunities knock at once and we will be able to deal with challenges successfully. We are in the process of formulating the internal security policy. While doing this, we must not forget to adopt the universal values of democracy. We should synthesize them with the specific needs of the nation so that it will be effectively implemented. We have to learn from history. It is necessary to integrate the regional, cultural and ethnic diversities based on the forward-looking concepts. The ICT-induced socio-economic changes, geopolitical considerations, globalization and seismic political upheavals have emerged as chief factors in defining national security. Their impacts should be assessed while framing the national security.
A broader national outlook and self-reliant economy buttresses national security. Citizens need to demonstrate patriotic feelings while the political parties must rise above petty interest to implement the national security robustly. The citizens should show unflinching loyalty to the nation. If there lacks a feeling 'I am first a Nepali,' all discussions and interactions on the national security will merely be an intellectual luxury.

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office

National security is a function of the health of state where citizens are living. If the state is weakened in its ability to exercise legitimate monopoly on power, mobilise resources for national progress and muster loyalty of citizens as well as international recognition, whatever the cause, citizens will continue to feel insecure. Negatively defined, national security implies an absence of threat or fear to national values, sovereignty, territorial integrity, vital national interests and citizens' life. Positively defined, it means fulfilment of human security needs, citizens' rights and their legitimate aspirations, constitutionally regulated public order for the sake of positive peace. When constitution talks about 'sovereignty of people,' it presumed the sovereignty of the state where politics. Law and development policies are determined by the citizens and their representatives without being prejudice to the zeitgeist. Obviously, non-state and non-sovereign actors have become stronger in Nepal and are overriding both the sovereignty of the state and popular sovereignty of demos though they are not permanent entities and require periodic renewal of their electoral legitimacy and sound performance.

There is an inseparability of security and policy making. The national security establishment, therefore, needs to analyse who are the state-maintaining, state-neutral and who are state-smashing forces and who are centripetal and who are centrifugal forces of society. Protracted political transition, political instability and erosion of the efficacy of national institutions by excessive politicization have undermined the capacity of national institutions to muster the loyalty of citizens and address the risk of constitutional deadlock. Democratic accommodation, social inclusion and centripetalism have emerged new themes for the social integration of the Nepalese society and integration of system-promoting forces. Subsidiary identity politics based on self-identification and self-projection of organised groups have thrived in Nepal who maintain differences with the other groups and enforce social boundaries impeding both reconciliation and rebuilding.

Unawareness of cultural syncretism has weekend the concepts of social solidarity, shared values and culture.

The conventional threat posed by inter-state conflict has become moderated while intra-state conflicts have increased with the emergence of critical 'minority' stoked by both informational revolution and geopolitical penetration. Now the time has come to bind the fragmentation of Nepalese society, weaving individuals, families and communities and strengthening social connections of citizens with the state.

In the context of return of geopolitics against the rule of peaceful engagement, Nepali leaders need to discuss on various facets of national security, reduce the risks to the nation and manage the national challenges. Whole-of-society approach can control intra-societal violence. Ownership of all in the constitution is the prime condition to move forward Nepal's security and development. The new security architecture requires fulfilling human development, security-citizens ties, economic, diplomatic, military and communications effectiveness, anticipatory planning and security alertness and early disaster preparedness.

Vice chair of Former Police Council Nepal Dr Chuda Bahadur Shrestha said that it had become urgent to effectively implement the national security in view of several internal challenges that posed threat to the country's security and sovereignty.

Paper presentation and discussions

Manish Bajracharya, project manager at the National Business Initiative, presented his working paper 'Nepal's natural and industrial resources, trade and transit and their relation to national security'.

The gist of his paper

Economic security is a vital national interest. Recognising the relative weight of internal and external threats to economic security, the National Security Policy must clearly establish the guiding principles to prioritize different strategies and actions in this front. A lot of preventive and corrective actions that fall under the domain of interior security wings and the governance system need to be undertaken. At the same time, a significant portion of pro-activeness is also needed in the economic diplomacy of the nation.

Nepal needs to fully capitalise on our natural and human resources and take an immediate run-off in industrialisation. At the same time, national security planners should be wary that we do not fall prey to resources curse and becomes victims of fresh conflicts and civilian unrest. This requires that our economic development be broad-based and be seen that economic dividends are fairly distributed among the diverse ethnicities and classes. Furthermore, we need to end our aid and remittance dependency and substitute it with more industries and international trade. This calls for region-wise transit agreement backed up by connecting infrastructure like roads and railways and hassle free customs procedures. This requires regional projection of national power and can be achieved only through a strong economic diplomacy using full spectrum of economic tool of the state. It should promote business and attract foreign business, investment, technology and tourists.

The internal security situation in Nepal is expected to remain fluid during the prolonged transition phase. Given the limited state capacity, the business community will continue to be targeted by criminals as well as the politically motivated interests groups. In this context, there is very strong need to recognise the significance of economic dimension of security policy. However, the way the national and regional politics is unfolding, it can be expected that the narrative of state-centric security will be further strengthened leaving the needs of business community unanswered. When security officials ignore or shy away from the business, criminal and illicit forces take their space. Therefore, a closer relationship between security wings and business community and healthy partnership can create win-win situation for both business as well as the nation.

Foreign affairs expert Hiranya Lal Shrestha presented his working paper 'Nepal's foreign relations and its impact on the national security'. The summary of the paper is as follows:
Several factors such as the ground reality of Nepal's foreign relations, the priorities of the political parties at the helm of power and the policies of maintaining closeness or distance with friendly and powerful nations impact the national security policies. Nepal's new constitution has clearly outlined its foreign policies and national security policies and the major political parties should follow them.

Nepal has become a country of geopolitical interest as the big neighbours and powerful countries have indulged in their gambit and one-upmanship to overtake their rivals and assert their influences here.

With its Nehru Doctrine, India has been making very attempt to bring Nepal under its security umbrella as reflected in the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty and the related correspondences and different events but Nepal rejected the Indian patronage and has been independent and neutral. It is attempting to pursue non-aligned policies with the southern and northern neighbours.

Northern neighbour - China- has shown no inclination to interfere in the internal affairs of Nepal but wants that Nepal firmly stick to 'one China policy' and address its legitimate security concerns with regard to free Tibet activities.

With the return of Hong Kong to the mainland, western powers have made Nepal as their watching post, and are assisting free Tibet campaign and lobbying for the proliferation of Christianity. They have increased their relations with the Nepal Army- the old and permanent institution- through joint military drill, training and visit exchange programmes with the end of monarchy.

Nepal should not hesitate to accept the genuine concerns, goodwill and cooperation of friendly nations but it must discard the interventionist stratagem aimed at supporting one and weakening another. The Nepalese soil must not be allowed for the third power to play its game against any of our neighbours.

Nepal should extend cooperation to all in a fight against terrorism that has posed a threat to global peace and order. It should curb cross-border crimes such as smuggling of illegal drugs, arms, human trafficking and kidnapping of people for ransom money from the victims.

With the foreign interference and internal weakness, a soft belly may emerge within the nation. Thus, Nepal should promptly resolve the Terai agitation even by adopting stringent measures. Nepal should immediately stop the flow of money into the religious field in order to maintain religious and social harmony and peace.

Ramesh Bhandari, retired investigation director at the National Investigation Department, presented his working paper 'Implementation aspect of National Security Policy in the context of geo-political and socio-cultural situation of Nepal.' The gist of the paper is as follows:

The national security is a wide-ranging topic that includes peace, social unity, economic peace, cultural tolerance and ecological balance. Peace cannot be gained by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. If peace was attained only through force, many nations would not have undergone disintegration, conflict and revolt. Even in Nepal, the Maoist insurgency would not have come to an end. There are many nations that are running the affairs of the state without army and policy. To ensure national security, the people, political parties, the government, bureaucracy and security forces should have proper understanding and the nation has to enforce effective diplomacy with other nations.

The nation's natural environment is also linked to national security. The instances of ecological imbalances such as exposing the ridge of mountains owing to the snow melting, damage of biological diversity, natural disaster and health problems will have long term effects on the country. Likewise, the security of the capital of nation also falls within the ambit of national security. The capital city- Kathmandu- should be secured not only from the military point of view but also from the aspects of supplies of goods, infectious disease and environment.

The socio-cultural aspects should be kept in mind while discussing the national security. They are about the mutual goodwill, tolerance, unity, conflict and competition. The socio-cultural dimension of national security includes basic cultural concepts, values, changes, outlooks, motivation and personality. The cultural problems strain the national security. Ethnicity, ethnocentrism and elitism generate superior and inferior feelings that gradually rise to ego and conflicts.

The national security policy should have proactive role. This requires proper analysis of socio-cultural aspects of the society in order to avoid the problems that threaten the national security in the short and long terms. Intelligence has an important role to diffuse this threat. In order to implement the national security effectively, following elements should be taken into account.

Geopolitical Setting

  1. Comparison of the topographic and population size and examination of geographical and political condition.
  2. The natural means and resources and their utilisation and the concern of the international community about them.
  3. The condition of transport and communications, accessibility and access.
  4. Economic condition, the prospect of economic growth and its rate.
  5. The condition of development: education, health and employment opportunities.
  6. Domestic and inter-country trade and transit.

Socio-cultural Setting

  1. The ethnic structure, division and population.
  2. The condition of protection of language.
  3. Social standardisation and discrimination.
  4. Cultural values and ethnic mindset
  5. Class and ethnic identity

Rajendra Thapa, retired Brigadier General of Nepal Army, presented his working paper 'the national security policy: an analysis'. The gist of his paper is as follows:

With the promulgation of the new constitution, we have entered into a state of dilemma that marks fearful future, and most frustrated and negative phase in 250-year history of the nation building.

At a time when the Maoist movement had already upset the Nepalese consciousness by declaring that their social existence lies in separate ethnicities, Indian establishment succeeded to set in motion a concept that hill and Terai are two different geographies and the people through the Madhes movement. The first amendment to the constitution has partially accepted the principle that geography has little existence before population. The growing threat posed by the geographical disintegration has threatened the people's integrity, which has eventfully endangered the national security.

There are two types of threats- actual and perceived threat. The threat to vital national interest is the main threat and the national security policy should be formed bearing in mind these threats. The actual threats that directly weaken the nation exist in latent or manifest form according to the situation and it cannot be fully rooted out. The perceived threat is not direct but it is connected to the national security from every aspect. The Sikkimization of Nepal is the perceived threat. Likewise, inviting China as a deterrent to India is another perceived threat. It is worth recalling that the Maoist movement, 12-point agreement, April movement and the Madhes agitation - all Delhi-sponsored ventures- had negated the Nepalese sovereignty. It is necessary to remove perceived threat through counter measures but the major parties are unlikely to pluck up courage to do this as they are obsessed with power politics.

Nepal's national security can be ensured by bolstering independence, geographical integrity, sovereignty, social and national unity, economic prosperity, all-round development, self-reliance and freedom from the virtual dependency on India. We have written such a constitution that gradually creates a breeding ground for instability. Only by a strong government can guarantee the security of the nation and people. But, with the proportional representation electoral system and absence of threshold, the government will always be unstable and the politicians will accrue undue benefits all the time. Nepal faces a grave security threat if there is not economic development, enough employment opportunities, good governance, market management, security of the people's life and property and corruption control. If the security policy fails to incorporate these subjects, it will be merely a scrap of paper.

Comments from the floor

Former secretary Bharat Thapa said that every citizen has rights to know about the national security policy that should guarantee the security of people's livelihood and property and the border of the country. The business sector needs to embrace professional code of conduct. Our traditional skill is rich but it has been neglected while the agriculture still depends on monsoon. The Indian blockade has given us both pain and lesson. The national security policy should repose a confidence on a citizen that s/he can live a successful life by sweating in his/her country. Min Bishwokarma said that the political culture is negative that hampered forming the national security policy. It should be linked with national needs and interests. The Nepalese diversity is not a problem. Internally, there should be equality and externally the country should strengthen diplomacy. Nationality should be based on equality and dignity, not on colour. Professor MP Lohani said that when our own vital institutions are weak, how can they implement the national security? It has become necessary to ascertain whether or not the foreign forces are abetting and aiding the disintegrative forces in Nepal. The state and the people should not be weak. The whole nation should stand united. Geo-politics is invariably connected to the foreign policy. There is much talk about reviewing the 1950 treaty but it is not reviewed. India thinks that Nepal has limited security. We have to address the security concern of our neighbours. Border should be regulated but citizenship issue needs to be addressed in the first place.

Lal Babu Pandit, former minister

The national security policy should not be confined to a paper. We form policies but hardly implement them. Don't be pessimistic. There are two tendencies- begging and running away from the problem. The central question is: How much do we work with a feeling of Nepaliness? There are many politicians who survive on foreign dole-out. We need to expose those who pursue political career in the backing of foreign aid and blessing. Neighbouring nations spend around Rs 200 million to grant scholarships to the offspring of Nepalese politicians, bureaucrats and senior security officials. No one has right to demand the secession of the nation in the name of press freedom or human rights.

Lawmaker Surendra Chaudhari said that it was necessary to understand about the nation and its domain. The national security is the part of the global security. The nation is not just geography. Diversity can be an asset when it is enlightened. When it is politicised, it create danger and gives birth to the belligerent revolt. Social cohesion, international development, sovereignty and national security are interlinked with each other. Diplomacy is power. It is extension of wisdom. Sanu Raj Silpakar said that there was the need for forming employers' council at the national level instead of industrial squad. Tika Dhamala, former aide-de-camp of late king Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, said that nationalism was under threat. Ethnicity, regionalism and factional politics have weakened it. Dilli Acharya said that the private sector should be responsible. Border expert Buddhi Narayan Shrestha said that the protection of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the people's life and property form the key components of the national security. The border management should not be undermined. The open border between Nepal and India has posed threat to security. It should be regulated to curb the destructive activities. Former secretary at the Ministry of Home Ananta Raj Pandey said that it was treason to grant citizenship to non-citizens of the country but the genuine citizens should not be denied it. Former chief of the National Investigation Department Bishnu Raj Panta said that the nation was not still capable of making independent decision. We have to learn from the big neighbours and should able to keep our sovereignty intact. The people should sacrifice for dignity and independence. Brigadier general Loka Bahadur Thapa said that internal conflict has endangered the national security.

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