Putting Robust National Security Policy In
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
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
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
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
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
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.
- Comparison of the topographic and population size and examination
of geographical and political condition.
- The natural means and resources and their utilisation and
the concern of the international community about them.
- The condition of transport and communications, accessibility
- Economic condition, the prospect of economic growth and
- The condition of development: education, health and employment
- Domestic and inter-country trade and transit.
- The ethnic structure, division and population.
- The condition of protection of language.
- Social standardisation and discrimination.
- Cultural values and ethnic mindset
- 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
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
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