Pluralism and Foreign Policy

Prof. Ganga Thapa

August 27, 2019

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Pluralism and Foreign Policy
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One of the attractions of a federal system is to ensure for its citizens’ security and equality among each other, they are likely to satisfy the citizen’s right to participate in bodies with political authority. But while there is much progress towards decentralization, a decisive reform of the institutions is required for a wide range of social and cultural rights.

Of course, proper application of rule of law, the representative government ruling on behalf of people and spread of pluralist democracy up to the grassroots level that can guarantee widespread active participation in democratic politics and justice and fairness are to be ensured.

It is anticipated that the closer the institutions to the citizens the more significant their participation will be. This will be achieved, however, only if the powers required to secure the rights are distributed appropriately among the different levels of government within a federal system.

There has been a trend toward promoting democratic power through enough sharing activities to be useful to policymakers, notwithstanding the path ahead to achieve prosperity and strengthen international relations remains bumpy

Howsoever beneficial it could be, citizens in a democracy should be free from hierarchical power and remain protected from those seeking to convert their concentrated authority into privileges for themselves and their cronies.

Precisely in order to thwart such a danger, Rousseau (Essay on the Origin of Inequality: Several Editions) prescribes for a republic that is small, simple, participatory, and ever vigilant. And Niccolo Machiavelli, the famed author of The Prince, warns that the most vulnerable threats to a popular government emerge from the ambition and greed of the wealthy.

Since the end of absolute monarchy in 1990, the competition among political parties, presence of powerful media and especially free elections have helped the promotion of foreign policy and other pertinent moves toward pluralism and accommodation through international engagements and negotiations.

There has been a trend toward promoting democratic power through enough sharing activities to be useful to policymakers, notwithstanding the path ahead to achieve prosperity and strengthen international relations remains bumpy.

In particular, since the states are opening up their priorities vis-à-vis other nations in a globalized world, the cooperation among the political and private-sector elites favors the schemes that help enhance the prospects of democracy with predictable opportunities to policymakers to push the international system toward its own preferences and interests.

In view of the new realities, even Nepali case is yet to be explicitly defined, although it has worked well while having access to international forums. Quite frankly, we tend to claim that the responsibility for governing the society is not evenly distributed nor is it accessible to all Nepalese. Nevertheless, it may not be surprising that foreign policy is often taken as a response to a challenge which may come from anywhere in the international system.

Small states should play power-politics more on reason and less on emotion. Yet it has been argued that its success depends very much on the institutional framework in which it operates.

One must not overestimate the ability of small states and we must know their limitations on how their geographical size affects foreign policy objectives in order to make their voices heard (Gillissen 1994). The general idea underlying this concept is that small states are not able to push the idea concerning their national interests in the international forum. Small states should play power-politics more on reason and less on emotion. Yet it has been argued that its success depends very much on the institutional framework in which it operates.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has perhaps been no public issue more important than a foreign policy that has put a daunting challenge to the theory and practice of democracy in a constructive and thoughtful manner. In fact, the demise of Cold War bipolarity has brought about dramatic changes in the geopolitical position of many countries that are expected to display noticeable changes in their foreign policy behavior and thus they present excellent test cases for drawing scholarly attention to find incisive guidance for policy formulation.

Not only do foreign policy and democracy are inseparable, but these must also be dealt with together since democratic control over the foreign policy is necessary to promote tolerance and mutual respect. It is more so in the context of countries that lack experience in having sustained efforts toward setting up democratic processes and institutions. This is basically to formulate constructive approaches which are invariably shaped through high aspirations that are crucial to enhance the level of mutual understanding throughout the world.

Small countries’ foreign policies always face significant challenges, but this is particularly so when they border two major powers. Such is the case for landlocked Nepal, which must navigate the always tense Sino-Indian relationship. Nepal traditionally has had a much closer relationship with India, with which it shares both longstanding trade and cultural ties.

Nepal’s democratization, which proceeded through several stages from before the nation’s civil war to the writing of a new constitution in 2015, put new strains on the relationship. An informal blockade of trade with Nepal that same year disrupted ties for several months, but recent bilateral visits have improved cooperation.

Meanwhile, Nepal has welcomed increasing levels of Chinese investment in Nepali infrastructure and industrial projects. The Chinese have also aided Nepal’s military, causing some concern in New Delhi, and allowed Nepal to join its Belt and Road Initiative.  Nepali officials have also reached beyond its neighbors to seek better relations with European and Asian states.

The most serious lapse, from an empirical point of view involving both political as well as strategic concerns, is the exclusion of China from BIMSTEC that shares its common border with Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Myanmar. Besides, Nepal’s involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its participation in the US-sponsored Indo-Pacific Strategy is likely to present varying degrees of complexity; it is not yet clear to what extent these preferences would actually translate into policy changes.

So, it is imperative that Nepal must explain about its changing preferences that would call for important and wider shifts in the policymaking arena and estimate all possible ramifications in order to avoid political fissures as the source of future rivalry and tension.

Ultimately, effective foreign policy for Nepal will depend on the success of continued democratization and state institutionalization. A fully functioning democracy will be better able to relate to both the region’s major powers and the other small states of South and Southeast Asia.

Views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the stance of Khabarhub.

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