Nepal’s National Security Council and National Security Policy: Internal and Geopolitical Sensitivities
As a sovereign and independent Himalayan nation, Nepal, holds a special geographical location in South Asia. The country borders the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China in the North and, on the east, south and west, shares an open border with five India states, namely Sikkim and West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Nepal’s geopolitical sensitivity arises mainly from the fact that both of its immediate neighbors are aspiring to lead the future world, and each trying to influence Nepal in its own ways. Often, such influences have extended beyond their traditional apparatuses to managing Nepal’s political and administrative affairs. Most explicitly, India’s involvement and interests in major political shifts of the country beginning rightly since 1950s has manifested through various coercive measures and soft assistances. The southern neighbor, for instance has so far imposed four economic embargos on Nepal (1962, 1971, 1989, 2015) and border encroachment/deployment of the military in the disputed land (Kalapani) to achieve its objectives illustrating India’s perceived geopolitical interest in Nepal.
In the backdrop of Nepal’s geopolitical sensitivity arising from growing interests of its immediate neighbors, this study, primarily, seeks to understand: whether and to what extent do the National Security Council (NSC) and the National Security Policy (NSP) take geopolitical sensitivity of the country into account while suggesting the government on various security and national defense issues. In doing so, the study compares and examines the structure and objectives of NSC of 1990 and that of 2015 to understand the roles of the National Security Council for Nepal’s security governance. This is essential because NSC, as mentioned in the Constitution of Nepal, is responsible for making recommendation to the Government of Nepal and the Council of Ministers for the formulation of policies on overall security and defense and those guiding national interests of the country.
For this purpose, scholarly literature, domestic legislations and policies on national security and defense will be reviewed. This will, likely, contribute to the study by accumulating the information and details on security mechanisms, national interests, sources of threats to national security and operation of law enforcing agencies in the country. In addition to this, the NSC stakeholders including former defense ministers, defense secretaries, former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), spokespersons of law enforcement agencies such as Nepal Army (NA), Armed Police Force (APF) among others, security experts, former military generals, security experts and media persons will be interviewed through semi structured interviews. The primary data collected through interviews will bring the practicalities security governance in particular and roles of NSC in general.
Safeguarding sovereign independence, territorial integrity and dignity, border security, economic wellbeing and prosperity are deemed as as the basic elements of the national interests of Nepal in NSP (2016). This paper will be helpful in re-envisioning the national interest, security threats and comprehensive security understanding from Nepalese perspective. In doing so, it will advocate for the equi-distance engagement with our immediate neighbors and beyond by taking special attention to the geopolitical sensitivity. This study will also bring into attention Nepal’s role through effective security and defense mechanisms in advancing regional security in South Asia as a whole. And to this, it is essential that Nepal balances her international relation including India and China.
Keywords: National Security Council, Nepal, Security Governance, Security Consensus, South Asia