Friday, 3 December, 2021

A Politician's Perspective On Politics And Statecraft


Madan Kumar Bhattarai

Rabindra Mishra, a well-known name in the field of journalism and radio broadcasting, writing, social awareness, civil society activism and a new brand of politics, has brought out his fourth book. The new work entitled Raajneetisangai Raajkaaj: Kalyaankaari Loktantrako Prastaabanaa can roughly be translated as Politics and Statecraft: A Preamble for Welfare Democracy. It has an impressive cover design depicting the front gate of Singha Durbar, country's central secretariat, with the statue of King Prithivi Narayan Shah the Great, architect of modern Nepal.

Mishra has studied English literature, journalism and international politics in Nepal, Pakistan and the United Kingdom respectively. Primarily based on articles he has published in recent years, the book is divided into 38 essays. Besides, the section on preface is divided into four parts for the sake of clarity. The author has expressed gratefulness to some people who have played their roles in various sectors of our national horizon including two well-known economists, Dr. Swarnim Wagle and Dr. Bishwa Paudel and former Foreign Minister and Ambassador Dr. Bhekh Bahadur Thapa among others. Wagle had two stints in the Planning Commission including as its Vice-Chairman while Paudel is now heading the planning body.

The title of the quite readable book is derived from amalgamation of two chapters, 7th and 15th of the most thought-provoking exercise that the writer has undertaken. There is absolutely no doubt that the book is quite comprehensive in terms of giving a succinct picture of the country in various fields of governance. Stressing that politics and statecraft are intimately connected and calling them two wheels of the same chariot, Mishra tends to focus more seriously on statecraft terming it as more objective domain than politics that he considers simply as an abstract phenomenon.
The author has given reference to a number of names who have contributed in their own ways. He quotes eight-time Finance Minister and almost a permanent fixture in post-1990 politics, Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, that Nepal's main problem is governance. Taking Professor Krishna Khanal's resignation from the post of political adviser as a glaring example of paucity of the art of statecraft on the part of Nepal's Prime Minister, Mishra calls for suitable improvements in both politics and statecraft along with commensurate changes in the thought process of both stakeholders and common populace.

The author gives special importance to exhortations of his mother that he should always desist from the evils of bribery, corruption and exploitation of poor and downtrodden. Likewise, he pays special tributes to his late father Manuj Babu Mishra who excelled as a litterateur, artist and thinker after passing his formative age in distress and difficulty when he and his younger brother were rendered orphans and taken care by their step-mother.

Mishra has directed his attacks against a host of prevailing trends in our society. The 14th chapter is entitled five attributes of successful leadership. He proscribes desirable qualities as integrity, competency, common sense, ideology and vision. Dr. Swarnim Wagle fully endorses these factors as of supreme importance in the context of prevailing experience of statecraft at global level. He also hails the 15th chapter relating to Preamble of Welfare Democracy as quite innovative. Besides, Wagle interprets it as a solid economic-political document highlighting inalienable relations existing among forces of liberal welfare state, dynamic private sector and equitable prosperity in our context.

For this humble self as a diplomat, at least two chapters are very interesting and stimulating. Chapter 3rd has the interesting title, Non-state 'State Visits'. It focuses on patterns of exchanges of high-level visits primarily between Nepal and India with a reference to Sino-India visits. The writer passes severe strictures against both political leadership and Foreign Ministry for their misplaced zeal and priority in declaring visits as state without going into their importance and context, thereby losing credibilty and compromising country's image and prestige.

Listing fundamental characteristics of a state visit agreed at international level, Mishra attacks our side for unnecessary penchant for all sorts of visits including state, irrespective of their merits. He also criticises prevailing practice vis-à-vis India in terms of ambassadorship as none of our ambassadors accredited to New Delhi since the political change of 1990 save the sole example of Dr. Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, has completed his or her tenure. The chapter also questions other bizarre practices of ours undermining both strength and credibility of our institutions.

These include major visits in the absence of ambassadors at the station, unncessarily big delegations over and above the ceilings prescribed by the host countries, requesting invitations for state dinners and other programs beyond the limit set by the host side and official talks on a so-called one-to-one basis with full delegation on the other side, with not even a notetaker on our part.
The other chapter is 31st that is entitled Envoys and 'Envoys' of Embassies. This portion portrays some uneasy moments in Nepali diplomacy ranging from the unannounced visit of Samanta Kumar Goel, head of India's foreign intelligence wing, RAW, to more complex areas like behaviour of ambassadors accredited to Nepal and epidemic penchant on our part to don the mantle of envoys and ambassadors, irrespective of aptitude, inclination or training.

The writer also concentrates on core area of the code of conduct. Mishra stresses on scrupulous pursuance of the code by all, an area talked at length but followed more in its breach than observance as we find general weariness to follow protocol and code of conduct. He quotes a rather sarcastic observation of a senior diplomat that despite different streams of track-I, track-II and track-III diplomacy being practised, those in authority in Nepal should refrain from trackless diplomacy.

The writer concludes his observation in the last chapter with a note of caution for leaders who may be good-intentioned but not political in the sense that their conduct and behaviour remained hardly political. This has obviously been done with a clear message that the Bibeksheel Sajha Party that he belongs to, promises a polity with a difference.
I congratulate Rabindra Mishra for his wonderful book and wish him all the best in his endeavours for bringing about a qualitative change in Nepal's context in various fields including core areas of diplomacy, politics and statecraft.

Bhattarai is a former Foreign Secretary and author involved in the study of Nepal’s foreign relations from a historical perspec tive. He is av ailable on