Statement by Hon. Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, at the Panel on “Big Politics & New Challenges” organized during the 2nd Raisina Dialogue, New Delhi, 17 January 2017
His Excellency M J Abkar, Minister of State for External Affairs
His Excellency Hamid Karzai, Former President of Afghanistan,
His Excellency Kevin Rudd, Former Prime Minister of Australia,
Mr. Sunjay Joshi, Director of ORF
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great honour to be invited to speak before the distinguished participants of Raisina Dialogue. I congratulate Ministry of External Affairs of India and Observer Research Foundation for successfully steering India’s flagship conference on issues of global importance.
I am confident that the deliberations during this dialogue would be helpful in generating new insights on how we can act as regional and global community to overcome the persistent as well as emerging challenges we face and navigate towards greater peace, security, development and prosperity. We appreciate India’s commitment to contribute to this end through the annual holding of this Dialogue.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Although we have achieved a remarkable success in global economic growth, technological advancement and unprecedented level of globalization, we are witnessing unexpected political developments, tragic humanitarian crises in several zones of conflict, and brutal terror attacks around the world.
New fault-lines are emerging. Uncertainties are visible. Cradle of liberal world order and opennessis yielding to the appeals of closed nationalism. Places that led the idea of free flow of goods and services are now talking about barriers and restrictions. We live today amidst perplexing contradictions.
None of us deny that the enormous challenges humanity confronts today do not have unilateral solution. Solutions are multilateral. Yet these institutions suffer more than ever today from our own skepticism and lack of accommodative spirit.
Reform of these institutions so as to make them inclusive and reflective of changing realities has remained elusive.
In 2015, we demonstrated our collective ability to address global challenges by adopting SDGs and Paris Agreement. Nevertheless,agreements on several critical agendas of multilateral process have been hard to reach. Implementation of agreed agendas is another big challenge.
We have seen significant evolution of regional institutions — in scope as well as substance. New regional and sub-regional groupings are gaining footing in global politics. Yet, in many regions process of regional integration is marching backward.
In terms of knowledge, technology, trade and investment, the world is more integrated than ever. Thanks to the technological innovation, physical distance has evaporated. But, backlashes against globalization are building up. Political developmentsare apparently moving in a reverse gear. Rhetoric of barriers rather than bridges is getting popular.
Years ago, the world celebrated the end of Cold War and was prompted to nurture hope that big power rivalry would reduce the costly militarization. Two and half decades later, the world’s military expenditure is historic high and many times higher than what we collectively spend in people’s health and education.
We saw the ideological rivalry was fading and rule of law and democracy were gaining ground. Twenty-five years later, democratic institutions and polity have made tremendous strides, but still face challenges of enormous scale.
New forces of division in the form of sectarian violence, religious extremism and terrorism are gaining ground posing great threat to individual liberty, democratic institutions and rule of law.
Never in history had our world been so affluent. Yet the gap between rich and poor is big and alarmingly visible. Contradictions like these lead to a host of colossal challenges which we face today and which we must find ways to address.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Though absolute number of poor has declined drastically, poverty, hunger and underdevelopment are the world’s major challenges today as they were before. One fourth of the members of international community are still the least developed countries struggling to provide a minimum decent living to their people.
Despite decades of efforts, their quest for developmental transformation has received setbacks. They are constrained by lack of resources. International support measures have not been either effective or adequate.
In the highly interconnected world, these countries tend to bear the most painful brunt of global crises and market fluctuations of every kind.
Most of these countries struggled to achieve Millennium Development Goals and are now facing an uphill task to pursue Sustainable Development Goals. They face the threat of shrinking development assistance and such assistance is increasingly diverted away from much-needed critical infrastructure and productive sector. Trade preference aimed to enhance these countries’ export share increasingly faces preference erosion.
Threat of climate change has become more pronounced than ever. When it comes to vagaries and vicissitudes of Mother Nature, the poor are the first to suffer as they lack capacity to adapt.
A low industrialized country like Nepal emits insignificantly low amount of green house gases and has no contribution to global warming. But impact of global warming is already visible in terms of erratic climate conditions and melting of glaciers and ices in Himalayan region, which would not only trigger problems in Nepal but also pose threat of water crisis in south Asian region.
Those who have resource and technology are preoccupied with maintaining momentum of growth and affluence while countries on the other side of developmental spectrum are distressed by how their people survive amidst drying farmlands and diminishing water sources.
We are, therefore, concerned about how effectively the Paris Agreement will be implemented particularly by big actors and whether this will be sufficient to curb global warming within the scientifically prescribed limit.
Terrorism continues to remain the alarming threat to peace and stability at the global as well as at our own region. Resolute international and regional actions including binding legal instrument are essential to fight this menace. In our pursuit to defeat terrorism, we should not limit ourselves in words; our actions should be resolute.
Migration has become an inevitable phenomenon of the contemporary world. Movement of people has brought both benefits and challenges. Their contribution to both the development and growth of host economies as well as countries of origin are immense. Welfare and protection of the rights and well being of migrant workers must be our common priority.
As we strive for rapid socio-economic development, efforts to attain the universal and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) remain paramount. In this regard, sound development policies and frameworks backed by proper institutional mechanism, adequate resources and innovative methods of implementation are essential along with robust international partnership and fulfillment of agreed commitments.
Energy security is an important component of sustainable development and economic security. Energy cooperation should be directed towards ensuring energy security for all.
In this context, development of hydropower in Nepalis the area that promises great opportunities for partnership. We have not been able to fully exploit its huge water resources potential despite the pressing need of clean energy in our region. Investment and technology, enhanced inter connectivity and access to power markets are essential to harness the full potential. I am happy to state that Nepal and India are working towards open market access in power trade at bilateral and sub regional level.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Nepal is strongly convinced that greater regional integration is beneficial to all and guided by this conviction, my country has actively contributed to the regional processes of SAARC and BIMSTEC. However, evolution of SAARC process has been painfully slow to achieve regional integration and we must address its root causes to materialize the noble vision of regional prosperity and integration.
We are also working actively in sub-regional framework of BBIN to achieve greater cross border connectivity and cooperation in vital sectors of trade, transit and energy.
Closer to our neighbourhood, Nepal and India have been consolidating a deeper partnership for growth and prosperity. Our challenges are common and successful practices on one side of the border areindeed worth emulating on the other side as well.
We are inspired by the phenomenal progress India is making in all fronts ranging from economic growth, science and technology and rule of law to consolidation of democracy. How we can rise as a close neighbour with India’s rise is our key interest.We are impressed by some of the bold initiatives India has taken under Prime Minister Modiji’s leadership to ensure digital and financial access to the poor and fight against corruption. Nepal is also working towards these goals.
Prime Minister Modiji sparked great optimism when he articulated the vision of ‘sabkasaath, sabkaabikas‘ and neighbourhood first policy. We like to see greater translation of this vision into concrete deliverables — be it in the form of more trade,investment and connectivity in the form of railways, highways and transmission infrastructure;and mega projects as joint undertaking.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On socio-political context at home, I am pleased to share with this august gathering that Nepal has achieved transformation of historic proportion in the past ten years. Transition has been lengthy, costly and at times full of uncertainties. But our leadership has been able to manage the complicated process with due diligence.
Decade long armed conflict gave way to peaceful political process. And just last year the historic promulgation of the Constitution marked the realization of long-held dream of Nepali people for inclusive and democratic polity. We are thankful to India’s continued support in our quest for peace and democracy.
The Constitution now provides a rights-based and forward-looking foundation of the country’s governance and a framework to accommodate the socially, culturally and geographically diverse Nepali society. Our efforts are ongoing to accommodate everyone within the constitutional framework by addressing their legitimate concerns and we are confident that we will succeed. As a major step in the implementation of the Constitution, we will hold elections at local, provincial and national levels within a year.
We want to utilize our full potential. The goodwill, solidarity and support from our neighbours and international community will be important as we move towards effective implementation of the Constitution and undertaking of the vital tasks of socio-economic transformation of Nepal.
Despite having suffered from decade long conflict and then long political transition, Nepal has made significant progress in social development. We want to build on that.
Needless to say that peaceful, prosperous and developed Nepal can be an instrumental force for peace and security and a catalyst for a more constructive partnership in the region and beyond.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I believe that today’s problems can be resolved by harmonizing national, institutional, communal and individual interests with regional and global developments.
For this, we need to build new Highways of Hope and Healings connecting all states and peoples.
We need to emerge out of our cynicism as well as complacence.
We need to build bridges rather than barriers.
We need to act in synergy rather than silos.
We need to embrace connectivity rather than cynical cocoons.
We need to embrace rule of law and shun violence as means to bring changes
As we face unprecedented challenge to tackle the problems of global scale, we do have enormous opportunities too.
Such opportunities exist in the form of growing technological prowess, increasing physical connectivity, larger educated mass worldwide, greater degree of cultural interface and many more.
The dexterity and innovativeness of youth is the key for our future. It is the key to build resilience, address challenges and to provide practical remedies to the maladies of world. We must engage the large population of youth in mainstream of ‘big politics’. To nurture their creativity, we must educate their curiosity. To channelize their energy, we must fill them with positive purpose.
We should build on these assets to transform the world into a better place to live in for ourselves as well as the generations to come; for people living in affluence as well as those in abjection; for countries in the upper rung of development spectrum as well as those in the tail end.
To change, society must create the environment for the intelligent and diligent to prosper and excel but protect the weak and vulnerable. Only then islands of prosperity expand to include oceans of denial and deprivation; only winners take all mindset may make everyone loser. A great Indian soul Swami Vivekananda said long ago “we are what our thoughts make us”.
Indeed this is the moment for making hard choices if we comprehend the complexities of the present and prepare for the new age together. Nothing less than a robust and transformative political, economic, social and national security and foreign policy architecture will give outlet from the problems we face. Leadership of wisdom and courage, ethics and morality can create a new collective consciousness bringing everyone together in the culture of peace and tolerance, coexistence and cooperation as best represented by Buddha and Gandhi. Inspired by them, can our dialogue reflect on a new politics of liberty, law and security, economics of free enterprise with equity, society of social justice, caring and sharing, culture of reward for good work and punishment for bad and policy of friendship with all and hostility with none as the foundation of this new global architecture for the 21st Century?
As responsible governments, and leaders of society and businesses, we should ensure fulfillment of people’s desires and their prosperity and freedom. We have the capacity, means and resources to address the challenges and ensure prosperity. What we need is the will power to achieve this and as we do so, we must be reminded to carry along the countries and societies that are languishing at the bottom of the development ladder.
I wish for the success of the 2nd edition of Raisina Dialogue.