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FEATURE SERVICE: Why BP doctrine matters in Nepal’s diplomacy?

FEATURE SERVICE: Why BP doctrine matters in Nepal’s diplomacy?


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    Nepal’s democratic icon, first people’s elected Prime Minister and literary giant BP Koirala breathed his last on 21 July 1982 in Kathmandu. He breathed his last shortly after his return from Thailand. He was undergoing lung cancer treatment in Thailand capital.Koirala’s demise was also reported in The New York Times. The news published on 22 July 1982 headlined, ‘B.P. Koirala, Former Prime Minister of Nepal’ read, ”Bisheswar Prasad Koirala, who served as Prime Minister during a brief period of Western-style parliamentary government, died at his home today. He was 69 years old.

    He died in two hours after he was flown back in a coma from a hospital in Bangkok where he had been receiving treatment for lung cancer. His son, Prof Dr Shashank Koirala, who was also an eye specialist, said his father returned home after Thai doctors had concluded that his illness was terminal.”BP Doctrine in Nepal’s diplomacy?

    Nepal is the oldest surviving nation in the whole of South Asia. When it comes to a written foreign policy, Nepal is so late. Nepal’s first foreign policy was formally unveiled on 6 December 2020. The then Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali took the lead to announce the first written policy of Nepal in the 31-page booklet. Besides ongoing diplomatic practices being adherent to Non-Alignment Movement, UN Charter and Panchsheel Principles, among others. Nepal’s’ new foreign policy talks about ‘digital diplomacy’, ‘public diplomacy’, ‘track two diplomacy’ and the likes.

    BP doctrine can also be a good source for the implementation of Nepal’s written foreign policy. What is described as Nepal’s foreign policy goal is practically implemented by BP Koirala. BP Koirala was PM for almost 18 months from 27 May 1959 to 15 December 1960. His role as premier of the country has left some diplomatic statecraft that can be summarized as ‘BP doctrine’. Even in the times of his standing as political leader only, his diplomatic advocacy went in a specified way.

    Balancing act within neighbors and pro-Nepal policy

    One of the important ingredients of BP doctrine on diplomacy is balancing act within neighbors- India and China. BP Koirala, while remaining in power both as a Prime Minister and a founder leader of Nepali Congress, adopted actions and approaches on balancing act between India and China. He happily welcomed India’s facilitation to bring in the dawn of Nepal’s democracy in 1951.

    On 1 January 1951, a 3-point agreement was inked between exiled king Tribhuwan, Nepali Congress and Rana Regime paving way for forming the Rana-Congress cabinet on 18 February 1951. Commemorating this event, 18 February is celebrated as ‘Democracy Day’ in Nepal. This democratic transition was possible by Indian facilitation. However, India was unhappy when Nepal inked diplomatic relationship with China on 1 August 1955 when Mahendra had sacked Matrika Prasad Koirala cabinet bringing his own direct rule. BP Koirala welcomed this move. He has written about this on his diary of that day which is published by ‘Shikha Books’ of Kathmandu in the title ‘BP Koirala ko Dayari’ (roughly translated as the diary of BP Koirala). Some congress archivists also said BP Koirala had proposed to ink King-Congress-Rana agreement within Nepal (Biratnagar).

    BP Koirala had also opposed Indian military posts in Nepal’s northern borders with China which existed from 1952 to 1970. He had raised this issue repeatedly and had attracted angry reaction from Indian journalists. Koirala said about this in his diary. Koirala wanted friendly relationship from both neighbors but as one versus another within Nepali territory. For China’s inclusion in the UN, BP Koirala advocated in the 15th General Assembly of 1960.

    In his address to the assembly on 19 November 1960 as Nepal’s PM, BP Koirala talked about urgent need to include China. He said, ”The United Nations can neither become universal nor can it reflect the political realities existing in the world outside until the People’s Republic of China is given rightful place in our organization. The United Nations will not be able to fulfill effectively some of its most important purpose and functions until the People’s Republic of China is brought in.”It might be owing to his balancing act between two neighbors, BP has been accommodated in ‘On Diplomacy’ book of Mao and the library of Jawaharlal Nehru.
    Regionalism and internationalism

    BP Koirala was a clear-eyed leader on regional and international issue. He had participated in India’s independence movement and had supported weapons to Bangladesh for its independence movement. As a noted regional leader of international socialist movement, he is equally remembered for his support for democratic Myanmar (then Burma). Even in his only speech at UN in 1960, BP had raised the issue of Algerian independence and Magnolia’s inclusion in the UN. During his premiership on 1 June 1960, Nepal established formal diplomatic relationships with Israel becoming the first South Asian nation to do so. In the August of 1960, he had made a 10-day-long state visit to Israel.

    BP Koirala’s international angle has been reflected in his recently unveiled audio interview recorded by former journalist duo of BBC Nepali Service- Mani Rana and Dhruwahari Adhikari. It is said to have been recorded during BP Koirala’s visit to UK during the decade of 2030 BS. In the interview, republished by barhakhari.com on 15 May 2019, BP Koirala has said, ”My aim for my nation is to play a leading role in South Asia. Nepal, despite being a small country, can play an important role in South Asia. These days, we just have ‘reaction politics’, sometimes to please India and sometimes China.”

    Diplomatic and magnetic personality

    BP Koirala had a sort of magnetic personality even at international arena He has been praised for his crystal clear views and actions. In his extensive essay titled ‘Where India faces China’ after Nepal’s first General Elections, Hamailton Fish Armstrong, the then editor of Foreign Affairs magazine has praised BP Koirala. In his essay published in July 1959, Editor Armstrong had described BP Koirala as ”Mr. Koirala, the titular leader, is a man of attractive energy, sincerity of purpose and strongly liberal tendencies.”

    Ellsworth Bunker, the then US ambassador to India and also accredited to Nepal visited Nepal from May 5-8. His team had arrived in Kathmandu to access about ongoing Nepali political scenario after first General Elections and talked to king and political leaders of Nepal including soon-to-be-PM BP Koirala. Once a classified document, this has been declassified by the State Department.

    He had telegrammed his Nepal visit issue to the State Department at 7 p.m. of May 9 where he had praised BP Koirala in six points. He noted, ”BP Koirala: I was impressed by Koirala as clearest thinking Nepalese leader I have ever met.” He has added, ”He considers himself a Socialist. No question of his basic political motivation, belief in democratic institutions and opposition to communism.”

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