Modern state is based on constitutional and cosmological foundation. Its effectiveness is based on legitimate monopoly on power, taxation, loyalty of citizens and international recognition. Democratic constitution unites the general will of all citizens into a sovereign power to abolish the state of nature and reduces the risk of eternal fear and anarchy in society fomented by irrational human nature, nature of state and the state of anarchy that characterizes the international system.
In Nepal, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by Maoist rebel and the government has defined the normative, institutional and operational framework of peace to transcend the partial interests of the signing parties and include all those affected by the absence of peace. The democratic peace postulated by the CPA and the judgment built on it aim to cease conflict, eradicate structural injustice of society, bring social transformation and begin post-conflict peace building process to eliminate future source of conflict. One can, however, see a disparity between public expectation for post-conflict peace dividend, leaders promise for a democratic state and the weakness of Nepali authorities to create public order. The domination of entire governing structures from local self-governance to the cabinet by all-party committees and extension of patronage in all areas of public life, however, indicate that leaders are more comfortable to arbitrate laws by a patrimonial system of governance. This has subordinated the national integrity system of polity to control corruption, impunity and geopolitical cross-pressures.
Andreas Wimmer argues that modern nation-state is the "product of four closely interconnected processes of institutional closure, such as a political one (democracy tied to national self-determination), a legal one (citizenship tied to nationality), a military one (universal conscription tied to national citizenship) and a social one (the institutions of the welfare state linked to the control of the immigration of foreigners)." The cosmopolitan requirements have increased the state's institutional opening to external environment, commitment to human security and the transformation of ethno-based nation into demo-based constitutional state with the ability to complement governance effectiveness including its role in the balance of regional and global geopolitical interests. In this context, constitutional state is expected to lower the transaction costs and enable the governance to realize its goals.
To be functional, Nepali state has to remove many institutional gaps between it and society. It has maintain autonomy from dominant interest groups of society, uphold sufficient capacity to mobilize tax and human resources, maximize the standards of human rights, democracy and rule of law, embed in ecology and the general interest of all citizens and muster the legitimacy of its statehood. Now, it is facing several institutional gaps: vision gap between the changing yug dharma and indigenous statecraft and social division of labor (even democracy and political pluralism have become contested sites); power gap between juridical international status and actual political capacity for internal social cohesion and system integration; development gap between unequal social classes of society causing structural injustice and conflict; and legitimacy gap between the ability of leaders to govern and their capacity to fulfill legitimate aspiration of citizens for liberty, property, justice, peace and pursuit of happiness. These gaps continue to undermine the separation of the state and society and the possibility to address distributional struggle of left out sections of society.
Deviation of leadership from state-bearing institutions and assertion to exclusive power claim marked a distortion of the civic spirit taking over almost all independent institutions of the state and smudging many of national perspective: constitutional vision, vitality of its institutions and verve to cement state-society harmony. As a result, one can see continuous deadlock over power-sharing and constitutional issues and erosion of the outreach of state in society. It has delayed the possibility of transforming negative peace into positive peace as neither the Maoists nor non-Maoist is willing to give concession to inspire each other’s confidence for the vision of common good and address the anarchy of free wills of armed groups and criminals who oppose state sovereignty. Regular dialogue among the leaders of major parties have so far failed to become a feasible option to open up common ground, provide room for each other’s legitimate interest, ideology and identity and bridge the ends and means of peace for the shared outcome of a liberating condition for all Nepalese citizens.
There is a truth in what Nietzsche says: “The degree of suffering is determined by the position in hierarchy.” The profound craving of Nepalese citizens for a release from this suffering remains alluring as their voice remains unheard and unheeded in the corridor of power. In a situation of careless contempt for powerless, state building requires reducing transaction cost imposed by hierarchy by activating multi-track dialogue, offering peace dividends, curtailing the fearful prospect of violence and moderating and democratizing the pyramids of undemocratic structures. This means Nepalese leaders must be accountable to politics as a public responsibility and link the society to public sphere for its articulation and public action. This is possible to achieve by fostering ‘active citizenship’ aligned with public spirited actors, institutions, networks and movements.
Building productive relationship with the cultural industries such as media, civil society, public intellectuals and intermediary institutions and movements is precisely fashioned to awaken the leaders to their accountability of drafting a social contract, structural reforms and sustainable peace through rational consensus. It helps to weaken the confidence of the spoilers of peace. A rational consensus based on CPA shuns the concept of winner and loser and makes leaders accountable for the benefit they frantically enjoyed from democratic deficit. It is possible to overcome this situation if intermediary institutions nurture cross-cutting social capital across various empirical divides of the nation and socialize their leadership in the virtue of peace as a common good and make national economy agile and competitive to enable citizens and the state enjoy their constitutional and human rights and duties.
The new challenges for virtuous statehood are to build bridge across the gaps between the state and society, system and life-world, center and periphery, and groups and individuals through healing and reconciling with spiritual, social, economic and political resources of the nation. This, however, requires a self-reflective learning of leadership about the wisdom of ordinary folk, public opinion and cultural heritage of the nation’s tolerance of equality and diversity nurtured by sages, statesmen and citizens for long. Now, national identity of Nepalese formulated on the common background condition, socialization and mutual expectation of a shared future has to be strengthened by shoring the national spirit and the spirit of international cooperation.
Dahal is Head, FES Nepal Office