NEPAL’S ISRAEL POLICY Rhetoric And Reality

Recently, Nepal has chosen realistic approaches to multilateral issues keeping Nepal’s core national interest in mind. However, Nepal’s foreign policy Mandarins are yet to reform multilateral policy towards Israel with whom Nepal has cordial and warmth relations at the bilateral level

Oct. 8, 2022, 2:47 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 16, No. 06, Oct.21,2022 (Kartika 04. 2079) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

With the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and addressed by heads of the delegations, the session has now entered into debates and voting sessions on various resolutions on multilateral issues.

Backing India’s bid for permanent membership of the security council and voting in favor of China in Geneva and standing with Ukraine criticizing Russia for invasion, Nepal has shown a realistic approach.

Nepalese foreign experts are watching keenly, how Nepal will follow the voting in the UN this year on Israel with whom Nepal has maintained the best cordial and warm bilateral relations in the last sixty-three years.

Given Nepal’s position on the UN voting on Israel last several years, there is not much hope to see any drastic changes in Nepal’s existing stand on multilateral areas.

All Nepalese politicians irrespective of parties and ideologies, bureaucrats, and intelligentsia feel proud to be the first country in South Asia to establish diplomatic relations with the state of Israel supporting the independence and sovereignty of a small nation. However, Nepal’s multilateral policy remains contradictory and ambiguous comparting her bilateral relations.

“We express our unwavering commitment to working together to further strengthen and consolidate these ties between our two countries,” said Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Minister for Communication and Information Technology.

Spokesperson of the cabinet minister Karki said that Nepal is inspired and wants to be benefitted from the cutting-edge technology of Israel. He said that Nepal does not have any hesitation to side with Israel on its multilateral issues.

Similarly, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, former foreign minister and powerful leader of CPN UML, agreed that Nepal should tune its multilateral relations with Israel as per the bilateral level. He said that Nepal will always support Israel’s freedom and sovereignty. He said that Nepal will positively consider sensitive matters of Israel and will be further supportive, positive and collaborative on those matters of concern that Israel is expecting to get support from Nepal.

Despite maintaining excellent bilateral relations with Israel, Nepal’s stand on Israel in UN voting has been disappointing. Nepal has been voting against Israel on the resolutions tabled in the international forum.

Even after the drastic shift in the Middle East geo-political landscape since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Bahrain with Israel and Saudi’s decision to open its air space to Israel. Likewise, a delegation from Pakistan also visited Israel recently. However, Nepal has been backing the same resolutions as the 1970s.

Absenting from many resolutions with no big political impacts, India and Bhutan have been showing a change in their stand on Israel and the Middle East. After the establishment of diplomatic relations, Gulf countries have been shifting their stand against UN voting as well.

Established diplomatic relations on 01 June 1960 and opening of Embassy of Israel opened in Kathmandu in March 1961, the bilateral relations have significant importance. However, Nepal has been following Iran and Afghanistan, the two most hostile nations of the state of Israel, in UN voting.

Foreign Ministry Under NC

Led by a well-known scholar on foreign affairs and leader of Nepali Congress Dr. Narayan Khadka and well-read and experienced foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal and his team, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry, which has recently shown some realistic stand on international issues including neighbors and voting against Russia invasion of Ukraine, is indicating some shift.

A policy statement delivered by foreign secretary Paudyal at UNGA as head of the Nepali delegation has indicated a shift in Nepal’s stand on the Middle East and Nepal’s neighborhood. But, the outcome of the voting will show Nepal’s stand on Israel and the Middle East.

Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai, a former carrier Nepali ambassador to the UN and Foreign Policy advisor to former prime minister Sushil Koirala (2015-2018), said that Nepal also needs to tune its policy-changing the voting pattern in the UN on Israel and the Middle East.

He said that there are several diplomatic ways to show Nepal’s position not harming its core interest delivering the statement by absenting during voting in resolutions. “In many resolutions, Nepal can be absent in voting issuing its statement on resolutions. “Why should we be shy to take such a diplomatic stand?” asked Dr. Bhattarai.

“Establish diplomatic relations with Israel over two decades ago, India is taking all benefits changing a certain shirt. Having cordial relations for almost 63 years, Nepal is unable to get maximum benefits by showing goodwill at the multilateral level,” said Dr. Bhattarai.

Nepal’s Voting Card

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Nepal and Israel 63 years ago, the two countries have maintained their bilateral relations cordial and warm all the time. However, Nepal’s relations with Israel at multilateral forums particularly on UN voting remain unmatched by the spirit of its bilateral relations. According to the UN voting card, Nepal in almost all cases voted against Israel even sometimes in contradictions to its basic stand on Israel.

According to UN voting card, the issues that annually tabled in UN General Assembly Start from September till November, countries and groups tabled agenda in UNGCA since 2012 include Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, Special information program on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat, Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, Jerusalem, The Syrian Golan, Assistance to the Palestinian people, The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, Establishment of NWFZ in the Middle East, Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory over natural resources, Oil slick on Lebanese shores, The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, Assistance to Palestine refugees, Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities, Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and Palestine refugees' properties and their revenues.

Similarly, the resolution tabled in the UNGCA included Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinian People of the Occupied Territories, Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Occupied Syrian Golan, Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, The occupied Syrian Golan, Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas condemning resolution ( American), Entrepreneurship for development (every two years) and Agricultural technology for development (every two years).

Nepal Choose Yes

Despite having three options for member countries, Yes, Against and Absent, Nepal had in Yes voting in 23 resolutions out of 24 in the UNGCA between 2012 to 2015.

Nepal has been absent in the only resolution: The situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since 2018, Nepal has also started to vote in Yes in the resolution of the Establishment of NWFZ in the Middle East. Nepal is also absents in Hamas condemning resolution in 2018 tabled by America.

Nepal was the first country in South Asia to recognize Israel as a State. Two men with extraordinary visions and respect for their countries and their peoples, the late BP Koirala and the late David Ben-Gurion, both the then Prime Ministers of their respective countries, were able to see this friendship standing strong to this present time.

Taking a courageous and pragmatic decision by the leaders of the 1960’s NC leader Koirala showed solidarity with a small country for its right to live. However, Nepal’s multilateral policy towards Israel has not matched the spirit of leader Koirala.

Showing a strong bond and warmth towards Nepal, Israeli President Late President Zalman Shazar even translated the late King Mahendra’s poem into the Hebrew language. “This kind of intimate personal relations between the leaders of any two heads of the state is rare when a president translated the poem of another head of the state in his own language,” said former foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey. “Nepal needs to tune its multilateral stand with Israel as per its intimate bilateral relations.”

New Look

By voting against the Russian war against Ukraine, Nepal has shown indications of certain shirts in its foreign policy. Although Nepal’s two neighbors were absent in the voting, Nepal sided with Ukraine.

Despite slightly toning down after voting, Nepal continues to express its stand against the Russian war against Ukraine. “We are deeply concerned about the deaths and suffering of civilians in the war in Ukraine. We call for an urgent cessation of hostilities and violence and urge all concerned parties to exercise maximum restraint and return to the path of dialogue,” said foreign secretary Paudyal in his statement at UNGA.

He said that Nepal opposes any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity, political independence, and sovereignty of a country under any pretext and circumstance.

Foreign secretary Paudyal said that Nepal condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and calls for an early conclusion of a comprehensive convention against terrorism.

However, Nepal maintains silent when Hamas terrorist groups attack Israeli civilians and killed them. Nepal responds immediately in case of Israel retaliates.

Even maintaining cordial relations, Nepal’s stand on Israel at the multilateral forums creates more irritation regarding the relations with Israel.

In a recent program, Hanan Goder, Ambassador of Israel, said, “Relations between the two countries have two dimensions: the bilateral one and the multilateral one. I gladly note that on bilateral issues, the relations are excellent.”

He is indicating the need for Nepal’s support in multilateral issues as well. He said that the support of small countries is highly valuable because they don’t have big interests. He said that Israel, thus, values Nepal’s support.

Nepal Benefited From Israel’s Development

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries have been enjoying deep friendship, which is being demonstrated by many high-level visits and undertaking of numerous mutually beneficial cooperation.

From the modernization of the Nepal Army to providing valuable support during the earthquake, and the modernization of Nepal’s agriculture sector and construction industry, Israel, though invisible, has been supporting Nepal in key areas of Nepal’s development.

Apart from government-level visits, both countries have seen business groups traveling for potential economic collaborations. Nepal is one of the most loved travel destinations for young Israelis and around 10,000 travel enthusiasts come to Nepal every year to enjoy its beauty of Nepal.

Known as a start-up nation, Israel is one of the pioneers in the development of technology. It shares its expertise learned in the course of its development with friendly nations in many fields through MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation).

According to the data, over 3,500 Nepalese have been trained in various courses in Israel till now. On average, 35 officials from different professional backgrounds affiliated with the government as well as non-governmental organizations go to Israel every year to participate in the training.

Nepalese, especially women, are working in Israel as caregivers and they are very much appreciated for their dedication and caring for the elderly people by their families. Nepal has already sent 1000 recently under G2G. Israel is also considering opening the construction sector for Nepali workers and engineers.

With the support from Israeli Embassy, Sana Kisan Bikas Bank Ltd. (SKBBL), has been sending youths from marginalized and underprivileged farmers associated with the networks of Small Farmers Agricultural Cooperative Ltd. (SFACL) for study and training program in Israel known as ‘Learn and Earn’ in the field of agriculture.

Every year, since 2013 more than 500 students have been trained in different agricultural fields. The students who returned from Israel are presenting themselves as role model farmers in their communities and contributing to Nepal’s agricultural sector development.

"Israel and Nepal share the same values of tolerance, democracy, community solidarity and respect for the other. Both nations are proud of our heritage and as small civilizations, face similar challenges. This is what united us in the past and this will continue to keep bilateral relations good," said Hanan Goder, Ambassador of Israel to Nepal in a program organizes to celebrate 62 years of diplomatic relations between Nepal and Israel.

In a program organized to celebrate 62 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Yair Lapid, Alternate Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel expressed his warm wishes in a video congratulatory message. He said, "For three decades, Nepal was the only country in the region to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. Israel continues to seek out new opportunities to cooperate with Nepal, considering Nepal a great friend and partner.

Given the global geo-political shift, Nepal also needs to follow the reality-based flexible policy on Israel at multilateral voting.

“The time has come for Nepal to reform its policy looking at the current tectonic shift in the regional and global balance of power,” writes Dev Raj Dahal, Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU.

At a time when Nepal is gradually shifting its old policies to are multilateral level, one can expect that Nepal will follow its close and cordial bilateral relations at the multilateral level while voting on Israel and the Middle East issue at this time. If Nepal cannot say No, it can simply be absent with a statement respecting cordial relations with Israel.

Voting in favor of China in the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Backing India's bid for permanent membership and calling for security council reform and opposing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Nepal indicates it values its core national interest and economic interest.

Having cordial and warm relations sharing so many common interests, Nepal’s support to Israel at the multilateral forum and UN voting will make the situation much more favorable to Nepal. This will also show Nepal follows the same principle not different than reality.

A lesson of the UN Human Rights Council

In the first voting this year at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Nepal has voted against holding a debate on alleged widespread abuses in China's Xinjiang region.

74-member council in Geneva voted 19-17 against holding a debate on human rights in Xinjiang, with 11 nations abstaining. Along with Nepal Bolivia, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Venezuela voted against.

Argentina, Armenia, Benin, Brazil, Gambia, India, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico and Ukraine abstained. The draft decision was put forward by the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Turkey, among others.

The voting pattern showed the country’s priority on their national interest. Ukraine, which has been receiving wider western support to fight Russia, has decided to be absent along with India. Similarly, Muslim countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates stand with China and Nepal as a neighbor too voted on the Chinese side. This indicate country sees its national interest rather than the groups.

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