Hira Bahadur Thapa, Selected Essays on Foreign Relations (Kathmandu: Asia Publications Pvt Ltd, 2009)

Book Review by
Bipin Adhikari
Source: New Spotlight Newsmagazine (September 25 - October 15, 2009)

Hira Bahadur Thapa's Selected Essays on Foreign Relations is the latest book in town on diplomacy, peace process and contemporary international issues. It is a collection of 54 newspaper essays published by Thapa between July 2007 and June 2009.

As the author notes, this period has been of historical significance because it covers the time when Nepal entered into UN facilitated peace process by ending a decade long Maoist People's War. Between August 2008 and May 2009, a career diplomat, Thapa also served as the foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. This further afforded him a vantage from where to discuss issues important to Nepal in its peace process and foreign relations.

The subjects covered in this compilation range from preventing the peace process from collapse, the challenges of ongoing recruitment of national army and the combatants of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), to the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). Some articles defend human rights, plead for establishing a culture of accountability, and stress healing the wounds of the Maoist conflict. Many of his articles have analysed the UN peacekeeping efforts, expansion of the Un Security Council membership, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and the theme of collective security.

Some articles deal with the problems of South Asia. There is no common theme, but they include expectations in fifteenth summit of SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) nations, deepening Nepal Sri Lanka ties, enhancing Nepal China economic relations, fighting terrorism, and cultivating relations with neighbours. He has also devoted two articles on Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

The book is useful to anybody who wants to understand Nepal's diplomacy, peace process and contemporary international issues over the period covered by the author. Thapa is a moderate analyst in most of his opinion pieces. Almost each essay has certain prescriptions to the concerned sector. He is futuristic in his outlook. This makes his approach valuable.

At places, the author does not hide his sympathy for the Maoist movement, and its leaders. One can also note that he is not critical about the Maoist "People's war" which is said to have claimed approximately fifteen thousand lives, and derailed the democratic process by threatening parliamentary elections. Notwithstanding this criticism, the author has matured understanding of the issues that he has picked up for op-ed contributions.

The author could have considered writing an introductory chapter with a view to provide top up to each article. He could also have divided all these 54 articles in four or five broad themes, giving each theme a defined perspective. A reader who is not aware of the chronological development of Nepal's politics may at times find difficulties in putting some of the essays in perspective.

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