In life, in work and in state craft, it's not what you know...it's who you know. Networkers rule. Those who see themselves as unique, with no need to make friends and establish networks well, quite simply, fail. This includes people, companies, organisations of all sorts and-yes-countries.
Now Nepal has a lot of friends around the world. Aside from Bhutan, it's hard to think of any nation that isn't inordinately fond of this Himalayan kingdom. Much of this is because Nepal has behaved with integrity in international affairs. It has no empire, it covets no other country's territory and it does not wield blunt instruments in its global relationships. Never mind that it doesn't have any. That's secondary. This place made many of its friendships through its intrinsic merits, physical beauty, a tolerant attitude towards faith, an easygoing friendly outlook on life. People are hospitable, kind to a fault and peace-loving. Many non-Nepalis genuinely admire all those aspects of life here, often due to first hand experience.
American Peace Corps volunteers come to mind. So many of them have come to love Nepal and Nepalis. So too Japanese Buddhists, and backpackers from Europe, Canada and Australia. In many cases, such people become advocates of what they see as this country's interest on their home turf. Witness the movement in 2002 against American arms sales to this country, largely driven-not by expat Nepalis-but by old Himalayan hands with strong views on the need for a peaceful solution to the Maoist insurgency.
All well and good then. Money in the bank. Or so it might seem to those fond of deluding themselves. For in this day and age of rough and tumble relations between states, it's far from enough to be a place that gives people a nice warm feeling. We don't need to look very far afield to realise that. Nepal's northern neighbour, the autonomous region of Tibet, was once independent, widely admired by a certain type of person, without an enemy in the world. But what good did that do when the Peoples' Liberation Army came calling? No good whatsoever, that's what.
I've long thought that Nepal needs to actively capitalise on the vast resource of international goodwill it enjoys. So far, through panchayat, democracy and the current continuous limbo, the country has passively counted on its friendships to help it through troubled times. That now has to change. A starting point might be an honest effort to identify a network of friends in foreign countries and get them involved in doing what's best for Nepal, as Nepal sees it, in their own society.
This should not be a government effort either. Too many governments come and go here. Few have time to get good at governing, if that was ever their goal. In NGO-speak, we need to establish formal links between civil society here and those abroad that can help the place. Not with money, or expensive consultancies, but with policy changes and subtle political pressure. It's doable, it can only benefit Nepal, and it's legal.
What are we waiting for?