Every nation as a means of building and maintaining relationship with other states and with an aim to promote peace and cooperation in the world has applied every kind of tools and strategy of diplomacy. The end of two great wars and the trend of globalization have now made the realization of need of such diplomatic strategy that could settle the dispute of thoughts, culture and religion. This is impossible to obtain without having proper knowledge of culture of each nation’s as one’s thought is totally based on the culture of the members of international community. So, every attempt is being made to use the national resources that can lead to a country’s ability to affect others through the cooperative means of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes. This gradually led to reinforce and build up the concept of cultural diplomacy in the field of international relations.
The term “Cultural diplomacy” was coined by Milton Cummings as “the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding. However, culture has multiple definitions, from the wide anthropological sense of how people interact, what they believe in and how they live.
In world, often seemingly ruled by war and conflict, cultural diplomacy has now been a basic requirement for protecting and promoting national interest than a matter to show. It stems from the increasing need for intercultural dialogue and diversity, shared universal and human values and civil society as the locus of cultural exchange. Cultural diplomacy is one of the tools to promote national interests through peaceful means. There is no better way for a nation to cultivate and utilize its cultural ideals than to put forward the best image of itself and the image is reflected clearly from the culture.
Factors shaping the cultural diplomacy of Nepal
Nepal is the multicultural, multiethnic and multi lingual country. Due to its huge diversified land division, people living in the various regions in different ethnic groups follow their own way of religious practice, lifestyle, language, culture and tradition with ever peace of harmony in society. Nevertheless the unification of Nepal by late king Prithvi Narayan Shah also led to the cultural unification. It is one among those countries where culture plays a significant role in developing and strengthening cultural attraction of foreigners in our land.
Besides tourism, agriculture and hydropower, Nepal can do a lot even with its culture as it is a multicultural country. Unfortunately, due to the western influence in day-to-day lifestyle we are forgetting the true meaning of particular festivals, customs and cultures which ultimately is causing threat to the future and prospects of cultural diplomacy of Nepal. At the same time, the distress of political disorders and lack of unification of thoughts among people following different cultures have to be addressed properly so as to give suitable effect to cultural diplomacy of Nepal. In spite of these obstacles and disturbances, there are some areas where Nepal could strongly focus for strengthening cultural diplomacy.
Art is one of the aspects of culture. It is a much defined creative approach to making objects or making concepts. Human create art within their cultural context. Nepal art is usually decorative, delicate and very beautiful which is strongly influenced by the culture of the people and they two really go together and are interwoven. The two most typical forms of art are that of paintings and sculptures.
Mithila painting can be one to basis for promoting the cultural diplomacy of Nepal. It has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, godna and gobar and narrates mythological and religious events. The painting is usually done in primary colors of natural origin on hand - painted wall hangings, wooden stools, miniatures in paper and leaves, stone pottery, bamboo and leather goods, and appliqué work.
Similarly, Thangka paintings can also be a means for flourishing the culture and making a base of diplomacy. A thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist scroll painting, often with Buddhas or mandalas. Thangka is a Tibetan word which means so much as ‘recorded message’. The painting of thangkas is an important and highly developed means of expression through which the entire Buddhist philosophy could be explained.
Metal and wooden art work is one of the most advanced and appreciated art in Nepal. Statue art in Nepal has been dated back to the seventh century AD. Art as a cultural diplomacy brings together artists, civil society practitioners, students, and young professionals from around the world to explore the role of art in societal transformation. So, it can be considered for strengthening our cultural diplomacy.
Nepal is regarded as great place for literary platform and literary figures due to its attractive scenario of nature. We can also understand the importance of culture with the help of views given by protagonist as well as antagonist of that literary writings, which is the product of society and culture where that writer was brought up. Few of the writings are so famous that, they are even translated into foreign languages. For this Nepalese literature helped a lot to uplift patriotic feelings towards Nepalese culture and civilization. “Blue Mimosa” (English translation of ‘shirish ko phool’) is one of the great tragic Nepali literary novels written by novelist ‘Parijat’ which was the first novel to popularize Nepalese socio- cultural behavior all over the world. This novel described Nepalese socio- culture and livelihood of the Nepalese scenario in such an emotional and critical way that, Japanese film Industry with no time created movie based on this novel in their own language which was released on late 2012 all over Japan.
Nepal has huge possibilities in the tourism sector; this statement has also been emphasized by Nepal Tourism Policy 2009 by identifying tourism sector as an important vehicle for economic and social development. Himalaya nation is famous for its natural beauty. Lonely planet highlighted Nepal as best travel in 2017 since, it is bouncing back from earthquakes and a fuel strike that made getting round the country tough. It could now be a fabulous choice to enjoy at its peak, the best of its world famous trekking routes and underrated wildlife in 2017. Similarly, a total of 554,747 people visited Nepal in the year 2015, according to data from the Department of Immigration (DoI) which directly generated 487,500 jobs representing 3.5 percent of the total employment in the country according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Apparently, we can do better if we could be able to blend tourism with cultural diplomacy, so it is the right time for Nepal to devise and implement a notion of tourism for cultural diplomacy in our context. Nexus with diplomacy is a long term investment which is expected to help us draw development through tourism and create a sustainable base of national economy.
Modern age is known as era of internet and digitalization. We cannot imagine in modern days in absence of internet. During the time of devastating earthquake of 25th April in Nepal, media played a vital role in providing humanitarian assistance to Nepal people from international community. However, we are not being able to realize the importance of internet to the extent to built relation with international communities as all forms of media are unable to play significant role in advertisement of culture in international level due to poor economy and infrastructures. So, tourism can be an effective medium of advertisement of our culture for us. On the one hand, tourist visits other nations to know and understand the culture and lifestyle and on the other, they visit with a tangible purpose. For instance, there are many traders in Himalayan part of Nepal commonly known as cultural traders. The people living in this part of nation are engaged in trade activities with Tibet. This kind of trading relation has been accepted by Himalayan peoples since their ancient civilizations. In fact, this kind of economical relation is mostly created due to cultural attraction of people residing thereof.
It has not been long that Nepalese movie act as means of Nepalese cultural diplomacy. The period of 1966’s opened a new path for Nepal in the field of cultural diplomacy. “Maitighar” became the first movie to built deep relation of Nepalese Film Industries with Indian Film Industry. This was first full guaranteed Nepalese film where Indian Actor performed a vital act. As major actor of this film was famous Indian actor of that time, this film became very popular throughout India. Similarly, Indian film TV channels and film industries are leaving space for Nepali actors (For e.g. there was a Nepali actor in ‘Mary Kom’) which act as a catalyst for strengthening cultural diplomacy. In this way, Nepalese Film Industries can create diplomatic relation with film industries of other countries too.
Music and Stage Performances
Concerts and other stage performances by various celebrities in different parts of the world is another major ground to strengthen cultural diplomacy with other countries. Even the celebrities felt the need of cultural advertisement, but nation sometime becomes unable to establish this kind of cultural festival across the world due to financial, technical and moreover political problems. Until this period, there had been huge awareness regarding importance of cultural advertisement within and out of Nepal’s territory for Nepali people.
INGOs giving holidays in Nepali festivals
There are various INGOs working in the areas of human rights, environment, health hazards, refugees, children, labor etc. These institutions, in previous days used to run the office in the day of celebration of Nepali festivals too. Pleasingly, they started to close the office during Nepali festival and even their officials have now started to celebrate festival together with Nepali. For indication, ‘Laxmi Pooja’ is almost celebrated by all the organizations located in the territory of Nepal irrespective of the country of their establishment.
Performing any play in foreign theatre by our celebrities is a chance to know a lot about the Nepali people and culture and even about Nepali theatre. This implies solidarity in between two nations. Also the cultural exchange program in different youth and other conferences can multiply the effect of cultural diplomacy.
In conclusion, Nepal is a multi-cultural nation having lots of cultural diversities than that of other nations which signifies the potential of cultural diplomacy of Nepal. Though, Nepal is not backed by sound technology and advertisement tools unlike other countries, we can use our own means for enhancing the concept of cultural diplomacy in our foreign policy. The dark part is, the number of people understanding Nepali language is less than that of English but we can learn something from our neighboring country i.e. Peoples’ Republic of China as it has Hanban (the China national office for teaching as Chinese as a Foreign Language) to set up Confucius Institutes and Confucius colleges all around the world. They aimed at “promoting friendly relationship with other countries and enhancing the understanding of the Chinese language and culture among world Chinese learners. For this, it is not necessary that, our target has to be whole world; we may initiate it from a specific region in the beginning.
Similarly, ineffective advertisement of these resources in world market of culture due to lack of technology, translation national sponsorship and moreover low number of enterpriser in the field of culture and cultural diplomacy along with lack of consciousness towards the advertisement of national culture can be backed up by incorporating and flourishing tourism diplomacy, in which we have potential upon. Insufficient amount of budget and concern along with destruction of cultural heritage in different national conflicts sometimes even natural disaster resulting in not uplifting cultural diplomacy of Nepal can be balanced by prioritizing in national plan of action and also by foreign aids and support from international communities.
However, it is the time to recognize cultural diplomacy as an important instrument of foreign policy in promoting international links among peoples and countries. The heart of cultural diplomacy is to promote understanding among people, who come from different backgrounds and hold different values, through the medium of culture. In an increasingly globalized, interdependent world, in which the proliferation of mass communication technology ensures, we all have greater access to each other than ever before, cultural diplomacy is critical to fostering peace & stability throughout the world. Cultural diplomacy, when learned and applied at all levels, possesses the unique ability to influence the “Global Public Opinion” and ideology of individuals, communities, cultures or nations, which can accelerate the harmonious relationship among the nations and maintain peace, law and order.
( Susma Giri, is a final year student pursuing BA LLB in Nepal Law Campus)