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Cook or Curzon : a comparison of British and Indian human rights diplomacy towards Nepal Clarke, Andrew Charles

Abstract

This paper analyses the behaviour of India and the U K towards the human rights crisis in Nepal, in order to explain how and why the human rights policies of two democracies can differ. It is argued that two factors - political ideology and the foreign policy-making process - are the most critical determinants of the importance of human rights in the foreign policies of India and the UK. Economic and social development and geopolitics are seen as constraints on human rights diplomacy. This study supports Christopher Brewin's thesis that international obligations are, in part, a reflection of national self-image. Significant domestic developments in India and the UK from the mid- to late 1990s have been echoed in foreign policy. Attempts to make British foreign policy-making more transparent have ensured that the British Government considers the fundamental rights of people abroad, under the scrutiny of Parliament, NGOs and the wider public. Despite a self-perception of democratic values, India's foreign policy-making receives much less public scrutiny and is therefore less constrained by human rights concerns. This study argues that Nepal's proximity to India prioritises traditional Indian security concerns, preventing a more hard-line approach to Nepalese human rights abuses. Two worldviews are analysed: Robin Cook's "ethical" foreign policy, with human rights at its heart; and Lord Curzon's view of India as the "natural" seat of Asian power.

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