KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s plan to embark on a weeklong trip to Rio de Janeiro to attend a UN symposium has drawn flak from diplomatic and political circles who say the prime minister should avoid such foreign visits when the country is reeling under political uncertainty.
Leaders from different parties — left, centre and right — and experts and diplomats have termed the prime minister’s scheduled trip to Brazil ‘inopportune visit’.
A Cabinet meeting on May 29, two days after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, had approved the prime minister’s visit to Rio de Janerio to address the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development of Rio+20 slated for June 20-22.
“PM has to think twice before embarking on the Rio visit,” said Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former foreign minister and former ambassador. “He should be focusing on domestic issues at this point of time. Secondly, he should understand his caretaker status. Representing the country in an international forum in caretaker status does not sound good.”
Leading an entourage of about two dozen officials, mostly from the National Planning Commission, Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment, Prime Minister Bhattarai is scheduled to leave for Rio on June 18 on a weeklong trip, according to Yubraj Bhusal, Secretary of NPC. But sources said scores of government officials and representatives from I/NGOs and campaign groups will also attend the forum in ‘non-official’ status and that their trip will be financed by donor agencies.
Milan Raj Tuladhar, a member of CPN-UML’s Foreign Department, said even though the conference was important for Nepal to highlight the problems faced by Nepal and other environmentally vulnerable Least Developed Countries, there was no need for Prime Minister Bhattarai to attend the forum himself. “He can send a minister-level delegation in view of fluid political situation at home,” said Tuladhar. Bhattarai had earlier maintained that he should be leading the delegation as Nepal was addressing the forum in capacity of the chair of LDCs. He had underscored that the international community would recognise Nepal’s ‘mountain initiative’ as a credible global forum to discuss climate issues of the mountainous countries through this participation.
But Nepali Congress central leader Ram Sharan Mahat and Unified CPN-Maoist Secretary CP Gajurel beg to differ. “In what capacity is he going to Rio?” asked Mahat. “It’s not the right time for jetting to Rio or anywhere else. He should be able to guage the critical time the country is going through.”
Maoist leader Gajurel said the prime minister himself should understand whether it is appropriate to make a foreign visit at this time.
Prime Minister Bhattarai’s personal aide Bishwodip Pandey, however, said the PM does not value foreign trips much, but this time he has to make the visit to fulfil Nepal’s earlier commitment.
In September 2010, then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had called off his trip to New York to take part in the 65th UN General Assembly owing to his caretaker status and domestic political situation.