Embassies’ relevance to be assessed

Kathmandu, June 6

Presenting the budget for 2018-19 on May 29, Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada had announced that the government would close ‘ineffective’ Nepali diplomatic missions abroad after reviewing their relevance and performance.

The announcement came amid allegations that some Nepali embassies had been opened without proper study of their relevance and just for the those close to the power centre, putting a huge financial burden on state coffers.

However, implementation of the budget announcement will take some time

Spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bharat Raj Paudyal said the budget announcement came with the realisation of the fact that review of performance and relevance of Nepali missions abroad had long been overdue. “It is not only about closing embassies, but also relocating them and opening new ones,” he said.

Paudyal, however, said a proper study was needed, which in itself was time-consuming. Various divisions in the ministry review performance of related embassies, as part of the regular process, but a proper study with the objective of closing, relocating, or opening embassies has not begun, he added.

“The budget has just been announced. A team should be formed to conduct a study and take appropriate action as per the findings. This is not something that can be done overnight just on the basis of perception, it takes some time,” he said. “Even if we decide to close or relocate an embassy, there are various processes involved.”

Foreign affairs experts said implementation of the budget needed political commitment as different ‘pressure groups’ were active. Stating that some of the embassies were opened ‘either to place political cadres in lucrative posts or under pressure from Non-Resident Nepalis and the Nepali diaspora abroad’, they said it was better to close missions that were irrelevant.

Khadga KC, foreign affairs expert and programme coordinator – Master’s Programme in International Relations and Diplomacy, Tribhuvan University; said embassies are opened in pursuit of national interest. “But if an embassy does not have any such role, it is just a waste of taxpayers money,” he said, referring to Nepali embassies in countries like Spain and Brazil with which Nepal neither has any bilateral agreement nor trade.

Although the government might be unpopular initially, the move to close ineffective embassies would be a wise decision in national interest, according to KC. “The move might draw criticism from within the foreign ministry as more missions abroad means more lucrative foreign postings for ministry employees,” he said, adding that if the government, as in the past, just spent too much time on feasibility studies and so on, this announcement would have no meaning.

KC, however, said due caution should be adopted while relocating or closing embassies so as to ensure that the host country might not develop negative perception about Nepal, in line with Nepal government’s policy of ‘amity with all and enmity with none’.

Nepal presently has embassies in 30 countries, three United Nations permanent missions and six consulate general offices.