Kathmandu, April 9
Nepali diplomacy is indeed unique. We keep diplomatic outposts headless for months and even years, but expect the best outcomes from our missions abroad.
We tend to cut diplomatic contacts in host countries by delaying ambassadorial appointments, but pass the buck to a new diplomat if anything goes wrong. We lobby hard to dispatch financial backers and party cadres as envoys, but expect neutral assessment feedback from them.
Again, ambassadorial nominations become priority agenda of successive governments, primarily the foreign ministers’. These ministers even knock the doors of their successors to get their men appointed.
For example, there have been four ministers — Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Mahendra Bahadur Pandey and Kamal Thapa — after Ambassador to Egypt Shyam Lal Tabdar passed away in December 2012. However, the government is yet to name Tabdar’s successor.
The government recalled Ambassador to Qatar Maya Kumari Sharma in September 2013 following her controversial remark that the Gulf state was an open jail for migrant workers. No one has replaced her yet.
“We allow senior career diplomats to retire, but don’t name them ambassadors,” said former foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya. It can be recalled that the government chose to give retirement to Chief of Protocol Arjun Kanta Mainali rather than appoint him ambassador.
When the border blockade was imposed after adoption of the constitution in September last year, Nepal’s Ambassador to New Delhi Deep Kumar Upadhyay was new. He had taken charge of the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi in April, after the post had remained vacant for more than three years.
“How do you expect up-to-date and in-depth output from a mission you just simply turn a blind eye to?” Prof Shreedhar Khatri asked recently.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11 Nepali embassies — UK, Germany, Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Japan and Bangladesh, are currently without ambassadors. Ten more diplomatic outposts in China, South Korea, UAE, Israel, Myanmar, Pakistan, Australia, Denmark, Belgium and Russia will be without chiefs within two months.
Earlier, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had claimed he was keen to strengthen diplomatic missions through timely appointment of envoys.
However, envoy appointments are easier said than done. This is mainly due to differences over sharing of ambassadorial positions among parties.
Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa recently said the process of appointing envoys would begin shortly. But, he was only repeating what he had said several times since he became foreign minister in October.
Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi has repeatedly drawn the attention of parties and the government, including the prime minister, to the issue. He said keeping the positions of top diplomats in embassies vacant for long weakens our international image.
The prime minister’s foreign affairs expert Gopal Khanal also echoed the same. But, their suggestions have largely been overlooked.
A version of this article appears in print on April 10, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.