Ambassadorial confirmation : Challenges before parliamentary panel

Apparently under pressure of circumstantial politics, the government is now sending an agreed list of candidates to the Special Hearing Committee of the Interim Legislature- Parliament for their appointment as ambassadors. More than a dozen embassies have remained vacant for over a year now. The Hearings Committee has now been asked to confirm appointments as required by the amended Interim Constitution of Nepal. Indeed, the Committee is entrusted with a big responsibility of putting competent persons in the embassies, especially in the ones with high diplomatic importance.

People expect the Committee to test the abilities and suitability of government appointees keeping in mind the fact that the appointees will represent Nepal in foreign capitals. Indeed, the selected ones should be able to work to enhance national prestige and achieve national goals. However, a serious question arises whether appointees with divergent political leanings and ideologies and varied social and educational backgrounds can work in unison. Critics are quick to point out the inherent defects in the selection process. They allege that the norms adopted by the government are bound to create partisan feelings as the appointed diplomats will be more loyal to their parties than to the nation. Unfortunately, most appointees have neither diplomatic nor educational background required for the job; nor have they received good training and gained enough experience to carry on their duties and responsibilities satisfactorily.

Most politically stable countries (both developing and developed) appoint envoys from the well-established diplomatic service. At the moment, Nepal does not have a developed diplomatic service as political decision makers have never given a serious thought to institutionalising the diplomatic service in the last five decades. Such a trend persists to date with the current crop of political leaders sticking to the policies pursued by Rana despots and Panchayati oligarchs.

Among highly developed countries, the US government does continue the practice of assigning ambassadors and other envoys from among the people close to the president and his party. Such political appointments account for about one-third of total diplomatic appointees. This practice has worked in the US as even those left out have great opportunities to study and practice diplomacy outside the government circle in America. There is a pool of talent and appropriately educated people for various diplomatic jobs in the country, but Nepal has neither a well-placed structure, nor do the political parties have a proper mechanism to produce good diplomats to serve the country.

The leaders of the eight political parties should have weighed the pros and cons of appointing people of their own parties as ambassadors without considering the credentials and potentials of the proposed candidates. At present it is doubtful if the politicians are serving the nation or merely promoting their own men and women at a great loss to the country. As national leaders they should have formed a committee to find persons of integrity and relevant knowledge for ambassadorial appointments. By doing so, they would have contributed not only to the promotion of our national interest, but also enhanced their own popularity among common Nepalis. Unfortunately, they did not dare to venture on a new path, choosing to serve their own narrow interests.

At this critical juncture in Nepal’s history, the Special Hearings Committee as an organ of the supreme Parliament must minutely examine the appropriateness of the governmental action in appointing the persons in question as ambassadors. The important question the Committee should ask itself is whether the ambassadors serve the country as national representatives or merely as party representatives promoting their narrow interests? The committee has to keep in mind that the image and standing of the eight parties has taken a nosedive among the people in the last year as no pro-people measures have been adopted despite the high sounding slogans of the eight political parties.

People are now eagerly waiting to see how the committee will go about the confirmation process. This will demand great acumen as the ambassadors’ job demands different abilities according to the countries they are appointed to.

The confirmation process in case of high Election Commission officials and Supreme Court judges appeared only perfunctory. The process was neither transparent nor adequate. Such a perfunctory act can hardly serve the intended purpose. Such token gestures will be meaningless and futile. Seen in such a context, can the committee exercise enough caution and sensitivity and equip itself with necessary tools and mechanism to make its hearing process praiseworthy?

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official