The diplomatic authorities of Nepal should keep an eye on the most recent developments of online diplomacy. They will miss the opportunity if they cannot pay attention to what is demanded of the emerging global practice. The nation will have to pay dearly for lagging behind in taking the initiative

Only a year ago or so, health scientists and intellectuals could not imagine the pervasive impact the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 would have on the world. Its onset in the last 11 months has pounded the health services, battered national economies and punctured normal diplomatic practices. The immediate impact of the deadly virus is felt in every part and region of the world. Consequently, national borders are closed, travel is banned and trade disrupted. Isolationism and protectionism rule the day, resulting in self-centric tendencies of nations.

However, interconnectivity, which particularly developed after the end of the Cold War, has kept the situation of interdependence ever expanding in the world.

In reality, the extent of interdependence has gone so deep that not even a hard self-centered national policy can dismantle its deep roots. No nation, however, powerful and influential it might be, can stand on its own autarkic status. But the tone and spirit of every nation have shifted from what they were in pre-pandemic times. Social cohesion and community affinity, both within and outside the borders of a nation, have taken a visible toll. A newer situation and exigency have come up within and outside borders.

This article intends to reckon the challenges appearing in the virus-affected context more intoned with the diplomatic practice of a conventional nature.

It primarily focusses on adapting to online diplomacy and an urge for desirable cooperation in essential health services.

Nepal, as a weak country in governance capability and feeble in its economic resources, is now obliged to approach the world with new spirit and activity. Nepal’s diplomatic functionality is still in its emerging stage. The primary requirements of the country are, as of now, foreign development cooperation and foreign investment to meet the ever growing demand of its citizens. More so, in the context of the highly reduced economic growth apparently disturbed by COVID-19. Reimaging the global scenario and rethinking a newer approach in external activities are needed to tackle the emerging issues. Also, reskilling and upskilling are necessary to brace for the new challenges.

Everyone is aware of how the virus has reduced the chances of in-person and site-diplomacy and evidently is giving space to internet and online diplomacy.

The scary virus has thrown its irresistible challenges in every sphere of human activity. However, the onset of the virus has not been able to challenge the rapid development of information technology (IT) both in its increased use and innovation.

People have witnessed how the Annual General Assembly of the United Nations, holding of the G-20 Summit and Regional Summits of ASEAN and the European Union have been satisfactorily organised through online diplomacy.

IT has thus visibly emerged as a triumphant force to reckon with. Yuval Noah Harari, a history professor and an intrusive analyst of the impact of IT, confidently says that IT has come to stay as an inalienable force.

Currently the conduct of diplomacy through the Internet is, however, limited to normal and routine activity.

The practice has yet to enter the arenas of high security and strategic importance.

There are still miles to go for the conduct of diplomacy using IT.

Experts, including Jovan Kurbalija, a well-known diplomat of the Internet, point out a need for making its practice stable, semblable, seamless and intuitive for its acceptability. Additionally, several gaps in the practice have to be addressed, its main functions have to be enumerated and its models shaped to carry out diplomatic businesses.

The diplomatic authorities of Nepal should be watchful and keep an eye on the most recent developments of online diplomacy.

They will miss the opportunity if they cannot pay attention to what is demanded of the emerging global practice. Restructuring where necessary and developing the human resources as called for should be carried out to meet the challenges and update the ability to brace for tackling the issues of the day. The nation will have to pay dearly for lagging behind in taking the initiative.

People are conscious that at least seven diseases and viruses have emerged in the world in the first two decades of this century, threatening human health on a large scale. They are SARS, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, MERS, Ebola, ZICA and finally COVID-19. These much feared viruses have prodded the authorities with higher responsibility for human protection and must act to timely institutionalise the management for the effective conduct of health science diplomacy.

Foreign ministries around the world and their missions abroad need to be equipped and energised with capable health experts and trained health officers to cope with any likely future outbreak of the dreary viruses. That process could be beneficially instrumental in carrying out bilateral, regional and global cooperation to tackle any health threatening emergencies in the years ahead. Integrating health diplomacy with political diplomacy could also reinforce the global health institution like WHO, which could not, as alleged by an influential power, contribute to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.

Timely proactive action is also urgently required to handle vaccine diplomacy for the safety of Nepal’s 30 million people as encouraging news of effective vaccines come from the US, UK, China and Russia.

Judging from the recent atrocities, the potential use of online diplomacy is highly desirable as it saves time and money during critical time. COVID-19 has taught a good lesson to adopt health science diplomacy to make a new knock in the diplomatic field, which is far more serviceable for a country like Nepal.