Diplomatic assignments : Challenges before new appointees

A year and half after the far-reaching political change in Nepal, the interim government is set to send a fewer than two dozens of new ambassadors to various capitals of the world. As the need is felt to train and provide them with relevant information and knowledge for diplomatic activities abroad, the government-controlled Institute of Foreign Affairs organised an orientation programme.

The concerned ministry of the government has also arranged a briefing programme related to various aspects of the Nepali workers engaged in various jobs overseas. Finally, the Prime Minister has instructed them to work as national representatives abroad for democracy to build and the economy to lift up in the larger interest of the nation.

It seems that all the new appointees are now imbued with requisite diplomatic ideas and equipped with essential diplomatic tools.

However, today’s world is much different from what it was only a few decades ago. Now it is not only globalised but also digitalised, wherein new diplomatic paradigm is fast emerging with new waves of ideas and practices marching ahead unstoppably. Meanwhile, beneficial and rewarding as it is, the practitioners of diplomacy should be able to employ it conscientiously to the advantages of his country. Diplomats today use the techniques and craft of transformational diplomacy — the principal objective of which is to respond to the needs of the people and to conduct the diplomatic business appropriately. The pertinent question now arises as to how this new aspect of diplomacy is to be understood and in what way it is to be utilised for better performance.

Importantly, the core need for conducting transformational diplomacy is to move ahead with the practice of public diplomacy that will take diplomatic practitioners to the public and publicly oriented organisations that helps them reach out to the people at large. The traditional diplomatic practice of limiting itself to the state-to-state affairs, although it is still one of primary requites, has today become inadequate and seems non-responsive to the greater needs of the nation and its progress. A true diplomat needs to reach out to the professional, cultural, socio- economic organisations alongside political parties abroad too.

However, he should be careful enough that he is not aligning with either of such organisations for his own benefits and his patrons at home. If a diplomat succeeds in public diplomacy, he will be able to help his country enormously to generate good and favourable opinion abroad. On the other hand, his opinion and reporting will also render useful services for his government to formulate and execute policy for the country of which he is a citizen.

Additionally, the indisputable predominance of democracy and respect paid to individual dignity today has largely enhanced the importance of citizens. Consequently, citizen-to-citizen relations have now assumed a much greater value. Citizen emissaries could do and have done great service in creating enduring linkages among citizens of various countries. A diplomat needs to show his ability and inclination to encourage citizen diplomacy between his country and the country of his residence. The connectivity so made between citizens of two countries is helpful in establishing good relationship among countries at the public level, which goes a long way in promoting understanding and creating an atmosphere of togetherness.

As time passes, this side of diplomacy should get precedence in addition to the other diplomatic activities. Nepali diplomats should never minimise the importance of this aspect of diplomacy, if they ever think to do some thing substantial for the country, because modern diplomacy is characterised more by mixing and mingling with the people than remaining in isolation.

Public diplomacy and citizen diplomacy have remained neglected from the purview of the Nepali diplomatic activities. Even to this day they are not taken as matters that carry greater significance. The authorities concerned and responsible officials must give a greater thought to these aspects if Nepali diplomats wish to become true practitioners of transformational diplomacy - the most recent trend that cannot be ignored or sidelined at this age of the people’s dominance everywhere.

Currently, the tendency of the international media, both electronic and print,

to portray Nepal as a land ravaged by conflict and political confusion is strong. Certainly, that is not a condition the Nepali people want to see. If our new ambassadors were capable of carrying on these two diplomatic activities in reality, they would undoubtedly serve the transformed Nepal in the transformed spirit. The new diplomats should, therefore, be aware of the emerging needs of modern diplomacy that Nepal so urgently requires.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official