EDITORIAL: Diplomatic immaturity

The Foreign Ministry was right in issuing a statement but should have categorially disowned the controversial statement by Dahal

The government has shown diplomatic immaturity by making a statement on Nepal’s position on the Venezuelan crisis and antagonising the United States, with which Nepal’s relations date from 1947. A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said, “Nepal believes that internal political problems of a country need to be resolved within its constitutional parameters in a democratic manner, free from external interference. The people of Venezuela have the ultimate authority to take a decision on the country’s political and constitutional course. We stand for peace, stability and unity of Venezuela and call for resolution of differences through peaceful means”. Although this has been Nepal’s principled position all along while dealing with any country, it is going to take quite a deal of diplomatic maneuvering to convince the US that Nepal speaks from neutral ground.

While opinions vary, the strongly-worded statement by the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) last week in support of incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro while lashing out at the United States that wants to see the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as the interim president was most unwarranted. What prompted the party’s co-chair Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ to release the statement at a time when the defacto chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was outside the country attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland is open to speculation. Dahal’s statement was harshly-worded, and the party should have foreseen that it would earn the ire of the US government, which it did and promptly demanded the government’s official

position on the issue. In the first place, was it necessary to make any comment about Venezuela, a country that we have practically little to do with, and in so doing annoy the

United States that has been a key development partner throughout the last seven decades? Unlike Venezuela, our ties with the United States are multi-faceted, ranging from development cooperation to trade and investment.

The tone of the government statement and that of the NCP might differ, but the message both carry is the same. The Foreign Ministry was right in issuing a statement but should have categorially disowned the controversial statement by Dahal. Alternatively, if Nepal could abstain from commenting on the Rohingya refugee crisis for fear of antagonising either Bangladesh or Myanmar, could it have done the same in the case of the Venezuelan crisis also? The ministry statement truly illustrates the dilemma the government is in – neither can it disown the statement released by Dahal nor can it stand by Venezuela should the need arise. The NCP’s blunt statement has put the government and the country in a fix, and how this unravels itself is anyone’s guess. Should a diplomatic row between the two countries ensue, we should be cautious not to invite outside meddling in Nepali affairs. At that point, sermonising on the principles of Panchsheel will not help. Caution is the word while dealing with Nepal’s friendly nations so that we can guard our interests without drawing the ire of any one of them.

Clear hurdles

The delay in constructing the Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Duhabi 220 kVA double circuit transmission lines is likely to hamper the evacuation of power generated from the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, which is going to be completed by next fiscal. If the transmission lines are not completed as per the schedule, the power generated by the project is sure to go to waste. Construction of the double circuit transmission lines has been halted for the last two-and-a-half years as the Saptari District Forest Office (DFO) has refused to grant permission to cut down the trees lying along the high voltage transmission corridor. The transmission lines need to be completed within a year.

This shows the utter lack of coordination between the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation and the Ministry of Forest and Environment. Both the ministries must work in tandem to clear such hurdles seen at the district level. The Ministry of Forest should not put a spoke in Nepal Electricity Authority’s plan to erect the transmission lines, without which energy from the project cannot be fed to the national grid. The national priority project should not be obstructed due to such minor issues.