In view of the shifting trends globally and the political transformation taking place in the country, the traditionally structured mechanisms of the Foreign Ministry not only deserves re-examination, but also close attention of the policy-makers. The internal structure of the ministry based on geographic and regional considerations and aimed at carrying out protocol and consular affairs did its jobs in the past and continues to do so at present too. However, the dynamics for improvement are to be taken into account because the nouvelle vague trend that has emerged on a global scale requires new desideratum. The fact is that substantive political change requires Nepal to go ahead with the desired goal of keeping pace with modern, trendsetting events. If appropriate measures are carried out, the ministry could be made to work towards ensuring that Nepal’s external journey is democracy-oriented and smooth. It would be worthwhile to give the following propositions a serious thought.

The transformed political situation following last year’s April revolution demands that Nepal respect fundamental and human rights of the common people, which is also vital for the flourishing of real democracy in less advanced countries. Occasional and incidental contacts of Nepali political leaders with foreign dignitaries will hardly be enough to acquire the required knowledge and information so as to improve the country’s situation and enhance its image abroad. Instead, a well-structured wing needs to be instituted under the Foreign Ministry to establish constant and justified contacts with other friendly countries. This will help the country learn from experiences of viably functioning democracies.

Nepal still lags far behind in initiating and conducting public diplomacy abroad. This new aspect of diplomacy is carried out with a view to winning the hearts and minds of the public in general and people concerned organisations abroad in particular. To a country like Nepal in the throes of political transformation, favourable opinions of the foreign people need to be sought for the growth and maturation of the fledging democracy.

A well-organised division equipped with qualified human resources needs to be put in place under the ministry to publicise information about the situation in Nepal abroad. Diplomats, especially heads of mission and seniors, should be given the responsibility to disseminate relevant information through writings, public speeches and discussions. Internally, too, it is the duty of the ministry to keep Nepali public informed about Nepal’s foreign policy and conduct of diplomacy. This is important in the present democratic, cultural ambience.

The process of globalisation is the order of the day. However, Nepal remains untouched by this global tendency except in some cultural and informational fields. The question is, how to pursue our national economic interests in a globalised world. Don’t we need an independent department to study the main currents and recommend its findings to the government? Which other body will do this but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Reports of the much-hyped economic diplomacy often appear in the media and remain under discussion among the officials concerned and business tycoons. However, its results have hardly been felt in real life and it has hardly offered Nepal a valuable service. Thus, it might be inferred that an existing unit of economic diplomacy has failed to pursue its goals effectively. What is most needed is the creation and organisation of interest groups and lobbies in relevant countries to project Nepal’s needs and sustain a lasting, positive image. The absence of such groups has indeed marred any prospect for sustainability of economic diplomacy. The Foreign Ministry should establish an effective institutional setup in place of the old and ineffective one, to deal with and promote economic diplomacy abroad. This, in turn, should be done by organising and sustaining interest groups abroad.

Another missing element in the Foreign Ministry is a research and planning branch. Every other foreign ministry in the world works in tandem with such a department. But the authorities here have never realised the need to institute such a vital organisation. In an age of complex interdependence, how can a foreign ministry function effectively without taking into account the events and incidents of the region and around the world? The void created by the non-availability of information has left Nepal with no option but to conduct its foreign policy and diplomacy without any proper management and planning. There is an urgent need to remove this deficiency.

Every independent country moves ahead with ascertained views and approaches in ensuring its national interests. Why should we lag behind, if we really desire an effective role in today’s complex world?

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official