Som Pudasaini

Nepali diplomacy should have been sharply reorganised to derive maximum benefits in view of the momentous changes that have occurred in regional and global security, diplomatic and economic environments over the past decade. Unfortunately, it seems to be staggering in the absence of proper direction, unstable leadership and poor coordination. Economic diplomacy, terrorism and conflict, refugees, among others, have failed to receive serious focus. Ad hocism and business as usual continues to be the rule in the conduct of our foreign affairs.

In the face of globalisation and free trade, it is imperative that economic diplomacy should receive a very high priority in our dealings with other nations, their business community, multinationals and international organisations. Even powerful nations such as US, Japan, China and India are increasingly placing economic diplomacy at the core of their foreign policy. Extracting maximum benefits from WTO, SAFTA, dynamic economies of our neighbours, India and China, and partners in Europe and America demands enhanced focus on the economic issues.

Terrorism, insurgency and conflict and their implications to national, regional and global security, stability and sustained development are at the heart of serious contemporary debates and concerns globally. But our diplomacy is yet to geared properly to that end.

Migrations, refugees and stateless population are very important humanitarian, diplomatic and political issues confronting our world. But the lack of focus on the issues have landed us in the soup on the Bhutanese refugee problem and our national image has sunk to the bottom in the eyes of the refugees and the world at large.

Lobbying for important UN and international agency positions, including the non-permanent UN Security Council seat, image building, donor relations, millennium development goals, status of Tibet, water resources, environment, indigenous populations and gender are important diplomatic issues, particularly for the missions based in UN and the capitals of important nations.

Human rights violations by the government and the Maoist insurgents in Nepal are being increasingly raised by local and international communities with serious implications for external material and moral support to us. Our diplomatic apparatus will have to effectively convince the rest of the world on our human rights record by explaining unavoidable difficulties in a conflict situation and the genuine corrective measures taken to protect human rights consistent with our international commitments and democratic governance.

The foreign ministry, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and our missions abroad will have to learn to work more effectively and closely to ensure that our diplomatic apparatus places right focus on critical contemporary issues, assigns competent staff in time and maintains proper feedback. It is embarrassing that many ambassadorial positions, including the one at in Washington, are left vacant for extended periods and even key ambassadorial appointments are based on patronage rather than on competence. Nepali diplomacy will fail to meet the present challenges if it does not receive a new direction.