Nepali diplomacy : Political appointees spoiling Nepal’s image
Nepali diplomacy is beset with many shortcomings. In fact, the government has neither taken any initiative to put the derailed diplomatic practice back on track nor given any serious thought to improve it. The recent appointment of ambassadors for various capitals is but a glaring example, with important places given to political appointees who are neither exposed to modern-day diplomacy nor equipped with expertise in the area. Nepal’s neighbours are well aware of the fact and are eyeing these developments to meet their own interests.
Surprisingly however, government authorities have failed to understand the core contents and emerging trends of diplomacy worldwide. Had the government traced the emergence of a new trend, it might have looked for new talent. However, it only gave evidence of its indiscretion and negligence as it appointed ambassadors with hardly any diplomatic credential and few accomplishments. Consequently, the antiquated style and substance of the Nepali
diplomacy will remain unchanged. With the conspicuous absence of new ideas and fresh mindset, Nepali diplomacy will not only fail to adapt itself to the changing diplomatic equations but also be incompatible with the present world context.
No rosy picture of Nepali diplomacy can be sketched given the performance of politically appointed diplomats in the past. The present bunch of political appointees, with little diplomatic ingenuity and required training can hardly be expected to do wonders in the diplomatic domain. They can, at most, be expected to remain desk-bound and protocol pushing. Moreover, since they are the people handpicked by politicians, they can only be expected to fulfil politicians’ interests. Undoubtedly, the same obsolete diplomacy tinged with Nepali characteristics of the limited approach will continue to reign supreme for some time to come.
Government leaders need to be aware of the fact that they have transgressed democratic values by taking the liberty to make arbitrary decisions regarding the appointment of ambassadors. The leaders have not only proved that there is an absence of trust among themselves but also that they are self-centred and aim to promote only their vested interests. They also need to be mindful that government posts and resources are not their exclusive preserve. Particularly at a time when the government’s popularity is at its lowest, they also should not forget that they do not have the mandate to make decisions against democratic spirit.
Certainly, the core concern of ambassadors is to improve inter-state relations. However, the status of such relations cannot be enhanced unless modern diplomatic knowledge and expertise is brought into practice. The current climate demands that envoys be public-oriented with their skills and activities directed towards winning hearts and minds of people abroad.
To accomplish this objective, ambassadors must be equipped with capability to conduct diplomacy at the public level and win their favour. They also need to encourage people-to-people diplomacy between the country of their residence and their home country. Reaching out to the people is the foremost task of a diplomat abroad. Only the diplomats who can lobby concerned public-oriented organisations and institutions will be of any worth and substance. Generating favourable opinion at the public level is far more advantageous and rewarding than any other diplomatic venture. This approach would, in turn, help Nepali diplomacy achieve its goals.
Unfortunately Nepali ambassadors entrusted with responsibility to do the same have failed miserably in their duties. Most of them were lost in the diplomatic circle confined to the capitals they were stationed. Keeping in mind the failure of Nepali diplomacy, ridden with dearth of capable manpower and professional skills in the past, the interim government had to calculate the repercussions that the appointment of current crop of ambassadors could have.
One highly important area of diplomacy today is business. People wonder how the appointees of varied political backgrounds hauled up from political pools would learn instantly the art and technique of economic diplomacy in order to meet the fast growing demands of Nepali society. Giving good performance at the international arena will not be easy for the appointees handpicked with political considerations. Nepal’s diplomacy in the last 50 years has shown no concern for the internationally developing trend.
Now at this critical juncture of massive changes in domestic politics, how can the political appointees with diverse partisan interests contribute to enhancing Nepal’s image abroad? Political roles at home, no matter how diverse and successfully played, are not a criterion for success abroad. The need of the hour is envoys with proven capacities well equipped to work in emerging world order.
Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official