That the House of Representatives has instituted the Special Hearing Committee to examine the suitability of candidates for important government positions under the current constitutional provisions is both timely and appreciable. It is a right step in the direction of establishing good governance with the parliamentarians having a right to evaluate the uprightness of the government nominees. It will be effective if it is backed up with relevant information and required wherewithal to inquire into their appropriateness. Until now, no one, except the concerned people, knows how and to what extent the committee can examine the abilities and experiences of persons in question. At present, the government is expected to recommend the names of 14 nominees for ambassadorial assignment. The committee’s task won’t be easy if it is to institute in-depth examination of the recommendation. This means that the committee must examine if the government made the right choice of the ambassadors to important capitals.

It is common knowledge that ambassadorial assignments demand a high level of competence. For example, New Delhi is a very important outpost for Nepal from every consideration. Naturally, the ambassador to the Indian capital must be highly competent and on maximum alert with a great deal of mobility between the two countries. The person in New Delhi is instrumental in preparing stratergies to resolve any outstanding problem or new issues. The perfect candidate would be one who possesses essential diplomatic qualities of negotiating skills and drafting abilities and with a trenchant mind to analyse them systematically. A person only with countless office hours would not be suitable for the job and he or she can do hardly anything substantial to promote Nepal-India ties as the bilateral relations between the two countries are extensive. For Washington, Nepal needs an envoy who is adept at conducting public diplomacy to generate favourable public opinion about Nepal. Mere desk-bound diplomatic activities will not help. Official diplomacy is not very effective, especially in a highly open and democratic society like the United States where public opinion and lobby groups can exert more influence. Similarly, a person with an incisive knowledge of Chinese diplomatic schemes is wanted for the ambassadorial position in Beijing. If he is aware of the vagaries of Chinese diplomacy and diplomatic notebook, he may not fare badly. He should have the ability to understand the significance of China’s much pronounced “peaceful rise”, with particular interest in its neighbors. Proficiency in Chinese language could be an added benefit.

Brussels is the capital of the economically fast-integrating European Union, where most nations assign persons as economic ambassadors who are knowledgeable about trade matters and regional economic integration. Today, the EU is the biggest trading block with about 22 per cent of the world trade share. Could we find a person of a proven knowledge and expertise for the EU post? France is a unique country with a great pride in its culture and language. It is also the country which takes a special pride in first giving the message of Liberty,

Fraternity and Equality to the world. If the government can make a good choice of an envoy to Paris, the bilateral relations between Nepal and France would surely imporve. A person with a good knowledge of French history, culture and its language will do a good job.

Diplomatic jobs are not perfunctory duties in this age of complexity-ridden world of conflicting national interests of security and economic advancement. Students of diplomacy are familiar with the modern trend of diplomatic manoeuvrings. Most recently, three Ps i.e. Power, Persuasion and Patience, are recognised as playing a pivotal role in diplomatic activities. Dean Acheson, the secretary of state under Harry Truman, once said: “Influence is the shadow of power.” Unmistakably, this hints that power can exert influence over diplomatic actions. Nepal, for some time in the future, will not be in a position to wield any power, except the soft power of its people’s democratic will to fight against the authoritarian rule. Hence, our prospective envoys should have persuasive capabilities, be well-informed and have sharp reasoning ability. Of course, for the realisation of this goal, much patience, a much-appreciated diplomatic quality, will be needed. If they have competence in persuasive abilities and unflinching patience, Nepali diplomats will be able to make a significant contribution.

The committee would prove its worth if it could dare say “No” to any nominee or nominees who are neither well-qualified nor adequate exposure to diplomatic niceties and subtleties. The Special Hearing Committee, as the name suggests, must show its specific ability vetting the calibre and capabilities of the proposed candidates. We will certainly see its real capabilities in the coming days.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official