Promoting Nepal’s Diplomacy

 

Kushal Pokharel

 

Popularly known as a means of achieving foreign policy goals, diplomacy often involves application of tact and intelligence for the promotion of national interest. Furthering the interest of the nation by enhancing its prestige in the international arena is a priority. Evaluating Nepal’s diplomacy from this point of view,   the diplomatic achievement of Nepal has remained shaky.

Evolution of Nepalese diplomacy can be traced back to the time of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, an architect of modern Nepal, although its practice was in very subdued form. Since then, our diplomacy has come a long way, but instead of becoming progressive, it is heading towards failure. While Nepal’s diplomacy was highly successful during the 50’s and 60’s with dominating presence in the international arena, it has gradually lost its stature in the last few decades.

 

Lack of professionalism

In this light, it is important to examine some of the key issues pertaining to it. The conventional approach to diplomacy has become pervasive. Moreover, lack of professionalism has become obvious with our diplomatic officials primarily interested in expanding their sphere of power and influence. Our vital economic interests haven’t been prioritised by embassies and missions abroad. Hardly we hear about our diplomatic glory of late. They are equipped with poor knowledge and skills to play a major role in international negotiations. Driven by the servitude mentality, they have oft  en compromised the nation’s welfare, putting the state in peril.

Our diplomacy was bitterly exposed during the recent unofficial Indian blockade on Nepal. It is unfortunate that no significant diplomatic initiative was taken to normalise the situation from Nepal’s diplomatic mission in India, which compelled the general public to suffer for several months. Similarly, the trade agreement over ‘Lipulekh’ was another instance of diplomatic fragility.

It is surprising to state that Nepal’s diplomatic missions were totally unaware of the trade agreement taking place between India and China to expedite trade through ‘Lipulekh’ without the consent of Nepal. The lacklustre diplomatic machinery didn’t even smell the conspiracy being hatched. Despite the fact that the territory of ‘Lipulekh’ lies in Darchula district of Nepal, the Indian and Chinese authorities didn’t even bother to take permission from the Nepalese state before reaching an agreement, clearly indicating their intention to undermine Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

However, with dissenting voices rising from several quarters in Nepal, a tripatriate agreement among India, China and Nepal to promote trade in the region is being mulled. But sealing the deal in the best interest of the nation demands a pro-active diplomatic effort with broader national welfare at the centre.

 And the list of failures is exhaustive. Nepal’s diplomatic missions haven’t been able to protect their citizens living abroad. Even when Nepali immigrants have become a victim of exploitation, they haven’t got adequate support from their embassy officials. Moreover, the passport and visa procedures haven’t been yet made simpler, adding more problems to their stay in the foreign land. Particularly safeguarding the interests of migrants workers remain unaccomplished, forcing the countrymen to work under harsh conditions. Resolving these issues through the art of negotiation has remained long overdue.

Things don’t look promising in the field of economic diplomacy, which is regarded as one of the  most important forms of modern diplomacy. Expanding our economic interests through trade,  investment and tourism have been challenging. In the absence of a visionary leadership, accelerating economic growth has remained a ‘far-fetched’ dream. Sandwiched between two of the world’s fastest growing economies, Nepal has an opportunity to tap the emerging market and boost the national economy. However, growing trade deficit, lack of an investment climate and bureaucratic hassles are posing severe threats in this direction.  

Nevertheless, the potential of culture diplomacy also remains underutilised. Disseminating information on the richness of Nepalese culture and diversity to attract tourists has been inadequate. In the absence of a spirited diplomatic team, Nepal hasn’t been able to brand and market our unique socio-cultural practices and traditions. 

More often than not, the political interference in the management of foreign affairs has made diplomacy defunct. Ambassadorial appointments based on political patronage has done no good to improving our reputation. It has been embarrassing with many of these political appointees grappling to present a seminar paper or address a mass gathering in the recipient countries. Worse, some of them have been found to have no knowledge of the practices in international relations and diplomacy. Compared to them, the career diplomat, appointed from Nepal’s foreign service, has fared better .

 

Revamp diplomatic machinery

It is high time the diplomatic machinery was revamped. Ensuring merit-based appointments will be key to making our foreign service vibrant. Putting the right person at the right place based on expertise should be accorded a top priority while nominating ambassadors and high-ranking officials in diplomatic missions. Continuous support from the Foreign Ministry encouraging diplomatic officials to be engaged in scholarly activities like research and seminar presentation can improve their current level of knowledge and skill.

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