Nepal’s Diplomatic Approach Status Quoism Or Dormancy?
Foreign policy and domestic policy are the two important pillars of the nation. Every independent sovereign nation adheres to its own foreign policy to develop friendly relations with the outside world in the operation of its overall administration. Domestic policy is maintained for the creation of law and order and political stability in the country. Through the proper use of domestic and foreign policies, a nation seeks to develop friendly relations with foreign countries for the promotion of international peace and security. Domestic and foreign policies are, therefore, interlinked and closely related to each other. The success of one without the other would not be possible at all. The two are like the two wheels of a cart which go parallel side by side. What is most important is the positive and favourable domestic situation which counts most for the successful operation of foreign policy. Similarly, the success of foreign policy is equally important for the success of domestic policy.
How is it working in the case of Nepal? Nepal has orchestrated foreign policy of non-alignment and peaceful co-existence based on its geo-political situation from the very beginning of its formation as a nation state. In absence of a well-managed domestic situation, foreign elements will get opportunity to play a foul game around. Nepal’s domestic situation is so pathetic that if not corrected, it may lead to a catastrophe. Turbulent domestic situation affects the efficiency of diplomacy. At a time when situation demands strong diplomatic prowess of the administration, our political juggernauts should seek to strengthen it. The nation would suffer if diplomacy is not encouraged to be professionally proficient.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the executive authority for the implementation of the foreign policy. But it has come under fire from some quarters for not being able to discharge its functions, characterising it as “status quoism or diplomatic dormancy’’. Why it is so? Really, it is not the fault of the diplomatic apparatus. The fault lies elsewhere. Frankly speaking, it is the political instability and weakness on the part of politicians who are responsible for all these bad lucks due to their irresponsible pulls and pressures and unwanted interferences. The vested interest groups are very strong here for leg pulling, character assassination and defamation of individuals in the level of personal vendetta which is very despicable.
Attempts were made in the past during GP Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba’s administration to revamp the foreign services through the formation of various task forces but their recommendations were thrown into the waste paper basket. At a time when qualified and well educated people were inducted into the Foreign Service through competitive examinations of the Public Service Commission, people from backdoor started to penetrate into the top diplomatic postings abroad on a quota basis of the political parties in power. Such mismanagement of diplomatic services by political parties weakened the morale of the service which needs immediate correction.
The disunity, internal bickering and leg-pulling tendencies on the part of administrative services are the big drawbacks. Every now and then, the new faces of foreign minister come into the scene and disappear without completing one year in the coveted citadel. How can one expect effective diplomacy in such a messy atmosphere? Even in the case of new face of prime minister, his duration is so short lived that he spends the rest of the period by visiting India and China and other places engaging in promotion and transfer of senior officials of the government and appointing their kith and kin and puppets in the important government positions which have become a ritual affair.
If we look back into history, it was during the premiership of BP Koirala, the first elected premier of Nepal, that the modernisation of foreign services was made. Narapratap Shumsher Thapa, a young, dynamic and well-educated person was the foreign secretary who initiated service modernisation. He was succeeded by Professor Yadu Nath Khanal, General P.B. Khatri, J.N. Singh, B.R. Bhandari, U.D. Bhatt and Jagadish S. Rana. Professor Khanal, whom we call the father of Nepalese diplomacy, made every effort to codify diplomatic service into professional specialised service but he could not succeed due to the nonchalant attitude of the higher ups and his contemporaries in the other ministries. All the former foreign secretaries tried their best to make the foreign services a model within their limitations.
Nepalese diplomatic service which started from zero setup in early 1960’s looks much better now despite all hurdles and obstacles. The new generation of diplomats with talented persons can better handle diplomacy proficiently if the political leadership refrain from unnecessary interferences.
Another thing which seems lacking is the proper linkage and coordination between foreign ministry and other line ministries of the government. The line ministries should keep foreign ministry in close liaison while they engage on matters of foreign aid, assistance and foreign dealings.
Nepal today has established its several diplomatic missions abroad as the scope of diplomatic activities increased from the point of view of international trade, commerce and welfare of Nepalese diaspora abroad. In doing so, she has gone to the extent of opening residential diplomatic missions in Brazil and South Africa. It was done perhaps to have our diplomatic presence in all the continents of the world. Nepal is a poor country and should remain within the scope of “cut your coat according to the size of your cloth’’ by adopting the policy of “concentration and not expansion’’.
The Institute of Foreign Affairs was set up under the auspices of the foreign ministry with the idea of imparting qualitative input to foreign services personnel which is now in poor shape. It was quite active in conducting seminars and meetings on topical national and international issues. It was considered as a “think-tank”, an advisory body, to aid and advise the government in the formulation and projection of Nepal’s foreign policy. The government should resuscitate it to full capacity and arm our diplomatic personnel with modern sophisticated means of diplomatic methods and techniques in international dealings.