Saturday, April 17, 2021

Diplomatic activism


Nepal has been elected as one of the four Vice-Presidents for the 71st edition of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that is to be held on 13 September in New York. Three other members from the Asia-Pacific region—Bangladesh, Solomon Islands and Turkmenistan—have been elected alongside Nepal. The number of vice-presidents from other geographical regions of the world has reached 21. Fijian diplomat Peter Thompson has been chosen the President. He will conduct the assembly like a speaker with the assistance of representatives selected as vice-presidents. It is challenging to manage the meeting of around 200 representatives from member states.

Nepal became a member of the UN in 1955 but this is the first time it has been elected at this high level. This can be called an important achievement but Nepal has already handled more important responsibility in the UN in the past. Nepal has worked twice in the 15-member Security Council that comprises five permanent members with veto power as well. It is coincidental that Nepal got both opportunities while the country had monarchical system. Unfortunately, under the democratic system Nepal took part in the elections to membership of the Security Council but it had to face shameful defeat. Nepal could not show necessary diplomatic skills. Political instability after Maoist armed insurgency dimmed Nepal's image in comity of nations. Due to nepotism and favouritism, Nepal's diplomatic circle failed to include competent and skilled persons. Circumstances have worsened with party politics in diplomatic matters.

A country caught between two big countries has to conduct its diplomacy with ingenuity. Nepal has maintained its independent status by keeping balanced relationship with both its neighbours since the time of Prithvi Narayan Shah, unifier of Nepal. Renowned US diplomat Henry Kissinger also has praised Nepali leaders for conducting balanced diplomacy. But Nepal has not been able to display such skills in the immediate past. As a result its southern neighbor imposed economic blockade and Nepal's role gradually weakened at international forums.

It has been ages since foreign affairs service has been clean and effective. People with inadequate academic qualifications and knowledge about foreign affairs have been appointed as ambassadors with blessings from political parties. This malpractice has tarnished Nepal's image worldwide. Over few years even these appointments have stopped due to differences in sharing of spoils. The post of Nepal's Ambassador for India was vacant for around three years and after Deep Kumar Upadhyaya's recall it is again vacant. Nepali embassies in many other countries are rudderless. Experts in diplomacy say that appointment of ambassadors are delayed or cancelled only at the time of war or hostilities. If such is the norm, the delay in appointing ambassadors sends a wrong message to capitals in friendly countries. This ultimately harms Nepal.

One of the chief reasons for this tedious delay is parliamentary hearings. This type of hearing did not take place earlier; any person representing the country got appointed by the head of state and immediately got deployed in destination countries. This new practice of parliamentary hearing to appoint ambassadors should be put under scanner because almost all hearings end in approval. Nepal has adopted political system from England and India and this type of hearing system from the US. This clumsy system has affected all diplomatic activities. Many embassies and missions are rudderless and maintenance of inactive diplomatic missions abroad has unnecessarily burdened the state treasury. Both the executive and the legislative are equally responsible for this mess. Their inaction has tested the limit of people's patience which can erupt any time.