Ambassadors recommended for 20 countries including ChinaBishnu Pukar Shrestha, a rights activist and conflict victim, has been picked for Beijing under Maoist quota.
After a long delay, the government on Thursday recommended ambassadors for 20 countries, including China, Nepal’s northern neighbour, amid speculations who will represent Kathmandu’s current coalition in Beijing.
Bishnu Puskar Shrestha, a human rights activist and conflict victim, has been recommended as Nepal’s envoy to China under the CPN (Maoist Centre) quota.
Shrestha is a victim of enforced disappearance. He, however, was released from state forces’ detention. He now chairs the Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation, a non-government organisation advocating human rights.
Dan Bahadur Tamang has been recommended for South Africa, Sarmila Parajuli Dhakal for Spain, Basudev Mishra for Sri Lanka and Milan Tuladhar for Russia. Mishra is a close relative of Energy Minister Pampha Bhusal, who is also a Maoist Centre leader.
Tamang is the owner of a foreign employment agency. Dhakal is former Nepali ambassador to Oman and Tuladhar has served as the foreign relations adviser to former prime minister Jhala Nath Khanal.
Kailash Pokhrel has been recommended for Australia, Dilliraj Poudel for Malaysia, Shanta Rijal for Israel, Jyoti Pyakurel for South Korea and Ram Suraj Ray Yadav for Denmark.
Pokhrel, a retired joint-secretary, is a relative of former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, chair of the CPN (Unified Socialist). Poudel is a businessman and Rijal is a woman leader close to the Nepali Congress. Pyakurel is a social activist and Yadav is a professor of economics.
Nawaraj Subedi, a Central Committee member of the Janata Samajbadi Party, has been recommended for Saudi Arabia. Naresh Bikram Dhakal, whose background and details were not immediately available, has been recommended for Qatar.
Among the 20 ambassadors recommended, 12 are under the political quota, and eight others are senior joint-secretaries at the Foreign Ministry.
Joint-secretary Nirmal Raj Kafle has been recommended for Brazil, Sushil Kumar Lamsal for Egypt, Harish Chandra Ghimire for Bahrain and Tirtha Wagle for Myanmar.
Durga Bahadur Subedi, who is currently serving as the chief of protocol, has been recommended for Japan, according to a minister. Subedi had earlier served as Nepal’s ambassador to the United Kingdom besides working in Japan as the deputy chief of mission.
Ghanshyam Bhandari has been recommended for Bangladesh, Dornath Aryal for Oman and Bharat Kumar Regmi for Austria.
The Sher Bahadur Deuba government on September 21 last year, a little over a month after it was formed, had recalled ambassadors from 12 countries appointed by the erstwhile KP Sharma Oli government.
With that decision, 23 of Nepal’s 33 diplomatic missions abroad had gone vacant. As many as 11 missions had already been headless for a long time.
On October 28, the Deuba government recommended Shankar Sharma, Sridhar Khatri and Gyan Chandra Acharya as ambassadors to India, the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. All have already reached the countries to take up their assignments.
There, however, was curiosity about who will be appointed in Beijing. As per an understanding among the ruling parties, Beijing was to be given to the Maoist Centre, but the party took a long time to decide.
There were talks about Deuba trying to send someone of his choice to China.
After several rounds of negotiations, the Maoist party finally decided to recommend Shrestha, according to sources.
Initially, the Maoist Centre had proposed Leelamani Paudyal, Leelamani Pokhrel and Rupak Sapkota for Beijing. Paudyal, a former chief secretary, has already served as the ambassador to China. Pokhrel is a Maoist leader while Sapkota, a PhD on international affairs from Renmin University of China, is a former executive director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, a think tank under the Foreign Ministry. Sapkota is also the son of Speaker Agni Sapkota.
Insiders say Prime Minister Deuba was not keen on sending Paudyal or Sapkota to Beijing.
There were strong reservations about Pokhrel as an envoy to China given his strong stance against the Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact. Since Sashi Shrestha, Pokhrel’s wife, has been serving as minister for land management in the Deuba government, there was pressure within the Maoist Centre to pick someone else.
Sources said Deuba then urged Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to recommend “a senior and experienced hand” for China given the importance Nepal attaches to the northern neighbour.
“Then Dahal forwarded the name of Bishnu Pukar Shrestha,” a Maoist Central leader told the Post. Shrestha is considered to be a close friend of Dahal.
Amid delays in ambassadorial appointments, the Deuba government had been facing criticism especially for failing to send an envoy to Beijing, an important mission for Kathmandu.
The mission had been vacant ever since Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, who was sent in April 2020 as Paudyal’s replacement, was recalled by the Deuba government, along with 21 ambassadors.
Pandey was appointed to represent Nepal in Beijing by the Oli government after recalling Paudyal in March 2020.