Nepal and the worldThe specific policies and capable representatives are must to conduct successful diplomacy abroad
Globalisation, unprecedented advancement in science and technology and the invention of fast means of transportation have brought a paradigm shift in international relations. Interactions between international actors have intensified, deepened and diversified. Countries all over the world are tuning their national diplomacy in accordance with changing global dynamics. This has helped them to attain their broader national interests besides maintaining international peace and security. Maintaining a diplomatic presence in foreign lands has also helped countries to achieve development and promote and protect fundamental human rights. In this context, Nepal cannot be an exception, and hence maintains a diplomatic presence in the capital cities of many countries.
A symbol of national sovereignty and independent identity, diplomatic missions are engaged and deployed to protect, promote and augment national interests. They remain vigilant to protect the country from incidences detrimental to the national interest. In addition, they also contribute to fostering and strengthening mutual understanding, cooperation and collaboration among countries. In a broader context, such missions play a paramount role in maintaining world peace and security, and their significance, sensitivity and gravity cannot be compared in monetary terms.
Nepal conducts interactions with the international community on national and international issues, challenges and opportunities. It maintains embassies in 29 countries. This is the lowest number of presence compared to other South Asian countries. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have 124, 67, 44 and 37 embassies respectively. Nepal maintains fewer diplomatic missions, but they are doing a commendable job in enhancing national dignity and the country’s international image. This is shown by our ever expanding and diversifying diplomatic relations and Nepal’s being elected to the UN Human Rights Council.
As of today, Nepal has established official diplomatic relations with 160 countries of the world. They include members of international, regional and sub-regional organisations. The country’s expanding bilateral diplomatic relations are also a clear indication of the improving and enhancing national image and dignity and international stature within the comity of nations.
Despite sound performance in enhancing Nepal’s international image and national dignity, Nepal’s diplomatic missions seem to be failing in promoting national economic interests. Nepal possesses huge potential to transform its national socio-economic condition by utilising its abundant national resources such as hydropower, agriculture, tourism, bio-diversity, mines and minerals. The country needs massive foreign capital investment, advanced technology and modern management skills and knowledge to exploit its resources. Nepal’s diplomatic missions stationed abroad need to play an active and effective role to attract them. They seem to be failing in this regard. They have not been able to explore new and attractive labour destinations to absorb our swelling number of energetic and young workforce who desperately need employment opportunities. Likewise, Nepali missions seem to be failing in promoting the nation’s export business to help bridge the yawning trade deficit.
Lack of specific and coherent policy guidelines and direction, adequate manpower and financial resources are some of the major constraints hindering Nepal’s missions abroad. Similarly, the absence of country-wise and commodity-wise policy priorities and strategies and weak leadership are also preventing the missions from performing better. And more importantly, poor coordination, cooperation and collaboration among government entities, diplomatic missions and the private sector are the major impediments behind the poor performance of Nepal’s missions in promoting and protecting the national economic interest. The existing practice of selecting and appointing national representatives, usually based on political affiliation, is also a major reason behind their deteriorating efficiency and effectiveness.
The way forward
The country has ensured political stability by promulgating a new federal democratic constitution and has held elections to the federal, provincial and local governments. This new historical political development has boosted Nepal’s image and thereby created a favourable environment in all spheres of national life. The current government has unveiled its foreign policy under its new policies and programmes. It aims to conduct its external relations based on mutual benefit and respect, international commitments, national interest and justice. It has given clear guidelines to its national representatives as well.
In this context, the government should seriously consider international and regional practices before taking any policy decision about restructuring the national apparatus representing the country abroad. Shutting down missions abruptly and shortly after they are opened does not give a good message. It does not contribute to enhancing national dignity, integrity and diplomatic credibility within the comity of nations. As per international practice, the decision to recall or close a diplomatic mission is made when a serious policy confrontation or dispute arises between countries.
Conducting international relations on an ad hoc basis must be stopped for the sake of national diplomatic credibility and integrity. It is also important to protect and promote the country’s national interests. A broader policy consensus among political parties, government entities, academicians and civil societies is highly essential for garnering international support for national socio-economic development. Moreover, the ambassadors sent abroad to represent the country’s sovereign legitimate interest must be selected and appointed on the basis of diplomatic acumen. Such representatives must have professionalism, language efficiency, negotiation and communication skills and knowledge, and intellectual depth.
Only candidates who are well acquainted with government policies and programmes, have sound knowledge on analytical tools and techniques, and are loyal to the country and the people instead of their parties should be selected to represent the country. Last but not the least, the national representatives have to be sent along with specific terms of reference instead of pointing a finger at the relevancy of the diplomatic missions abroad.
KC has a postgraduate degree from the KDI School of Public Policy and Management, South Korea