‘Uninvited foreign guests’ brought political instability: PaudyalBimala Rai Paudyal served as foreign minister for 42 days and quit after her party, CPN-UML, decided to pull out of the government. Before leaving office, Paudyal accused political leadership of not adhering to diplomatic code of conduct.
Bimala Rai Paudyal, who quit as foreign minister on Monday, has accused foreign dignitaries of destabilising the country’s political environment.
While making a statement at the National Assembly on Monday ahead of putting in her papers to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Paudyal said that the diplomatic code of conduct was also breached by party leaders. Paudyal served for 42 days in office as foreign minister and as per the decision of her party, the CPN-UML, she quit her position effective from Monday.
The UML was the major alliance partner of the Dahal-led government, but after Prime Minister Dahal decided to support the Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Paudel in the upcoming election to the president, the relations between the UML and the Maoist Centre soured, leading to the UML pulling out of the coalition government formed in December last year.
While indicating the change in the political course, she accused the visits of foreign guests in Kathmandu after the formation of the Dahal government. There were high-level visits from the United States of America and India in the recent past. Victoria Nuland, the US under secretary of state for political affairs; Samantha Power, administrator of the USAID; and Afreen Akhter, the US deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) had visited Kathmandu and held talks with senior politicians and government officials.
Later, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra also came to Kathmandu and held at least a dozen political meetings apart from meeting his counterpart, Bharat Raj Paudyal.
Kathmandu is seeing a new political course after several back-to-back high-level visits from India and the US and some political leaders in Kathmandu claimed that the reason behind the change in the political course is the outcome of these high-level visits.
Before leaving office, Paudyal also accused the political leadership of failing to adhere to the diplomatic code of conduct.
“The Cabinet has made it mandatory that the representatives of the foreign ministry be present in the meetings between our leaders and foreign leaders, diplomats and officials, but our leadership has failed to implement the provision in an honest way,” said Paudyal.
Paudyal was especially irked with Prime Minister Dahal for stopping her from going to Geneva to attend the 52th session of the Human Rights Council. Nepal is a member of the council and this is the last year that Nepal will be serving as a council member. “That is why Nepal’s participation at the highest level must be ensured in the council, where we could share our best practices, but we could not,” Paudyal added.
CPN-UML leader and former foreign minister Pradip Gyawali said he was not aware of Paudyal’s latest statement, but his party had reservations about the way some issues that were not Nepal’s priority were discussed during some “unwanted visits to Nepal” by foreign officials.
“The visits of various American officials in the name of religious rights, Tibetan affairs and political affairs were not our priority. Our engagement with the US is not based on security cooperation, but that is not reflecting these days. It is okay for the Indian foreign secretary to visit Nepal, but the way he met parties’ top leaders and second-rung leaders is definitely concerning. Probably the foreign minister was indicating those visits,” said Gyawali who is also the deputy general secretary of the UML.
Amid growing unease between the prime minister and the UML leadership, the visit of foreign minister was cancelled on the instructions of Prime Minister Dahal, on Sunday. After Paudyal was barred from travelling to Geneva, the UML on Monday pulled out from the government with all UML ministers tendering their resignations to the prime minister.
While accepting the resignation of foreign minister Paudyal, Prime Minister Dahal said he stopped her from travelling so that she would not lose her post while travelling.
“I did not have any issue or problem with you,” said Dahal. “Due to some misunderstanding with the UML leadership, a new political crisis has emerged.”
After Paudyal’s removal, former minister Govinda Prasad Koirala will lead the Nepali delegation to Geneva and address the council’s meeting on Tuesday. Koirala, who is also known as “Govinda Bandi” has been elevated to the post of prime minister’s peace and human rights adviser.
Koirala told the Post from Geneva over the phone that he doesn’t know whether his advisory role is just for leading the Nepali delegation to Geneva or for a longer term. But Paudyal raised the legality of the decision to send Koirala to the UN meeting.
A Cabinet meeting on February 16 had decided to send a delegation to Geneva headed by Paudyal, but as per the instructions of the prime minister, she was forced to drop her travel plans hours before she was to take a flight to Geneva.
“I have not heard that Koirala was appointed as adviser to the prime minister,” Paudyal said in her statement at the National Assembly. “On what legal basis did the prime minister decide to send Koirala? On what legal basis, is he representing the country?”
When the proposal to send a Nepali delegation to Geneva was tabled in the Cabinet a few days ago, Koriala had been included as an expert member of the delegation.
“We have heard that after appointing him as adviser, he is entitled to lead the Nepali delegation to Geneva. But the representation should be made at executive level, not at the adviser level. Can an adviser or an expert lead the national delegation in such an important platform? There are certain legal questions and concerns that need to be clarified,” Paudyal added.
Some foreign policy experts and observers said that stopping the foreign minister from travelling to Geneva was a diplomatic mistake.
“It was a diplomatic accident,” said former foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey, adding, “The decision to stop the foreign minister from traveling to Geneva certainly is not in the interest of the country.”
Although Prime Minister Dahal claimed that Paudyal’s visit was stopped because he feared that she might lose the ministerial post while abroad, foreign ministry officials said there are several such instances of government change in Kathmandu when the foreign ministers were abroad to attend international functions.
If the prime minister was serious about the country’s peace process and human rights situation, he could have delegated a deputy prime minister to visit Geneva if he feared the UML would quit the government, the officials added.
“Several of our past foreign ministers were grilled in Geneva over insurgency-era cases, protracted peace process and Nepal’s poor human rights situation. This kind of negligence could invite foreign intervention in Nepal in the human rights sector. The prime minister failed to understand the gravity,” a former foreign minister said.
Last year too, Nepal did not participate in the annual meeting of the human rights council in Geneva.