KATHMANDU, Mar 1: After nearly three decades, the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu is set to remain without its ambassador after South Block failed to pick a successor to Ranjit Rae, who retired from service on Tuesday.
As India has not yet sent the agrement for its new diplomat in Kathmandu, it is likely the Indian Embassy will remain without an ambassador at least for a month. With Rae set to return home on Wednesday, Deputy Chief of Mission Vinay Kumar has started working as Acting Ambassador in Kathmandu.
India usually picks a successor to its Kathmandu-based ambassador almost two months in advance. Sources said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has failed to name Rae's successor on time as most of the prospective candidates this time are 'less enthusiastic' to take up an assignment that often runs into controversy.
On Friday, Rae himself had admitted that Nepal has been a very challenging and complex assignment for every Indian diplomat. “Hundreds of communication channels that exist between the two countries sometimes help while they create many challenges some other times,” he said speaking at Reporter's Club.
While senior career diplomats including Preeti Sharan, TS Tirumurti and Manjit Singh Puri are prospective candidates for the job, Indian media has also publicized the name of former army chief Dalbir Singh as a prospective candidate. Sources said Sharan has already declined the job, and the other two prospective candidates from among career diplomats have not shown much interest.
Although a section of the Indian media earlier projected former army chief Singh as the most likely candidate, sources said his prospects have weakened lately. Differences between the political leadership and bureacracy are also being blamed for the inordinate delay.
This is the first time after 28 years that India has failed to pick its ambassador on time. The Indian embassy was left without an ambassador for nearly three months after A R Deo returned home on completing his assignment in December, 1989. "As India has adopted a neighborhood first policy, we can expect the appointment of her ambassador very soon," said a former ambassdor of Nepal.
As Nepal-India relations reached a historic low during Rae's term mainly due to India's unofficial economic blockade, diplomatic observers in Kathmandu are carefully watching how soon and what kind of person South Block names as Rae's successor. “Rae's term was a complete disaster in terms of our bilateral relations. Let us hope New Delhi appoints an ambassador who can mend the relations,” said another diplomat, who asked for anonymity.