For A Strong Nepali Passport

Published On: February 26, 2024 07:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Recently, the Henley Passport Index announced the global ranking of passports for the year 2024. According to the Index, the Nepali passport continues to fare very poorly in the global ranking of passports. The Nepali passport has been ranked at the 103rd position, enabling Nepali nationals’ visa-free access to only 40 countries. This position of the Nepali passport remains unchanged from 2023, with Nepal sharing its ranking with countries as unstable as Libya and Palestine. In 2022, the Nepali passport had slipped further down to the 106th position. In 2021, Nepal’s rank hit an all-time low of 110. Similarly, the Nepali passport, which ranked 105th in 2015, bounced back to 98th in 2016. In 2017, the Nepali passport was at the 97th position, followed by the 101st position for three constitutive years—2018, 2019 and 2020.

Over the past 18 years or following the political change of 2006, the Nepali passport has fallen down 27 notches on the global ranking index. Many wouldn’t believe but the Nepali passport is weaker than the passport of even North Korea, which the world has long condemned as a one-party communist dictatorship. In the same way, the situation is worse than that of countries like Congo and Nigeria, which are being ravaged by civil wars, political instability and various other factors.

In South Asia, the Nepali passport is stronger only than their counterparts from Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is a serious question why we should always go down, far behind the other member states of the region with neighboring India being at the 85th position, Bhutan at 92nd and Sri Lanka at the 101st position. The bitter truth is the ever-weakening Nepali passport means that Nepalis are not given importance, but are rather taken lightly on the global stage. This poor international standing of Nepalis is a cause for concern, especially as Nepal is no longer in the midst of a conflict, is not involved in any large-scale criminal fraud or terrorist incident, and, most importantly, is a democracy.

In the past, Nepali citizens would receive on-arrival visas in many Asian and European countries. But today, Nepalis enjoy such privilege in only a few countries. The major reason behind this is, during the decade-long armed Maoist conflict (1996-2006) and in the immediate aftermath, many Nepalis sought asylum in the developed countries after reaching there on temporary visas. Later, this discouraged many countries from granting easy visas to Nepalis.

Most countries that provide on-arrival visas to Nepalis are either in Asia, like Singapore and the Philippines, or in Africa, like Egypt, Kenya and Rwanda. Also, only a few countries issue visas from Kathmandu at present while many countries have already relocated their consular services to their embassies in New Delhi or entrusted the task to private international firms. These developments in the diplomatic world speak volumes about Nepal’s international standing.

We have to look for the reasons why we are lagging behind even the most impoverished countries in the world that are facing actions like blockades, sanctions and exclusions. In particular, the lack of credibility is seen as the main reason for the weakening of Nepal's passports. Due to the fact that some of the Nepalis going abroad for some other purpose stay and work there secretly or illegally, there is a decrease in trust towards Nepalis, especially in the developed countries. This is the reason why many countries stopped issuing on-arrival visas to Nepalis.

The misuse of diplomatic passports by some of our politicians, including the members of parliament, is also a major reason behind the waning credibility of the Nepali passport. Because of this, foreigners started not trusting not only the people, but also the rulers of Nepal. This is also a reason why the Nepali passport has been sliding down on the ranking index every year.

There has been no political stability in the country for a long time. The fact that we have had hung parliaments and governments have to be formed through coalitions of parties has only added to the instability. In such a situation, the first priority of political parties becomes forming the government and most of their time is spent on sustaining such governments. In such a situation, attention cannot be paid to aspects such as strengthening the economic situation, creating employment opportunities at home, ending poverty and bringing in prosperity.

The poor ranking of the Nepali passport is a matter of embarrassment. Our weak passport is a major reason why young Nepalis are leaving Nepal and getting permanent residency in other countries. In such a situation, it is very worrying to witness that successive governments have done literally nothing to address this issue. The ranking of the Nepali passport will not rise without advancing the country on the road to prosperity. Without becoming economically prosperous as a nation, we cannot dream of a dignified presence on the global stage. Therefore, those who are in power need to think of the welfare of the country as a whole, instead of thinking only about how they can stay in power.

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