Government’s latest picks for envoys court controversy

Published On: June 10, 2019 08:49 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, June 10: The government’s latest pick for ambassadors to four countries has courted serious controversy as those nominated for the positions lack any diplomatic experience or expertise in the field. 

Apart from the experts in the field, leaders within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have also voiced their strong dissatisfaction over the recommendations made by the government against the criteria approved by the cabinet itself. 

A cabinet meeting on Thursday had decided to recommend ambassadors to four countries including Australia, Qatar, Bangladesh and Spain. Sources said the ambassadors were recommended “as per a consensus reached among the party leaders to send their kith and kin to foreign diplomatic missions, while ignoring the competent and expert candidates to undertake the duties of ambassador.”

“When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced the criteria last year to ensure that competent persons are appointed to the post of ambassadors, there were some hopes. But the latest picks for the ambassadors show that even the Oli-led government is set to continue with the same old practice,” said a retired diplomat, asking not to be named. 

The latest picks, which the government is yet to announce officially, come amid criticism that those in the government have been appointing ambassadors to appease their leaders or cadres or to give their loyal persons a post-retirement benefit without giving any consideration to their experience and expertise. 

The government has recommended Mahesh Dahal, a close relative and aide of NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as the ambassador to Australia. Initially, a local level leader of Nepali Congress (NC), Mahesh Dahal joined NCP after he played an important role to help Chairman Dahal to win in the election in Chitwan. Although he is considered as a good orator and a friendly person, Dahal lacks any experience and expertise on diplomacy.

Source said Prime Minister KP Oli had recommended Narad Bharadwaj as Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar. Bharadwaj is a trusted colleague of Prime Minister Oli right since the Jhapa movement spearheaded by the then underground communist party. A professor of Tribhuvan University, Bharadwaj, spent 12 years in prison along with Prime Minister Oli during the Panchayat era.

Likewise, the recommendation of Dawa Phuti Sherpa, who is the daughter of late Pasang Lhamu Sherpa—the first woman climber from Nepal to scale Mount Everest- has courted huge controversy as her name has been recommended for the post of Nepal’s ambassador to Spain. Although she comes from a family of tourism entrepreneur, Sherpa, according to her close acquaintance, does not possess any qualification of a diplomat. Even NCP insiders struggle to answer as to what basis was she recommended for the position of an ambassador. 

Sources, however, believe that Sherpa must have been picked up as ambassador because of Prime Minister Oli’s close relation with the Sherpa family. Sherpa’s father Lakpa Sonam Sherpa is currently serving as executive director of Yeti Airlines after the demise of his brother Ang Tshiring Sherpa in a recent helicopter crash. 

The recommendation of Banshidhar Mishra as Nepal’s ambassador to Bangladesh is also not free from controversy. 

The current government has given continuity to the same old tradition of the previous government led by Nepali Congress which had appointed Chop Lal Bhusal—a medical doctor by profession—as the ambassador to Bangladesh. A former State Minister for Health and a central member of the ruling NCP, Dr Mishra is a promoter of Manmohan Medical College. 

While unveiling the new criteria for the appointment of ambassadors, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali had announced last year that special consideration would be given to the experience and expertise of candidates in the diplomatic field while making such appointments. 

“But the latest picks show otherwise. This will not serve the interest of the country,” said a former Nepali ambassador, requesting anonymity.

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