Govt asked to pick envoys through expert panel

Published On: February 13, 2018 06:15 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Feb 13: A high-level experts committee that submitted its report on Nepal's foreign policy in the changed context to the government last week has suggested to the government to appoint ambassadors only on the recommendation of a 'Search Committee' led by the foreign minister.

The High Level Task Force formed by the government to review Nepal's foreign policy and recommend measures to make it effective in the face of a rapidly changing world made the proposal to form the designated Search Committee in view of the questionable selection of candidates made by political parties for the appointment of ambassadors mainly under political quota. 

The committee led by foreign minister shall have one retired career diplomat who has served as ambassador and another retired ambassador from among political appointees as members, while foreign secretary shall act as member secretary of the panel. 

The appointment of ambassadors only at the recommendation of such panel is expected to curb the existing practice of picking ambassadors without any criteria. Ambassadorial candidates picked by political parties have often included individuals of questionable backgrounds and those with conflicts of interests. 

Amid dismal performance by Nepali ambassadors abroad, the panel has also recommended the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to sign performance contracts with ambassadors-designate, specifying their goals, targets and performance indicators. The panel has maintained that MoFA should have the authority to recall ambassadors whose performance is unsatisfactory.

The panel comprising former foreign secretary Madhuraman Acharya, former ambassadors Shambhu Ram Simkhada, Rishi Adhikari, Shankar Sharma, foreign policy expert Nishchal Nath Pandey, and Lt Gen (retired) Pawan Bahadur Pandey, among others, also suggested reviewing the existing Nepali missions abroad and not opening new ones without proper homework.  

Currently, there are a total of 39 Nepali missions abroad. These include 30 residential embassies, three permanent missions -- New York, Geneva and Vienna -- and six consulate offices. The government's decision to open new embassies in Spain and Austria and one more consulate in Guangzhou (China) earlier last year had courted controversy as the rationale for the missions was questioned. 

Also, the panel in the report entitled “Reorienting Nepal's Foreign Policy in a Rapidly Changing World” has urged MoFA to ensure that appointments of honorary consuls-general/consuls by foreign governments in Nepal are in line with the criteria determined by Government of Nepal (GoN) and also ensure that facilities, privileges and immunities granted to them are on the basis of the principle of reciprocity and according to Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963. 

The panel has recommended creating two special secretary positions to assist the foreign secretary in discharging his duties effectively. 

The panel has noted that political instability had taken a huge toll on Nepal's foreign policy over the past three decades and called for reorienting it.

While pointing out the need for national consensus among main political actors to ensure that they do not compromise on national interests and national security or use foreign policy for domestic political ends, the panel has also stated that internal political instability should not affect the scheduling of state/official visits since the visits represent not the interest of the individuals but of the state. The panel has also put emphasis for politicians to strictly abide by the diplomatic code of conduct. 

The panel has maintained that MoFA must re-establish its authority as the primary agency for the conduct of foreign relations. MoFA must re-assert its role in Nepal's foreign policy which has gravitated to other sectoral ministries. Establishing institutional linkage between MoFA and National Security Council to ensure that there is regular channel for sharing information is also among a number of recommendations made by the panel.   

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