14 envoy nominees
The CPN (Maoist Center)-Nepali Congress coalition government has shamefully nominated relatives of powerful leaders, manpower agents and even a person accused of trying to suppress the 2006 Jana Andolan as Nepal’s envoys to 14 different countries. Most of the nominees have zero experience in diplomacy; and there is just a single Madheshi among them. This sends out a damning message about Nepal. Outsiders will judge Nepal on the basis of how our envoys comport themselves abroad. And few of the new nominees are likely to give good account of either themselves or of the country they represent, for they seem to have neither the experience nor the expertise to understand the many nuances of diplomacy. We don’t expect our ambassadors to be completely divorced from politics. In fact, in a society as thoroughly politicized as ours, it will be impossible to find such candidates. But even if you have to pick politically-inclined folks as envoys, at least choose those who have some experience in foreign policy: as foreign ministry bureaucrats, or as members of international departments of political parties, or as academic degree-holders in foreign policy, or those in some way involved, even if marginally, in making and implementation of Nepal’s foreign policy.
But most envoy picks are utter novices in the area. The kind of people that have been chosen makes people suspect that individual leaders and political parties profited, often materially, from the nominations. And why wouldn’t the Madheshi community feel aggrieved when the state so blatantly discriminates against them, making a mockery of its commitment to inclusiveness? When senior politicians like Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sher Bahadur Deuba, who among them picked most envoys, start making such vital decisions through executive fiat rather than through broad consultations, they also offer unmistakable hints about the undemocratic nature of Nepali polity. It is common knowledge that both Maoist and Congress parties are run as personal fiefs of their top leaders.
There is thus a well of disagreement in both the parties, including on ambassador appointment. Deuba is looking to impose himself as the undisputed leader of Congress after the death of Sushil Koirala; Dahal has been able to hold fast to the post of Maoist chairman, through his own brand of cunning and guile, for nearly two decades. In thus always putting their personal interest before that of the country they do great harm to the health of nascent Nepali democracy.
Now it is up to the Parliamentary Hearing Special Committee (PHSC) to decide on the fate of the 14 envoy picks. But there isn’t much hope since the committee has in the past only served to rubber-stamp the names of proposed ambassadors. This happens because the committee is also predominantly comprised of the members of the ruling parties. Nonetheless, the least it can do is thoroughly grill the nominees on how they will serve the country’s interest abroad. The onus is on the new envoys to come clean. There also needs to be sustained pressure from the media and the civil society on our political leaders not to so blatantly compromise on national interest. And those who do must be endlessly named and shamed.