BY DR. RAJENDRA B. SHRESTHA
The cew Constitution of Nepal (2015) has outlined the directive principles, policies and obligations of the State regarding its foreign policy.
In the past few decades, the environment for international relations between nations has changed significantly at regional and global levels. There has been a shift from one of geo-political security and stability concerns to more of economic and social security concerns. Realization of economic inter-dependence between nations; and relations based on mutually beneficial win–win situation are becoming the new norm that is more sustainable.
Foreign policies well-grounded on domestic policies and priorities have proven to be more successful and sustainable in the world, whether a country is big or small. Our closest neighbors, India and China have successfully demonstrated this and have become one of the largest and fastest growing economies of the world. Nepal can learn a lot from these glaring examples and redesign its foreign policy (FP). There exists a very favorable political and economic environment. Nepal is well placed to benefit from such opportunities.
Focusing on economic development rather than conventional diplomacy has become more urgent. Application of tact, negotiation skills, and intelligence in promoting development, trade and investment constitute an integral part of development diplomacy. Attracting foreign direct investment from China, India and others along with transfer of new technologies, skills and managerial expertise in areas of Nepal’s comparative and competitive advantages i.e. hydropower, infrastructure, agro-forestry based industries, and tourism (religious and adventure) can boost our economy. However, effectiveness of development diplomacy hinges on several factors.
The non-partition High level Task Force (I was a member) formed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) looked into different aspects of Nepal’s New Foreign Policy including political, economic, security and institutional issues that needs to be addressed by Nepal in the changed global context.
Nepal will begin a path to prosperity and earn respect from development partners if the leaders realize and work to capitalize on this new opportunity to benefit from international cooperation in development programs of mutual interests that will lead to economic development and prosperity.
Need for Improvement
MoFA needs to develop its capacity to facilitate/coordinate development diplomacy with inter-/national partners to achieve SDGs and graduate to developing country status with middle income.The skills and competencies of Nepalese Ambassadorsplay a crucial role in fulfilling the above objectives and making our foreign policy more effective, meaningful and rewarding.
In the past few decades, Ambassadorial appointments have become controversial and ineffective due largely to political patronage, quota, nepotism, and bribery without considering individual’s job relevance, competency, qualification (minimal and desired), job performance and good track records. Appointments were considered as favors for rest and recreation opportunity rather than contributing to national development and accountability.
In recent times, key Ambassadorial positions in the immediate neighborhood, major countries, and dozenother places have remained vacant for long time while some embassies have been opened without proper review and vetting with no results. This has taxed national coffer unnecessarily.
In order to ensure that the country gets the best talents, the Government should constitute a Permanent Search Committee headed by the Foreign Minister (FM)including the Foreign Secretary,former ambassadors and independent professionalswith good track records and meeting desired criteria.
The High Level Task Force had recommended some guidelines for selection of Ambassadors. I am glad to learn that the government and especially the FM has started implementing the guidelines more effectively in an objective and transparent manner. As MoFA gains experience, further improvements are expected in future.
Keeping in mind the constitutional guideline, the appointment ofAmbassadors should be inclusive of gender, ethnic and regional diversity. The selection should be merit based in an affirmative manner and with a provision for alternative candidate. The present system of providing the Terms of Reference (ToR) to the Ambassadors should be updated and regularized in line with international best practices. The Ministry should sign performance contracts with the Ambassador designates clearly specifying the goals, targets, expected results and performance indicators. The evaluation of the Ambassador’s performance should be made strictly based on this contract.
Same individual should not be rewarded over and over again like in the past denying opportunities for candidates with new ideas, innovation and international experiences. Nepalese Ambassadors should be competitive in terms of training skills, professional competence and negotiation skills at least at par with international counterparts if we are to benefit from bilateral/multilateral dealings.
The Oli led CPN government has initiated a more balanced and effective foreign policy for international cooperation in keeping with the domestic policy priorities. With proper implementation of FP according to above guidelines, and appointment of Ambassadors (who represent the country), Nepal can ensure its best interest in achieving the goal of “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali” if we all contribute towards this goal.
(The author is the specialist on international cooperation and economic development; member, high level task force to review foreign policy, MoFA and past president of the Nepal Council of World Affairs (NCWA.)