By PR Pradhan
What is the foreign policy of the present day Nepal, we cannot answer this question easily. The son of Venezuela’s controversial president was in town in the recent past. He visited Kathmandu at the invitation of the youth organization of the ruling party and thus the leaders from the ruling party held talks with him.
Nepal has joined the BRI club but we have not witnessed any meaningful participation of Nepal in the BRI activities. On the other hand, what is Nepal’s role in the Indo-Pacific Strategy initiated by the US, Nepal has yet to make things clear about this important military development in the region. What is Nepal’s policy towards India, we are not aware.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has already visited all the South Asian countries except India protected Bhutan. When the President of the neighbouring country China visiting Nepal, we don’t know.
It doesn’t mean that Nepal had no foreign policy in the past. Right after the unification of Nepal by great warier King Prithivi Narayan Shah, Nepal had adopted an equidistance policy with the two much bigger neighbours. He had described Nepal as a yam between two huge boulders. Since then, Nepal, a country which was never ruled by foreigners, adopted the non-aligned foreign policy. Nepali kings always maintained a mature foreign policy giving Nepal a new height in the international arena.
During the King’s times, the Foreign Ministry was identified as a prestigious place to work in.
Special consideration was given on maintaining protocol, which is the reflection of mature diplomacy. How is the state of protocol now, it was exposed last week when the Indian intelligence officer — RAW chief visited Kathmandu. Our MPs went to Lainchour Durwar to attend the Indian ambassador’s high-tea reception in honour of the Indian intelligence officer. Former prime minister and NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba went to the Indian Embassy to meet the Indian RAW chief. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli held a three-hour-long meeting with the Indian intelligence officer. NCP co-chairman Pushpakamal Dahal Prachanda also met the Indian officer at his private residence in Lalitpur. Is it justifiable to meet an intelligence chief of a foreign country by the present and former executive chiefs of the country? According to reports, PM Oli had even wished to hold a one-on-one meeting with the intelligence department chief of the Indian administration!
Our foreign secretary was in Delhi recently. We are unaware about any of his meetings with the Indian leaders. But the Kathmandu stay of the Indian intelligence chief was seen as a high-profile visit.
Our MPs, ministers and even former or present prime ministers are little bothered about protocol diplomacy. In India, political leaders cannot meet foreigners without the knowledge or presence of the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s representatives. There is a record keeping system in the Indian external affairs ministry about such meetings. Unfortunately, our leaders don’t hesitate to meet foreigners even by violating all forms of protocol. They choose to hold one-on-one meeting with the foreigners. Many times, we have seen our former prime ministers meeting with junior level Indian leaders in Kathmandu hotels.
We are saying that there is very strong foreign intervention in the Nepali politics. In fact, this became possible only because of our leaders’ attitude. Nepali leaders are found running behind the ambassadors from different friendly countries to enjoy the power or to retain to power.
Nepal maintains the principle of Panchasheel and the right to equal existence of all the nations, but our political leaders have given extra-ordinary respect and importance to the Indian ambassador or the Indian embassy here. Obviously, when the other diplomatic missions see such discriminations of the government and the leaders in treating different embassies, specially those embassies from the Scandinavian countries, always side with the anti-establishment forces in Nepal.
The so-called mainstream media which are funded either by the south or by the West are found giving special privilege to the diplomats, which they don’t receive in other South Asian countries. For example, James Moriarty was the US ambassador to Nepal. Always, he was found delivering political speeches expressing concern about human rights. Later, he was transferred to Bangladesh and we could not see his presence there in his entire tenure as the ambassador to Bangladesh. We don’t know, where he was hiding. It is clear that the Bangladesh government didn’t give unnecessary importance to the American ambassador. The ambassador was unable to cross the protocol lines and thus he was virtually ignored. Similarly, there was a British ambassador Keith Bloomfield – noted drinker who was found advocating human rights and democracy. It seemed that he was a big leader in the UK, but where has he disappeared since his return from Kathmandu?
The Nepali leaders may learn important lessons on foreign policy, diplomacy and even diplomatic protocol from the era of kingships in Nepal and from the existing practice in other friendly countries, granted, they should try to learn the lesson.