A High Level Foreign Policy Review Task Force (HLTF) recommends the Government of Nepal and political parties not to use foreign policy for domestic political ends or gain.
On behalf of the task force Professor Sridhar K. Khatri presented a copy of the report to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Thursday at an event held at Baluwatar.
The Prime Minister thanked the task force for submitting a comprehensive report. He said the report makes various recommendations to the government. These endeavour to improve application of Nepal’s foreign policy in the future.
The Prime Minister then handed the report to the Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi.
The Cabinet is yet to endorse this report.
The task force comprised former Foreign Secretary Madhuraman Acharya, former ambassadors Shambhu Ram Simkhada, Rishi Adhikari, Shankar Sharma foreign policy expert Nishchal N. Pandey, Lt. Gen. (retd.) Pawan Bahadur Pande, among others.
The task force’s report says, “A national consensus is required among main political parties so that they do not compromise on national interests and national security or use foreign policy for domestic political ends.”
Other highlights of the report advice “country’s internal political instability should not affect scheduling of state/official visits since the visits represent not the interest of the individuals but of the state”.
The report urges the government to host more visits of heads of the state/government from friendly nations.
“It is important for our politicians to strictly abide by the diplomatic code of conduct,” the report cautions.
A dedicated diplomatic code of conducted was approved, but later it was sent again to the Foreign Ministry for reconsidering some recommendations that are yet to be cleared by the Cabinet.
The report’s other suggestions to the government include - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must re-establish its authority as the primary agency to conduct foreign relations. The report expresses concern that multiple agencies are involved in conducting foreign policy and several times the ministry is not consulted. The foreign ministry must re-assert its role in Nepal’s foreign policy which has gravitated to other ministries, it said.
The task force recommends two positions at the level of Special Secretary should be added to assist the Foreign Secretary. These new special secretaries must be given clearly defined tasks. At present there is one secretary at MoFA and overloaded with the meetings, seminars, diplomatic engagements, preparations for high-level visit, administrative work among others.
On ambassadorial appointments, the task force suggests ambassadors must be appointed only at the recommendation of a search committee comprising of Foreign Minister as Chairman, one retired career diplomat and one retired political ambassador and foreign secretary as member secretary.
The MOFA should sign performance contracts with ambassadors designate specifying goals, targets and performance indicators.
Similarly, the MOFA and the missions should put in place electronic security measures so that vital information cannot be accessed, tampered or hacked. Establish institutional linkage between MOFA and National Security Council so that there is regular channel for sharing information, the report says.
On the appointment of honorary consuls-generals, the report suggests the MOFA should ensure appointments of honorary consuls-general/consuls by foreign governments in Nepal fulfill the criteria determined by the Government of Nepal 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.
Review the current missions of Nepal and not open new ones without proper homework, the report recommends.
The Council of Ministers had set up a 16-member task force in April 2017. It was establish with the Minister of Foreign Affairs as the convenor.
The task force’s mandates included: identifying determining factors of Nepal’s foreign policy in the changing context, reassessing different dimensions of foreign policy and diplomacy and its sectoral policies, including bilateral, sub-regional, regional and multilateral diplomacy, and recommending measures to strengthen coordination and collaboration between Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other Ministries and Departments.