Foreign Ministry fails to implement its own criteria on ambassador appointments

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

May 27, 2019-

As soon as KP Sharma Oli formed his Cabinet last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced two initiatives to improve what it called haphazard system of appointing ambassadors and trim down the number of Nepali embassies abroad so as to open up the new ones as per the new priorities.  

As per the announcement, a Cabinet meeting in July last year approved new criteria for the appointment of ambassadors, which aimed to ensure that none of the Nepali missions remain vacant for long.

The Directives for Ambassadorial Appointment and its outlining criteria stated that the process of appointing an ambassador will not exceed three months.

The directive is already into force but not even one ambassadorial nomination has been made yet as per the criteria even though a number of missions have been without the ambassadors for months.

While approving the new criteria for ambassadorial appointments, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had announced that the process to appoint ambassadors will start three months before the position went vacant and that he would “the haphazard practice” of picking ambassadors.

But when asked why the new criteria were yet to be implemented and when nominations will be made for the ambassadorial positions, Gyawali told the Post that discussions were underway to appoint the ambassador soon.

But two officials at the Foreign Ministry told the Post that the government has adopted inconsistent policy.

According to the officials, there is inconsistency on part of the government, as it is recalling some ambassadors the basis of “political prejudice” while giving extensions to others. Some have even been told to resign, they said.

The ambassadorial criteria were approved long ago. But officials said they had no clue why the new criteria were not being implemented, as the entire process “falls under the jurisdiction of the political leadership”.

Article 3(e) of the criteria states that the process to appoint ambassadors will begin three months before the retirement of the incumbent ones and the next sub-article states that principle of inclusion will be maintained while making such appointments.

At least six missions are without envoys for long and two diplomatic positions in Beijing and Guangzho are lying vacant at least for 10 months. But no initiative has been taken to fill those positions.

The post of economic minister is lying vacant for the last 10 months in Nepali Embassy in Beijing.

Similarly, Nepal is yet to appoint the consulate general in Guangzho, one of the latest diplomatic openings of Nepal in the northern neighbour.

Nepali embassies in South Korea, Qatar, Bangladesh, Spain, Australia and South Africa have been without ambassadors for months. The top position at all six missions became vacant after the issuance of Directives for Ambassadorial Appointment.

Nepali Ambassador to the United States of America Arjun Karki was given extension whose term was over one month ago.

At least half a dozen ambassadors appointed by the previous government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba were recalled, but some three ambassadors appointed by the same government—to Japan, Sri Lanka and Oman—are not likely to be recalled, according to officials who hinted at a “political deal”.

Another serving Nepali Ambassador to Australia, Lucky Sherpa, was told to put in her papers. The post has been vacant for the last one and a half months.

In December last year, the government recalled ambassadors to South Korea, Spain and Bangladesh saying that their performance was poor.

The Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led coalition had appointed Arjun Bahadur Singh, Bharat Rayamajhi and Chop Lal Bhusal as ambassadors to South Korea, Spain and Bangladesh, respectively, in February 2017.

Singh and Bhusal were appointed in the Nepali Congress quota by the Dahal government while Rayamajhi was appointed under the Rastriya Prajatantra Party quota.

Ambassador Amrit Kumar Rai was transferred from South Africa to New York as Nepal’s Permanent Representative, a rare practice in Nepal’s diplomacy.

The Nepali embassy in South Africa has been vacant since last December after Rai was recalled and sent to New York.

Former foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya said that due to lack of institutional set-up, ambassadorial appointments have been a complex issue in Nepal for long.

“There should be a search committee to recommend qualified ambassadors. If that comes under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry, then I do not see any big problem,” said Achary. “But when the appointment process gets politicised, there is no remedy.”

Acharya suggested that the government should rather come up with a different provision akin to what guides the appointment of governor of Nepal Rastra Bank or vice-chancellors of universities.

“Having criteria is good, but what is the use if they are not implemented,” said Acharya.

Published: 27-05-2019 08:15

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