Nepali Times Asian Paints
Guest Column
Diplomatic disaster



The year 2066 will go down in history as a time when Nepal became more dependent than ever before on the outside world. Diplomatically speaking, it was a year of uncertainty, difficulty and a lack of clarity.

Our immediate neighbours India and China and indeed the rest of the international community had hoped that after the restoration of peace in 2006, Nepal would reap the peace dividend, and there would be stability, development and the rule of law. Now that hope has been replaced by concern, if not fear, that the country may slide into an ethnic or sectarian conflict. Nepalis themselves are not just wondering if the constitution will be written on time, but whether it will be written at all.

Nepal may have been poor, but it was always regarded with affection in the international community. Nepalis were thought of as law-abiding and benign. Not any more.

At a diplomatic level, the national interest has been replaced by our selfish, clannish and partisan behaviour. Instead of selecting representatives to other countries on the basis of merit, character and competence they are chosen through inter-party swapping. This has not just weakened our foreign relations but also muddied Nepal's international reputation.

The past year saw a marked increase in the activity of foreign powers in Nepal. India has traditionally had a greater influence on Nepal, but China has also increased its interest, as manifest in the greater number of visits by Chinese dignitaries and security delegations.

When there is internal instability, outsiders will be more vigilant and active to safeguard their own national interest. India and China are global geopolitical rivals, and some of this competition is reflected in Nepal as well.

While the Indians have traditionally been active across the board, the Chinese were focused more on trade and economic cooperation. Both countries prefer to work behind the scenes to influence decisions. Recent years have shown that China may also be trying to exert influence not just to counter its traditional rival, but also to reflect its growing international stature.

Indo-Nepal relations are influenced less by what New Delhi wants and more by our leaders' beggarly conduct, based on selfish rather than broad national interests, even to the extent of inviting interference in interpersonal and intra party conflicts. The 'traditional' parties always behaved as if they couldn't get ahead without a nod from Delhi, and the new parties are also not immune to this attitude. As a result, in recent years, outside powers have also been consulting India in formulating their Nepal policy. Nepal is increasingly seen by other countries as a country that is incapable of taking care of itself.

For their part, the Europeans have always prioritised development and human rights. But they have been dismayed by Nepal's confusion and how political infighting has made even relatively easy activities much more difficult to implement. They thought they could be helpful to the peace process and constitution writing from afar, but even that is proving challenging.

It was because we couldn't manage our internal conflict that we had to invite the United Nations. We brought them here initially for six months, they have been here for two years. Until we have an internal agreement about army integration and the kind of military we want, no foreigner can give us suggestions, nor can we resolve those issues ourselves. Which is why we can neither keep UNMIN, nor can we do without them.

Not only do we have a weak foreign policy, it is looking like we don't have a policy at all. A country's foreign policy is the extension of its national interest, and it rarely changes with a change in government. But here we are assuring foreign powers that we will be their friend if they propel us individually or organisationally to power. Even those who use a different vocabulary sooner or later show that they are beholden.

Few had expected this country to be so dependent on the outside world as it is today. Which is why, instead of empathy, all we get from the international community is an attitude of pity. The challenge is within us, not beyond our borders.

Bhekh B. Thapa, former foreign minister, was also Nepali Ambassador to the United States and India.

Prachanda's choice- FROM ISSUE #497 (09 APRIL 2010 - 15 APRIL 2010)
Not impossible- FROM ISSUE #497 (09 APRIL 2010 - 15 APRIL 2010)

1. c
I agree with your point that it's because we have become very weak that foreigners have started interfering so much in our internal matters.
For instance,the ambassador of our southern neighbour is no one compared to the highly qualified people that we have in our country... probably a babu from bihar who managed to crack the civil services exam in india..thats it....but be it matters of construction projects,tenders...everything....we get to see him interfering.
And i dont understand why our politicians give this one out of a billion TIHS(read it in reverse) so much importance!

2. KiranL

Like the picture of the mouse, dog and cat. Guess India is the dog? It looks more threatening.

3. Nick Sharma
The pontification by Mr. Thapa is indeed amusing. Here is a man who has held all the important positions in the government that you can think of- Finance minister, Foreign minister, Governor of the Rashtra Bank, Ambassador to the most important countries and many others. Any situation does not appear from the skies.It crystalises over a period of time ...Whatever Nepal is today, is largely due to people like Dr. Thapa..... Next we will hear sermons from Ramesh Nath Pandey. Kamal and Sushila Thapa on how to run this country!!   

4. Sanjay
Here is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.Here is this guy who held all the important posts in Nepal with his shameless servile devotion to the palace now comes out of the woodwork hollering diplomats are not chosen on 'the  basis of merit, character and competence'!! Give us a break!I personally had the misfortune of a front row seat growing up during the Panchayat era seeing this guy fawn at every politician worth his salt just to land any plum post that  was to his liking.Does this guy really believe there was no one in Nepal more suitable than him?Dr.Thapa,here's a bit of news to you....if ever there was a list of the people who actually ruined Nepal, believe me your name will be pretty much around the top.

5. AK

Due to the constant change in Nepali politics, I am not that familiar with the key players.  However, living in the States for more than 10 years and being very close to DC I have seen so many ambassadors come and go.  While I was reading this article by Mr. Thapa, I agreed with him in many points.  Nepal has to send representatives who have some credibitlity and who are competent for the job - not just on the basis of their connection/political affiliation.  Personally, I think it is a well-written article and there is a lot to learn from it. 

I did enjoy reading Sanjay's comments.  Thanks for posting it because reading this article, I was really impressed by Mr. Thapa and his views but then if he was unable to show a significant different while he was holding such important positions then I don't know what to think about him.  If Sanjay is right about Mr. Thapa, then it's sad because even the educated ones who have had the opportunity to make a difference are not thinking about the national interest.

6. Battisputali

(Pardon the rambling nature of this post)

Foreign policy should be a multi-partisan affair, especially the important task of picking national representatives to foreign countries. The reason this is not possible in Nepal is because national identity has taken a back-seat in the transition from a unitary state based on monarchy to a potential federal republic (without unconditional surrender of many parties that supported the Monarchy). National Interest is constructed by the normative quality of the sense of nationhood. When a common sense of nationhood does not exist among all political actors, their other political interests will influence their decisions on matters of foreign policy (such as picking diplomats).

The constitution writing process is very important in the emergence of a coherent and contined foreign policy. It will potentially create a new nation-state meaning, not just the coercive apparatus of the state but a new national identity itself. Once the national identity becomes rigid, politicians will be bound to think in terms of the national interest. At the moment, a sense of nationhood is too fluid, too weak.

Sometimes I fear that we might be headed towards a Nepali form of warlordism where actors (from left and right) with economic and political interests end up rationalizing that their interests will not be served by the emergence of either a state of a nation. If indeed a new warlordism is emerging in Nepal, then we are in for some trouble.

A constitution writing process that cleverly distributes power among all aspects of Nepali soceity and eventual implementation is very important to create this new sense of collective national identity and prevent both outside interference and a potential rise of warlordism. A sense of nationhood created by diversity and not merely a state that patronizes diversity may lead to a strong nation-state able to form a strong foreign-policy.

There will still be constrains of geo-politics even after all the normative mess is figured out but finishing the contitution and implementing it might be a very good start to an effective foreign-policy.

7. Kenji
Surprisingly shallow commentary for someone who played in the top echelons of Nepali government.  Rather pointless as well, as no suggestions were offered for changing the status quo.

8. Kris
Who called these foreigners in Nepal? Stupid political leaders like you called them. Did you try anything to stop these foreigners when you were occupying the posts in Nepalese government. The situation is more terrible than what you mentioned here. It looks like Nepal can't stand without help from foreigners. Stupid politicians are begging not only money but also prime minister post, minister posts with India. We must keep distance with India for our internal matters. We should be a good friends to them but we should keep distance for our internal matters like what Srilanka doing right now.

9. npal
remember, this is the new nepal - get used to it.
as for unmin, what if they are also responsible feeding the situation to pull in their fat perks?

10. Anonymous
The author has raised serious concerns, shared by many Nepalis, about the current state of affairs in Nepal. Historically, public deserve all the rights to question the credibility of the performers of the past . However, blaming the past alone, and, indeed, failing  to take ownership of the present by the current key players shall not be an excuse at all. "Outside powers consulting India to formulate their Nepal policy" is disgusting and a direct blow to the sovereignty of our Nation.  It is a pity and shame that the 'culture' of patronizing by the palace  has been replaced with the 'culture' of  'bhag banda' and "warlordism" among the political parties. In essence, this is the continuation of the same obsolete 'feudal mindset' of  the past, i.e.'chakari', 'afno-manche', and factionalism (be it regional, ethnic or cast-based)....If  'New' Nepal is to succeed it has to instill the values of meritocracy, rising above the vested party politics, and working for the greater good for the country. A sound foreign policy is indeed the reflection of the healthy  internal democratic milieu of any country. Political pundits, diplomats, bureaucrats, policy-makers must be held accountable to the people. Whether one likes or not, one has to swallow  the Doctor's bitter pill that the "challenge is within us, and not beyond our boarders".

11. K. K. Sharma

Less independent than ever. Yes, this is what all who supported the Indo-servile parties had wanted. And they have got what they had wanted. Dr. Sahib, seems to be thinking of the Nepal of his days. Forget it, this is New Nepal now. 

12. vk
Thanks for a intressting article!!!
the problem was never the foreigners but what we allow them to do...cuz we back talk and bite our own brothers n sisters...
where did we learn this? In our home, Nepal, to follow the beat of bling bling gold coins n paper money...failed to see our own potential but sang resamfiriri and flew away in imagination...instead of just see the mighty himalayas and all potential that comes with it. We asked for Foreign developement money and made it a (political) lifestyle now dependent on...politicians hooked on the foreign investment/donation/loan sugar and the youth on the brown sugar....
besides raping and letting our country be raped...Our leaders smile as they beg for donations and aid....ASHAME!!!
from that a change based on merit not uncapability, self suffiency not dependency, love not war!

kaile honcha hola?

13. wtf
ok, read the article, and read all the posts...I have no regard for the older "pancha" people whom all you above seem to rant about....but tell me one thing what has this 'new nepal' and the leaders associated with it got us? Has it gottne any better if not worst? At least in those times, a few might have been thru merit, a few thru 'sifaris' about today? governments are toppled if their candidates dont get plum posts...and people still live with that imaginary figment of ' naya nepal'...WAKE UP!!!

14. jange
What is Nepal's foreign policy?

What is NC's foreign policy?

What is UML's foreign policy?

What is the Maoist's foreign policy?

Hint to NT- good topic for an investigative journalist piece.

And for good measure you can also add- ...and how does it differ from the Panchayat foreign policy???

15. Ramesh Tuladhar

The author brought up the relevant issues but there is nothing new in it. My experience of dealing with the diplomats in Nepalese missions has not changed before and after 2006. There were officials posted in diplomatic missions who were involved in passport forgery scandals in past too. I don't know about the deed of Dr. Thapa while he was in post but one thing is sure that the image of Nepal was never better during those periods. The author fell short of bringing solutions rather than complaining in this article, which everyone knew.

16. Lahure Kainla

True is alwyas bitter, I  know that Dr. Thapa is honest and patriotic, and real diplomat,

17. sunita tiwari
Nice article, 'Maila baje'!

I humbly request you to open your blog for comments. 

18. Sanjog Pradhan

"Chakari-pratha" was product of the Rana-Shah and Panchayat days. Dr. Thapa owes his success (to a large extent) to the mastery of that unique tradition. Chakari was not limited to the domestic rulers; when the politics of foreign aid started in Nepal, our politicians and bureaucrats of those days mastered the art of pleasing the foreigners. It became engrained in our culture. No matter how much one tries to erase those memories from public mind, truth will not change.....People like Dr.Thapa availed of the best oppurtunities to further their personal growth, not the country's. That fact will not change!!! 

19. gangalal
If there is one thing the diplomat abhors, it's change. Not all Nepali politicians are guilty of "beggarly" conduct, surely. Such gross generalization makes it easy to blame the current system in its entirety and advocate the return of the "master". Can't be helped. Old men, like children, are excessively fond of fantasies.

20. Chetna Kunwar

The author brought up the relevant issues but there is nothing new in it. My experience of dealing with the diplomats in Nepalese missions has not changed before and after 2006.

Why parties send techinician like Dr. Shanker Sharma and likes to important countries like USA, France, UK, and many other, no one can understand. Most of the countries send either a party affiliates or carrer diplomats, but not like Murari Raj Sharma, who was promoted by late Girija from the Finance ministry, who was a con artist for Nepali diplomats and a liability to Nepal as a whole, why can't the government put him in jail?  Does it make any sense to send many people known as' man for all the season', to send roaming around the world. Hey , guyes you all follow the Indians learn from India, who sends seasoned  Raj-doots even in Nepal, forget about USA and other vital countries.

In Washington DC., they hace got a new Benz car replaced the made in USA cars, what a fame to show to the Americans, by buying German car instead of American? But look at the residencncy where all the ambassadors have lived since Rishi K. Shah, it has become a reuined old house to colapse any time.

With all the best.

21. R RAI

This article and the comments above reminded me of Dr Novel Kishor Rai.I remember reading in NT some years ago how well he had performed as an ambassodor to Germany. He had been decorated by both the then HMG of Nepal and Govt of Germany.NT had all the praises for him as well. Interestingly he neither belonged to the elite group of Nepal nor was trained in diplomacy!

The attributes he had were  honesty and integraty,excellent communication skills,simplicity and genuine love for Nepal. He surely " begged" for his poor country(and succeeded greatly), but did that with dignity,integraty and genuine humility.

Will he be remembered? Will our elites even consider him worthy of a passing remark? I do not think so.

22. wtf
@17...haha, so this is really the famous maila baje?? big fan of his blog!

23. Sameer
Like a cat, dog and mice, let the dog be India and cat be China and mice Nepal. Actually we know dog doesn't eat mice, but the poor mice is facing dog for protection when threatened by the cat behind.  Dog is just wondering why this little mice is trembling and we know that if this dog doesn't protect this little mice, it is for sure that the wicked cat will grab the mice once the cat gets its chance! This interesting picture shows that mice is threatened behind by the cunning cat! I don't understand why some Nepalese are scared of dog, in reality Nepalese can learn from the situation of Tibet's occupation by China! Cat is always after mice!

24. Jyotshana
Had everyone shown the same degree of devotion and love toward the motherland sir we would not have had the same fate. Keep writing so that the sleeping dogs wake up and listen to some bunch of experienced and vetran diplomat.

25. Surya Raj Acharya
Dr. Thapa made valid points.

Nepalese leaders love to shout to reassure Nepal's sovereignty, and in the process end up undermining the same. Gross deficit in diplomatic disposition on part of our leaders (and political appointees for Ambassadorship) is taking a high toll in terms of tarnishing Nepal's diplomatic image. 

Some of the comments to this article seem to focus more on who Dr. Thapa was/is than on what he has written- ad hominem at work!

26. Prem

Thanks Thapa ji for the article. What you have written is true, but as said already nothing new. Have you ever tried to look how you grew up in the Panchayat era? Did not you become the first class civil servant directly through 'Hukum Pramangi'? That was the era when the 'blue blooded' could do anything they wanted and you were one of their proteges to grow so rapidly.

We definitely need to stand up on our own feet and leap, and not with the mercy of India and China. There is a plenty of opportunity and if you are a 'genius' why don't you propose a road map? Do you have any? If not, just shut your mouth and stop blaming others. If you blame the post-2046 leaders for such a situation, why not we open the accounts of your deeds during the pre-2046 period of 30 years? If we continue the blame game, I blame you and your patrons for bringing the country to this stage.

27. Kanchha
I know Dr. Bhekh Thapa is one the best administrator, and diplomat, when is in Washington, DC, use to associate with high officials of US government, and he had close connection with all Ambassadors from around the world, congressmen and Senators were his best friends, you migh surprise to hear  he use to play tennis with Brizinski  and president of world bank , he use to do his morning walk with President Jimmy Carter, I am  personolly proud of him, he is definitely true diplomat and  real administrator.

28. Ramesh Ghmire
That's the point, Kancha (#27). People like Dr. Thapa promoted themselves more than the cause they were serving. And that's the reason why they have progressed individually while the country suffers today. Please spare a thought for many others who were foolish to serve the country and not themselves......Sometimes ordinary people have more common sense than the so called educated ones. Having fooled the city elites, Dr. Thapa thought he could fool the ordinary people too. He stood in the elections post 1990 and guess what?- he got his deposit forfeited!!   

29. thuski
Sadly, in this article Bhekh B Thapa has not consolidated any new perspective that a man of his experience or position could postulate, regarding much of Nepal's current political theatrics. It felt like a waste of time being reminded what we already know. Only in the last passages does Dr.Thapa come through with some substantial reasoning regarding Nepal's foreign policy and/or the absence of it. I wish Nepali Times had the guts to demand more prolific contributions from the likes of Dr.Thapa..

30. suman pathak
This comment has been removed by the moderator.

31. jange
#28- It's all Dr. Thapa's fault that we are in the mess that we are. Let's hang him and solve all our problems!!

What exactly did Dr. Thapa do or didn't do that the country suffers today?

I can understand why going on morning walks with Jimmy Carter is detrimental to the interests of Nepal and no doubt contributed to the mess that we are in now, but apart from that, what?

32. Basanta Lohani
I believe in giving the devil its due. what Dr. Thapa has written is correct. But given the opportunity, he can outsmart anybody when it comes to seeking favors for his rehabilitation  - a wonderfully gifted man.  For almost fifty years, he managed to rehabilitate himself irrespective of who the king is, who the prime minister is and which the political system is. In the Republican Nepal too, he almost bagged a diplomatic assignment to Washington DC even from Prachanda but unfortunately the US happened to be not in Maoists'  quota. Thus, from the Forum's quota, Sukadev Shah became ahead of him but Shah too could not grab it as the Prachanda government collapsed.
Any way, I would like to congratulate the author for depicting the true picture of our vulnerability. 

33. Basanta Lohani
I believe in giving the devil its due. what Dr. Thapa has written is correct. But given the opportunity, he can outsmart anybody when it comes to seeking favors for his rehabilitation  - a wonderfully gifted man.  For almost fifty years, he managed to rehabilitate himself irrespective of who the king is, who the prime minister is and which the political system is. In the Republican Nepal too, he almost bagged a diplomatic assignment to Washington DC even from Prachanda but unfortunately the US happened to be not in Maoists'  quota. Thus, from the Forum's quota, Sukadev Shah became ahead of him but Shah too could not grab it as the Prachanda government collapsed.
Any way, I would like to congratulate the author for depicting the true picture of our vulnerability. 

34. CyberLekali
In 2032BS(?), I was in middle school and I was on the way back to home from my school in a bus. I listen to the radio in the bus. Dr. B. B. Thapa, Tulsi Giri, and their third colleague, the major masterminds of Galaicha Kanda were sacked. They were later pardoned, particularly, in the 2036 Saga as Tulsi Giri did not speak a word. Everyone forgot who was the manipulator "Dr. Thapa" in the Nepal's very infamous carpet scandal. Dr. Thapa continued to get political appointments as we Nepalis have memory loss problem. I could not forget the moment I heard the news at 2:30 pm news on Nepal Radio. Has Dr. Thapa ever regretted or said sorry for the crime he committed to the public of Nepal? Dr. Thapa became ambassadors and what did he do to avert the current scenario? He just went on to bring more and more carpet scandals of different form. I don't buy his articles. Period.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)