High government officials of Nepal holding talks with foreign leaders without a note-taker has ceased to be newsworthy stuff.
Such is the scenario, literally or otherwise, that we the sovereign people of Nepal may no longer be surprised even if our highest representative fumbles in his pocket in a frantic search for a pen and a piece of paper to write a summary of the meeting at a foreign capital.
Ambassadors from heavyweight countries calling on top political leaders in the latters’ private chambers or other convenient locations even during odd hours has become a normal thing (sort of). And so has the tendency of our leaders to visit some foreign mission for talks and get caught, sometimes.
Also, foreign diplomats visiting nooks and crannies of this country has become an in-thing, in the God’s Own Country.
What transpires during such exchanges? What is the purpose of such outings?
With no information forthcoming, rumors make rounds. Conspiracy theories abound.
Do our men/women in foreign capitals enjoy such luxuries? The luxuries of visiting, say, some scenic locations, hip and happening places? Or even calling on the head of the state or the government to discuss some pressing issues, for that matter? That too at the eleventh hour?
They do, but in their daydreams, perhaps.
It’s not that our laws promote such conduct. They don’t.
Clause 4.1 of the Diplomatic Code of Conduct, 2011 states: Ministers of the Government of Nepal or officials of the constitutional bodies or other senior officials should invite representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related ministries while meeting ministers, ambassadors or senior officials of the foreign governments.
The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should prepare the record of talks held on those occasions. In case of the inability to invite the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other Ministries concerned to the meeting under special circumstances, the agency concerned should make available to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summary report of the talks held during the meeting. Likewise, summary report(s) of meetings, contacts and discussions held by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be sent to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers.
Clause 4.2 states: Ministers of the Government of Nepal or officials of the constitutional bodies or other senior officials should, as far as possible, give prior intimation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while receiving foreign diplomats or other officials for courtesy or farewell calls, formal talks and meetings. Summary report(s) of the talks and discussions held during such meetings should be made available to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The supervisor of the individual concerned should be informed verbally or in writing before holding such meetings and talks. In the case of Secretaries to the Government of Nepal, the Chief Secretary to the Government of Nepal shall be the supervising official.
During his previous term as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Cabinet, Narayan Kaji Shrestha tried to enforce the code at least in part, to little avail.
Fast forward Jan 18, 2023.
During its first meeting, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Cabinet on Wednesday decided that government ministers should ensure the presence of foreign ministry representatives during their meetings with foreign diplomats and other representatives of foreign countries. This came in the wake of complaints that government ministers were holding parleys with diplomats and other representatives of foreign governments without informing the government of Nepal. An afterthought: Was this decision followed at a high-level meet held on Wednesday itself?
Once again, the government has taken an initial step in a bid to ensure adherence to its own diplomatic code and other international practices.
The government will need tremendous political will to go the whole hog. Let the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Diplomatic Code of Conduct 2011 be its guide.