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Reluctant foreign minister

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Reluctant foreign minister

The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly is under way in New York, US. The key session or the general debate, where world leaders are addressing, started on Sept 20 and it will end on the 26th.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, UNGA was held in a hybrid format in 2020 and 2021. This year, it is going to be a fully in-person event.

The gathering of world leaders is an opportunity for high-level dignitaries to visit the UN headquarters and discuss world issues. It is also an opportunity to hold bilateral talks on the margins of the assembly.

Indian and Chinese foreign ministers S Jainshankar and Wang Yi respectively are scheduled to address the assembly. Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka, however, sent Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal in his lieu.

Geopolitical analyst Geja Sharma Wagle says it would have been better if there were a high-level participation from Nepal in the UNGA. “It may be due to the internal political situation but it seems the foreign minister is not working proactively since assuming the office,” he says.

Khadka refused to attend, citing the looming elections. But this is not the first time he has passed on the chance to represent Nepal at the global stage. Back in April, he had refused to attend the Raisina Dialogue organized by Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. A source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Khadka is not comfortable visiting foreign countries, particularly if that meant participating in international programs.

He has not shown interest in the works of the ministry as well. He has been known to delegate his duties to others. The source at the ministry says Khadka keeps visiting his electoral constituency in Udayapur, ignoring his ministerial responsibilities.

Ever since his appointment, he has barely agreed for an interview with the press. There has been no prime ministerial-level participation from Nepal in the annual UN gathering of member countries since 2018. That year, KP Sharma Oli led the Nepali delegation to the UN headquarters. In 2019, the UNGA was attended by then foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, and in 2020 and 2021, Nepal’s prime ministers had virtually addressed the event.