Their Majesties the King and Queen of Nepal will return home tomorrow after a multi-purpose foreign tour replete with diplomatic achievements. Some are transparent to all; others, while also meaningful, are, perhaps, visible only to the discerning eye.
An attempt is made to encapsulate them here, beginning with His Majesty the King’s inspiring and dynamic leadership at the 13th SAARC summit in Dhaka. As Sanjiv Upadhyaya, a Nepalese engineer working in Chittagong, lucidly expounded in an Internet commentary:
“The stylish elegance, royal enthrall, regal grace and charm that he brought to the summit was something everyone noticed and appreciated…People like me who live abroad very rarely get the chance to boast of being a Nepali. Compare this with Nepal’s miserable performance in the yesteryears of the SAARC Summitry.”
Much the same opinion was expressed by an American woman correspondent based in New Delhi who, riding in the same hotel elevator with this observer attired in Nepali garb, spontaneously gushed: “Your King’s speech at the summit was by far the best.” Eloquence apart, the King’s forthright exposition of the reasons that prompted his February 1 move, the disclosure about the forthcoming elections at the local and national level and his blunt criticism of the “double standards” being adopted by some countries in tacking the menace of terrorism bowled over the audience of assembled dignitaries.
Ditto for the Bangladesh media, judging from press comments and coverage. One possible reason: Bangladesh is itself a target for such “double standards.” As all but the purblind know, bombs and murder constitute heinous terrorist attacks if they happen in the West but merely the inevitable adjunct of a just revolution if they take place in countries such as ours!
His Majesty’s successful stewardship of the national delegation witnessed other important gains. Among them must be included the decision to site the SAARC Regional Centre for Animal Health in Nepal. That should not only make Nepal the regional centre for concerns that are rapidly gaining global importance but also provide new employment opportunities for Nepalese nationals.
A more intangible – but no less notable – achievement at SAARC-XIII was the incorporation in the Dhaka Declaration that “small states require special measures for support from all concerned for safeguarding their sovereign independence and territorial integrity.” In my view, the single most important gain from the latest SAARC summit was Nepal’s yeoman role in steering the conclave into accepting China’s association with SAARC as an observer.
That, as those of us present in Dhaka can attest, would not have been possible without Nepal’s steadfast backing for the move at the official and ministerial level meetings – not to mention the coup de grace by the King at the SAARC retreat. Countries that had fiercely resisted earlier, publicly changed stance and made it seem that was what they had desired all along!
Nepal, in other words, made deft use of the SAARC convention on decision by consensus and, thus, was able to repay China for all the help and support that it provided Nepal, including at its current hour of crisis. This is a development that will have not merely long-lasting consequences on Sino-Nepalese relations but, indeed, positive and long-range ramification vis-a-vis South Asian development and diplomacy.
In Tunis, at the UN World Summit on Information Society, Nepal, ably led by the King, visibly joined hands with the international community to lay the foundation of a society offering equal opportunities for all to benefit from the advantages of information and communication technologies.
In doing so, the Nepalese monarch underlined his futuristic vision in exploiting the global information revolution to be made a “development enabler in the real sense by contributing significantly to reducing poverty and promoting development in the country.” The fact that the King was only one of very few Asian leaders to participate at the world summit did not go unnoted. While the King’s active participation – including in presiding over a plenary segment – certainly helped to place Nepal more firmly on the African map and psyche than has been the case thus far, it meshed very well with the follow-through visits to South Africa and Burundi.
Nepal’s long association with championing the anti-apartheid South African cause at the UN has been fondly recalled. The King’s Burundi visit was of special significance being a timely reminder of Nepal’s long-standing contributions to UN peacekeeping. It, besides, served as a timely boost to the Royal Nepal Army personnel who have had to face the brunt of the cruel foreign-inspired Maoist insurgency back home.
The King’s visit to Cairo serves to energise a bilateral relationship that, very frankly, over the years had withered. Since Nepal’s first embassy in the Arab world, as also in Africa, was established there, the African segment of the Royal tour now concluding serves to underline that Nepal’s external relations are not limited to Asia and the big powers. It also underscores that it truly appreciates the Arab world’s and Africa’s importance in world affairs, not least since the latter comprises the largest geographical block of nations at the UN.
Since the UN constitutes a central focus of our foreign policy, the increased African/UN profile must, thus, be considered as a valuable asset. In sum, one can truly assert that Nepalese diplomacy has reaped a bountiful harvest and is finally Nepal-centric. Kudos, clearly, are due our King.