After a long delay, the government on Thursday recommended ambassadors for 20 countries, including Nepal’s northern neighbor China, amid speculation who will represent Kathmandu’s current coalition in Beijing.
Bishnu Puskar Shrestha, a human rights activist and victim of the conflict, has been recommended as Nepal’s envoy to China under the CPN (Maoist Center) quota.
Shrestha is a victim of enforced disappearance. He was, however, released from state forces custody. He now chairs the Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation, a non-governmental human rights organization.
Dan Bahadur Tamang was recommended for South Africa, Sarmila Parajuli Dhakal for Spain, Basudev Mishra for Sri Lanka and Milan Tuladhar for Russia. Mishra is a close relative of Energy Minister Pampha Bhusal, who is also a Maoist center leader.
Tamang owns a foreign placement agency. Dhakal is Nepal’s former ambassador to Oman and Tuladhar served as foreign relations adviser to former Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal.
Kailash Pokhrel was recommended for Australia, Dilliraj Poudel for Malaysia, Shanta Rijal for Israel, Jyoti Pyakurel for South Korea and Ram Suraj Ray Yadav for Denmark.
Pokhrel, retired co-secretary, is a relative of former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairman of CPN (Unified Socialist). Poudel is a businessman and Rijal is a female leader close to the Nepalese Congress. Pyakurel is a social activist and Yadav is an economics professor.
Nawaraj Subedi, a member of the central committee of the Janata Samajbadi party, was recommended for Saudi Arabia. Naresh Bikram Dhakal, whose background and details were not immediately available, was recommended for Qatar.
Among the 20 ambassadors recommended, 12 are under political quota, and eight others are joint principal secretaries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Joint Secretary Nirmal Raj Kafle was recommended for Brazil, Sushil Kumar Lamsal for Egypt, Harish Chandra Ghimire for Bahrain and Tirtha Wagle for Myanmar.
Durga Bahadur Subedi, who currently serves as chief of protocol, has been recommended for Japan, according to a minister. Subedi had previously served as Nepal’s ambassador to the UK in addition to working in Japan as deputy chief of mission.
Ghanshyam Bhandari was recommended for Bangladesh, Dornath Aryal for Oman and Bharat Kumar Regmi for Austria.
The government of Sher Bahadur Deuba, on September 21, a little more than a month after its formation, recalled the ambassadors of 12 countries appointed by the former government of KP Sharma Oli.
With this decision, 23 out of Nepal’s 33 diplomatic missions abroad became vacant. No less than 11 missions were already headless for a long time.
On October 28, the Deuba government recommended Shankar Sharma, Sridhar Khatri and Gyan Chandra Acharya as ambassadors to India, the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. All have already arrived in the countries to take up their assignments.
There was, however, curiosity about who will be appointed to Beijing. According to an agreement between the ruling parties, Beijing was to be handed over to the Maoist Center, but the party took a long time to make up its mind.
There has been talk of Deuba trying to send someone of their choosing to China.
After several rounds of negotiations, the Maoist party finally decided to recommend Shrestha, sources say.
Initially, the Maoist Center proposed Leelamani Paudyal, Leelamani Pokhrel and Rupak Sapkota for Beijing. Paudyal, a former chief secretary, once served as ambassador to China. Pokhrel is a Maoist leader while Sapkota, who holds a doctorate in international affairs from Renmin University of China, is a former executive director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, a think tank under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Sapkota is also the son of President Agni Sapkota.
Insiders say Prime Minister Deuba was not enthusiastic about sending Paudyal or Sapkota to Beijing.
There were strong reservations about Pokhrel as an envoy to China given his strong stance against the Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact. Ever since Sashi Shrestha, Pokhrel’s wife, took over as land management minister in the Deuba government, there has been pressure within the Maoist center to choose someone else.
Sources said Deuba then urged Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to recommend “an experienced and experienced hand” for China given the importance Nepal attaches to the northern neighbour.
“Then Dahal passed on the name Bishnu Pukar Shrestha,” a central Maoist leader told the Post. Shrestha is considered a close friend of Dahal.
Amid delays in the appointment of ambassadors, the Deuba government had been criticized, in particular for not having sent an envoy to Beijing, an important mission for Kathmandu.
The mission had been vacant since Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, sent in April 2020 to replace Paudyal, was recalled by the Deuba government, along with 21 ambassadors.
Pandey was appointed to represent Nepal in Beijing by the Oli government after recalling Paudyal in March 2020.