From the eighteenth century when Nepal was a small kingdom it was paying its respects every four years to the Chinese Emperor at the court in Peking till 1946. The practice stopped after Mao Zedong took over in 1949.
Of course the Nepali themselves were lording over the Tibetans at Lhasa and had a legation there. It is on record that Jung Bahadur sent Bir Shumsher as head of the Nepali mission to Calcutta where the East India Company, in the guise of conducting business was gradually taking over and ruling over a large number of India states or principalities. The India that we know now, did not exist though there were references to Bharat Barsha! There are records stating that when Bir Shumsher sent the four yearly delegations with gifts to China, the Emperor at Peking sent back in return tea plants with suggestions to propagate its plantation in different parts of the country and to brew its leaves for a drink that was very beneficial to health.
Following the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816, the rulers of Nepal had to accept the British Residency in Kathmandu. Foreign visitors had to get special permission. We have on record the fact that Motilal Singh of Bhadgaon was the first Nepali to go to England having enlisted in the army of the East India Company after the 1857 war. He was there before Jung Bahadur set foot in England and is said to have acted as his interpreter. Before the days of passports, some Nepalis earning a living in India went to Fiji, Africa and even South America as indentured labourers. VS Naipaul, during his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize in Literature stated that his ancestors on his father’s side were of the ‘Nepal thar’!
I remember that when my elder brother went to the US in 1946, he was told bluntly that he would lose his caste and become a maleksha. He agreed and went carrying with him a huge document in Nepali paper, duly stamped and certifying his citizenship. Years later, when I went to the UK in 1954, passports had been issued with various directions such as, “It is most important that Nepalese subjects resident abroad at the earliest opportunity register their names and address at the nearest Nepalese Diplomatic or Consular Establishment.”
After 1950 Nepal started diplomatic relations with the United States, renewed its contacts with China and became a member of UN in 1956 when Tanka Prasad was Premier of the land. Following the coronations of King Mahendra and King Birendra, Nepal’s relationship to the outer world increased. It became even more when King Birendra came up with the concept of the ‘Zone of Peace’. Later, during his State visit to USA when King Birendra requested President Ronald Reagen for support for making Nepal a ‘Zone of Peace’, the latter is said to have assured him of US support provided that Nepal’s Northern and Southern neighbours did so too. It may be noted that at that time Nepal had been campaigning for this and 124 of the then existing ? 184 nations had assured of support to Nepal’s request.
It is apparent that the reason that Nepali Embassies or Consular offices are opened abroad are to look after diplomatic, commercial and interests of the people living in those countries. In addition it is to look after the interests of Nepali citizens visiting temporarily or on short or long term basis in the countries concerned. The existence of a consulate at Calcutta is an example of this.
Appointment of foreigners in foreign countries as Consuls is to look after Nepali interests. Similarly many Nepalis, mostly businessmen who have business interests in those countries become their Honorary Consuls here. Many benefit as a result, but have to spend substantial sums in maintenance too. The representative have social and trade benefits.
In the budget for 2018-19 the Finance Minister recently announced that the government would close ineffective Nepali diplomatic missions abroad after reviewing their relevance and performance. Some basic requirements were to be fulfilled to be diplomats. Of course the ‘bhagbanda’ of special plum postings is still maintained.
As the major responsibility of envoys is looking after Nepali interests it stands to reason that they should be where a large number of Nepalis are striving to earn a living as in India, the Gulf countries, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and elsewhere. Recently, Nepalis working in Turkey have demanded that an embassy be set up there. Cannot some Nepalis who have lived for some time in those lands and have some standing be given charge to look after Nepali interest in there? This would be in addition to the honorary foreign consuls who already exist in some lands. After all NRN are being subsidised and aided by the government of Nepal when they come to Kathmandu to hold their annual conferences at Dasain each year.
Some of NRN associations in foreign countries are charged as not being representative of Nepalis there. That may be so. In contrast one sometimes reads of the roles that the local NRNs have played in some countries of the Gulf in helping or saving those who have somehow come to be on the wrong side of the laws prevalent there. Another disturbing trend is the trafficking of Nepali women by some of our own misguided males and who land up in difficulties there. Lastly Nepalis residing there have extended great help to bring back to Nepal the bodies of those unfortunate Nepalis who have died whilst working in extreme temperatures or in traffic accidents.
With the recent setting up of relationship with both Burundi and Rwanda, Nepal now has diplomatic relationship with over 160 countries of the world. The fact that our present foreign minister is visiting many of the countries of the world in his whirlwind tour makes one wonder about his objective. Are we on track to make Nepal a land of goodwill for all nations of the world?