Every civil servant aspires to be a chief secretary. Not all make it. There is a need for commitment and dedication to lead Nepal’s over 90,000 civil servants. For a civil servant from the foreign service, the possibility is rare.
Only a few bureaucrats serving the foreign office have chosen to be the chief secretary. They are often interested to serve ambassadorial positions following their retirement. However, Shanker Das Bairagi chose a different course. Instead of trying to head the foreign mission as his predecessor, Bairagi declined the offer to serve as ambassador.
Although Bairagi is the second chief secretary from foreign service, he is the first chief secretary promoted on the basis of seniority from the foreign service. Other senior contenders included Kedar Bahadur Adhikari and Mohan Krishna Sapkota.
Major-General late Shobhag Jang Thapa a bureaucrat, army officer and diplomat, was the first to serve the post of chief secretary after a major administrative reshuffle carried out almost immediately following the political change of 1960.
Continual Western Domination
Bairagi’s appointment as chief secretary is also regarded as the continuation of the domination of civil service by the western part of Nepal. For a long time, the position of chief secretary has been dominated by civil servants from eastern and central parts. Bairagi is the fourth chief secretary from west Nepal.
After the retirement of Bhoj Raj Ghimire, who hailed from eastern Nepal, all previous five chief secretaries were from western Nepal, except Rajendra Kishore Kshatrifrom the central region.
Close to his career or just weeks before the completion of his tenure as the foreign secretary, Bairagi has been appointed the chief secretary. Born in Parbat on 26 January 1966, to a Khanal family, Bairagi assumed the responsibility of the Foreign Secretary of Nepal on 11 October 2015.
He had joined Nepali Foreign Service in December 1987 and held a variety of positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal and the Nepali Missions abroad. Bairagi and his wife Hema Bairagi have three children.
Waiting patiently and risking a lucrative ambassadorial position as a reward for all early retiring foreign secretaries, Bairagi finally became what a civil servant aspires to be.
Dominated by legal and administrative groups of civil service, the coveted post has often eluded foreign service and civil servants from other services often discard foreign secretaries as inexperienced to hold the post of chief secretary.
Holding several posts in the MoFA, as well as Nepali Missions abroad, Bairagi was ambassador/permanent representative of Nepal to the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and other International Organisations in Geneva, as well as international organizations based in Vienna and Rome, from February 2012 to November 2013.
During the same period, he served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Nepal to the Swiss Confederation with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of Italy.
Bairagi, who graduated in law from Nepal Law Campus in 1989, and completed his master’s degree in political science from Tribhuvan University in 1995, also obtained a master’s degree in European Integration and Development (Euromaster) from the Free University of Brussels in 2002.
Prior to his ambassadorial appointment, Bairagi served as Deputy Permanent Representative/ Minister Plenipotentiary of Nepal to the United Nations, New York (November 2009 – February 2012). He led at the expert level the Group of 77 and China as a coordinator during the intergovernmental negotiations on the Istanbul Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries, adopted by the 4th UN Conference on the LDCs in May 2011.
The government had provided the role of officiating the Foreign Secretary after the then Foreign Secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa retired from the post on January 14, 2014. Bairagi has been leading the administration of Nepal’s Foreign Services ever. Due to a provision of the Civil Services Act of 1993 that requires at least five years of experience as a joint secretary to become a secretary, Bairagi could not make it to the post of the Foreign Secretary immediately. He was promoted as the Foreign Secretary from his officiating status only in October 2015.
Having enormous experience of serving at the international level, Bairagi will provide the much-needed leadership to Nepal’s civil service as its chief secretary.