The book under-review focuses on Nepal's association with UN and encapsulates a wide range of areas like Nepal's long bid for membership despite the fact that it was in regular touch with League of Nations that preceded establishment of UN after the Second World War. Nepal has had an active participation in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the world body, stints of UNMIN and OHCHR, and role of UN in Nepal's foreign policy with critical analyses of the conduct of our foreign relations.
The United Nations Association of Nepal (UNAN) has come up with a comprehensive treatise on various aspects of Nepal's foreign policy with special emphasis on the country's rich association with the United Nations since joining the world body on December 14, 1955. The book was formally released by then Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on April 22, 2021. It carries messages from the Vice-President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. It is the second book of its kind brought out by the organization after the first publication covering Nepal's association with UN from 1956 to 1986 and tends to fill the gap.
With an attractive cover containing the flags of Nepal and UN, the book has been edited by a panel of four people, Prof. Mohan Prasad Lohani, Dambar Bir Thapa, Radhesh Pant and Tulsi Das Shrestha. The UNAN is a prestigious organization that was founded by Nepal's top-notch diplomat and scholar Prof. Yadunath Khanal who led the body for a long time since its inception including the period he was Prime Minister's Secretary, Member of Yojana Mandal (planning commission), Foreign Secretary for the first term and Ambassador to India. It was also headed by two top academic and administrative stalwarts and ambassadors like Prof. Yadab Prasad Pant and Prof. Dibya Deo Bhatt.
Pant who was founding General Secretary of the organization, was President of UNAN for two non-consecutive terms, 1967-1974 and 1979-1995, making him the longest serving chief of the think-tank on foreign affairs so far. Bhatt headed the body from 1974 to 1979. Dr. Bishwa Keshar Maskey served as the chief of the UNAN from 1995 to 2008 before the present incumbent Dambar Bir Thapa succeeded him. The organization has rendered yeoman's service in projecting Nepal's foreign policy vis-à-vis the UN with seasoned people in the field of diplomacy, governance and academics at the helm of affairs.
Like many other thinktanks and academic and research bodies, there is a strong feeling that the UNAN that is affiliated with the World Federation of United Nations Associations, has also lost much of its sheen in recent years as partisan politics and other preoccupations seem to have taken the frontal stage in national polity. It is high time that the government gave adequate attention to organizations like UNAN in terms of budgeting and research to augment and update their activities so that they can play a pivotal role in the realm of policy making pertaining to foreign affairs.
While it is a routine matter that foreign ministers and foreign secretaries attend such programs, the best day for UNAN described as an organization with scholarly credentials by Gyawali on launching this book, was probably August 24, 1960 when Yadunath Khanal as founding President hosted a grand reception for King Mahendra and Queen Ratna at the Sainik (army) Hall. The lead speaker was another stalwart, Major-General Suvarna Shumshere, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, with a wide-ranging audience including ministers, presiding officers of both chambers of parliament, parliamentarians, diplomats, intellectuals and senior officials.
The new book is a must-read work with significant highlights on Nepal's foreign policy with special reference to UN in the context of Nepal's abiding faith in the principles and spirit enshrined in the Charter. There are a total of 26 contributors ranging from a young intern associated with UNESCO Bangkok Office Aashiyana Adhikari to top diplomats including foreign secretaries, advisers and academicians. They include Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal and three former foreign secretaries, Madhu Raman Acharya, Gyan Chandra Acharya and Madan Kumar Bhattarai. Academicians and ambassadors like Mohan Prasad Lohani and Jayaraj Acharya have penned good articles with significant value additions. Other contributors include ambassadors Bishnu Hari Nepal, Dinesh Bhattarai, Ram Bhakta Thakur, Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat, Shambhu Ram Simkhada and Pradhumna B. Shah.
Others who have written include Binod P. Bista, Dambar Bir Thapa, Dwarika Nath Dhungel, Gopal Pokharel, Gopal Thapa, Indra Adhikari, Uddhab Pyakurel, Lt. Gen. Krishna Narayan Singh Thapa, Prakash A. Raj, Rajendra B. Shrestha, Sharad Kumar Shrestha, Shreedhar Gautam and Tulsi Das Shrestha. Some of the contributors have also served as foreign policy advisers to President or Prime Minister while others had associations with UN either at headquarters or other offices including field operations for peacekeeping. It is very sad that one of the contributors, Dr. Binod P. Bista, is already no more as a victim of COVID-19 so soon after the launch of the book and hardly within a couple of years of the demise of his father and former Prime Minister Kirtinidhi Bista who led Nepal's delegations to the UN General Assembly many times. Tributes to Dr. Bista.
The book though focused on Nepal's association with UN encapsulates a wide range of areas like Nepal's long bid for membership despite the fact that it was in regular touch with League of Nations that preceded establishment of UN after Second World War, Nepal's active participation in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the world body, stints of United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and Office of the Human Rights Commsssioner in Nepal (OHCHR), and role of UN in Nepal's foreign policy with critical analyses of the conduct of our foreign relations.
The book has a solid foundation of knowledge and experience. Among contributors, as many as ten have their associations with the world body, with at least five as Nepal's Permanent Representatives to UN with the rest in other capacities including as Force Commander of peacekeeping operations. Besides, at least two served under UN after their reliquishment of ambassadorship. As it is a valuable compendium of thoughts and reflections with emphasis on Nepal's glorious association with the world body including our contributions in various capacities like two-time non-permanent membership of the Security Council and sizeable support for UN peacekeeping operations, the book is a welcome addition to the literature on the field.
(Dr. Bhattarai associated with The Rising Nepal in mid-seventies is a former Foreign Secretary and author involved in the study of Nepal’s foreign relations from a historical perspective. He is available on firstname.lastname@example.org)