Nepal government plans to launch a regional international forum every year


The government is planning to set up a flagship international forum in Kathmandu to host dialogues with the rest of the globe on Nepal’s concerns and expertise, according to officials at the Foreign Ministry 


Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has long expressed an interest in hosting an annual forum akin to those Singapore and India host every year. Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are putting together a concept to present to the prime minister. 


“As a mountain country, Nepal can take a lead on issue like climate change. As our first and foremost priority, the forum will focus largely on climate change,” said Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi. 


Other issues that the forum will discuss are Nepal’s success in building an inclusive society, the country’s political and governance systems, and the peace process. 


“The forum is to share Nepal’s experience with the rest of the world. As the country of Mount Everest [Sagarmatha], we are facing adverse effects of climate change and global warming. We thought we can lead the world in this topic,” Bairagi added. 


In order to shine a spotlight on the adverse effects of climate change, the Madhav Nepal government held a Cabinet meeting at Everest Base Camp in 2009. 


When launched, the forum, which officials told the Post would be called Sagarmatha Dialogue, will be the third state-owned initiative for promoting and pushing foreign policy ideas. However, the first two think tanks--Institute of Foreign Affairs and Niti Addhyan Pratishtan--have failed to expedite their work due to administrative and political reasons. 


Sagarmatha Dialogue is believed to be framed after two similar forums in the region: Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which was launched in 2002 and has since become a track one inter-governmental security forum and an independent think tank. Singapore hosts the dialogue every year.


The second one is right in Nepal’s backyard: the Raisina Dialogue, initiated by India’s Ministry of External Affairs. It is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion, involving a variety of global policymakers, including heads of state, cabinet ministers and local government officials. In recent years, both forums have seen the presence of major private sector executives, as well as members of the media and academia. 


Sunil KC, executive director at the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs, observed that apart from foreign policy issues and issues that Nepal can share with the rest of the world, the dialogue should focus on multilateral issues and Nepal’s reach beyond India and China. 


“It should be based on an arrangement where government officials and experts can come together. Second, it should focus on trade, investment, and emerging economies. Most importantly, it should not be seen as a purely government-driven initiative. Several think tanks operating here should be made a part of it,” said KC, who organises cross-country dialogue and seminars in Kathmandu on a regular basis. 


Officials are not sure exactly which modality will be followed while setting up the conference but they hope the forum will bring together international experts, academics, businessmen, media persons, government officials, and military officials to participate in Kathmandu.


Rajan Bhattarai, foreign relations adviser to the prime minister, told the Post that the concept was discussed recently and it is still in a “very preliminary stage” to share details about because a lot more needs to be discussed and agreed upon. He, however, said the forum would be similar to the ones in Singapore and India. 


The ministry has instructed the regional organisation division headed by Joint-secretary Yagya Bahadur Hamal to come up with a concept and modality after studying other international forums. 


Though a formal decision to initiate the dialogue is yet to be made, sources at the Foreign Ministry familiar with the developments said that a formal announcement would be made after the administration receives a report from Hamal. 


Initial thoughts are to initiate dialogue on agendas pertaining to regional and global issues ranging from geopolitics to climate change to security to defence cooperation.  Officials are devising a work plan to constitute and operate the forum but are not sure if it will have an institutional set-up.


A work plan and a charter will be prepared before the design and funds get approval from the government, said officials. The plan will also spell out the timeframe for holding the conference, and areas for collaboration with other think tanks and academic institutions, among others.


Published By : The Kathmandu Post