History of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The institution of Nepal’s Foreign Office is one of the oldest of its type in Asia. After the unification of Nepal by King Prithivi Narayan Shah, in 1769, an office called Jaishi Kotha was established to look after the foreign affairs, especially the relation with Tibet and China. That was the first institution dedicated for the foreign affairs in Nepal.The name of Jaishi Kotha was changed to “Munshi Khana” during the premiership of Bhimsen Thapa, and Jaishi Kotha was retained as a unit of Munshi Khana.

The ‘Munsi Khana’ continued to retain its name and existence during the whole period of Rana regime, of course with some reorganization from time to time. It was reorganised by Prime Minister Jang Bahadur Rana into three units such as British India Division, Jaishi Kotha, and Munshi Captain’s Office. It had yet another reorganisation during Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher Rana’s time, and additional five divisions and one associate division were created. The names of those divisions were: a) Jaishi Kotha b) Sadar Amini Goswara c) Seema Survey d) India – Great Britain Division e) Munshi Captain’s Office, and Singh Durbar Farmaisi Adda as an associate division.

After 1934, the Munshi Khana was also referred to as Foreign Department in English correspondence. It was upgraded to the level of a Department, and a Director-General was appointed to head it. The main works of the Munshi khana appear to act under instruction from the rulers of the time and make correspondences with some of the offices that were opened in India and Lhasa. They were “Alaichi Kothi” in Patna, Vakil Office in Lhasa, Honorary Vakil Office in Benaras, and the Office of the Vakil in Calcutta, which was later, shifted to New Delhi. As far as diplomatic relations were concerned, over a period of more than hundred years of the Rana regime, Nepal had diplomatic relations only with four countries, namely, India, France, Great Britain and United States of America.

The political revolution of 1950 was a decisive event from the point of view of the development and growth of foreign ministry. For the first time, an independent Ministry for Foreign Affairs was established in 1951. It is in this period that Nepal established diplomatic relations rapidly in keeping with the high priority it had given to the expansion of diplomatic relations with countries of the world. This period is also important from the fact that Nepal was able to become member of the United Nations, and the Non-aligned Movement, which provided it with the opportunity for full international exposure. Within this decade, countries having diplomatic relations with Nepal reached well over twenty-six.

The post 1960 period saw the rapid expansion of the Foreign Ministry’s activities. Accordingly, the Ministry’s internal work divisions were clearly delineated and several new political divisions were created on a geographical and regional basis. The divisions were: UN Division, Europe America Division, North East and South East Asia Division, South Asia Division, Protocol Division and Administration Division.

This period also witnessed Nepal’s active participation in the Regional and International forums and become member of various regional and international Organizations. Nepal, as one of the founder members, played a vital role in the establishment of the SAARC in 1985, including hosting of its headquarters in Kathmandu. Similarly, the country’s bilateral, regional and international relations also grew during this period. The Foreign Ministry, thus, emerged as a strong and dynamic institution in implementing the foreign policies of the Government. In the same way, Nepal continued to establish diplomatic relations with as many countries of the world as possible. The Nepalese Diplomatic Missions were opened in fifteen different countries and nineteen different countries opened their Embassies in Nepal. The number of countries having diplomatic relations with Nepal during that period reached around hundred.

After the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was re-organized again in 1993 to render it capable of the functions expected of it by the nation. The Ministry set into motion a number of administrative, institutional and policy reform measures to fit into the government’s objective for a lean and efficient administration. The Ministry underwent a fundamental restructuring to make it more functional. It was during this period that a separate ‘Foreign Service Regulations’ was put into effect, thus creating a separate ‘Foreign Service Group’ for the Ministry. The 2nd amendment-2064 BS of the Nepal Civil Service Act-2049 BS created a separate ‘Nepal Foreign Service’ in order to ensure specialization of its officials and streamline the personnel administration functions of the Foreign Ministry. The Ministry is now manned by over 400 officials among them 278 are the officials of the Nepal Foreign Service.  The Ministry also set up a new institution in the mid-1990s’, the “Institute of Foreign Affairs”, to operate in close affiliation with the Ministry. With the increased amount of diplomatic works including economic diplomacy and consular services to growing number of Nepali diaspora around the world, the country’s diplomatic presence abroad has expanded and number of missions have now reached 36 (29 embassies, 2 permanent missions and 5 consulate generals).

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