The royal massacre in the Narayanhiti Palace two decades ago is now a distant memory. The Durbar Massacre, which took place on this date in the year 2058, resulted in the annihilation of the then-King Birendra.
If Nepal’s monarchy had lasted, special activities honoring King Birendra would have been held by the government on this day. However, it appears that hardly one remembers him now that Nepal has become a republic. Furthermore, since that COVID has destabilized the situation in the country, this day is passed.
Monarch Birendra was known as a polite and gentle king during his 30-year reign as Nepal’s head of state. He was limited by constitutional constraints after the establishment of democracy in 2046 BS, and he always worked within the realm of his rights. He lacked his father Mahendra’s political savvy and leadership abilities. During his time in office, he did achieve some favorable results. The purpose of this article is to examine King Birendra’s contribution to diplomacy.
Birendra had studied world politics at Eton College in the United Kingdom, the University of Tokyo in Japan, and Harvard University in the United States. He became king as a result of his father Mahendra’s legacy of a non-party Panchayat, and a multi-party proclamation was made during his reign.
Birendra, who succeeded Mahendra after his death on January 31, 1972, reigned for two decades during the Panchayat period and one decade after the multi-party system was established. He governed directly for two decades before becoming a constitutional monarch in the last decade.
Let us now look at the four most significant diplomatic successes made during King Birendra’s reign:
The ‘Peace Zone Proposal’ has received support from 116 countries.
The ‘Peace Zone Proposal’ was a significant step taken by King Birendra to improve Nepal’s international image. At the Fourth Non-Aligned Movement Summit, held from September 5 to 9, 1973, he discussed the concept. On the 25th of January 1975, among the foreign delegates present during his coronation in Algiers, Algeria, Birendra presented a detailed proposal for a peace zone.
King Birendra appealed for support for the plan to proclaim Nepal a Zone of Peace while bidding farewell to the visitors during the coronation ceremony. He made the idea based on the fact that Nepal was the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha, that it had peace agreements with the two neighboring countries, and that it had a non-aligned foreign policy in practice.
The idea for a peace zone in Nepal was endorsed by 116 countries, including China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. India, a neighboring country, did not show any support. After India’s hesitancy, the Soviet Union (now Russia) backed down from its first offer of assistance. Obtaining the written backing of 116 countries, on the other hand, was no small feat. Dr. Bhes Bahadur Thapa, King Birendra’s trusted ambassador, claims that 14 countries have given verbal support. Probably no other proposition Nepal has presented to the world has received as widespread acceptance.
Played a vital role in the establishment of SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded on December 8, 1985, as a regional organization representing seven South Asian countries. King Birendra was also one of the first to recognize the necessity for a South Asian organization. Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Pakistani President Ziaul Haq, Sri Lankan President Julius Ricard Jayawardene, Bangladeshi President Hussein Mohammad Arshad, Bhutanese King Jigme Sing Wangchuck, and Maldivian President Mauman Abdul Gayoom are among the other leaders who have signed the SAARC Charter.
Birendra even advocated forming a “SAARC Special Force” alongside SAARC, according to career diplomat Indra Bahadur Singh. Birendra recommended this in the 4th SAARC Summit held in Pakistani capital from December 29th to December 31st 1988, according to his book ‘Nepal’s Diplomatic Practice,’ written by Bishnu Rijal.
Birendra also had a role in the establishment of the SAARC Secretariat in Nepal. He opened the Secretariat at Thamel, Kathmandu, on January 16, 1987. On the 16th and 17th of November 1986, the Second SAARC Summit in Bangalore, India, resolved to locate the Secretariat in Nepal. The secretariat was set up in the building created for the then tourism department within two months of the decision, according to Kedar Bhakta Shrestha, a diplomat and former foreign secretary (who was also the ambassador to Belgium and the United States).
Former Nepali Ambassador to India Bindeshwari Shah worked extensively to establish the Secretariat, according to Shrestha’s book “Nepal’s Diplomatic Practice.”
From India’s Republic Day Chief Guest to a State Visit to the United States of America
Birendra had visited the United States on a state visit four decades before. Birendra was in town from December 5th to 13th, 1983. Dr. Bhes Bahadur Thapa, the Nepali Ambassador to the United States at the time, organized the visit. Since then, no Nepalese head of state or government has made a state visit to the world’s most powerful country.
Similarly, King Birendra was the Chief Guest during India’s Republic Day in 1999.
After King Birendra’s visit as Chief Guest, India has not asked the Nepali government or head of state to be the Chief Guest on any of the Indian Republic Days.
Established diplomatic relations with 46 countries
During King Birendra’s active monarchy, new diplomatic contacts were formed with 46 countries prior to the introduction of a multi-party system. Before Birendra became King, he maintained diplomatic connections with 49 countries. During his rule, the number of countries with diplomatic connections increased to 96 from 1972 to 1987. During Birendra’s reign, he established diplomatic ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, South Korea, Norway, and Finland.
Nepal maintains diplomatic ties with 170 countries at the moment. During Birendra’s active monarchy, 27 percent of the countries with which Nepal has diplomatic relations were established.