“In Oman, I’m popular by two names: People’s Ambassador and Active Ambassador”

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Four years back, when Sarmila Parajuli Dhakal was appointed Ambassador of Nepal to Oman, she had not completed her Phd. Dhakal, who had graduated in English while she was in Nepal, completed her Masters in Business from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She was soon able to add the doctorate title to her name after being appointed as a foreign envoy.

After Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba recalled more than a dozen of foreign envoys, Dhakal also had to return to Nepal. 

Following her appointment, Dhakal had to face various controversies but seemed happy after serving as Ambassador of Nepal for Oman for four years. 

Here is Dhakal’s experience as an foreign envoy shared with Ratopati:

How long did you serve as Ambassador of Nepal for Oman? How many times did the government change during the period?

Four year and seven months to be exact. Chairman of NCP (Maoist Center) Phuspa Kamal Dahal was the Prime Minister of Nepal then. Afterwards, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was on tour to Oman. Then, Chairman of CPN-UML KP Sharma Oli became the Prime Minister of Nepal. Now, Sher Bahadur Deuba is once again in the post of the Prime Minister.

What do you recall about those four years as a foreign envoy?

Being the first ambassador to Oman is the thing that I can feel proud of. I had both the challenge and opportunity to introduce administrative reforms, expand office and initiate diplomatic activities as the first envoy there. 

I left for Oman in May, 2017. Then PM Deuba visited in September the same year. The high-level visit was worth recalling as nine Cabinet members of Oman received Deuba at the plane and offered a guard of honor as well. It made headlines in major news outlets in Nepal for several days. It was a great achievement indeed. 

Thousands of Nepali migrant workers are in the Middle East. Is there any network of the Nepalis ambassadors to those countries in a bid to resolve the issues of Nepali laborers out there? 

Following the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, Nepalis envoys to various countries in the Middle east held a virtual meeting upon my initiation. We discussed the ways to resolve the issues relating with the migrant workers. 

We asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) for sound data management so that an effective repatriation and other works could be done. 

I think we both personally and professionally made our voices heard. 

The Nepalese Embassy in Oman was the first to conduct chartered flight to Nepal to repatriate stranded Nepali migrant workers. We created a WhatsApp group to ensure all Nepali migrant workers reached home safely. 

We  organized a total of seven rescue flights. 

How many Nepali migrant workers are there in Oman and how is the relation between them and the embassy?

The embassy has always involved Nepali community in its day to day activities. Working closely with Nepali nationals there made it easier to identify their issues and also to mobilize our resources and manpower. 

Every Nepali citizen working in Oman has been able to live a dignified life. There is no discrimaination from our side. During my tenure, not a single complaint was filed. Till my return, every dead body of Nepali people has been handed over to their families here in Nepal. No one has to be in custody or face legal action for a long period of time. 

Let me elaborate. There was a ‘hit and run case’. A Nepali national was hit by a vehicle. We couldn’t identify the driver. The file was about to be dismissed. We then consulted with the chairman of the insurance companies’ regulating body. I personally studied the case for more than a week. Contacted here in Nepal. After dialogues with authorities concerned, a compensation of 15,000 Riyal was provided to family members of deceased Nepali nationals. This is just a simple example of how the embassy functions.

In Oman I am popular by two names: People’s Ambassador and Active Ambassador. While I was returning to Nepal, not only Nepali nationals but three other Indian communities also came to see me off. I was also given an award. There are 800,000 Indian nationals and 20,000 Nepali nationals in Oman.

What do you consider a connecting factor for the diplomatic ties between Oman and Nepal? Is it foreign employment?

Bi-lateral ties between Oman and Nepal have improved in recent days. Yes, in earlier days, Oman was only a destination for foreign employment for Nepal. But after my tenure, it has changed. We worked in various sectors including literature, sports and diplomacy. We also organized an investment summit here in Kathmandu inviting the president of the Investment Board of the Omani government. 

We also worked for development diplomacy, health diplomacy and women empowerment and participations. There is no sector where we failed to work in Oman. 

We also made headlines in the Omani newspapers. Nepali people in Oman are happy and proud. I saw it in the eyes of our people there who came to bid me farewell.

In your view, if an ambassador wants what can s/he achieve in the Gulf countries?

There are not only problems in the Gulf countries but also opportunities. At a place where a little has been done, you can do more other new things. Despite multiple challenges, we established our own office in Oman in 2013. Similarly, we have all kinds of resources only if we are willing to do good. It takes time but change is possible. 

All the officials are required to be dutiful. 

You are not from a diplomatic background. It was your first experience in the diplomatic field. How was the overall experience? Is it essential for an ambassador to be from a diplomatic background?

Ambassadors must be diplomatic, down to earth and patriotic. I always felt proud to represent Nepal. I never underestimate myself. I have also been good at leadership since my childhood. Besides, I also had a diplomatic personality as well. 

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