From scholar to diplomat

Features Issue 120 Oct, 2011
Text by Kapil Bisht / Photo: ECS Media

After seeing the world, a former ambassador is putting his knowledge to use.

Dr. Durgesh Man Singh is a man of stellar academic background. In 1966, he graduated as a Bachelors of Arts from Tribhuvan University with a distinction. He topped the University exams that year. He enrolled in the Delhi School of Economics for a Masters degree in 1968. His performance in the first year of study earned him a merit scholarship. At the Delhi School of Economics, Dr. Singh was taught by some of the best contemporary academicians and scholars. He was taught for two years by Amartya Sen, the world-renowned economist and Nobel laureate. Among his other professors were Jagdish Bhagwati and Manmohan Singh, India’s incumbent Prime Minister. In 1984, he completed his Ph. D. degree in Economics from the University of Florida. His dissertation for the degree, entitled ‘Macro Econometric Model for Small Open Economy – Nepal’, was a seminal work as it was the first macro-econometric model ever developed for Nepal.

After returning from the U.S., Dr. Singh began his career in the development sector. He was Senior Economist and Training Chief on Development Planning at the Centre for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA). Later, he was appointed Senior Economist at the Agricultural Projects Services Centre (APROSC). Dr. Singh also served as an advisor to the National Planning Commission for three years. Then he became a member of the National Planning Commission, remaining in charge of economic analysis for over five years.
While he was at the Planning Commission, Dr. Singh had led numerous delegations to different countries. This was the beginning of his career in diplomacy, and in a way, a continuation of his grandfather’s legacy. His grandfather, Sardar Gunja Man Singh, was a highly influential figure in Nepal’s diplomatic ties with numerous countries.

After serving as a member of the Official Summit Delegation to the SAARC Summit in Islamabad in 1989 and later as member of the Prime Minister’s delegation to Male in 1991, he was appointed the first resident Royal Nepalese Ambassador and Head of the Nepalese Mission to the European Union in Brussels in 1992. There he emulated the achievements of his grandfather by formulating the agreement for cooperation between the Nepali government and the European Union. It was during his time in Brussels that he realized the importance of conserving heritage. “In Europe tourists want to interact with the locals. In Nepal interaction is almost non-existent,” he says. Now, he is using all his experience to help bridge this gap between tourist and the people. He has devised a concept where tourists would be encouraged to visit not just the large palaces but also the local neighborhoods.

“Showcasing how people lived their lives in the old days should be our theme, not just herding tourists around a palace. Kathmandu’s old settlements are live museums. We must develop other facilities such as eateries and shops and ensure profits for its residents,” he says. The economist and scholar, combined with the diplomat in him, surely will help bring tourists closer to Kathmandu’s heritage.