Theme: “Nepal in the World Stage”.
Honourable Minister for Finance,
Friends from Media,
Ladies and gentlemen.
At the outset, let me thank the Kantipur Media Group for inviting me to this conclave and for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
I willconfine myself on the given theme- Nepal in the World Stage and dwell upon foreign policy and diplomacy- especially on how we are promoting national interests in bilateral, regional and multilateral spheres.
For that, let me begin by a quote from the address to the nation by the Right Honourable Prime Minister Mr. K P Sharma Oli a few days ago on the completion of one year in office by the present Government.
“Nepal has improved its foreign relations in the spirit of ‘amity with all, enmity with none’. Nepal has demonstrated balanced foreign policy while maintaining visible presence in global affairs. It is a matter of satisfaction [that] Nepal’s voice is being heard in regional and international forums. Attraction, appreciation and confidence of the global community towards Nepal has grown.”
This statement by the Prime Minister succinctly captures the present state of Nepal in the world stage.
Now, let me briefly outline how this has been so and how we intend to further consolidate our foreign relations to the service of Nepal’s core national interests.
The Constitution of Nepal provides guiding framework for the conduct of our foreign policy and international relations. Our foreign policy aims at safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and protection of national interest. Within this framework, promoting Nepal’s credentials as an open and progressive democratic State at the international level; and pursuit of effective economic diplomacy to the service of overarching objective of “prosperous Nepal and happy Nepali” remain twin goals of our external engagements.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you all know, Nepal began to open up to the outer world only after 1950. Our place in the global stage therefore represents the achievements of our foreign relations thereafter.
The journey so far has been characterized by the expansion of bilateral relations, expansion of trade, commerce and economic relations, acquiring membership of most of the multilateral organizations, including the United Nations, championing of regionalism, adherence to the principles of UN Charter, non-alignment and strong commitment to international law and norms of world peace.
This has enabled us to take independent posture on international issues, articulate our views on merit basis, contribute to the world peace, and nurture friendship with all countries of the world on the basis of sovereign equality.
Having said that, let me touch upon where we stand today.
We have maintained harmonious and friendly relationship with both of our immediate neighbours.
The Right Honourable Prime Minister’s official visit to India and the official visit of Indian Prime Minister to Nepal twice last year have elevated the relations to newer heights. Pending issues are being addressed in a spirit of mutual cooperation and friendship. Implementation of development projects under India’s cooperation has gained momentum. We have agreed to increasing cooperation in agriculture, railways and cross-border waterways and they have already been taken up with priority. The scope of development cooperation has been expanded manifold.
During the Prime Minister’s visit to China, 14 various MoUs and Agreements were signed on cooperation in projects related to railways, road and energy sector. We have agreed to intensify implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative to enhance connectivity, encompassing such vital components as ports, roads, railways, aviation and communications within the overarching framework of Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network. With the agreement on the text of the Transport Transit Protocol, door has been opened for Nepal to use roads and ports of China for access to and from the sea.
Exchange of visits with our immediate neighbours in my capacity as Foreign Minister and existence of strong relationship and contacts between the governments and people at different layers have further consolidated our age old ties with them.
As much as our relation with our immediate neighbours is important politically, we consider them as combination of opportunities to benefit from their unprecedented economic transformation, and source of trade, tourism and investment.
Our relations with the countries in extended neighbourhood are nurtured by growing cultural and traditional ties. We have intensified exchange of high level visits andare striving to diversify our engagements in the areas of trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchanges. The Presidents of Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia and Thailand, and State Councilor of Myanmar visited Nepal last year alone.
Our relations with the labour receiving countries have become substantial by the presence of significant number of Nepali migrant workers, exchange of high level visits, and steadily growing trade and investment. The Right Honourable President paid official visit to Qatar last year and UAE the previous year. Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf and South East Asian countries have been a major source of remittances that account a sizeable source of national income. They have also significantly contributed for the economic development of the destination countries and serve as a bridging bond of exchange and friendship.
Our relationship with major powers and development partners have remained cordial and friendly. Exchange of bilateral visits with these countries continue to grow. The Prime Minister had bilateral meetings with the President of Switzerland, Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and Canada on the sidelines of 73rdUNGA. Prime Minister Right Honourable Mr. K P Sharma Oli visited Costa Rica and held bilateral meeting with the President there.
In my capacity as Foreign Minister, I visited Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Portugal, and renewed our partnership with the European Union. I also visited Japan and my Japanese counterpart paid return visit to Nepal immediately after that. My visit to the United States of America and meeting with my counterpart provided opportunity for high level political contacts between the two countries after many years. In all of those visits we have been able to renew, nurture and consolidate bilateral relations, understand each other’s concerns and interests, and expand mutually beneficial agendas of economic cooperation.
Foreign Secretary’s visit to France to participate in the Paris Peace Forum in November and French Secretary-General’s return visit to Nepal last month represented the high-level contact between the two foreign ministries in many years.
Last year alone, we held bilateral political consultations and meetings with China, United States of America, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Australia, Canada, France, Mongolia and Poland.
On the multilateral front, Nepal has been an active member of the United Nations since 1955. Nepal’s contribution to the maintenance of world peace through participation in the UN peace operations for over 60 years has been widely acclaimed. Currently, Nepal stands as the 5th largest troop and police contributing country. Nepal has served in the UN Security Council twice.
At present, Nepal is a member of UN Human Rights Council, coordinator for Asia Pacific region in the Human Rights Council, member of UN Peace Building Commission, Deputy Member of the ILO Governing Body, Chair of Committee on Conference, member of UNICEF Executive Board, member of Executive Board of UN-WOMEN, member of Commission on Science and Technology for Development, coordinator of Colombo Process Countries, focal point for trade facilitation in the Group of Least Developed Countries in WTO, vice-chair of UN Disarmament Commission, and a Nepali expert is serving as a member of CEDAW Committee.
We are a state party to twenty-four international human rights related instruments, including seven out of nine core Conventions.Nepal considers all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Nepal has maintained consistent and dignified position on the issues of world peace and disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction. Nepal’s commitment to human rights, sustainable development, multilateralism and rule-based international order is widely acknowledged.
Nepal continues to champion the cause of LDCs, LLDCs, South-South and Triangular Cooperation in the UN and other international forums. Nepal was the coordinator during the 4th UN Conference on LDCs held in Istanbul. We continue to champion the rights of LLDCs and are a founding member of the International Think Tank for LLDCs.
The Right Honourable President’s representation to the 24th Conference of State Parties of UNFCCC reflects Nepal’s commitment to address climate change and priority accorded by the Government to this critical issue of our time.
Prime Minister Right Honourable Mr. K P Sharma Oli addressed the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in September last year and articulated Nepal’s views on disarmament, world peace, international security, human rights and sustainable development, among others.
Nepal became a party to the International Agreement establishing the UN University for Peace in San Jose last year. Prime Minister Right Honourable Mr. K P Sharma Oli addressed the university during his visit to Costa Rica and the university conferred honorary doctorate on him.
Invitation to Nepal’s Prime Minister to participate in the Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland for the first time since its establishment 50 years ago represents a recognition of the increasing profile of Nepal. Prime Minister’s address to the important panels of WEF and exchange of views with the world leaders in Davos greatly enhanced Nepal’s international standing.
On regional front, Nepal chaired and successfully hosted fourth BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu last year. We are the Chair of SAARC and have consistently worked to revive the stalled SAARC process. Last year in September we hosted informal meeting of SAARC Council of Ministers in New York. We are a member of Asian Cooperation Dialogue and a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Having established diplomatic relations with 163 countries, our diplomatic outreach is widening. Currently we maintain 30 Embassies, 3 Permanent Missions, 6 Consulates General and 71 Honorary Consuls to serve our national interest across the globe.
Nepal gathered considerable international attention during the conflict period and the political transition that followed. We are considered as one of the rare success stories of the peace process. We have now emerged a confident democratic nation fully capable of taking forward economic development and prosperity agenda for the benefit of our people. Poverty remains a scar in Nepal’s collective conscience and we intend to erase it at the earliest and utilize our demographic dividend for our own development. Nepal aims to graduate from the LDC status at an early date and become a middle income country by 2030. For that, we remain fully committed to implement SDGs to meet the targets ahead of the stipulated timeframe.
More recently, another dimension of Nepal’s standing in global stage has been added by expanding Nepali diaspora. A number of Nepali nationals have risen to senior positions in the UN and other international organizations. A number of Nepali diasporas have excelled in the field of academics, science and technology, medicine, engineering, arts, designs, architecture, culinary skills, literature, industries, sports and adventures. Many of them have been successful entrepreneurs in different corners of the world and have attained significant progress in their respective fields. They have individually and collectively contributed to the signing of Nepal’s image in the world stage.
Nepal is also known for its natural beauty, adventure sports, ancient arts, architecture, culture, and for the hospitality and warmth of its people. There exists enormous goodwill towards Nepal and Nepali people.
Together, they make important soft power for Nepal.
In sum, Nepal’s standing in the world stage presents an encouraging trajectory. Nepal aspires to attain a decent level of economic development and further enhance its international standing as a progressive, democratic and equitable society. In its international relations Nepal will continue to stand for justice, equality and mutual benefit among the countries.
I thank you all for your attention.