Professors and Faculty Members of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Namaskar, Konnichiwa and Good Afternoon,
I am pleased to come to one of the most beautiful, most populous and best metropolitan cities of the world, Tokyo, once again after many years and convey our greetings to the friendly Japanese people during this Sakura season. I feel that this metropolis represents in essence Japan’s glorious history and saga of utmost modesty, discipline, hard work, struggle and innovation of the friendly people of this great country. As the capital city of Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, I wish our Japanese friends all success.
I deem it a matter of personal honour and privilege to come to the prestigious and specialist research university, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and share my thoughts with so many distinguished friends. As I come to this great institution whose history goes back to 1857 and then to the establishment of Tokyo School of Foreign Languages in 1899, my words of appreciation duly go to the founders of this great University that has proved its status as a leader in innovative academic disciplines like foreign language, international affairs and foreign studies.
When I interact with students and teachers of this great University that has provided opportunity to many Nepalese to attain higher studies, my thoughts naturally go to 1902. We sent first batch of students from Nepal that year to Japan to learn from her phenomenal progress after Meiji Restoration. During their stay in Japan from 1902 to 1905, our students studied various technical disciplines and were responsible for the initial steps towards introducing some rudiments of modernity in the country in various fields. They also took samples of plants, flowers and fruits to Nepal for cultivation.
Friends and Participants.
Let me now concentrate on Nepal-Japan relations with special focus on prospects of tourism promotion as I have been told to share my thoughts with this selective audience. Nepal is a land-locked country sharing borders with India and China. Japan is a collection of thousands of islands hung like pearls in the region with borders with many countries including Russia and China. Sharing traditional Asian values and tolerant culture based on respecting elders, both of us take pride in our old heritage, civilization and culture.
Nepal and Japan share many things in common. With abundance of natural scenery and landscape, World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO, and simple and friendly people, both Nepal and Japan are attractive destinations for tourists. The people of Nepal have special regard for the people of this country who have always shown resilience in confronting the problems of disaster with total dedication and efficient management as they did during the Great East Japan Earthquake that hit this country four years ago.
Buddhism that has original roots in Lumbini, the sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha in Nepal, spread all over Asia and reached Japan in the sixth century. The 45th Emperor Shomu was the first cloistered Emperor as he abdicated and became a Buddhist monk leading to the propagation of Buddhism in various parts of Japan in eighth century. The teachings of Lord Buddha have continued to become quite relevant even now when peace, non-violence, compassion and fraternity should be the core issues at a time when the world is facing so many challenges and constraints.
Ekai Kawaguchi, a learned Buddhist monk, made four trips to Nepal within fourteen years from 1899 to 1913. Rana rulers gave immense importance to the visits of the Japanese scholar. They also gave him due facilities and courtesies to stay in Kathmandu, visit Tibet through Nepal and move around various places including Lumbini, the sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha. Kawaguchi may be taken as one of the first foreigners to advocate reforms in Nepal. His suggestions to then Prime Minister of Nepal range from political to social and economic aspects. Besides several scriptures and documents on Buddhism, he also brought some plants to Japan.
Mountaineering has remained one of the powerful strands of our bilateral ties. The Japanese team’s success in scaling Mount Manaslu on May 9, 1956 was a milestone as this was the first successful ascent on the mountain. This event also proved to be the harbinger of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries same year. Nepal and Japan enjoy extremely close and mutually satisfying relations. We will soon celebrate 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties. The hallmarks of our close and excellent bilateral ties are periodic exchanges of high-level visits between the two countries and Japan’s constant commitment to help Nepal.
On the mountaineering side, veteran climbers from Japan like Naomi Uemura, Yasuo Kato, Yuichiro Miura who broke the record of being the oldest man twice by climbing Mount Sagarmatha three times in 2003, 2008 and 2013 and Junko Tabei becoming the first lady to scale Mount Sagarmatha have played virtual role of goodwill ambassadors. Tamae Watanabe, a record holder as the oldest woman to reach to the peak twice, Ken Noguchi and Mr. Hirotaka Takeuchi who climbed all the fourteen peaks above 8,000 metres, are only some other names in the list of veterans who have played exemplary role to enhance bilateral relations and promote Nepal’s tourism.
On the political side, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori visited Nepal in 2000 becoming the first Japanese head of government to make a formal official visit to Nepal. I wish him speedy recovery as he has undergone surgery recently. Former Prime Minister late Mr. Ryutaro Hashimoto who made 33 visits to Nepal was an iconic figure as far as Nepal-Japan relations are concerned. In recent years, the exchange of visits at high levels has taken place more regularly contributing to the enhancement of our age-old relations.
Japan as a major economic and technological power has played a key role in Nepal’s socio-economic development as one of the topmost partners. It has a wider compass of fruitful economic and technical co-operation. In recent years, Japan has supported Nepal in peace process with democratization of society and good governance as pillars of its assistance to the country. A contingent of the Japan Self-Defence Force was also deputed to Nepal for some time under the umbrella of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). Japan recently contributed in providing logistic support to the second elections to the Constituent Assembly.
As part of its revised ODA policy, Japan focuses on priority areas geared towards poverty alleviation, infrastructural capacity building, peace and security by stressing on gradual democratization, good governance, stability and sustained economic growth of the country. Since 1978, the Japan-Nepal Parliamentary Friendship League has been constituted to ensure greater bilateral contacts at the parliamentarian level. From early 2013, the government of Japan took a policy step to resume Yen loan to Nepal. This marks a major step in terms of bilateral relations as the resumption of loan has taken place after a gap of twelve years.
The Banepa-Sindhuli Road that was under construction for the last two decades as a flagship project is finally completed promoting to greater connectivity in our country. Works on Melamchi water treatment plant are still progressing though considerably delayed. Other projects in the pipeline for undertaking in future include expansion of Suryavinayak-Dhulikhel road and construction of first tunnel road in Nepal at Nagdhunga.
Two-way turnover in bilateral trade in 2012/13 was equivalent to 64.5 million US dollars making Japan one of the important trading partners of Nepal. There is a big possibility of attracting investments from Japan. There are about 58 Japanese companies operating in Nepal. Total investments in Nepal were, however, quite modest with only a value of around 2.3 million US dollars. Tourism is possibly the best potential area for further developing co-operation between the two countries. Japan is Nepal’s third largest source country as Japanese have intense love for Nepal’s mountains, special trekking routes, simple and smiling people, natural beauty and archaeological sites. Lumbini, sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha, is another area of major attractions for the people of Japan. An agreement is also being signed between two famous sites, Lumbini and Koyasan as Koyasan is going to celebrate 1,200 years of its founding and is expected to greatly boost tourism co-operation between the two countries.
There are endless possibilities of further promoting fruitful co-operation between Nepal and Japan in the field of tourism. I invite our Japanese friends to visit Nepal and promote greater understanding between the two countries. A major bottleneck in terms of tourism co-operation is the lack of direct flights between the two capitals. There is a great potential to develop co-operation in the field of tourism if we could have direct air linkage between the two countries. The Japan Buddhist Federation has a very good expertise in the field of Buddhist research. The Federation conducted important excavation works in Lumbini area from 1992 to 1995 and brought out a valuable publication on Lumbini with a focus on the Maya Devi Temple.
Nepal is now a fully democratic country with pluralist political system, freedom of press, independent judiciary, guarantee of human rights and a liberal economy. Political parties in Nepal are committed to promulgate the new constitution taking into account our own needs and rising aspirations of the people. As Nepal intends to graduate from the current status of a Least Developed Country to that of a middle income status by 2022, we need massive investments in infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and other potential areas. It is in this respect that Nepal welcomes private investors from Japan to engage in Nepal’s economic and technical development for our mutual benefit. This is also pertinent in the context of the eagerness on the part of Japanese private sector to find new places and avenues for investments.
Bilateral relation at the level of the people is another major strand of our mutually beneficial ties. The Nepalese community in Japan has grown to become a vibrant force in recent years. It constitutes the largest community from South Asia with 42,346 people staying in Japan as of December 31, 2014 making us the ninth largest community and constituting two percent of foreigners in the country. A little more than a thousand Japanese stay in Nepal. In Tokyo metropolitan area, we are now the sixth largest in terms of foreigners and our nationals assume fifth position among foreign students in this country taking advantage of excellent teaching-learning atmosphere in Japan. More and more Nepalese are now coming as high-skill professionals and Nepalese entrepreneurs are gradually contributing to the local economy and to the development of economic and investment relations between the two countries. This is a welcome trend and I am sure this will further help enhance our mutually close and friendly relations.
Finally, let me thank you all for your kind presence sparing your valuable time.