President of the Nepal Council of World Affairs,
Executive Board Members of the Council,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be back to this forum once again.
I thank you Mr. President and Members of the Council for organizing this event and for having me here.
It is always a pleasure to be amongst a cross-section of personalities who have made contributions to Nepal’s foreign policy and international relations from their respective capacities.
I would like to acknowledge the role played by Nepal Council of World Affairs in promoting healthy discourse on matters related to Nepal’s foreign policy as well as on topics of national, regional and international significance. Such discourses have helped to enrich the quality of policy dialogues.
As I am given a relative liberty from the organizers, today, I am going to share my thoughts on Nepal’s foreign policy priorities. Before that, I will offer some highlights of the progress made since the formation of the present Government three years ago.
As you all are aware, the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 has inflicted impacts on all aspects of national life and significantly changed the mode of our engagements with the international community. Virtual meetings and interactions have replaced physical conversations and dialogues. We were on the right track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The pandemic has slowed down the pace of progress. It has put huge stress on our health infrastructure, crippled the tourism sector and affected inflow of remittances. In the backdrop of economic vulnerabilities, we are resolutely focused on warding off its negative impact in realizing the national aspiration of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’.
The foremost priority of the Governments has been the protection of people’s lives and livelihoods. With the generous support of our neighbor India, we have rolled out the vaccination drive to the priority population. This has been complemented by generous support of additional amount of vaccine from our neighbor China. We are grateful to our neighbors as well as friends around the world for their continued support during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has taught us the importance of global solidarity in events of such large-scale emergencies. We are committed to advocate for and support to the bilateral, regional and international initiatives that promote such solidarity and cooperation among the nation states and aim to strengthen multilateral institutions created to address such global challenges.
As the present Government has just completed three years in office, I feel it pertinent to share where we stand on some of the critical indicators that matter to the lives of our people.
Peace and security situation has improved. We have been able to bring almost all disgruntled political groups to the political mainstream through dialogue. Backchannel talks are underway with the CPN led by Biplab.
Nepal fared generally well even during the pandemic. Anti-COVID vaccines are being provided to all citizens free-of-cost. Over nine hundred thousand people have been lifted out of absolute poverty. The per capita income has increased to US dollar 1,097—a 35 percent rise in Rupees terms. The 2020 Human Development Report has recorded improvements in education, health, drinking water and sanitation.
An additional 2,718 kilometers road has been blacktopped and additional 333 megawatts of electricity has been added to national grid. The population having access to electricity and drinking water has reached to 90 percent.
Post-earthquake reconstruction is in concluding phase, including the restitution of some rich and treasured historical monuments. Seven hundred thousand private homes have been built.
Literacy rate has reached an encouraging 85 percent. With basic education made free for all, universal enrollment and gender parity at school level have been achieved.
The economy of the country showed improvement and resilience even during the pandemic. The Economist, a renowned British weekly, listed Nepal among top 10 emerging economies. The World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators-2020 has correctly acknowledged the improvements in investment-friendly atmosphere. Nepal has made improvement in 14 governance indicators. We are among the countries to have made good progress in human development, ease of doing business, hunger, peace, rule of law, corruption control and transparency, happiness , and gender parity indices.
For the first time, Nepal has graduated from the World Bank’s low-income category to lower-middle income category. The UN Committee on Development Policy has recently recommended for Nepal’s graduation from an LDC status. This makes an important watershed in the development trajectory of the country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I hope you are aware about the developments in the political front. The Supreme Court has given its verdict. Accordingly, the Right Honourable President has called for the session of the Parliament to be convened from 23rd of Falgun. The Government remains firmly committed to the democratic process and we have full confidence in our constitutional system.
As regard to the conduct of our foreign relations, the Constitution of Nepal defines the fundamentals of Nepal’s foreign policy. Besides defining the core parameters of national interests, the Constitution also guides us to pursue independent foreign policy by adhering to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, non-alignment, panchasheel, international law and the norms of world peace. Last year, the Government adopted a consolidated foreign policy document that outlines broad foreign policy principles and priorities and emphasizes on the strengthening of institutions to implement them. Cognizant of the evolving global situation, Nepal has been conducting foreign policy to the service of our core national interests and achieve economic development and prosperity. ‘Amity with all, enmity with none’ has been the motto of our foreign relations.
Firmly pedestaled on the cardinal principles of national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom and national unity, our foreign policy aims to preserve and promote national interest and conduct foreign relations on the basis of equality, justice, mutual respect and benefits.
At the bilateral level, Nepal remains committed to maintaining friendly relations with her neighbours and all other countries in the world. Over the years, both the substance and our engagements with the immediate neighbors–India and China–have increased manifold. We maintain close and cordial relationship with them based on goodwill, trust, mutual respect and cooperation. Nepal fulfills its commitment not to allow any activity in her territory against the neighbors and expects similar spirit of cooperation from our neighbors on the matters of our concern.
High-level engagements with India have contributed to further enriching the already intense relationship characterized by robust people-to-people contacts, cultural linkages and extensive economic partnership. We have achieved good progress in some of the landmark connectivity projects, such as, the Motihari-Amlekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline, the first cross border pipeline in the region, and operationalization of Integrated Check Post in Birjung and Biratnagar, and completion of Jaynagar-Kurtha section of railway.
Recently, in January this year, we held a bilateral meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers. We reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations from border management to cooperation in the areas of trade, transit, culture, education, and health, among others. As regard to the unfinished tasks of the boundary, both sides are committed to resolve them through dialogues.
Similarly, Nepal and China enjoy close and cordial relationship, which is based on the five principles of peaceful co-existence. Appreciation of each other’s aspirations as well as respect for each other’s concerns and sensitivities has been the hallmark of our relationship. Nepal is fully committed to one China policy. Nepal-China relations have witnessed substantive growth with the exchange of high-level visits and an enhanced level of economic partnership. The President of China visited Nepal in 2019 after an interval of 23 years. Connectivity, trade, investment as well as several other areas of development have been our priorities for collaboration. With the entry into force of the Transit Transport Protocol, we have also agreed to implement the trans-Himalaya multi-dimensional connectivity network that will open up new vistas in cross-border transit transport.
Beyond our neighborhood, Nepal maintains close and cooperative relationship with the development partners as well as the destination countries of Nepali migrant workers.
Nepal’s relations with the development partners and major powers have always remained cordial and cooperative. For the first time in about 20 years, Prime Minister Rt. Hon. K P Sharma Oli paid official visits to the United Kingdom and France. In my capacity as the Foreign Minister, I paid official visits to the United States after 17 years and the Russian Federation after 14 years.
Our development partners have been major sources of finance and technology in critical areas of Nepal’s development endeavor for decades. We are grateful to our development partners for this generous cooperation and continued goodwill. Nepal received moral support from our development partners during the peace process. In the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes of 2015, there was an overwhelming support in rescue, relief and reconstruction. Support measures from our development partners in the forms of technical, financial, trade and investment will be important as we prepare for graduation from LDC status. Support for the timely realization of sustainable development goals will contribute to post-COVID recovery efforts as well. We continue to work towards enriching the substance of cooperation in our bilateral engagements with these countries.
We also attach high importance to our relations with the countries of destination of Nepali migrant workers. We have engaged extensively with these important partners for the safety, security and wellbeing of our migrant workers. The Right Honourable Prime Minister and myself held several telephone calls with high level leaders from the labour destination countries with a view to addressing the specific concerns and vulnerabilities of Nepali migrant workers in the context of COVID-19. Nepal’s emphasis continues to be on the issues related to decent work, ethical recruitment, welfare of migrants including female workers, consular support and cooperation, financial literacy, and labor market assessment. We are keen to expand broader economic partnership with these countries beyond labour migration and intend to promote trade, tourism, investment and people to people contacts.
In the regional context, we aim to promote economic cooperation, peace and development. Nepal’s commitment to regional cooperation is evident from our active engagements with SAARC and BIMSTEC processes. As the current chair of SAARC, we have engaged with all the member States in a constructive and cooperative spirit. It has been our consistent view that the SAARC process needs revitalization for effective delivery on its stated objectives, including the promotion of mutual trust and confidence among its members.
As mandated by the 4th Summit held in Kathmandu, BIMSTEC is in the process of institution building and further consolidating modalities of cooperation.
Nepal is also keenly participating in the activities of other regional organizations, including the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) as a member and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a dialogue partner.
Nepal’s multilateral engagements are longstanding and productive. We take the universal values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter 75 years ago as the cardinal principles for international relations. We consider that the United Nations should be at the center of multilateralism and global efforts towards achieving peace, security and development.
The relevance of multilateralism has become more pronounced as we confront with global scale challenges ranging from pandemic to transnational organized crimes to terrorism. Nepal commits to collaborate for strengthening of a just, fair and rules-based world order.
Three years after joining the United Nations, Nepal began its contributions to the cause of international peace and security. Currently the fourth largest troop and police contributing country, Nepal’s contribution to the UN peace operations has earned worldwide respect.
As an LDC, we are also working at global platforms on a number of agendas that bear importance to us, such as enhancing effectiveness of development cooperation and securing transit rights of landlocked countries.
Climate change and biodiversity are critical issues for Nepal. Nepal firmly supports the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement. As we prepare for the COP26, we intend to contribute to the larger policy discourse on climate change by dedicating the first episode of ‘Sagarmatha Sambaad’ on ‘Climate Change, Mountains and the Future of the Humanity’. Nepal recently updated the NDCs on climate change. We are developing a long-term strategy for a net zero-carbon scenario by 2050. A higher level of climate financing is needed for achieving these targets. We believe, COP26 provides an opportunity to generate much-needed political will to save the planet for humanity.
Our commitment to human rights and rule of law has been unwavering. In fulfilling its obligations under the instruments to which we are a state party, Nepal very much stays in the course. Earlier this year, we successfully concluded the third cycle of UPR. We are encouraged by the interests and appreciation shown by the UN member states.
Over the years, Nepal has started enhancing its visibility in the international arena. For the first time, Nepal has been invited to the World Economic Forum and the Oxford Union. Nepal has been re-elected as the member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and also at the CEDAW Committee. Currently, Nepal Chairs the 2nd Committee of the 75th UNGA and Board of the Enhanced Integrated Framework under the WTO. Having entrusted to various other intergovernmental bodies and processes, we have been working alongside the international community on global agendas.
Nepal’s diplomatic outreach has expanded significantly with the establishment of diplomatic relations with a total of 168 countries.
On economic diplomacy, promoting Nepal’s export trade, foreign investments, technology transfer, tourism industry and safeguarding the interests and wellbeing of our migrant workers are our main priorities. We intend to promote Nepal’s soft power by utilizing the country’s natural beauty and cultural heritages, among others.
The role of Nepali diaspora in national development and building cultural connections has been well recognized. We are committed to protecting interests of Nepali nationals abroad and to utilizing knowledge, expertise and capital of the NRNs. Brain Gain Centre, created in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2018 with the objective of utilizing knowledge and expertise of diaspora in national development, has now over a thousand entries. We are in the process of further consolidating the BGC as a bridge between the Nepali diaspora and Nepal’s national development endeavors.
Before I conclude, let be once again thank the NCWA for hosting this important event and bringing together a galaxy of foreign policy practitioners, experts and diplomats. The goal of a country’s foreign policy is to serve its vital national interests and support realization of national aspiration. Nepal’s foreign policy has served that goal very well.
I thank you for your attention.
Address by Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali at the 73rd anniversary of Nepal Council of World Affairs (NCWA)