I am pleased to welcome you all to this programme.
Since we are meeting in this format for the first time in 2019, I wish you all a very happy, productive and prosperous new year.
At the outset, I express my sincere gratitude to the Prime Minister Right Honourable Mr. K P Sharma Oli for his gracious presence. I also thank you very much, Hon. Finance Minister, Your Excellencies and distinguished guests, for accepting our invitation and joining us this afternoon.
This briefing, organized to share with you the Government's major policies, priorities and diplomatic engagements, is the third of its kind since the present Government was formed about a year ago.
As you may recall, the Right Honourable Prime Minister addressed the diplomatic community highlighting the major plans and policies of the new Government in March last year. Some three months later, in July, I also had an opportunity to speak to you about our major foreign policy engagements.
In these seven months following our meeting in July, a lot has happened both in Nepal and in the world. But, I am not going to dwell on all these events rather I would confine myself to three broad topics today.
First, I will shed light on the major diplomatic activities undertaken by the Government of Nepal over the last seven months.
Second, I will reiterate and reemphasize the major policy-orientation of the Government of Nepal on domestic front. (I say 'reiterate' because this may have been shared with you one way or the other in some previous occasions.)
At the end, I will highlight our main foreign policy priorities for the days to come.
The present Government formed following the successful elections in 2017 has made substantial progress both on domestic and external fronts under the experienced and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Rt. Hon. K P Sharma Oli. The Government's vision is clear, commitment is steadfast, action is bearing outcome and future course is well-defined.
We continued to make advances in our foreign relations since I interacted with you in July 2018.
The Rt. Hon. President visited the State of Qatar and Poland. The high-level talks held between Nepal and these countries have helped strengthen the friendly ties and cooperation. The Rt. Hon. President's participation at the CoP24 was the manifestation of our strong commitment to climate change agenda.
The visit of the Rt. Hon. Vice President to China has helped further consolidate the bilateral relations with the northern neighbour, China.
Similarly, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister visited Costa Rica and held a fruitful meeting with the Costa Rican President. The University of Peace in San Jose also awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions to establishing peace in the country.
The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister led a high-level delegation to the 73rd General Assembly of the UN and addressed the General Debate. Nepal singed the Action for Peace Agenda of the UN Secretary General to further consolidate its commitment to global peace.
He had bilateral meetings with His Excellency the President of Switzerland, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Canada and H.E. the Prime Minister of Cambodia. These high-level political meetings have contributed to nurturing our friendship and cooperation with these countries.
The Prime Minister attended the 49th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum and participated in the major sessions and roundtables. He also met His Excellency the Prime Minister of Vietnam and had meetings with prominent business leaders.
I had already shared with you the important outcome achieved during the visit of the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister to India and China and the return visit of His Excellency the Prime Minister of India.
During this period, I myself visited Europe twice. I had meetings with my counterparts from Portugal, Belgium, and Austria, Minister for International Cooperation of Luxembourg as well as with High Representative and Vice President of European Commission and EU Commissioner for Development Cooperation.
I visited Japan and had fruitful meeting with my counterpart on a range of issues of mutual interest. Last month, I had the opportunity to welcome my Japanese counterpart to Nepal.
My visit to the United States of America and meeting with Secretary of State focused on further promoting our seven-decade long relationship.
I recently visited New Delhi and held discussions with my Indian counterpart on further consolidating our relations. I also addressed the Valedictory Session of Raisina Dialogue 2019.
In November and December last year, we had the honour of welcoming Cambodian Prime Minister and State Counsellor of Myanmar on bilateral visits. We also welcomed both incumbent and former Heads of State and Government attending the Asia-Pacific Summit in the same months.
Foreign Secretary participated in the Paris Peace Forum in November and French Secretary-General visited Nepal last month. Nepal and France jointly launched the programme for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
During this period, 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. Comprehensive discussions held during these consultations and meetings have been useful in giving new impetus to our relations with these countries.
We successfully hosted the Fourth BIMSTEC Summit in August 2018. The Summit took concrete decisions on working for the Charter of the Organization as well as on enhancing the capacity of the Secretariat. An MoU on establishment of BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection was signed by the relevant Ministers of the member states during the Summit.
Nepal hosted the Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers for the fourth consecutive years in New York in September.
Nepal also hosted 5th Senior Official Meeting and 6th Ministerial Meeting of Colombo Process in Kathmandu. As a result, we were able to lead Colombo Process to make substantive contributions to the Global Compact on Migration, which was adopted in Marrakesh in December.
Deputy Secretary General of UN visited Nepal during this period.
Now, please allow me to underline the major policy-orientation of the Government of Nepal.
As you may agree with me, compared to where we were a few years ago, things look much better now. Nepal continues to make headway in political, economic and social spheres.
We have achieved much-needed political stability. This has helped us project our vision, goals and direction for future with clarity.
That said, we know that our achievements cannot be taken for granted. Our resolve to fight against poverty, illiteracy and inequality needs to gather more strength. We also know that real transformation of a country is more about transforming the lives of its people, not just its politics and governance system.
This needs people-centered programmes and actions. And, we are committed to undertaking them, step by step.
As the Rt. Hon. Prime Minster outlined in his address in March last year, there are fundamental premises around which our policies and plans are devised. They include nationalism, democracy, integrity and accountability, social justice and equality, and good governance and rule of law.
I know you are familiar with the present Government's motto of 'Prosperous Nepal and happy Nepali.'
Our whole focus is to translate this into reality. We are effortful to advance 'economic-orientation' throughout the country. We strive to achieve socio-economic development and prosperity, building on the dividend of political transformation.
Our key goal is to graduate from the LDC status at an early date and reach the level of a middle-income country by 2030 and achieve the SDGs by the same year.
However, our ambition is not free from challenges. What is important is not to lose sight of the focus on our goals. We must modernize our agriculture, build infrastructure, tap the energy potentials, promote tourism, develop human resources and generate employment opportunities for our people.
For this, we need huge financial resources- both from within and outside the country. Investment in productive sectors will be critical to realize our goal of economic transformation.
That is why, we are hosting an International Investment Summit on 29-30 March this year to invite foreign investors to Nepal. This is a topmost priority for us at the moment.
We know it is only the legal, policy and institutional reforms that boost the confidence of the investors. We are effortful in making visible reforms so that potential investors see the difference when they come to attend the Summit in March. We will make all possible efforts to ensure a predictable, secure and attractive investment climate in Nepal.
It is in the interest of both Nepal and our partners to make this event a success to contribute to Nepal's socio-economic development at a faster pace.
We saw a significant rise in the number of tourists visiting Nepal last year. We are encouraged by this trend and we continue to promote tourism as a vital sector to contribute to our economic growth. We are observing 2020 as Visit Nepal Year with a target of welcoming two million tourists. We expect your meaningful cooperation to realize the goals of this mega-event.
We want to achieve socio-economic development within the broader framework of democracy and political pluralism. Our commitment to democracy and fundamental freedoms is unflinching. Our aim is to ensure comprehensive democracy in which an individual is empowered not only politically but also economically, socially and culturally.
We are mindful of the cost we had to bear for the cause of democracy. Hence, we cannot even think of shaking the very foundations of democratic values, which we fought for.
We believe not in the principles of power but in the power of principles. The principles of inclusion, participation, accountability and transparency are very much close to our heart. And, we want to continue promoting and protecting them to ensure equality, respect and dignity for all Nepali people.
Free press is an integral part of our democracy. We are committed to press freedom. We believe that everybody has to be responsible in exercising his or her constitutionally guaranteed freedom and rights.
Nepal adheres to constitutionalism and all our laws and policies conform to the fundamental principles and norms enshrined in the constitution. An independent judiciary is there to safeguard people's rights and freedoms.
When we talk about these values and principles, we also expect the non-government stakeholders including the civil society organizations to adhere to them. We firmly believe that civil society organizations are important partners in our development efforts. Our only focus is to ensure a success story of partnership with accountability and transparency and avoid any possible duplication.
You all are aware that the peace process has been fundamentally concluded and we remain committed to addressing the remaining component of transitional justice in the best interest of this country and people.
While we have noticed concerns expressed in certain quarters for the expeditious conclusion of this process, we believe that this internal matter can be resolved with our commitment and efforts. If Nepali leadership could resolve unthinkable hardcore political issues to arrive at this stage, there is every reason to believe that the leadership has also the ability and willingness to complete this final leg. So trust on our commitment, willingness and capacity to close this chapter forever in the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord.
We have made it clear to all stakeholders that there will be no blanket amnesty to serious violations of human rights. We are committed to ensuring that justice is provided to the victims. But, we want to ensure that the process of reconciliation is smooth and sustainable, the whole process of 'dealing with the past' is credible.
I take this opportunity to thank you all- and through you the countries and institutions you represent- for all the constructive support we have received thus far. We expect similar support and collaboration in our future development efforts, not least in light of our goal of progress and prosperity.
As you are aware, given our geographic, demographic, cultural and linguistic realities, there are certain sensitivities in which we would rather need your understanding and goodwill.
Now, I turn to our foreign policy priorities.
Today's world is replete with contradictions and uncertainties. Forces of both stability and disruption are active. Strengthening multilateralism and rules-based order is the key challenge.
Against this backdrop, we continue to pursue foreign policy objectives with pragmatic approach and result-orientation. We aim at taking advantage of the unfolding opportunities by (re)orienting our strategies consistent with domestic and external realities.
A principled, consistent and independent foreign policy continues to be the backbone of our diplomatic engagements.
In promoting national interests, our external engagements have two clear goals: promoting Nepal's credentials as an open and progressive democratic State at the international level; and the pursuit of effective economic diplomacy to contribute to development imperatives at home.
In pursing these goals, we keep principles of the Panchasheel, non-alignment, UN Charter, international law, and norms of world peace at the centre. Our motto is 'amity with all, and enmity with none'. We want to advance our engagements on the basis of sovereign equality, justice, mutual respect and benefit and to complement the domestic efforts of socio-economic transformation.
The effectiveness of Nepal's foreign policy begins at home. Our culture, civilizational heritage and identity guide our soft power and our diplomacy.
Our constructive pragmatism in our relations with our immediate neighbours, extended neighbourhood, major powers, our development partners, labour receiving countries and other friendly countries has been mutually rewarding.
We will not let any efforts undermine our friendly and longstanding partnership with countries in all regions and continents in the world. The support and cooperation received from our neighbours and valued partners have tremendously contributed to Nepal's development.
We continue to add value to the regional and multilateral forums through our active engagements.
Moving forward, we aim at further deepening our cooperation with our immediate neighbours- India and China with focus on enhancing economic partnership.
We will continue to build on the existing cooperation with the major powers of the world, our development partners, labour receiving countries and other friendly countries.
We will continue pursuing exchange of high-level visits to enhance our relations with the friendly countries.
The bilateral political consultations will be made structured and result-oriented.
With regard to our development cooperation, we must together create a success story ensuring that valuable resources are best utilized in priority sectors of development and reach the real needy people through established budgetary system. National ownership and leadership is critical.
The mainstay of today's diplomacy is the pursuit of economic agenda. We will strive to promote our vital economic interests through activities aimed at attracting more foreign investment in our national priority sectors, expanding our export trade and promoting tourism, among others.
We will continue to closely working together with our fellow Member States of SAARC, BIMSTEC, ACD and SCO for achieving regional peace, progress and prosperity. Efforts will be made to revive the stalled SAARC process.
We believe that constructive multilateralism is the only way to achieve our collective interests.
A strong UN is needed to address and resolve the challenges the world is facing today. For this, we need a global outlook. And, we must understand that there is no conflict between multilateralism and the national interest.
The multilateral rules and architecture are not perfect and they must be made fit-for-purpose to deliver on the global agenda including the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
It is also imperative that we demonstrate our shared commitment to a rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core.
Nepal's engagements at multilateral forums will be enhanced in the days ahead.
Nepal will continue to enhance its contribution to the UN Peacekeeping Operations.
We stand for peaceful solution of international disputes.
The climate change agenda is very close to our heart. Though we do not have significant contributions to global warming, rather our snow-clad high mountains and high hills contribute to controlling global warming in South Asia region and beyond. However, we are bearing the disproportionate brunt. Our commitment and efforts towards clean and green growth are strong as ever.
We believe that Paris Agreement is an important step in ensuring the sustainability of our planet.
We have been elected as a member of the Human Rights Council for the term of 2018-20. Nepal will always stand for apolitical and objective examination of human rights issues.
Nepal has filed a candidature for reelection to the Human Rights Council for the 2020-22 term. We expect your support as in the last election.
To conclude, we are aware of the challenges ahead but also recognize the opportunities we have before us. We are more optimistic with the people's strong support and back up. Our people are known to have the legacy of resilience and hope. It is this legacy that unifies us to strive towards progress and prosperity. We are confident that we will continue to receive, as always, your support and cooperation in our efforts.
I thank you for your attention.
Source: Ministry Of Foreign Affairs