-  Sunday 24 March 2019

    Nepal-France Relations: 63 Years of Steady Friendship

     -  Mohan Krishna Shrestha

    21 April 2012

    Sixty three years have passed since Nepal and France established diplomatic relations on 20 April 1949. France is number 5 in the list of countries with whom Nepal has diplomatic relations and our relation is based on true friendship, mutual understanding and cooperative spirits. Despite a geographical distance of 9,000 kms plus, both countries  have been enjoying cordial relations. Nepalese and French people harbor a sense of deep affection and amity which is being nurtured by the passage of time. Exchange of visits that have taken place at the highest level in the past have  contributed to strengthen the level of friendship between our two countries. Notable visit was that of late French President Francois Mitterand to Nepal in May 1983. Similarly, our late Prime Minister  G.P. Koirala paid an official visit to France in 2002 from our side.

    In a hindsight, it is found that our bilateral relations  precedes much earlier than this date. During the formative stage of the nation building then rulers seemed to have invited French military experts who helped manufacture muskets and trained the military men. Thereafter too, French military advisors visited the country to train the military. In 1850, the then Prime Minister of Nepal visited France on his way back to Nepal from Britain and stayed 55 days in Paris. Another interesting story relates the finding of two French words in the stony Shilapatra located at Hanumandhoka Durbar which was established during the reign of King Pratap Malla, who is widely considered to be the  patron of arts, culture and linguistics. It shows that somehow Nepal was known to the French even during 16th century and few brave souls might have travelled to Nepal even in those days.

    In the bilateral relation between our two countries, some events have proved to be milestones. In 1889, noted French orientalist Sylvan Levi travelled to Nepal and later on in 1905, he wrote a book called “Le Nepal” which was widely acclaimed to have a insight knowledge of then Nepal. Later in 1950, Maurice Herzog, a reknowned mountaineer scaled Annapurna I at 8,091 meters. It was the first time that  human foot had reached  the top of a Himalaya above eight thousand meters. He also wrote a book called “Annapurna” which was reportedly sold more than 5 million copies and was translated into 17 languages. Then, again in 1978 and 1990,  Pierre Mazeaud and Dr. Chiristine Janin scaled Mt. Everest to become the first Frenchman and woman contributing to further deepen our friendship.

    France had been a donor country to Nepal in the past and she had converted a huge loan amount into grants showing magnanimity.  France also used to donate wheat to Nepal. However, since late 2000, due to the shift in the policy, France has been giving assistance to Nepal through European Union only. As policies are shaped by the people, they might change according to the passage of time. We can hope that France, in view of the long standing friendship between our two countries, would again start giving aid to Nepal at the bilateral level also in future.

    It is found that there exists a good reservoir of goodwill and affection among many Frenchmen towards Nepal and Nepalese people. Mountaineers love our Himalayas and some even pass their time between two countries. There are many NGOs who are actively pursuing activities through the establishment of schools, dispensaries and other rural facilities to help the students and rural people. I was amazed to see a school constructed by a French NGO in a very far-flung village of Dolpa district which was very helpful to the indigent students of the area.

    With unparalled natural beauties of our Himalayas to green jungles with serene lakes and gurgling rivers, and with a rich cultural and historical legacies supported by a host of modern exciting and interesting tourism activities, Nepal, naturally, expects to welcome  more and more French tourists  to our country in coming days. Our food and lifestyle are also a source of attraction to the French people. French takes a keen interest on our cultural festivals and dances. Last May, I attended a function hosted by the France Nepal Friendship Group in Paris and met an old man who have had visited Nepal 27 times. Being asked what are the main attractions that makes him visit Nepal so many times, he replied to me that the country is stunningly beautiful and people are most friendly and trustworthy. I was so happy to hear such beautiful remarks about our country and people.

    France is a super power country from many respects. A member of the P-5 in the United Nations system, France enjoys good respect in the international diplomacy and politics. In many international crisis, France had played a crucial and important role and her contribution is widely acknowledged. French gastronomy, wines, perfumes are famous worldwide. France produces cheese  not less than of 400 varieties. Similarly, French expertise and leadership quality in the fields of architecture, aviation, engineering, medicine and pharmaceutical, telecommunication and transportation fields are widely acknowledged. Arts and sculpture are yet another areas where French truly have mastery. France is also a leader in the generation of electricity from nuclear power and wind.

    France is the largest country in the western Europe with a sizeable population of 65 million. However, the stark reality is that France welcomes more than 80 million tourists a year due to her old history, natural and manmade beauties including historical buildings, museums, arts and arte-facts. Versailles palace, Louvre museum constructed more than 400 years ago stand as if they were recently constructed. Similarly, world famous Eiffel Tower is standing in the heart of Paris city since 1889. It is estimated that more than 50 thousand tourists climb this tower every day and see beautiful Paris from the top. France is a country with  glorious history of revolutions and inventions.

    Nepal and France are both peace-loving countries. Longing for peace is a common feature between our two peoples. Increasing number of French people, now, know that Lord Buddha, the apostle of peace, was born in Lumbini in southern Nepal in 623 B.C.  His teachings of 4 noble truths and 8 enlightened paths for the humankind seemed to attract increasing interest from the French people. Let us expect that many French people will visit Lumbini in this celebrated year.

    Keeping aside the level of development between the two countries, yet there is ample scope that we can work together widening the horizons in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry, diary development, horticulture,  tourism, trade and commerce. We can learn a great deal of experience in the hospitality business from France as well as in the preservation of the cultural assets.  France attracts a trillion dollar as foreign direct investment a year making her the No.2 country in the world. Similarly, French outbound FDI is also enormous.  Nepal, therefore,  can also benefit inviting French investors in the long run.

    Future holds good promise that Nepal’s peace process is reaching to a logical conclusion with the expected promulgation of an inclusive constitution within the stipulated time frame. In a new conducive environment, Nepal will open her economy more widely in the days to come. With a huge possibility to develop hydro-electricity and also many other areas open for foreign investment, Nepal is in a position to attract French investors in coming days. The effective implementation of the Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act of 1992 will pave the way for attracting FDI from France in future. Another good news is that the Government had decided to celebrate  2012 and 2013 as Investment years and it is hoped that  many attractive facilities to foreign investors will be added in the existing list. Trade balance is greatly in favor of France at this moment . However, statistics indicate that many Nepalese primary and tertiary products have market potentiality in France. With vigorous efforts from the concerned, we can also promote export of Nepalese produces into French markets in future.

    Mohan Krishna Shrestha
    Ambassador of Nepal to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO


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    Other articles by reporter Mohan Krishna Shrestha

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