Nepal offers huge incentives for investors

Nepal Ambassador Tapas Adhikari Says Both Countries Have Cordial Political Relations

Exclusive

Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Nepal Ambassador Tapas Adhikari spoke exclusively to Islamabad POST daily. The Ambassador touched on various issues including bilateral relations, SAARC and regional cooperation. Here is the text of his interview.

1. Relations between Nepal and Pakistan

Relations between Nepal and Pakistan have always been cordial and friendly. The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1960 further enriched bilateral commitments and understanding. The two countries enjoy excellent bilateral relations based on goodwill, mutual trust and cooperation. We celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2019. The two countries hold similar views on many issues of common concern in various regional and international forums. Nepal had opened its embassy in 1962 in Karachi, which was later moved to Islamabad. Similarly, Pakistan has had its embassy in Kathmandu since 1963.

Relations between Nepal and Pakistan have been further strengthened through high-level visits and interactions between political leaders. Bilateral trade, people-to-people contacts, similar cultural and social values, tourism and mountaineering, cooperation in education sectors, among others, have further enriched bilateral cooperation. As founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the two countries have full confidence in the SAARC Charter and its objectives of promoting regional cooperation. In a nutshell, there are various aspects of our relationships. I will not go into all the dimensions but would simply like to highlight five major aspects:

First, political relations: the two countries have cordial political relations. There are several high-level visits between the two countries. This aspect is important to energize the general aspects of our relationships as well.

Second, despite huge trade potential between the two countries, the current export volume from Nepal to Pakistan is only NPR 100 million and Pakistan’s import to Nepal is NPR 1.14 billion in 2020 with a deficit of NPR 1.04 billion for Nepal. Bilateral trade statistics suffered a major setback during the COVID pandemic, but recent data shows an improvement in the situation. The Embassy is working with businesses to further strengthen business relations in the days ahead.

Third, tourism and people-to-people contacts are also excellent. Many Pakistani friends visit Nepal as tourists and mountaineers from Nepal and Pakistan work together in various mountain expeditions. At this stage, the lack of a direct air link has hindered a large flow of tourists, so a direct air link could increase the number of tourists between Nepal and Pakistan in many ways.

Fourth and fifth, academic and cultural cooperation. As Nepal and Pakistan embark on their socio-economic development, the Pakistani Government’s Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) has been an important platform for expanding educational opportunities to other countries. Nepalese students are easily enrolling in Pakistani colleges and universities under the PTAP, especially in the fields of medicine and engineering, and we are grateful for that. Pakistani-trained doctors or engineers have contributed to various sectors of national development in Nepal and are goodwill ambassadors of Pakistan.

Since both countries have high mountain terrain, including high peaks, mountaineers from both countries and their expeditions have further enriched mutual support, understanding, skill sharing and training and expanding opportunities tourism between Nepal and Pakistan.

2. Business relationships

Pakistan is a big market with a large production base with a variety of productions. Over the past two years, I have met and interacted with hundreds of Pakistani entrepreneurs, business leaders and executives. I have also visited over a dozen chambers of commerce and industry, interacted with the executive and members of the chambers and found great interest in increasing business relations with Nepal. Even though for the past two years we were mainly busy dealing with Covid-19 and could not focus on implementing meetings and interactions, the situation is now improving to further increase direct business interactions. between Nepalese and Pakistani businessmen.

3. Foreign direct investment

The Nepalese government has opened up almost all but a few areas to invite foreign direct investment. Foreign investors can invest up to one hundred percent of equity and repatriate profits or capital as investors wish. Business opening and closing processes have been simplified through a one-stop-shop policy where investors can open business ventures in one place with a time-limited decision-making process. Tax incentives and the simplified visa regime are other important aspects, and the government offers additional advantages for investment in priority or remote areas. Export-oriented enterprises or commercial enterprises that offer a large number of employment opportunities may obtain additional incentives. The business and land registration process is simplified and Nepal has surplus electricity which could be used for industrial sectors. Special economic zones have been created to attract export-oriented businesses.

Nepal is a developing country and all countries strive to attract foreign direct investment. We would like to learn from the best practices and policies of Pakistan and other countries to make our rules, regulations and system more competitive to attract foreign direct investment to increase economic and job opportunities.

4. Mount Everest Day

Human civilization has always aspired to do new things and when surveyors confirmed that Mount Everest was the highest peak in the world in the 19th century, they tried to reach the top of the peak. In this process, different groups of climbers attempted to summit Mount Everest and on May 31, 1953, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edumnd Hillary successfully reached the top of the world. At that time, mountaineers were not trained like modern times. Their communication equipment, weather forecasting system, mountaineering equipment, transportation systems, etc. were totally different compared to modern times, but they climbed and marked the history of mankind reaching the top of the world. To commemorate the first climbing of Mount Everest which we call Sagarmatha and Chomolongma in local languages, the government of Nepal decided to celebrate Mount Everest Day in 2008. The day is also dedicated to successful climbers and those who have lost his life trying to climb Mount Everest.

Apart from commemorating the first climbing of Mount Everest, the day is also celebrated to raise awareness about the mountain ecosystem, climate change, and the importance of preserving the life and culture of mountain people and mountaineers.

5. Gandhara Civilization

Pakistan is rich in religious and cultural heritage. It is the place where major world religions and philosophies like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Sufism were first established or flourished. Among them, the Gandhara civilization is one of the important historical and cultural heritages of Pakistan and mankind. There are Buddhist artifacts scattered in Taxila, Takhta-i-Bahi and different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of Pakistan. Taxila was once a center for learning and spreading Buddhism to different parts of the world. This shows that Buddhism had taken deep roots in these regions.

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world and there are many Buddhist countries or countries influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism. Each country has its own type of Buddha image, but Gandhara Buddha is different from all of them. The Gandhara Buddha image is much more influenced by Greek art, making it a unique style of Buddha image in the world.

I am happy to see the preservation of Buddhist artefacts in Pakistan despite being an Islamic country and I think this is something people around the world should know.

The full moon day of May is an important day in the Buddhist calendar. It is called Buddha Purnima or the day of Vesak. The Buddha was born, enlightened and attained parinirvana or death on this day. To recall Buddha’s teachings or philosophy on peace, love and compassion and to respect and remember the contribution of his philosophy to world peace, the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 adopted a resolution to commemorate the Vesak Day or Full Moon Day. This year we celebrated Buddha Purnima or full moon day in Taxila with a small group of Pakistani friends and school children. I hope this day will receive enough attention, support and contribution from the government and people of Pakistan especially as the custodians of the civilization of Gandhara which has such an important Buddhist heritage.