NATIONAL

Nepal progresses with republican constitution, grassroots democracy

By Joel Lee
  • Published : Oct 1, 2018 - 17:46
  • Updated : Oct 1, 2018 - 17:52

Nepal is progressing economically and democratically following the overthrow of monarchy and transformation into a republican state in 2008, according to the country’s top envoy to Korea.

Nepalese Ambassador Arjun Jung Bahadur Singh said that the country has moved on to an era of “peace, stability and prosperity” after last year’s successful federal, provincial and local elections.

“After our historic people’s movement of 2006 that overthrew the monarchy, Nepal became a federal republic in May 2008. Our Constituent Assembly promulgated a new federal constitution on Sept. 20, 2015 -- our most democratic and inclusive supreme law that accommodates the aspirations of diverse ethnic groups and dreams of Nepali people to progress forward,” he said at Nepal’s National Day and Constitution Day on Sept. 20 at Lotte Hotel in Seoul, which was attended by former Nepali Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat.

“The timely implementation of this new constitution was very significant for Nepal in opening up of new avenues for political stability and economic development. Commemorating the day of the promulgation, our government has celebrated Nepal’s National Day on Sept. 20 since 2016.”

Nepalese Ambassador Arjun Jung Bahadur Singh (center) takes part in a cake-cutting ceremony with Korean Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs Kang Jeong-sik (fourth from right) and foreign ambassadors at Nepal’s National Day reception at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Sept. 20. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

Nepal -- a landlocked South Asian country in the Himalayas -- was previously a Hindu kingdom. In 2006, the Nepalese people rose up against the direct and undemocratic rule of King Gyanendra in a democracy movement that eventually unseated him. The king agreed to relinquish sovereign power to the people, and on April 24, 2006, the dissolved House of Representatives was reinstated, which voted unanimously to curb the king’s authority and declared Nepal a secular state on May 18, 2006.

On Dec. 28, 2007, a parliamentary bill was passed to amend the constitution’s Article 159, making the country a federal republic by abolishing the monarchy on May 28, 2008.

Today’s Nepal is focused on “maintaining stability, advancing socioeconomic transformation and ensuring social justice, good governance and the rule of law,” the ambassador said, adding his government is working under the motto, “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.”

“Nepal, at present, has been marching toward its rapid economic growth and development, while also undertaking the remaining tasks of reconstructing and rehabilitating infrastructures damaged during the devastating earthquakes in 2015,” he said. “Let me take this opportunity also to express our sincere gratitude to his excellency President Moon Jae-in, the government and people of the Republic of Korea as well as the whole international community for their valuable support provided to us during our difficult times.”

In recent years, Singh noted, Nepal experienced economic growth of 7.5 percent in 2016 and 6.9 percent in 2017. He added that similar growth is expected for this year and beyond, based on record arrivals of foreign tourists and rising exports. “This has created a favorable environment to attract foreign investments and stimulate trade in Nepal, two of the major drivers of our economy.”

Turning to relations with Korea -- a diplomatic partner since 1974 -- the diplomat said the two nations have enjoyed “excellent bilateral relations based on friendship, goodwill and mutual cooperation” that has been bolstered by “harmonious and ever-expanding people-to-people relations in recent years.”

Kathmandu and Seoul will celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year.

Korea has lent assistance to several national development projects in Nepal, and Nepal stands by Korea in its concerted efforts to secure a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, Singh said.

On the economic front, Korea is one of Nepal’s top five foreign investors, according to the Nepalese Embassy. Korean investments have increased in industrial, hydropower, construction and service sectors, and more than 300 joint ventures have been created in electronics, textiles, chemicals and hotels. Bilateral trade has tripled over the last seven years.

Over 35,000 Koreans visited Nepal last year, 37 percent on-year growth aided by four-time weekly direct flights between Kathmandu and Seoul via Korean Air. Nepal Airlines is working to open direct flights between the two countries next year.

“As the land of Mount Everest and Lumbini -- the birthplace of Lord Buddha -- Nepal is a perfect destination for Korean tourists who love mountains, nature, culture and adventure,” said the envoy. Mount Everest straddles the border of Nepal and Tibet.

On people-to-people exchanges, Singh pointed out that nearly 36,000 of his countrypeople work in Korea through the Employment Permit System, over 1,000 Nepalis have married Koreans and around 1,500 Nepali students are studying at various Korean universities. “We are thankful to the Korean government for regularly providing scholarships to our officials and contributing to our human resource development.”

Kang Jeong-sik, Korean deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, said this year’s Nepal National Day was “all the more significant” as federal, provincial and local elections were held for the first time under its new constitution.

“Despite our far geographic distance, the emotional distance between our peoples is very close,” he said, adding that both nations have comprehensively expanded cooperation since 1974. “President Moon Jae-in is known for visiting Nepal several times before assuming his presidential office for trekking and humanitarian works. In particular, he went to Nepal in 2016 to help reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts following the earthquakes, during which he promised to lend assistance to a local middle school. President Moon kept his promise, donating his private money to the school in June.”

Touching on two-way commerce, Kang said the two economies have a complementary structure, which offers opportunities for strengthening trade and investment and development cooperation. As an example, the career diplomat pointed to the 216-megawatt Upper Trishuli-1 Hydroelectric Project and 30-megawatt Chameliya Hydropower Project in Nepal formed with Korean capital and technology.

“The Korean government has also actively provided official development assistance to Nepal -- one of our major ODA (official development assistance) partners -- as part of our diplomatic diversification strategy,” he said. “Our New Southern Policy is aimed at expanding our diplomacy to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia and the Indian Ocean. Our government will continue our close ties with Nepal in ODA and development cooperation.”

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)