Statement to be delivered at the Seminar on “Trans-Himalayan Cooperation beyond Trilateral Discourse”
November 9, 2016
Honourable Chair of the Programme,
Scholars and Intellectuals
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel honoured to participate in this seminar and address this erudite cross-section of scholars and leaders from various countries. I would like to thank the organisers for extending kind invitation and making excellent arrangements for the programme.
I believe that this gathering will deliberate on the issues and dynamics pertaining to trans-Himalayan cooperation and come up with valuable inputs and doable policy suggestions.
Today, the world is going through unprecedented level of globalization. National boundaries are being morphed into bridges from barriers. Societies are getting closer to each other. Interdependence of markets is being more pronounced. Countries are moving towards closer economic engagement.
This increasing interdependence implores us to explore new avenues of cooperation, new course of collaboration. And, trans-Himalayan cooperation could be one of such platforms for collaboration.
Nevertheless, the cooperation in Trans-Himalayan area is not entirely new –neither in concept nor in reality.
It is rooted in our histories that have coexisted together for centuries –the history of cooperation, the history of trade and commerce, and the history of close people-to-people interactions.
From the year 1 A.D. to the year 1820, the largest economies of the world were the countries in trans-Himalayan corridor –China and India. They were the center of economic activities, of innovation and invention.
In the trade between these two countries, Nepal used to be an important thoroughfare. It was a vibrant hub that connected the lands in north and south; an entrepot that linked the markets.
Our history is a history of cooperation. Cooperation, which provided impetus for prosperity. Cooperation, which exalted our region to the heights of global prominence.
Unfettered movement of peoples, goods and ideas across the frontiers not only made our cities rich and lively, but also enhanced the resourcefulness and creativity of our citizens. This fuelled even greater prosperity and wealth.
The architectural bounties of the Kathmandu valley immortalised in its innumerable squares, palaces and temples crisscrossing the city bear witness to this important phase in Nepal’s history, reminding us constantly of the potentials that cross-border trade can unlock.
With the flow of trade and commerce came the expansion of civilizational links, and flourishing of religion and culture across frontiers. The Chinese quest for Buddhist texts, artefacts and codes developed Nepal as an important conduit in trans-Himalayan exchange.
Similarly, the demand for Nepali goods in the Indian Gangetic plains, as recorded in Kautilya’s Arthashastra, was another link that brought us together. The trans-Himalayan travels of eminent scholars such as Buddhabhadra, Fa Hien and Huen Tsang point to the strong linkages that have bound together peoples and cultures in the trans-Himalayan region for millennia.
Our history is a history of interactions –of civilizations, culture and commerce.
Eventually, we have to resurrect that history; reinstate that glory. We can initiate to explore the possibilities and prospects of mutually rewarding trans-Himalayan cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, China and India are witnessing an impressive record of high growth and economic development. They are emerging as global economic powerhouse. Their national pursuits for socio-economic development are bearing remarkable fruits.
We cherish this extraordinary performance of our neighbours. The success story of our neighbours is an inspiration as well opportunity for Nepal.
We can build on such achievements to provide impetus to our development efforts.
Against this backdrop, we need to explore through new possibilities of cooperation. Trans-Himalayan cooperation can be one of such collaborative platform to multiply our efforts for cooperation.
Today, we are confronted by multitude of problems. Problems that transcend the national boundaries. Problems of poverty, unemployment, climate change and terrorism. To address these problems we can make concerted efforts.
I believe that in a spirit of friendship, cordiality, and shared prosperity, we can realize this mission for cooperation.
Back in my first tenure as the Prime Minister of Nepal, I came up with the concept of trilateral cooperation among Nepal, China and India. The sole aim of that trans-Himalayan cooperation is to pursue collaborative development projects, which can be mutually beneficial for all the three countries.
The prospect of trilateral cooperation has received positive response from leaders of the three countries. Few weeks ago in Goa India, I got the chance to meet PM Modi Ji and President Xi Jinping in an informal setting; where I reiterate the necessity of trilateral cooperation.
And beyond the discourse of trilateral cooperation, there is a positive prospect for building a broader trans-Himalayan cooperation. A cooperation, which will supplement, not supplant, the existing cooperation mechanisms –including SAARC, BIMSTEC, SCO and other bilateral arrangements.
A cooperation which will take various countries of region on board; countries which are connected by their linkage to Himalayas. In addition to China, Nepal , India and various countries from South Asia and in the proximity can collaborate in a trans-Himalayan cooperation platform.
Such a cooperation can link the region of South Asia with Central Asia. This can open plethora of opportunities for market expansion, job creation and growth in trade.
Himalayas can no more be considered as barriers and obstacles. Instead, they can serve as important bridges that connect the two emerging regions of Asian continent.
Most importantly, connectivity lies at the heart of trans-Himalayan cooperation. Given the unprecedented growth of technology and innovation, trans-Himalayan roadways and railways can no longer be confined to theory. Construction of such infrastructures can be realized within few decades. Trans-Himalayan infrastructures will open up unprecedented opportunities of economic prosperity.
In the framework of broader trans-Himalayan cooperation, Nepal can serve as an important transit corridor. To realize that role for Nepal; indeed to resurrect that role of Nepal; we need to invest in infrastructures –build multilane highways and railways that can join the big economic giants of north and south.
A huge amount of capital needs to be injected to build such infrastructures. Countries of trans-Himalayan area; especially India and China, can cooperate to invest in such projects of infrastructure buildups.
When PM Modiji visited Nepal, he succinctly summed up the infrastructure requirements as HIT. Highways, Information-ways and Trans-ways. This is where we can collaborate and ultimately reap collective benefits.
India has been pursuing ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. And, China’s neighbourhood policy or peripheral diplomacy is gaining traction.
Similarly, maintaining harmonious relations with the neighbourhood remains our priority. This commonality of approach is a huge opportunity for us.
President Xi Jinping has come up with the vision to build a “Community of Common Destiny”. China’s one Belt and one Road Initiative along with Silk Route Fund can be a helpful framework to invest in trans-Himalayan infrastructures.
Similarly, BRICS Bank (New Development Bank) can be another source of funding for such infrastructures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Throughout our long history as a sovereign and independent nation, Nepal’s foreign policy of ‘friendship towards all and enmity towards none’ has remained unequivocal and categorical.
With friendship, trust and mutual understanding as the bedrock of our foreign policy, we believe in forging partnerships for shared benefits. It is in this spirit that we are keen on advancing greater north-south connectivity with Nepal as the natural commercial conduit between the two great nations of China and India.
The broader trans-Himalayan cooperation have to focus its priority on economic progress through multilayered interaction. We can build a network of cross-border transmission lines. We should invest our efforts as well as capital to tap the vast resources that we possess.
Trans-Himalayan cooperation should prioritize on exploring complementarities in various sectors. We should create a seamless cooperation in the areas of technology transfer, information technology, industrial innovation, digital economy and agriculture.
Under the framework of Trans–Himalayan cooperation, we can develop energy cooperation; build a multilane highway network; link our financial markets.
We need to establish linkage among our educational institutions, scale up tourism industry, increase exchange of business delegates, and enhance people-to-people cooperation.
We need to develop our region into a growth hub, and we need to connect the dots to create our joint growth trajectory.
In the field of tourism, we need to connect the dots from Kailash Mansarovar to Pashupatinath to Lumbini to Benaras. This is the vision I have in mind when I think of the enormous potentials that trans-Himalayan co-operation can bring for us all.
We can cooperate in sectors like pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, food processing, minerals, textiles and fertilizers. We can collaborate to promote eco-tourism as well as heritage, spiritual and cultural tourism.
Meanwhile, we must pursue such a cooperation, which is sensitive to environment. As we intensify our cooperation, we have to be mindful of the environment and ecosystem.
We have to intensify track I as well as track II efforts to explore the feasibility trans-Himalayan cooperation.
We have to build an atmosphere of trust and confidence to make trans-Himalayan region a reality.
I hope this seminar will deliberate successfully on multiple facades of trans-Himalayan cooperation. It is my belief that this seminar will help the policy community and members of the broader intelligentsia to highlight and appreciate the importance of greater trans-Himalayan co-operation for Nepal and her neighbours.
I wish you all the best for successful deliberations.