This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of official diplomatic ties between Nepal and Estonia. The bilateral relationship between Nepal and Estonia has been very cordial and friendly since the two countries formed diplomatic ties in 1992. The opening of the Honorary Consulate of Estonia in Nepal in 2013 saw the relationship become much stronger.
The appointment of the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Nepal by Estonia was a major step towards building greater communication and engagement between the two nations. Estonia and Nepal have been holding regular dialogues and exchanging meaningful cooperation at the United Nations, European Union and other international forums. Efforts have also been made to promote IT, trade, tourism and culture between the two governments and this is beginning to show some positive results.
“Diplomatic ties are important to strengthen bilateral relations between two governments and at the people-to-people level. It also presents two countries with varied opportunities to promote trade and tourism and cultural exchanges,” says Nava Raj Dahal, Honorary Consul of Estonia to Nepal.
The Consulate of the Republic of Estonia was officially inaugurated in Kathmandu on 13 November 2013. The Honorary Consulate was jointly inaugurated by the then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, Vaino Reinart and the then Chief of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Nepal, Kali Prasad Pokhrel.
The Estonian Consulate in Nepal has been providing necessary consular services to Estonians, especially tourists and business delegates, coming to Nepal, while also working to explore, promote and facilitate bilateral relations in trade and business between Estonia and Nepal. Likewise, the Consulate is in close contact and cooperates with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, Nepal Tourism Board and the private sector to identify joint initiatives to bring more Estonian investment and tourists to Nepal.
Despite the establishment of formal ties in 1992, there has been little trade between the two countries. By size, both Nepal and Estonia are small countries located geographically far apart. Despite this, there are many areas of trade and commerce where they can cooperate.
“What is needed is more communication and sharing of information on trade opportunities as well as an exchange of business delegations involving experts, entrepreneurs, investors of both countries. The Honorary Consul of Estonia in Nepal has taken such initiatives in the past and will continue to do so in the coming days,” shares Dahal.
Likewise, he adds that information on trade opportunities, business facilitation, regular exchange of delegations, participation in trade fairs/forums, networking are some essential activities required to promote trade between the two countries. Identifying and matching opportunities with the right genuine partner is the biggest obstacle, states Dahal.
According to Dahal, Estonia and Nepal have many potential areas for fruitful economic cooperation. For instance, Estonia is a world leader in Information Technology and Nepal is one of the most popular tourist destinations. “IT and tourism are two sectors the two countries can greatly benefit from. Hydropower, beverages, garments, carpets, handicraft, herbs and herbal products as well as engineering are some of the other potential areas for mutual collaboration,” suggests Dahal
Since the appointment of an Honorary Consul of Estonia in Nepal, several key steps have been undertaken to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Under Dahal’s leadership, a delegation of tourism entrepreneurs has already visited Estonia. Likewise, a delegation of senior government officials from Nepal went to Estonia for a weeklong training programme organised by e-Governance Academy. Similarly, a high-level Estonian delegation visited Nepal and met with various ministers and government secretaries. The first non-resident Estonian Ambassador to Nepal also made an official visit to Nepal recently.
Dahal shares that the first step to establishing bilateral trade is to provide adequate information about the opportunities and resources available.
Currently, the Honorary Consul’s office led by Dahal offers free information on trade and tourism to interested visitors. It also facilitates potential meetings and establishes networking between Estonian and Nepali investors and entrepreneurs.
In terms of FDI, Nepal so far has not been able to attract any large scale FDI from Estonia.
However, the Honorary Consul’s office is disseminating information about Nepal’s resources and investment opportunities to attract any future investment. “The best way to attract investors is to bring in friendly policies and regulations,” Dahal says.
Dahal says the consulate office has identified business forums, trade fairs, networking events, promotions through social media, and exchange of business delegates as the bridge and medium to connect trade between the two countries.
“The trade between Nepal and Estonia is not significant at this point of time. We do not have reliable and updated data on the export and import numbers. Nevertheless, bilateral trade is definitely going to grow in future,” shares Dahal.
Likewise, Dahal observes that Nepali garments, carpets, handicrafts, herbs and herbal products have a decent potential market in Estonia. Similarly, he adds that Nepal can receive IT skills and tourism related business from Estonia.
As an Honorary Consul of Estonia, Dahal’s focus has been on motivating entrepreneurs and investors and establishing trust and communication. Efforts are being made to facilitate meetings and networking between Estonian and Nepali investors and entrepreneurs. The Honorary Consul’s office also offers free information on trade and tourism in Estonia to interested visitors.
According to the consulate, approximately 500 Estonians visit Nepal annually and the number is sure to increase as Nepal becomes more and more popular among Estonians.
As a long-time tourism entrepreneur, Dahal has placed special emphasis on promoting Nepal in Estonia by distributing promotional materials, participating in tourism and trade fairs and working with tourism departments.
“On every visit to Estonia, I make arrangements to speak to large public groups as well as in private gatherings to inform them about Nepali tourism. I also lead a delegation to the Estonian tourism fair called Tourest every year,” informs Dahal.
Dahal is also a member of HCC-Nepal, a confederation of Honorary Consulates in Nepal.
Since its formation, HCC-Nepal has played an important role in establishing a constructive relationship with the Foreign Ministry, promoting bilateral relationships between Nepal and representative countries and enhancing economic diplomacy and opportunities.
HCC-Nepal has been recognised by the government for the influential role it can play in promoting Nepal in the international arena. However, Dahal suggests that HCC-Nepal and its members should take a proactive approach for promoting economic diplomacy between Nepal and their representative country.