Harnessing the Potential of Nepal-Belgium Relationship

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Harnessing the Potential of Nepal-Belgium Relationship

Nepal and Belgium have always maintained a friendly and respectable relationship.

--BY NEWBIZ TEAM

Nepal established its diplomatic relationship with Belgium on August 19, 1963, but it took Nepal another three decades to establish its mission in the northwestern European nation. Nepal opened its embassy in Brussels in 1992. Today, the Embassy of Belgium in New Delhi is accredited to Nepal, while Belgium has an Honorary Consulate in Kathmandu. The diplomatic relations between the two countries have been based on goodwill, trust and mutual respect. Nepal and Belgium share common views on many issues, supporting each other in various international fora, including the United Nation.

Ang Tshering Sherpa, the honorary consul general of Belgium in Nepal, believes that Nepal and Belgium have always maintained a friendly and respectable relationship. The strong relationship between the two countries has always shared and provided a mutual benefit to the economic development of both nations, he adds. Geographically and culturally, both nations have a lot to share with each other. The representatives of both nations have aimed at promoting cultural, trade, tourism and business exchanges. The Nepali Embassy in Belgium, Belgian Embassy in New Delhi, and the consulate office in Kathmandu have been coordinating necessary support to the citizens of both nations.

“We provide information to Nepali citizens to obtain Belgian visas for tourist, business, study, conference, meeting, and residence purposes etc, in accordance with information available at the website of the Embassy of Belgium in India. Besides, upholding personal relations of Embassies and Honorary Consuls in Nepal in EU meetings and honorary consulate secretariats, executing an effective plan for visits by the Embassy and official visits by recipient country’s delegations and dignitaries are top priorities,” Sherpa added .

Belgium has contributed to Nepal’s development efforts by providing cooperation through multilateral channels such as the UN, EU and international financial institutions. It also channels its cooperation through NGOs, both local and Belgian. According to Sherpa, from the mutual relation between the two nations, Nepal has been gaining more benefits from the Belgian government. Belgium's government, along with many other INGO and NGOs, has contributed a lot to community development in Nepal. Brussels has contributed mainly to nature conservation and protection action in Nepal.

Nepal and Belgium signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a bilateral consultation mechanism on June 27, 2018. The first consultation meeting was held in Kathmandu on September 19, 2020. Foreign Secretary Shanker Bairagi and Director General for Bilateral Affairs of Belgium, Anick Van Calster, led their respective delegations in the meeting. During the meeting, the two sides took stock of all aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on further promoting cooperation between the two countries. The two sides also discussed the various ways of enhancing cooperation in various areas.

Nepal exports carpets, woollen goods, readymade garments, handmade papers, handicrafts etc to Belgium, while it imports textile materials, machinery and parts, industrial raw materials, electrical goods, research equipment etc, from the European nation. Nepal exported goods worth Rs 77.35 million to Belgium, while its imports amounted to Rs 1.10 billion in 2019. Sherpa has given importance to improve social trade between Belgium and Nepal and advance increment in common exchange trade, and tourism relations. Nepal and Belgium have their own ancient history with several mediaeval towns and renaissance architecture located in different locations of countries. These architectural scenarios have been an attraction to tourists and visitors. Sherpa sees tourism as a possible area of economic cooperation between the two countries.

Nepal is a popular destination among Belgian tourists, especially for trekking, and cultural and adventure attractions. A significant number of tourists arrive in Nepal from Belgium each year. A total of 7,392 and 6,762 Belgians visited Nepal in 2018 and 2019. The number, however, has fallen following the COVID pandemic. People from Belgium have always been involved in mountaineering and are more interested in mountain adventures.

Rural and urban infrastructure development, training personnel and developing safe trekking systems would help improve the number of Belgians in Nepal, according to Sherpa. Likewise, a realises the need to rebrand Nepal's image to reach a wider European audience. “Many of our cultural heritage and monuments have been destroyed after the earthquake. More attention should be paid on the restoration and conservation of such heritages. Community and trekking trails should also be rebuilt,” Sherpa said, adding: “The Nepali government should also develop new understanding and ideas that will help in the process of adapting to change seen particularly in the field of tourism. This will contribute to growing the number of Belgian tourists in Nepal.” Likewise, the Nepali community in Belgium, numbering around 8,000, is one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial communities. They have been quite active in promoting Nepali culture, tradition and heritages in the wider Belgium community.

In the meantime, Sherpa suggests that Nepal should focus on exploring new tourist destinations and get involved more closely with the local community. “Apart from mountaineering, visitors do not participate in community events and cultural practices, which I believe is more important in knowing the cultural variation in both countries. I am certain that Nepal has more such destinations and cultural diversity for exploration,” he added.

Likewise, he suggests that there should be more promotional trips and visits between the business communities of both nations. Similarly, he says participation in fairs and promotional events should be done to initiate a profound connection between the businesspeople of the two countries. Sherpa adds that further cooperation and coordination have been emphasised to advance the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Sherpa is an active member of the Honorary Consul Corp Nepal (HCC-N) and also its former dean. He is also on the advisory committee of the HCC-N. According to Sherpa, the HCC-N has acted as a bridge between many other countries and Nepal. 

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