Agarwal aims at taking diplomatic ties between Nepal and Czech Republic to a greater height through trade, tourism and sports.
Nepal and the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (now Czech Republic) signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Public Health and Medical Sciences on March 1, 1979. Likewise, the two nations signed an Agreement on Trade and Payment on December 12, 1982. However, Nepal officially established diplomatic relations with the Czech Republic on March 2, 1994 following the split of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic into the Czech Republic and Slovakia after the velvet revolution.
Nepali ambassador to Germany is concurrently accredited to the Czech Republic and the Czech Republic’s Ambassador to India is concurrently accredited to Nepal. The Czech Republic has appointed Vishnu Kumar Agarwal as its Honorary Consul in Nepal.
Talking to New Business Age, Agrawal shared that the diplomatic relations between the two nations have been friendly and cordial. “The two nations have been supporting each other in various international conferences. We have been joining hands in favour of world peace and democracy,” he added.
The governments of Nepal and Czech Republic signed an Agreement on Cooperation on January 29, 2015 at the Ministry of Finance. The agreement is expected to further contribute to the economic cooperation between the two nations. Both countries have agreed to encourage economic cooperation and take needful initiatives to contribute to the development of industrial cooperation and investment, including cooperation between the private sectors.
There have been various diplomatic exchanges between the two countries. Former Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmonicek visited Nepal in June 2001. Likewise, a Nepalese delegation led by former Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority, Surya Nath Upadhyaya, attended the 10th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) held in Prague, Czech Republic, in October, 2001. Likewise, the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic Jan Mladek visited Nepal in January 2015 leading an official and business delegation. The Czech delegation held meetings with the Minister for Finance and different government agencies and officials.
Similarly, businessmen from the chambers of commerce of both nations have attended meetings with each other in both Prague and Kathmandu, Agrawal said.
A Nepali trade delegation visited the Czech Republic in 1988 and discussed with the officials of the Czech Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Similarly, a 15-member Czech trade mission headed by Petr Kulovany, Director of the Asia Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, visited Nepal in March, 1999. During the visit, the delegation held interactions with Nepali businessmen at the Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) to promote bilateral trade.
There have been exchanges among the business delegations in regular intervals, Agrawal added.
Earlier, Czechoslovakia provided scholarships to Nepali students, especially in the fields of engineering, medicine and other technical subjects. Likewise, the Czech Republic, a successor state, has continued its support of scholarships to Nepali students. Czech Republic offers scholarships for higher studies in the fields of electrical engineering, architectural engineering, economics and Czech language every year. Similarly, Czech Republic is one of the major destinations for Nepali youths for professional pilot training, according to Agrawal.
In 2015, Czech Republic supported Nepal with CZK 20 million ($791,378) for post-quake rescue and rehabilitation works. During that difficult time, the government of Czech Republic also sent a disaster response team of 36 medical staff and 13 firefighters along with two Hercules aircraft full of relief and medical supplies, said Agrawal.
In terms of bilateral trade, Nepal imported goods worth $1.48 million in 2019 from Czech Republic, while exporting stuff worth $296,619 to the central European nation. Nepal imports products like nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, glass, glassware, automobile aircraft, spacecraft and parts, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, among others, to Czech Republic.
Morang Auto Works - the company promoted by Agrawal himself - is the sole distributor of the popular Czech car brand Skoda in Nepal. Similarly, domestic operator Summit Air flies LET-410 aircraft on STOL routes. LET-410 aircraft is built by Czech company LET Aircraft Industries.
Likewise, Nepal has been importing fine glass pieces used to make Potey beads worn by the majority of Nepali women. “This holds a richer cultural significance and connection between the two friendly nations,” Agrawal added.
According to Agrawal, Nepal has been exporting coffee, tea mats, spices, apparel and clothing accessories, garments, carpets, pashmina, and handicrafts etc to Czech Republic.
Czech people are known as mountain lovers and they are avid pursuers of highland trekking as well as mountaineering. “Nepal is one of their favourite destinations for adventure, especially mountaineering,” Agrawal stated.
Before COVDI, Nepal used to get 3,000-4000 tourists from the Czech Republic annually. Though the number has declined drastically after the COVID pandemic, it is expected to rise after the tourism industry becomes normal.
In terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Nepal has received investment for three projects from Czech Republic. According to the Ministry of Finance, these projects have received a combined investment commitment of Rs 13.89 million. These projects have promised 51 new jobs.
“Investments will grow in the days to come. We have been holding interactions with Czech investors and coordinating with government agencies accordingly to facilitate FDI. Hydropower and tourism projects have the potential to attract Czech investment,” he added.
Likewise, Czech Republic is one of the most famous footballing and sports-playing nations in Europe. The country has produced some of the best footballers, including the world-famous Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech and Arsenal striker Rosicky, among many others. Hence, Agrawal thinks sports can be an area where the two countries can engage their diplomatic ties more vigorously.
According to Agarwal, Nepal, despite being home to a huge football-loving crowd, has failed to do much to develop it. Football is an enormous business globally, especially in Europe, and Agrawal and his team can learn many things about the tricks of the trade from the European sports business. Agrawal plans to hold sports exchanges programmes to train players and also conduct athlete exchange programmes.
“As both of our nations are avid football-loving countries, sports can help build people to people relations. Thus, sports diplomacy would be a key area of priority,” Agrawal noted.
Agrawal is a member of the Honorary Consular Corps Nepal (HCC-N), the umbrella association of Consuls & Consul Generals in Nepal. Agrawal informed that the members of HCC-N have been working vigorously to develop economic diplomacy with their respective represented nations.