PM’s eastern visit boosts Nepal’s image

Ritu Raj Subedi

kp baKathmandu, May 17: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has wrapped up his 7-day visit to Vietnam and Cambodia on a high note. Oli’s maiden trip to Southeast Asian nations reflects his foreign policy vision to engage Nepal with as many as nations to boost the country’s international image, bring investment and spur trade. It also marks the government’s resolve to expand foreign relations beyond India and China as the world has increasingly become interdependent on the back of deepening globalisation.

His visit to Vietnam carries significance on several counts. More than four decades have elapsed since the two countries have established formal diplomatic relations. But Oli became the first Nepali Prime Minister to visit Vietnam. It is a big coincidence that Nepal’s communist Prime Minster paid a visit to the communist Vietnam known for its great patriotism, valour and victory over world’s super power – the US.
Many Nepalis know Vietnam as the country of Ho Chi Minha who is famous as Uncle Ho for his countrymen. Vietnam is not just a land of revolutionaries. It has other vital identities, too. It has risen from the ashes of war and become a fast-growing economy in the world. Here is what Nepal can learn from Vietnam. Nepal has also come out of a vicious conflict and is bracing for drastic socio-economic transformation under new federal set-up. Prime Minister Oli has tried to take his cue from Vietnam’s rapid economic development and replicate it back home.
During his visits to the two nations, Nepal signed several agreements with Vietnam and Cambodia to enhance diplomatic, political, religious, commercial and economic cooperation with them. Prime Minister Oli called on the Vietnamese and Cambodian investors to invest in Nepal stating that Nepal has atmosphere conducive to the foreign investors with appropriate laws and necessary structures. Indeed, Nepal is a ‘virgin land’ for the foreign investors who can also take benefits from Nepal’s easy access to the market of economic power houses – China and India, as mentioned by the PM. Now Nepal can export its products to Vietnam with population of 100 million. This impels Nepal to develop manufacturing sector to produce cheap yet quality export items.
Trips to both the rising East Asian nations offered a good platform for Oli to enhance the country’s ‘soft power’ in the form of Buddhism. Vietnam and Cambodia are Buddhist-dominated nations having spiritual bond with Lumbini, birthplace of Gautam Buddha. While addressing the 16th UN International Day of Vesak in Vietnam, Oli not only highlighted the teaching of Buddha but also expressed his government’s willingness to organise Vesak Day in Lumbini to the happiness of the representatives from 125 nations. This was an occasion to brighten Nepal’s image as peace-loving, tolerant, beautiful and diverse country. Nepal and Vietnam had agreed for direct flights between the two nations which will enable many Buddhists to pay homage to Lumbini. This is an important accord aimed at promoting tourism and people-to-people relations between the two countries.
According to Oli, the Vietnamese and Cambodian PMs have expressed their desire to visit Lumbini. This is a positive development on Nepal’s foreign policy front. It is imperative that Nepal should put its best foot forward to promote Buddhism at home and abroad in order to increase its diplomatic levers while dealing with other nations no matter how big or small they are. It is worth mentioning here that even China has been promoting Buddhism as its soft power despite the fact that in the second largest economy and future’s superpower.
With PM Oli at the helm of government, Nepal has been successful to cement its multidimensional relations with neighbours and friendly nations. His government has given due priority to the foreign relations to bolster the nation’s sovereignty, economy and intellectual heritage. Oli’s successful trips to Vietnam and Cambodia have linked Nepal with ASEAN, a vibrant regional group of the 10 Southeast Asian nations. This has undoubtedly added new dimension to the country’s foreign relation profile and enhance its confidence before the international community. 

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