Nepal-Canada Relations Half A Century On The Friendship Road: Prem Khatry
Half a century is a fairly long time to look back and reflect on a diplomatic relation between two nations. Leaders of Nepal and Canada who initiated the process for diplomatic relations between the two countries were certainly thinking of having a long lasting relation. And, they were right. The year 2015 will be the year to rejoice the length of Nepal-Canada relations. Throughout the year, the Nepal-Canada Friendship and Cultural Association is planning on organising programmes to celebrate the golden jubilee of the friendship Nepali and Canadian people have cherished in the half-century-long relation. This is not only important; the year 2015 is going to be a Jubilee Year for the people living on both sides of the friendship border.
To begin the new year and launch the year-long programmes, Nepal-Canada Friendship and Cultural Association (NCFCA) is bringing a special volume of publication in honour of the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between Nepal and Canada. This is an opportunity for the Nepali and Canadian people to reflect on the past performances and congratulate each other for keeping the friendly relation for such a long time and making it a venue for several government and non-government sectors to work to make the relation stronger through activities.
Nepal-Canada friendship relations also show that two different levels of economy, different cultures and politics do not stand on the way to 'true friendship' between nations, if there is the will and determination to keep the relations strong and going. In the case of this relation, this is happening. This relation is also an example of how nations can benefit from friendly relations on a continuous manner.
For Nepal, this relation is, and can be, a vivid example of how your friends develop their economy, culture and other aspects of life given stable politics, and how on the other end of the spectrum of relation, you find yourself going not very far in terms of development of your economy, culture and political institutions even after the end of the era of stagnation.
Fostering people-to-people relation
With diplomatic and people-to-people relations with countries like Canada, it is high time Nepal took a closer view of how our friends, far and near, develop political and cultural institutions as strong vehicles to carry on their development plans and programmes, through popular participation in the process, using their own resources, and sharing the benefit of progress with the people at large. This is an important mantra for the seekers.
One important aspect of Nepal-Canada relation is that it is inside the frame of people-to-people level. With only about 125 heads in 1991, there are more than 15,000 Nepalis (2011 figure) living in Canada at the moment. This crowd has immersed fully into the Canadian society and is either contributing through its skill or acquiring academic and technical knowledge in Canada's leading institutions. On the other hand, the people of Canada, over the period of 50 years, have cherished the relation enthusiastically and been important contributors to Nepal's development aspirations and effort. There have been exchange visits, project formulation and implementation, and continuous support for such activities at the grass-roots level.
Time has shown that diplomatic relations between the countries apart, people-to-people relations can provide more and better opportunities to know each other closely, understand each other better and also help the respective governments better. While the NCFCA is doing this in Nepal, Canadians and Nepalis in Canada are also doing it from their side. For example, the Calgary Nepali Society (CNS) is working with several fraternal units working for the major political parties of Nepal, ethnic groups like the Newar, Magar and other janajati groups, and even religious groups like Radhe Radhe and the Gurkha Welfare Society in support of the Gurkhas under the Queen's service. Thus CNS has been doing appreciable work as a bridge between the two nations, two peoples and groups for the strengthening of bilateral relations between Nepal and Canada.
In the academic sector, the University of Calgary of Canada and Tribhuvan University signed agreements to facilitate study and research for scholars of both the universities through research centres. Many scholars from both sides took advantage of this high level academic relationship established to enhance the capacity of Nepali scholars and facilitate research of scholars from Canada. The agreement provided opportunity to the scholars from Calgary, Canada and the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) and Centre for Economic Development and Administration (CEDA) to visit and carry out research on both sides.
At the non-governmental sector also Canada has contributed significantly through local level development programmes. Examples can be cited from the works of INGO like USC Canada and CECI Canada. Canadian volunteers and technicians have spent time in Nepal helping the local people in their development efforts, participation and awareness creation.
Like Nepal, multiculturalism is one of the main features of Canadian society. The Europeans migrated to Canada in the last two hundred years, but lately people of Asian origin, normally referred to as 'East Indians', have also begun to migrate after the two world wars. The number is now growing significantly, making Canada a nation of ethnic pluralism as a strong force for nation-building. The Government of Canada has such a mixed population in all its provinces, Ontario being a brilliant example. Over the past, the government has revised the immigration-related legislation, giving a special niche for the immigrant population without any reservation.
Finally, Nepal-Canada relations have different dimensions, such as the government and the public or people to people. Nepal's nature, culture and people have attracted many Canadians - tourists, mountaineers, trekkers, scholars and general visitors alike in the past. Given the state of relation at the moment, there is ground to hope this trend will continue in the time to come. Nepal-Canada Friendship and Cultural Association can play an important role to make these things appen for the benefit of our people in Nepal and in Canada.