Pakistan-Nepal Bilateral Relation: Growing Partnership

The bilateral relations between the two countries are based on goodwill, mutual cooperation and support. Both countries hold similar views on many issues of common interests at various international and regional forums. Pakistan fully supports Nepal’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity as a matter of prime importance. This in view, Pakistan has repeatedly assured Nepal of its total political support and adherence to the principles of non-interference in internal affairs.

Nepal and Pakistan shared long historical linkages as both Himalayan states are located in the South Asian region. The two countries developed diplomatic relations in March 1960. The bilateral relations were then fully established between 1962 and 1963, given that the erstwhile East Pakistan (Bangladesh) was surrounded by Indian Territory from three sides, and also shared a small part of its boundary with Nepal and hence good relations with Nepal were crucial for Pakistan. Both nations have since sought to expand their bilateral trade, strategic and military cooperation.

In 1962 Nepal established a residential Embassy in Islamabad and Honorary Nepali Consulate General in Karachi in 1975. In 1963, an agreement was signed between Pakistan and Nepal to provide free trade and transit facilities from the Chittagong port of East Pakistan, later in the same year, an air link was also established with East Pakistan. Although during the 1971 war of India and Pakistan, Nepal adopted a neutral posture but soon recognized the newly independent Bangladesh. This led Pakistan to break diplomatic ties with Kathmandu which were later re-established. Meanwhile, to enhance bilateral trade, Pakistan and Nepal signed an agreement on October 19, 1962, it also provides for a grant of the “Most Favored Nation”; a special and favorable treatment by one country to the other in matters of commerce. The agreement seeks to diversify Nepal’s trade with Pakistan systematically.

Moreover, under the Nepal-Pakistan joint economic commission, which was established in 1983, Pakistan had a considerable investment in joint ventures with Nepal in the textile, hotel and banking industry. Similarly, a joint business council was established in 1996 between the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Nepal’s export to Pakistan includes primarily raw hides and leather, gum, turpentine oils, contact lenses, textile items, medical and surgical instruments. Nepal’s import from Pakistan consists of edible fruits and nuts, dates, ginger, saffron, turmeric, thyme, bay leaves, curry and other spices, electro-medical instruments, and appliances etc.

Similarly, for the promotion of tourism, an Agreement on tourism Cooperation was signed in 2009. The Agreement provides for mutual cooperation in tourism and archaeology; exchanges of tourism organizations and travel and tour operators; cooperation to encourage tourists from third countries to visit their respective countries; mutual exchange of tourism information, materials and experience; production of tourism-related films and videotapes; and collaboration for investment. Around 5,000 tourists from Pakistan visit Nepal every year.  Correspondingly, for the promotion of cultural linkages, efforts are also made between both countries, by the means of inter-universities engagement. Both states signed a Cultural Agreement in May 1970, establishing inter-universities relations, and cooperation between Radio and Television. Nepal-Pakistan Friendship and Cultural Association is operational in Kathmandu. A Nepal Friendship Group also exists in Islamabad.

Economic cooperation between both countries is broad and encompassing several sectors. The Government of Pakistan has been providing 25 seats under Pakistan Technical Assistance Programme (PTAP) to Nepali students for higher education in the Medical, Engineering, and pharmaceutical fields. After the devastating earthquake of April 2015, the Government of Pakistan sent immediate assistance to Nepal. It dispatched rescue and relief teams, food, water, tents and other relief material. Pakistan took part in the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction and pledged support to Nepal. The Government of Pakistan provided US$ 1 million to the Government of Nepal as a relief to the victims of floods and landslides in Terai region of Nepal in 2017.

Nepal has always remained an important regional, SAARC member country, having significance in the context of countering or abetting any hegemonic designs espoused by India. Periodic exchanges of visits at various levels have strengthened bilateral relations. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif visited Nepal to attend the 18th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu on 26-27 November 2014. Earlier, then Foreign Minister of Nepal Mr. Mahendra Bahadur Pandey had visited Pakistan on 23-24 October 2014 to hand over the invitation from the Prime Minister of Nepal to the Pakistani Prime Minister to attend the Summit. Similarly, Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi paid an official visit to Nepal on 5-6 March 2018. This was a bilateral visit by a Pakistani head of state after a long gap of two decades. Pakistan’s Prime Minister along with emphasizing Nepal and Pakistan’s relations during his visit also talked about China’s BRI and CPEC project and its benefits for regional development. Recently, Nepal attended a nine-nation webinar on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in which the experts stressed the need to strengthen multilateral cooperation, promote the multibillion-dollar project and reject any notion of a “New Cold War”.

The bilateral relations between the two countries are based on goodwill, mutual cooperation and support. Both countries hold similar views on many issues of common interests at various international and regional forums. Pakistan fully supports Nepal’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity as a matter of prime importance. This in view, Pakistan has repeatedly assured Nepal of its total political support and adherence to the principles of non-interference in internal affairs. Within the South Asian region, under SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Pakistan extended anti-pandemic medical equipment and other assistance to the SAARC member states, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives. Most recently, the SAARC secretary-general visited Islamabad and Pakistan reaffirmed its willingness to host the 19th summit of the forum. Pakistan regretted that the prospects of durable peace and stability in the region, and the great potential for economic development and regional cooperation had been held hostage by the hegemonic and hostile behaviour of India. For its part, Nepal has considered Pakistan as an important player in the region vis-à-vis India.

Nepal and Pakistan both have untapped potential in tourism. Both states not only possess rich historical sites and scenic tourist spots but are also home to the world’s tallest mountains, Mount Everest and K2, which can attract tourist around the globe and provide great opportunities to mountain climbers as well. This bilateral cooperation will also help to promote the soft image of both states at the international level. Last but not the least, under CPEC and BRI, the landlocked state of Nepal can get benefits of easy excess to hot waters and can open its doors to the world. Pakistan and Nepal’s bond will be further strengthened in the coming future and both will rise together and build a better, secure and stable region through mutual cooperation.

 

 

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About Hafiza Saba Ashraf 5 Articles
The author is Sub-Editor of The Asian Telegraph (TAT). She is an M.Phil Scholar at National Defence University Islamabad.