Celebrations to mark the 200-years of Nepal-UK relations have kicked off in London.
British ministers, MPs, Mayors, leading businessmen and Nepali community leaders were present at a programme organised by the Nepalese embassy in London on Monday evening.
Addressing the programme, Minister at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Hugo Swire, said Nepal and UK enjoyed special relations marked by historical legacy and people-to-people interactions. Saying that some 80,000 Nepalese live in the UK and around 30,000 British people visit Nepal every year as tourists, Mr Swire said UK is one of Nepal’s top ten trading partners. He also lauded the role Gurkhas had played in cementing bilateral relations. Saying that UK and Nepal could work together in addressing global challenges like climate change, Minister Swire said, “The UK stands ready to help Nepal in any way we can.”
Minister of State at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Alan Duncan, said UK support to Nepal aims to increase efforts to reduce political instability, boost economic growth and economic inclusion, deliver basic services and increase resilience to natural disasters. He said DFID has committed over 100 million pound a year development assistance for Nepal. “Environment sustainability is at the heart of our assistance in Nepal,” he added.
Addressing the function, Nepal’s Foreign Secretary, Arjun Bahadur Thapa, highlighted the historic relationship between the two countries and thanked the British government and people for their continuous support to Nepal’s development endeavors. Terming the relations between the two countries as ‘unique,’ Secretary Thapa said Nepal looked forward to a sustainable partnership with Britain in the decades to come.
Host of the programme and Nepalese envoy the United Kingdom, Dr Suresh Chandra Chalise, said he had visited many parts of the UK over the last four years and noted that Nepalese enjoy a huge goodwill of British people. Gurkhas are cornerstone of our bilateral relations and expatriate Nepalese are participating in British socio-economic life in great numbers, he added. Dr Chalise expressed hope that the Consultation Mechanism between the two countries, which is going to be signed this week, will be a shared gift for both the countries on the occasion of their bicentenary relationship.
British ambassador to Nepal, Andrew J. Sparkes said after the recent elections to the Constituent Assembly, it was an exceptionally optimistic period for Nepal. He said UK and Nepal both looked for increased commercial relationship in the 21st century.
During the programme, Prof Robin Coningham of the Durham University made a presentation on the excavation work his team had carried out at Lumbini. Citing archaeological findings, Prof Robin said it was beyond doubt that Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini. He said there still were many untouched sites in and around Lumbini, which needed to be scientifically studied and mapped.
Dr Mark Watson of the Royal Botanical Garden at Edinburgh spoke of the contributions made by Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in cataloguing and bringing to light Nepal’s flora and fauna to the rest of the world nearly two centuries ago. “He is the pioneer for Nepalese biodiversity and we must take steps to preserve his legacy,” said Dr Watson. An exhibition of Dr Buchanan-Hamilton’s works is also underway at the Nepalese embassy in London.
A commemorative souvenir published to mark the bicentenary of Nepal-UK relations was unveiled on the occasion.
Distinguished British guests and other participants also enjoyed exclusive Nepalese cuisine catered by the Everest Inn Group of Restaurants during the reception.