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UK delegation to Nepal highlights 200 years of relations

A UK Parliamentary delegation to Nepal from 14-19 September was led by the Rt Hon Sir John Stanley MP (Conservative) and comprised Jackie Doyle-Price MP (Conservative), Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour), Baroness Northover (Liberal Democrat) and Virendra Sharma (Labour), accompanied by Charlie Holloway from the BGIPU Secretariat.

The objectives of the visit were first to resume bilateral parliamentary visits between Britain and Nepal as soon as practicable after the restoration of the Parliament in Nepal following the successful election that took place in November 2013.

The second objective was to gain knowledge and understanding of the key unresolved issues in Nepal’s constitution which is in the process of being finalised and also of the major contributions to Nepal’s development being made by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Gurkha Welfare Scheme.

The delegation had meetings with President Dr Ram Baran Yadev, Speaker Subhas Nembang, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam, Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat and Commerce Minister Sunil Thapa.

The delegation also met with senior members of all main political parties including former Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, with a wide range of the business community, with academics and opinion formers, with ex-Gurkha servicemen and with those concerned with human rights and discrimination.

Outside Kathmandu, the delegation saw DFID and Gurkha Welfare Scheme projects in the Kathmandu Valley and in the Pokhara area. These related to forestry, water, health, emergency relief following natural disasters, training in skills, and women’s and children’s rights.

The delegation had extensive discussions relating to Nepal’s Constitution and wished Nepali Ministers and Parliamentarians well in finalising it at an early date.

The delegation was deeply impressed by the improvements in the lives of people in Nepal being achieved by both DFID and the Gurkha Welfare Scheme in conjunction with the Government of Nepal.  The delegation was given the opportunity to inspect DFID’s Forestry Programme which is bringing both environmental and financial benefits to local communities.  The programme of both DFID and the Gurkha Welfare Scheme to bring fresh water taps to individual houses is transforming the lives of women in particular who previously had to walk considerable distances for water.

The mobile Gurkha Welfare Scheme health teams who remove cataracts are restoring sight to those who were previously blind.  The programme of both DFID and the GWS to introduce smokeless stoves is resulting in huge health improvements for both adults and children at a relatively small cost per stove.  The DFID programme in support of skills training is creating new employment opportunities for women as well as men, including in aluminium fabrication as the delegation saw in Pokhara.

The work of the Gurkha Welfare All-Party Parliamentary Group chaired by Jackie Doyle-Price MP, a member of the delegation, is clearly much appreciated in Nepal.

The delegation also conveyed to Speaker Nembang the wish of the BGIPU for there to be an early return visit to the UK by Nepali MPs.

This was an extremely well-timed and productive visit by the BGIPU as the discussions between the political parties in Nepal on the Constitution reach a critical point.  It was also fitting to mark the approaching commemoration of 200 years of Britain’s continuous relations with Nepal in 2016, including underscoring how the Gurkhas’ role in the British Army has strengthened and enhanced bilateral relations.  BGIPU looks forward to arranging a return visit by MPs from Nepal before the end of the current UK Parliament.

The Rt Hon Sir John Stanley MP