NEPALI Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli is set to visit Cambodia and Vietnam from May 9 to 15.
Foreign policy experts and a section of leaders, however, have expressed concerns over Oli’s upcoming visits to the Southeast Asian nations, saying that Nepal neither has much diplomatic engagement nor significant interactions in terms of trade and investments with them.
According to them, the visits also contradict the government-announced policy of financial austerity to lessen the burden on state coffers.
“I do not see any reason why the prime minister is visiting these two nations,” Nishchal Nath Pandey, director of the South Asian Studies and an expert on foreign affairs, told the Kathmandu Post. “Both Cambodia and Vietnam are on the international radar for being illiberal democracies where there is a lack of freedom.”
Announcing the prime minister’s visit to the two Southeast Asian nations, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told media last week: “It is a high-level visit taking place after a long time at the invitation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc where the prime minister will get an opportunity to study how development is taking place.”
Oli will be accompanied by some lawmakers, including from the opposition Nepali Congress. A bilateral consultative mechanism between the two countries will be established and issues related to visa fee waiver signed with the respective government officials and diplomats during the visits, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“In the last 30 years, the way Vietnam has progressed, the way it has attracted investment and the way it has risen as an economic powerhouse from the devastating war . . . we can learn a lot from the country,” said Gyawali.
Fly to the Kingdom
After completing his Vietnam visit, Oli will fly to Cambodia where he will meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen who had visited Nepal during the controversial Asia Pacific Summit in Kathmandu last year.
Some bilateral agreements are likely to be signed between Nepal and Cambodia during the visit.
Oli received the invitation to visit Cambodia from Hun Sen while he came to Kathmandu for the Asia Pacific Summit.
“Cambodia has achieved high economic growth after peace before which the Khmer Rouge regime had caused devastation. It has done pretty well mainly in the field of tourism,” Gyawali told the media. “We want to attract tourists from Cambodia too.”
Experts, however, say the prime minister should set his priorities right when it comes to foreign visits and he should visit those countries from where the chances of maximising benefits are high. In September last year, Oli visited Costa Rica, inviting criticism.
Since assuming office, Oli has also visited Switzerland besides India and China.
“There have never been high-level visits from Nepal to these two South East Asian countries. We have not been able to conduct important bilateral engagements with some countries because we have not had high-level visits from Nepal in recent times,” said Pandey.
“A visit to Bangladesh rather would have been more fruitful, say, in terms of energy connectivity. There has been no visit to Moscow in more than a decade. Instead, we have chosen these two countries for the prime minister’s visit where we do not even have our embassies.” THE KATHMANDU POST/ANN