The government and the political party leaders have described the brief official visit by the Japanese foreign minister as important and successful in strengthening the bilateral relationship and cooperation between Nepal and Japan. During his two days in Nepal, Koichiro Gemba met top government and party leaders and assured them of continued Japanese support to the ongoing work for peace and the constitution. According to his Nepali counterpart, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the visit was extremely important. He said it focussed on further consolidating the ties and expanding bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The visit, according to leaders, served to show Japanís solidarity to the political transition towards a new republic. As an immediate outcome of Gembaís visit, a Japanese grant assistance worth Rs. 259 million was signed by the two countries to increase Nepalís food production. Japan also agreed to provide equipment to the Election Commission for the management of votersí ID cards. As the formal visit to Nepal by a Japanese foreign minister took place in more than three decades, it has greater significance beyond the rituals.
The time could not have been more appropriate. Going through a series of ups and downs, Nepal has finally reached the threshold of a major political, social and cultural shift to a new era, with high hopes for better days ahead. Once the political transition completes, the country will need to embark on the path of economic progress. As the biggest donor of Nepal, Japan sent its high-level representative here at a time when external support matters much. This naturally raised possibilities of finding new dimensions to the diplomatic relationship between the two countries, which goes back to 1956.
As an observer of the SAARC process, Japan attaches significance to its cooperative relations in the region. Furthermore, with Nepal taking the helm as SAARC chair, Japan will find an understanding friend to listen to its concerns in the region. Nepal has always looked up to Japan as offering a model of how a modern, robust economy is built from virtual tatters with an unflinching commitment to hard work and innovation in less than half a century. Nepalese leaders, including Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, asked the good friend to help Nepal by sending in Japanese investors and visitors for the Investment Year and Lumbini Year that we are marking here. Nepal also sought Japanese support in building the 200 MW Upper Seti, a metro rail network in Kathmandu and the mid-hills highway. Gemba deserves a note of thanks for his pledge to play a constructive role in all these areas and to continue Japanese technical and economic support in sectors ranging from education, agriculture and infrastructure to poverty alleviation and democratisation.