Nepal is a transit country rather than a land-locked nation, according to Adjunct Faculty at the Economics Department Dr Omkar Shrestha.
Addressing the students at Kathmandu University School of Management’s talKusom programme on May 2, Shrestha – who is with the Economics Department of National University of Singapore (NUS) as Adjunct Faculty, and also an Associate Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS),said that it was high time that Nepal simply should stop thinking itself as a land-locked nation and start thinking as a transit country serving as a trade gateway tothe world’s second and the tenth largest economies, China and India.
Our mind has been kept locked and blocked for so long that most communications starting from the short documentaries and brochures released by Tourism Ministry to scholarly papers and articles on Nepal start with the same tribute to it as a land locked country, he added.
Since the time has changed and geo-political situation in the region is now different, he said that due to technological advancements the distance is going to die. “Physical infrastructural impediments, while still important to be addressed, are themselves not insurmountable barriers anymore to Nepal in playing it’s connecting role in the trans-Himalayan trade between India and China, and indeed the Central Asia,” Shrestha said, adding that the accelerating trade of over $100 billion (2014) between India and China within a short period, has according to Dr Shrestha huge potential for Nepal to take advantage. “Even a fraction of that trade passing through Nepal could mean an enormous gain for Nepal in terms of both resources as well as new job creation.”
India and China in the recent past are seeking transit facilities from Nepal.
History is awarding Nepal a unique opportunity to replay the transit role it once placed towards promoting India-China trade, he added. “It would thus be the re-emergence of Nepal as a transit country between the world’s two top ten economies embracing 2.5 billion people.”
Dr Shrestha, however, added that Nepal should therefore start immediately building appropriate connecting infrastructure points and passes, customs harmonisation at the border points, godown and storage capacities, vehicles licensing.
Highlighting mother nature’s generosity to Nepal, he emphasised that rarely a few countries on earth would have as much immensity to offer to the visitors of Nepal ranging from jungle safari (at flat level) to Mt Everest sky-diving (roof of the world) and from Lumbini to Mt Kailash. “Endowed with eight of ten highest snow peaks in the world, Nepal is blessed with 2.27 per cent of the world’s water resources with mere 0.1 per cent of the world’s surface and 0.04 per cent of the world population.”
Likewise, for water-starved and energy-hungry South Asia, there is no reason for Nepal to go without power for 12 hours. The flowing huge water resources when unharnessed, according to Dr Shrestha, are not cost-free and they could be converted into ‘White Gold’ through proper harnessing.
Quoting geographer Dr Harkha Gurung, Shrestha said that Nepal is known to own 8.5 per cent of the world’s rare birds’ varieties, 4.2 per cent butterflies, 2.2 per cent flowers and 4.2 per cent animals. “Nepal could thus be paradise for 10 million bird watchers in UK, and 40 million in the USA.”
Likewise, comparing Lumbini with Mecca for the 500 million plus Buddhists all over the world, Dr Shrestha visualised the potentiality of Nepal as International Peace and Meditation Centre, and International Centre for Research and Studies on Buddhism. “Nepal could turn itself as ‘a place to be” when it comes to Buddhism related activities.”
Nepal also has seven precious UNESCO-recognised Cultural Heritages within the limited seven kilometre area around Kathmandu, rendering “Kathmandu the World’s Treasure House of the Cultural Heritages”, the most densely populated with heritages on earth.