Lithuanian ambassador to Nepal Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa
Republic of Lithuania, a northern European country, officially inaugurated its Honorary Consulate in Nepal on Tuesday. Shovakar Hari Neupane, a Kathmandu-based businessman, has been appointed as Lithuania's Honorary Consular in Nepal. Lithuanian ambassador to Nepal, Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa, who is based in New Delhi, is in Kathmandu for the inauguration of the consular office. Ashim Neupane of Republica talked to Talat-Kelpsa on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony to know about bilateral trade between Nepal and Lithuania, among other issues. Excerpts:
How is the trade relation between Nepal and Lithuania?
The trade volume between the two countries is very low so far. But we want it to grow. Lithuania's trade relation with South Asian countries is very low. The opening of our consulate in Nepal is a beginning of long trade relationship between the two countries. Our trade with India has grown by almost three times in the last five years which shows that there is a huge possibility of bilateral trade with Nepal. Trade between Nepal and Lithuania increased in 2016 compared to 2015. The data of Lithuanian Department of Statistics shows that Nepal exported goods worth 46,000 euros in 2016 and 51,000 euros in 2015. Similarly, Nepal imported goods worth 50,000 euros and 141,000 from Lithuania in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
What can be done to further increase trade between two countries?
The opening of Lithuania Consulate in Nepal is a first step in that direction. Our representatives here, in the consulate office, will work to extract information about Lithuania and business circles of Nepal. We have to work harder for bilateral visits of high-level dignitaries. So far, there has been no such visit. The exchange of visits will increase the relationship and help to extract trading possibilities between the two countries. There is a huge possibility for Nepal to export pashmina, textiles and handicrafts products to Lithuania.
Are you meeting any high-level official in Nepal to discuss about trading possibilities?
I am here to attend the official inauguration of the Honorary Consulate of Lithuania in Nepal. I will obviously meet some officials if there is opportunity. However, this is not my first visit. In my previous visit to Nepal, I had a chance to talk with former president. I also held meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. Recently, Embassy of Nepal at New Delhi hosted an event, presenting business opportunities for foreign investors in Nepal. During the event, I got a chance to talk to Minster for Foreign Affairs of Nepal.
Nepal has huge possibility of attracting tourists with its natural beauty. How can Nepal bring more tourists from Lithuania?
Nepal has a very good image among Lithuanians. We don't have mountains. Our highest mountain is just 292 meters high. The Lithuanians coming to Nepal are always overwhelmed by the view of the Himalayas. According to Nepali authorities, around 3,000 to 4,000 Lithuanian tourists come to Nepal annually. The number will grow further if there is direct air connectivity between the two countries.
How has been the flow of Nepali tourists in Lithuania?
The number is very less. I think the figure is only around 100 Nepalis per year. But recently, we witnessed an upsurge of workers to Lithuania from Nepal. The economy of Lithuania is growing rather faster and there is a shortage of laborers in the country. Different employment agencies in Nepal are asking for rules and regulations for foreign employment in Lithuania. I think with better economy, Lithuania can attract more manpower from Nepal than tourists.
Is there any sector where Nepal and Lithuania can work together?
As Nepal has huge possibility in tourism and agricultural sectors, Lithuania can invest in these sectors which can be beneficial for both the countries. Lithuania has one of the best facilities for providing aircraft pilot training. So we can help Nepal's civil aviation sector by giving aircraft pilot training. I think Nepal government has kept domestic connectively in top priority. You need more aircrafts for better connectivity, and to operate more airplanes you need more pilots. So the training will help to improve both domestic and international connectivity of Nepal.