Ambassador Tsutomu Hiraoka: Japan and Nepal established diplomatic relations on 1 September, 1956. Since then our relations have grown to become very cordial and friendly. I can say we enjoy excellent and unblemished bilateral ties today. Fifty years of friendship is indeed an epoch-making achievement and we are determined to build a new chapter of friendship for another 50 years and beyond. Our friendship has been well-preserved and today we are enjoying unblemished friendship. It is my hope to work together with people of both countries to make the ties and friendship between Japan and Nepal ever stronger and pass it on to the future generations. I am very optimistic about it.
What are the areas in which you think Japanese economic cooperation has concretely helped raise living standards in Nepal?
Japan's economic assistance to Nepal began with the acceptance of several Nepali trainees under the Colombo Plan in 1954. Grant and loan aid started in 1969 soon after the Embassy opened in Kathmandu. Since then, Japan has been continuously extending economic and technical cooperation to Nepal. The cooperation covers areas such as health, education, energy, transport, drinking water, environmental conservation as well as other fields requiring development, specially in the health sector, Kanti Children's Hospital, TU Teaching Hospital, and National Tuberculosis Centre are the most famous. With regard to the energy sector, about 40 percent of electric power generation capacity was built through Japanese cooperation. In Kathmandu, the Bagmati Bridge was built by Japanese grant. Japan also provided most of the traffic signal lights in Kathmandu. As for ongoing projects, the construction of the 158km-Sindhuli Road connecting Dhulikhel, Sindhuli Bazar to Bardibas is expected to greatly uplift the Nepali economy, especially adjoining areas along the road.
Nepalis working in Japan are a source of valuable remittance, what can be done to enhance prospects for more Nepalis to work there?
Many Nepalis work in Japan. In order for more Nepalis to work in Japan there should be more qualified Nepali workers, which means training and education. In this respect AOTS (The Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship) is providing Nepalis with training opportunities in Japan. There is 'on the job' training in Japan under a JITCO (Japan International Training Cooperation Organisation) scheme as well.
How does your government assess developments in Nepal after the restoration of parliament in April?
After restoration of parliament in April, the Government of Japan dispatched Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Senior Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, to Nepal in July 2006. The purpose of the envoy was to express Japan's support to the Government of Nepal in its efforts to push forward the peace process in order to consolidate democracy. My country shares the values of democracy, fundamental human rights, peace and prosperity with Nepal. We sincerely hope Nepal attains its final goal.
And how do you view the prospects of the peace process and arms management?
Everybody in Nepal yearns for peace. Therefore, I think peace will be eventually established. Arms management is the most vital issue at present and should be solved imminently. Needless to say, ownership of peace of Nepal belongs to Nepali people, so it should be resolved by the Nepali people. However, in Japan, as there is no way of thinking as joining a democratic government or going to an election without arms management. Holding arms that could influence the political decision making process, leave alone if the intent to use them is not yet abandoned, is completely against the principles and norms of democracy.
What future course is economic cooperation between Japan and Nepal going to take?
When peace is restored, Japan would like to cooperate with Nepal for its nation-building. Nepal is an Asian country and economically she falls in the category of LDC. I am sure Japan will not forget Nepal. We have cooperated for past 50 years. We will do so in the next 50 years.